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New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable

Catiline Re:Computers are making everyone's life easier (212 comments)

The analogy I like to use when discussing the Art vs. Engineering paradigm in programming is architecture (the wood & steel building sort, not hardware chip instructions) design. Every architect, whether building a private home or an office complex, needs to know certain fundamental facts about the materials they use (load bearing capacity, for instance) and the choice of what materials are used is (typically) dictated by the intended purpose of a building. Brick and wood framing is pretty universal, but you don't generally see homes being built out of little more than tin siding and steel frames like factory warehouses, or giant glass walls like skyscrapers.

That part -- mating the materials with the intended purpose -- is the "art" in architecture. The "art" in programming (aside from some limited domains like UX or AI) is less immediately describable except by effect (e.g. "How quickly do new team members get up to speed?") but should be no less important to any project manager. I don't really think that programming has been around long enough for us to have our Frank Lloyd Wright moment, but that is no reason to ignore the "intangibles" and immeasurable aspects to quality code.

about 3 months ago

Interviews: Ask "The King of Kong" Billy Mitchell About Classic Video Games

Catiline Regret? (122 comments)

What (if anything) do you regret about your fame as a champion video game player?

about 7 months ago

Seattle Approves $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage

Catiline Re:Wealth Inequality in America (1040 comments)

Please don't confuse "wealth" (i.e. cars, homes, and other assets) with "income" (i.e. wages and salaries). In fact, your video even illustrates this about 4:40 in: the top "1 percent" have 40% of the wealth and 24% of the income. Hell, even if the video producer hadn't done so, there's a reasonable shot the surveyed individuals did.

Or, if you'd prefer a video response, I found this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... "I'll just leave this here" indeed.

about 8 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Minimum Programming Competence In Order To Get a Job?

Catiline Re:Can't Tell Them Apart (466 comments)

That sounds solid for a "take home" test, but I wouldn't trust that for an interview (it's too easy to get an answer from some website instead of doing the work), and as others have stated before me it seems far too hard for use in a live code exercise. (I consider myself quite the math geek, but never bothered to memorizing formulas for pi.) Personally, I've always preferred some variation on the simpler "fizzbuzz" test, like asking candidates to write the C library strcpy function, or a function to calculate m-of-n boolean logic (given n logic tests, write a function that returns true when at least m items are true). These tests actually allow you to check a candidate for several desired attributes at once:

  • Ability to read and follow a specification. For instance, for "fizzbuzz" will the candidate remember to print the numbers which fail both modulo tests, and not print the number when one of these test succeeds?
  • Familiarity with language of choice/test. The second example, as given, would require one to cold-recall the order of arguments (and return value) to a very common library function; properly coding the boolean logic example requires writing a variadic function.
  • Coding practices and problem solving skills. A test with multiple solutions (or at least, seeming to support multiple solutions) allows you to see the candidate's thought process.

As the parent poster stated: you probably can pass this sort of test and only be a 40%-skill programmer, and many 90%-skill programmers would fail at least one of the above tests. However, the how and why candidates 'fail' (did you ask for clarification, or just rush in? Did you mis-read the requirements, or not think the problem through? Does your code contain a fencepost error?) is just as revealing of desired skill set as any 'success'.

about 8 months ago

Reason Suggests DoJ Closing Porn Stars' Bank Accounts

Catiline Re:BTC (548 comments)

While that is the route the DoJ is currently pursuing, I'm pretty sure that they will find it rather impotent:

KYC rules require money-related services to be able to identify all their customers, and self report ‘suspicious activity’ that can be signs of anything from money laundering to terrorist financing. In the traditional financial sector, this makes money laundering much more difficult (although nowhere near impossible). This is because, in order to interact with the modern financial system and transmit money electronically, you need to use a third-party service such as a bank, which are easy points of regulation.

However, with bitcoin it’s an entirely different story. No one needs a third-party service to own, spend, or send bitcoins anywhere in the world. All that is needed is an open-source wallet, of which there are plenty available to download. ... The real problem is whether governments will accept this new reality and plan appropriately, or continue to fight it. Regulatory bodies can’t fit bitcoin into current regulatory framework. The two are simply not compatible, and that has nothing to do with any libertarian sentiments in the community. It’s fact.

The degree of oversight government now has in the traditional payments arena is impossible to replicate with bitcoin...

Source: Why Know-Your-Customer rules won't work with Bitcoin

So unless the DoJ wants to argue that Overstock.com is a "financial service" company merely for accepting Bitcoin, or that the businesses which do convert Bitcoin into traditional currency need to implement some sort of "Know Your Customer's Customers" third party regulation, the tightening of existing regulation will have virtually zero effect.

about 9 months ago

Cody Wilson Interview at Reason: Happiness Is a 3D Printed Gun

Catiline Re:He's just an idiot (207 comments)

So they think they can advance from playing with plastic to making metal parts that are as strong as forged metals and electronics and so on.

