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Wiring Programmers To Prevent Buggy Code

Capt.Albatross Re:Premise flawed? (116 comments)

Furthermore, good programmers often anticipate problems that lesser ones are oblivious to. On account of this, the former may show higher signs of stress (which is actually concentration) early, while the latter don't realize things are going wrong until they see tests failing in ways they don't understand, and only then will the stress levels reflect actual competence.

Two areas where this is particularly prevalent are concurrency and security - though often, in the case of security, the problems are not found until after deployment.

about two weeks ago

Critics To FTC: Why Do You Hate In-App Purchasing Freedom?

Capt.Albatross Re:Because The Children (171 comments)

In the 21st century, people are screaming for the government to regulate their lives in order to protect them, to provide "security", and to "make people feel safe". It's the fag end of the smoldering socialist experiment.

It has nothing to do with socialism. There are a lot of self-described conservatives in favor of restrictive and intrusive regulation in the name of security.

about three weeks ago

'Optical Fiber' Made Out of Thin Air

Capt.Albatross Re:I read the list of applications (115 comments)

The paper makes it clear that this is about remote sensing, and more about getting the response back from the remote location than getting the probe beam to it.

The list of other potential uses seems to have been added by the linked article's author, who does not seem to have asked himself why, if you are sending guide beams to the destination, can't you just modulate them?

The word 'weapon' does not appear in the paper, and the researchers do not seem to have attempted to guide powerful beams by this method. Given that the guide beams can create this channel, perhaps attempting to send an equally or more powerful beam through that channel would dissipate it.

about a month ago

Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

Capt.Albatross Re:Wrong Control Variable? (619 comments)

From the last paragraph of the article:
"The study reveals nothing about the nature of the link between socialism and dishonesty. It might be a function of the relative poverty of East Germans, for example."

In other words, the study failed to control for the value each participant placed on the monetary gain from cheating, rendering it of little value.

Nevertheless, this conclusion didn't dissuade the Economist from ignoring it in the very next sentence:
"All the same, when it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one."

about a month ago

New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

Capt.Albatross Pandering to Idiots (205 comments)

It is the mirror that attracted my attention. Someone who cannot keep his attention on the road while he is driving shouldn't be driving, let alone raising kids.


about 1 month ago

Ask Slashdot: Future-Proof Jobs?

Capt.Albatross Creativity is Useless Without Knowledge (509 comments)

It is far from clear that studying the arts in college will improve your creativity, let alone whether it will do so to a greater extent than some other field. On the other hand, studying can definitely expand your knowledge, and the right sort of knowledge will allow you to apply your creativity. For example, an understanding of technology will not necessarily guarantee a lifetime job in engineering, but if we assume that technology will be important in the foreseeable future, then that knowledge will, in general (and other things being equal), put you in a better position than someone whose education consisted of watching and discussing old movies.

Two rules of thumb (and nothing more): study things that are important, and not too narrowly (at least to start with.)

about a month ago

Brazil Nut Effect Explains Mystery of the Boulder-Strewn Surfaces of Asteroids

Capt.Albatross Non-Explanation (58 comments)

The apparent discrepancy of the total volume of large boulders being greater than that of the visible craters they have supposedly come from is not resolved by the BNE. In the paper, this paradox is only mentioned in passing, and no definite resolution is offered. No-one seems to have ruled out the possibility that there are additional craters beneath the rubble, or that the excess includes remnants of the impactors. Perhaps there is an assumption that, absent the BNE, the boulders formed by early impacts should now be buried.

about a month ago

Meet Carla Shroder's New Favorite GUI-Textmode Hybrid Shell, Xiki

Capt.Albatross Re:Not convinced (176 comments)

I believe the tradeoff of CLI is between working more efficiently (by typing commands and not having to use your mouse too often to interrupt your flow)
and a steeper learning curve (learn commands and their params, config file locations and their syntax etc.).

For me, the primary benefit of a CLI, when presented by a decent shell, is the flexibility and power of being able to write and run tiny programs whenever it helps.

A CLI not backed by a decent shell is miserable, as was demonstrated by ms-dos.

about 2 months ago

The Higgs Boson Should Have Crushed the Universe

Capt.Albatross Re:Observations and measurements disagree (188 comments)

See, this is what I thought as well. The Higgs was well predicted and made sense in the standard model, and our measurements at the LHC seem to back up what physicists were speculating. On the other hand, BICEP2 is a much newer result and there's considerable controversy about whether it's a real result or a mistake.

So why would you automatically jump to the conclusion that the HIGGS was the problem?

The last paragraph of the Royal Astronomical Society press release seems to be agreeing with you, suggesting that an error in the BICEP2 result (or, rather, its interpretation) is the most likely explanation:

        "If BICEP2 is shown to be correct, it tells us that there has to be interesting new particle physics beyond the standard model" Hogan said.

