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Comment Showing my age (Score 1) 566

Earliest language (high school): BASIC, operating on a time-shared (Honeywell?) minicomputer using punch-tape program storage and a teletype for input / output.

Earliest college language: FORTRAN on a time-shared CDC Cyber. Initially wrote software using a teletype on IBM punchcards, then stood in line to pick up my output from a high-speed line printer. It was quite the thrill the first time I was able to sit down at a VDT and type / run / save my software using a video interface.

Earliest application programming as an engineer: REXX and APL. Three guesses who I was working for. I still look back fondly at APL; it put you in a very different mindset while programming, as opposed to standard structured languages.

Comment Lots of reasons it won't work (Score 4, Insightful) 178

A few comments from my perspective as a faculty member:

(1) Faculty and staff want to arrive and go home at a reasonable hour. Setting class start times to 11 a.m. will effectively push back the entire academic day by two hours. People don't want to be leaving their offices at 7 p.m. every day.

(2) You can't "compress" the academic day. In other words, you cannot just say "We'll only hold classes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m." You'd need more classrooms (since more classes would be held during the same time slots) and there will be more class conflicts between required courses during the same time slots. Scheduling would be a nightmare.

(3) 9 a.m. really isn't that early. Most students have the luxury of rolling out of bed after 8:30 a.m. and heading to class without a shower, a meal, dealing with family members, or tackling a 30-minute commute. Your average faculty member is probably waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get started on the day. A two hour "sleep-in" period is already built in for college students.

(4) 9 a.m. is actually late by post-graduation standards. Most jobs in the real world start at least an hour earlier. Students might as well get used to it now.

Comment Re:Radio / TV (Score 2) 230

Exactly this. We've gotten so many alerts that we gave up and turned them off. And most were stupid. Most are too far away, most are false alarms ...

About a year ago, my employer used our cellphone emergency alert system (originally intended to warn everyone of an actual campus emergency) to call everyone at 12:30 a.m. with a prerecorded message, telling every university employee that a shooting had occurred at a restaurant about 1.5 miles from campus. About an hour later, we got another alert telling us that the shooter had fled from the restaurant, and was being sought by city police. As you might guess, the shooter never came anywhere close to campus before being captured.

The next day, I checked with my colleagues, and everyone had done the same thing - either opted out of the emergency alert system, or blocked the number. The system became useless and was abandoned in favor of an emergency warning app that everyone is supposed to download and install - which, of course, no one has.

The so-called "fake news" controversy doesn't hold a candle to the very real problem with "fake alerts". One day an honest-to-God emergency will really happen, and no one will be listening.

Comment ESPN is it own worst enemy (Score 1) 155

I think that ESPN's decline in viewership is, at least in part, due to its own success. It is killing off the fan base for sports like college football by dictating fan-unfriendly game times.

I have seen this at my own alma mater. College students don't care about attending college football games, especially when the games start at 11 a.m. or noon, instead of the traditional 1:30 p.m. start time thirty years ago. Older fans hate it too, but we are helpless. The only customer that the major conferences care about any more is ESPN; the paying fans don't come close to matching the TV money that the athletic department receives. Over the years, more and more of my friends have simply given up. They watch the game on TV, because of course every game is now televised. Why go to a stadium and get treated like an annoyance when you can have better seats at home? But if you are sitting at home, it's very easy to flip to another channel if the game gets boring. Fan loyalty fades away.

The fan base is getting older and smaller. There aren't enough young fans coming out of college who give a flip about what ESPN has to offer, and as the existing fan base ages out, viewership declines. For my own part, I would love to see a return to fan-friendly college games, but ESPN will have to let loose of the college sports pursestrings first.

Comment Re:Well blame Hollywood for creating their own ene (Score 5, Interesting) 312

The only reason Netflix makes their own content is they were being squeezed by Hollywood for higher and higher licensing fees.

Exactly so. The Law of Unintended Consequences in a nutshell. The networks and studios decided to shut down Netflix and monetize their old movies and TV shows on their own. And for a while, it worked. Netflix lost subscribers, and their movie selection was absolutely abysmal. But unlike the networks and studios, Netflix was able to adapt, and it became exactly the type of company that the networks and studios could no longer hurt.

It's such a pleasure to watch Hollywood being devoured by the monster it created.

Comment Re:Poor business (Score 1) 395

In the dark ages (before www), I used to religiously read two or three movie reviewers in my area. After 5 or 6 reviews the lights clicked.

Back in the dark ages, I religiously watched "At The Movies" when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were partnered together. Ebert by himself was extremely inconsistent, but when he worked with Gene Siskel, the two of them together usually hit it on the mark. A "two thumbs up" film was almost always worth watching.

It was a real shame with Siskel passed away. Ebert's other partners never matched up to Siskel.

Comment Re:Nothing to worry about (Score 2) 71

It seems to be the same in the the USA (Arizona at least). The police seem to view burglary as an unavoidable fact of life, and burglars seem to never get caught and even if they are, hardly prosecuted (presumably because most of them are actually druggies that just need to steal something to sell, in order to get their next fix).