IIRC, the BICEP2 result, if interpreted as resulting from inflation, indicates a surprisingly strong inflation event. The above quote suggests that inflation with the strength suggested by other measurements (e.g. the level of inhomogeneity in the CMB?) would not create this problem.

about 2 months ago

Mozilla Working On a New Website Comment System

Capt.Albatross This Could be Fun... (142 comments)

"The most ambitious aim of the project is to create a feature that would efficiently highlight the most relevant and pertinent reader comments on an article, perhaps through word-recognition software."

The object of the game is to get a complete load of bollocks accepted as the most relevant and pertinent reader comment on as many articles as possible. Extra points for the front page and headline articles.

about 2 months ago

Mozilla Working On a New Website Comment System

Capt.Albatross Re:Core competency (142 comments)

Web browser maker decides to create a disqus competitor, instead of working on their web browser.

It probably has something to do with the money:

"The two-year development project will be funded by a $3.89 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Miami-based philanthropic organization that specializes in media and the arts."

about 2 months ago

Was Turing Test Legitimately Beaten, Or Just Cleverly Tricked?

Capt.Albatross Re:but that's the problem with the turing test... (309 comments)

First, that the "natural language" requirement was gamed. It deliberately simulated someone for whom English is not their first language, in order to cover its inability to actually hold a good English conversation. Fail.

Agreed. It is easier to trick someone when he wants to believe, and the organizer of this event comes across as a gullible media whore in his eagerness to claim that the Turing test had been passed.

Second, that we have learned over time that the Turing test doesn't really mean much of anything. We are capable of creating a machine that holds its own in limited conversation, but in the process we have learned that it has little to do with "AI".

For its time, it was a pretty good stab at the issue, and one that implicitly recognized that intelligence is a generalized skill. It is a better measure than using chess-playing or mathematical theorem-generating. The fundamental problem with these alternative measures, and others like them, is that they are based on the fallacy that just because humans use their intelligence to perform them, they necessarily require intelligence.

As there was nothing remotely resembling AI when Turing formulated the test, it is not surprising that he overlooked the degree to which ordinary conversation can be manipulated, and also the amount of effort people would put into doing so. I imagine he thought of his test as a scientific experiment, not a competition.

about 2 months ago

The Flaw Lurking In Every Deep Neural Net

Capt.Albatross Are they the same thing? (230 comments)

While I share your view that expecting the mind to be explained as a single neural network (in the Comp. Sci. sense) is probably simplistic, I don't think modeling it as multiple neural nets and a voter fixes the problem. I am not quite sure about this, but isn't a collection of neural nets and a voter equivalent to a single neural net? Or, to put it a slightly different way, for any model that consists of multiple neural nets and a voter, there is a single neural net that is functionally identical? I am assuming the voter is there to pick the most common classification by the component networks.

about 3 months ago

Grace Hopper, UNIVAC, and the First Programming Language

Capt.Albatross Konrad Zuze (137 comments)

Konrad Zuse, who also built the first Turing-complete computer, designed the first high-level computer language, Plankalkul, in 1945 (though no compiler was implemented until 1998.)

about 3 months ago

Game of Thrones Author George R R Martin Writes with WordStar on DOS

Capt.Albatross Re:Amen, brother Amen! (522 comments)

...and go read a basic grammar text.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Should Every Programmer Read?

Capt.Albatross Baber: Error-Free Software (352 comments)

Error-Free Software: Know-how and Know-why of Program Correctness by Robert L Baber, published by Wiley, ISBN 0 471 93016 4

This slim volume is by far the most readable and practical introduction to formal verification that I have seen.

Don't be put off by its somewhat overstated title.

I believe it is important for every professional programmer to have some understanding of how to construct a proof of correctness of code, even if they never use it professionally, as it will expand their understanding of programming. In my case, knowing what it would take to prove a program correct has changed the way I program, in ways that I hope improves the reliability of what I write.

about 3 months ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Capt.Albatross Re:Panglossian Nonsense ---What are you on? (582 comments)

Have you heard of an old cliche that goes "learn from your mistakes". By your logic, no errors can ever be made and learned from.

What we have here is a failure to learn from previous mistakes - this bug violates a number of basic principles in the development of secure software, and most of those principles were derived from hard experience.

I will agree that there is one thing to be learned here: The phrase "with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow" is simplistic wishful thinking, and potentially dangerous if mistaken for a realistic verification policy.

about 4 months ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Capt.Albatross Re:Not enough eyes (582 comments)

So, the "with many eyes all bugs are shallow" notion fails. There were not enough eyes on the OpenSSL library, which is why nobody discovered the bug.

Except that someone did discover the bug...

The 'many eyes' principle (aka Linus' Law) states "with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow". This claims a good deal more than simply that bugs are likely to be found eventually. Given the seriousness of this bug and the length of time taken to expose it, any claim that 'many eyes' worked in this case depends on a useless definition of 'worked'.

Maybe the similar errors would and are being missed in the Windows and Mac implementations.

That is quite likely, but irrelevant. This severity and duration of the OpenSSL bug are not mitigated by the hypothetical (or even real) failings of closed-source vendors.

The open source community should move beyond this self-serving aphorism and adopt a more engineering-like approach to the correctness of critical software. Fortunately, I think the people actually doing the development are well aware of this.

about 4 months ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Capt.Albatross Panglossian Nonsense (582 comments)

...Chalk it up to valuable experience...

According to this sort of argument, nothing bad ever happens. The Air France 447 crash will improve pilot training, the Boston Marathon bombing will improve race security...

This point of view gives us no insight in to how to improve things. It belongs in the 'not even wrong' category.

about 4 months ago

Bachelor's Degree: An Unnecessary Path To a Tech Job

Capt.Albatross Too Broad a Scope (287 comments)

The phrase "tech job" is often used without distinguishing between engineering-like jobs and technicians' jobs. This study goes further still, including "jobs supported by technology" - given how technological out society has become, that could be a very broad group.

about 4 months ago



A Map of Publicly-Funded Creationism Teaching

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  about 7 months ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "At Slate, Chris Kirk presents a map of schools in the USA that both receive public funding and teach creationism. It also shows public schools in those states where they are allowed to teach creationism (without necessarily implying that creationism is taught in all public schools of those states). There is a brief discussion of the regulations in those states where this occurs, but the amounts involved are not discussed.

A Diagnosis for

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  about 10 months ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "At Slate, David Auerbach reports on Thursday's hearing concerning the debacle. It was "a spectacle of tech illiteracy and buck-passing", he says, which may not elicit much surprise around here. He is particularly scornful of the contractors' obsession with checking off milestones rather than with delivering something that works, their willingness to call something 'done' before having tested it, and their apparent obliviousness to how incompetent this shows them to be."

Twitter Buzz as an Election Predictor

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  1 year,7 days

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "A study presented at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting suggests that simply comparing the frequency with which the candidates' names are mentioned in tweets can predict the result of elections almost as well as conventional polls, even without considering the sentiment (for or against the named candidate) of the messages. Furthermore, the correlation seems strongest in close elections.

Additional commentary can be found at the Wall Street Journal and from Indiana University."

Thorium Fuel has Proliferation Risk

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "Thorium has attracted interest as a potentially safer fuel for nuclear power generation. In part, this has been because of the absence of a route to nuclear weapons, but a group of British scientists have identified a path that leads to uranium-233 via protactinium-233 from irradiated thorium. The protactinium separation could possibly be done with standard lab equipment, which would allow it to be done covertly, and deliver the minimum of U233 required for a weapon in less than a year.

The full article is in Nature, paywalled."

Link to Original Source

Promoting Arithmetic and Algebra by Example

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  about 2 years ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "A couple of months ago, the New York Times published political scientist Andrew Hacker's opinion that teaching algebra is harmful. Today, it has followed up with an article that is clearly intended to indicate the usefulness of basic mathematics by suggesting useful exercises in a variety of 'real-world' topics. While the starter questions in each topic involve formula evaluation rather than symbolic manipulation, the follow-up questions invite readers to delve more deeply.

The value of mathematics education has been a recurring issue in Slashdot."

Is Algebra Necessary? -- New York Times

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  about 2 years ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "Andrew Hacker, a professor of Political Science at the City University of New York and author of 'Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It', attempts to answer this question in the negative in today's New York Times Sunday Review [registration may be required].

His primary claim is that mathematics requirements are prematurely and unreasonably limiting the level of education available to otherwise capable students ."

Righthaven Redux... With a Difference

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "At Boing Boing, Rob Beschizza reports that, in an act of delicious irony, Swiss ISP Ort Cloud [sic] has acquired Righthaven's domain name and has relaunched as a web hosting service diametrically opposed to the practices of its original owner, a notorious but ultimately unsuccessful copyright troll. The new owners, in partnership with first amendment lawyer Marc Randazza (who was instrumental in the original Rigthhaven's demise), promise "infrajuridsictional infrastructure" — uptime that would require international cooperation to bring down. "Frivolous plaintiffs will find little comfort here" says Ort Cloud's Stefan Thalberg.

The domain name became available in a court-ordered auction of Righthaven LLC's assets, to pay its creditors."

Link to Original Source

To Learn, Test Yourself

Capt.Albatross Capt.Albatross writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Capt.Albatross (1301561) writes "The New York Times summarizes a paper published online by Science:

Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.


Link to Original Source


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