It's the same in every medium to large city in the entire U.S. Past a certain population size, the police cease to treat property crime as a crime anymore. Burglars have broken into homes in my neighborhood and taken thousands of dollars worth of items, and the police only show up long enough to give the homeowner a report to file with his insurance company. Your stuff is gone, and you'll never see it again. There are well-known serial burglars (generally vagrants and druggies) wandering around my neighborhood who have been arrested dozens of times, and residents are helpless to stop them. Their descriptions and names are common knowledge - nothing is done. They know that as long as they don't assault a resident or use a weapon, they are untouchable. It is a constant source of frustrated discussion on the neighborhood Nextdoor site.

But the problem with tolerating property crime as part of the "cost of living" is that occasionally it leads to something far worse. Case in point: about three weeks ago, a woman living in a recently gentrified neighborhood was stabbed to death by a homeless guy when she woke up to find him burglarizing her condo (she had forgotten to lock her door). Security footage showed the guy looking for unlocked car doors along the street, and then trying out doors in the condo complex. A police precinct station was less than half a mile away, but it might as well have been 50 miles away as far as police patrols were concerned.

Comment Re:Good advice to apply in practice (Score 1) 199

2. Anticipate the impact of human error. Having two accountants, two sets of envelopes, having them memorize the list of winners, is a good thing, but we see here that this failed because when the awards ceremony is live, people might not be as level-headed as they would normally be. There's a lot going on, and the possibility of error as a result of distractions is greater. Ironically, having multiple sets of envelopes is part of the reason why this error occurred, so there must be careful thought toward building the aforementioned redundancy in a way that doesn't inadvertently create additional modes of failure.

The biggest part of the "human error" factor was that the PwC guy who was passed out the envelopes was spending his time on his smartphone, tweeting to his followers. That, more than anything else, led to the mistake.

You can debate about fonts and typography all you want, but if the person who is responsible for handing out the correct envelope is too busy tweeting "OMG THE OSCARS ARE SO COOL! #iamcooltoo" to pay attention to his job, then mistakes are going to happen.

The smartest thing that PwC could do for next year is put people in charge who are not "starstruck" by Hollywood actors, and who will pay attention to the task at hand instead of trying to impress everyone about how important they think they are.

Comment Slashdot hates Uber, just like it hates Apple (Score 1) 179

The Slashdot Uber-hate is right up there with the Apple-hate. No one's buying Apple products any more, are they? Oh, wait ....

While on business travel, I've ridden in taxis where I had my credit card skimmed by the driver, where the credit card machine was "broken", where I've been taken on the "scenic" route to pump up the fare, and even one time when the taxi broke down on a freeway. I've experienced enough horror stories with taxis to last me the rest of my life.

Uber and Lyft have never been anything but a pleasure to use. As a rider, that is what I care about, not about someone's definition of social justice concerning a company they've never dealt with. As long as Uber offers me a good service at a good price, I will continue to use that service. No one is forcing anyone to drive for Uber or ride with Uber.

Now whether or not the Uber business model will succeed is an entirely different question, but that doesn't worry me. As long as the ride comes when I press the button, and I know in advance what it will cost me, and I can get into that Uber vehicle with a reasonable degree of confidence that I won't be cheated (unlike many taxi rides I've experienced), then I will keep right on using them. I suspect that most business travelers will do likewise.

Comment Re:They might but not as a gift. (Score 1) 294

If they do this, it wouldn't be to "curry favor" with Trump, it would be a move to further destabilize the US.

The most insightful statement in this discussion.

Snowden is not an "asset", as he was never a spy for Russia. By now Russian intelligence has long since squeezed any information of value out of Snowden. There's hardly any need for Putin to keep him in Russia, and his value as a propaganda asset is fading.

But the impact of the protests over Trump are not lost on Putin. Returning Snowden without asking for the lifting of sanctions will feed the "Trump is in cahoots with Russia" meme, and make things that much more difficult for the U.S. government.

It would be a smart move, and Putin is no fool.

Comment Re:Last sentence is (almost) BS. (Score 1) 267

Apple already has several ARM powered laptops drifting around internally. I've seen several of them with my own eyes. ..... From what I was told, there's a huge push to get this stuff out the door as soon as they think the market will accept it. That might be in a year, or two years, or three or four, but that's where Apple is inevitably heading. Custom hardware, custom software, total vendor and user lock in.

So ... you've basically just described an iPad Pro with a keyboard and trackpad attached. Plus, it's a laptop that would be useless for software development by Apple's own internal R&D.

My hat is off to you for crafting a scenario that so perfectly matches the "MacOS is becoming iOS!" paranoid meme, and for tapping into the "Apple sucks!" mindset so prevalent in Slashdot, but I'd sooner expect Apple to port Xcode to Windows 10 than turn its entire line of laptops into de facto iPads that are absolutely worthless to the people who have to write the software for Apple products.

I'll be the first to say that I am completely put off by Apple's latest line of so-called "professional" laptops, but there's a big difference between designing a laptop that is ill-suited for professional work versus designing one that is impossible to use at all.

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