I'm pretty sure you're not working in the 3D printing field, because those who are, beg to differ.on what's currently possible.

about 9 months ago

Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

Catiline Re:It's been politicized (869 comments)

I'm well aware of the problem.

Another indicator of public understanding of science focuses on understanding of how [scientists] generate and assess scientific evidence, rather than knowledge of particular facts. Past NSF surveys have used questions on three general topics—probability, experimental design, and the scientific method—to assess trends in Americans' understanding of the process of scientific inquiry.
Understanding of what it means to study something scientifically is considerably lower, at 18% in 2010. Correct responses on this question are lower, in part, because the task of expressing a concept in one's own words is more difficult than recognizing a correct response to a multiple-choice style close-ended survey question.

This is still much higher than I would expect based on occupation, since STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] fields account for only 6% of the workforce. However, even though, as you say, "[m]ost people are not in a position to understand themselves and their own thinking", this is not insurmountable. Surveys similar to the NSF one I linked shows that over the past 25 years, the literacy rate has doubled (from 10% in 1988); clearly, the public can learn to understand rational, scientific methods.

Even if this conclusion is wrong, what do you think the proper method is to deal with the irrational nature of humans? Set up some sort of inner cabal of "great minds" to run the world (ignoring the fact they're just as human, therefore just as irrational, as anyone else)? Try to find some inhuman ("angelic") agent to run the world, and hope their goals remain humanly comprehensible? Or just give up and go back to the caves?

about 10 months ago

Study Rules Out Global Warming Being a Natural Fluctuation With 99% Certainty

Catiline Re:It's been politicized (869 comments)

"Both sides" do deserve at least some consideration for one reason and one reason only: the strength of a scientific theory is not measured solely by how it explains current facts, but also in how well it withstands challenges. Whenever researchers or supporters of anthropogenic climate unilaterally silence critics, they are simultaneously weakening the process of science. Al Gore did so in stating that "There is no more debate among scientists" when talking up An Inconvenient Truth; however, the truly inconvenient fact is that the working process of science is just such debates. This idea was expressed very clearly in this description of the scientific method by Richard Feynman:

"Now you see, of course, that with this method we can disprove any definite theory. We have a real guess, with which we can compute consequences, which could be compared to experiments; and in principle we can get rid of any wrong theory. You can always prove any definite theory wrong. Notice, however, that we never prove it right. Suppose that you invent a good guess, calculate the consequences, and find that the consequences agree with experiment. The theory is then right?

"No; it is simply not proven wrong. Because, in the future, there could be a wider range of experiments or you could compute a wider range of consequences and you may discover that some of those are wrong. That's why laws like Newton's laws for the motion of planets last for such a long time; he guessed the law of gravitation and calculated all the kinds of consequences for the solar system and so on, compared them to experimental observation and it took several hundred years for the slight error in the motions of Mercury to develop. During all that time, the theory had been failed to be proven wrong and could be taken to be temporarily right. It can never be proved right, because tomorrow's experiment may succeed in proving what you thought was right, wrong."

The only way that global warming, as a scientific theory, will ever be permanently "settled" is if it is proven wrong. When the challengers are just repeating the same bullshit arguments over and over (as with the religious teleological arguments presented anew under the names of "creation science" and "intelligent design") winning the debate may be quick and painless, but nevertheless the proper working of the scientific method is the remorseless, unceasing challenge of the orthodoxy with new ideas and measurements.

about 10 months ago

Google: Teach Girls Coding, Get $2,500; Teach Boys, Get $0

Catiline Re:Discrimination of girls is bad and unethical (673 comments)

It's not really real discrimination; as everybody has heard thousands of times since being a small child: "Two wrongs make a right!" This is just Google stepping beyond their "Don't be evil" corporate motto and doing something right in the world!

(Do I really need to put my </sarcasm> tag here?)

about 10 months ago

Google Fiber Pondering 9 New Metro Areas

Catiline Re:Good luck with all the coming ads (172 comments)

That is because the rich are more dependent on government than the poor.

I guess that's why the wealthy elite exclusively send their kids to government schools, rely on police protection from rabid fans, and live on "government cheese", while the "poor, huddled masses" are scrimping so they can save enough to afford private tutors/ivy league colleges, bodyguard services, and 5-star chefs to cater in every meal?

Here's a hint: the elites have never needed "good" government--they can afford to pay twice (once for the public version, albeit not much with tax evasion, and once for the quality services). They want "good enough" -- as in, just good enough that the proles won't revolt or pursue alternatives.

about a year ago

Math Models Predicted Global Uprisings

Catiline Re:Hindsight? (265 comments)

How many "models" are going unreported because they didn't work out too well?

According to my model, 100% of them.

about a year ago

Where Does America's Fear Come From?

Catiline Re:Two big sources (926 comments)

Well can you have an anti aircraft rocket then?

I would say the Constitution is unambiguously clear on this point: yes. When the government derives all power from "We, the people" [per the preamble] then whatever my government does, I also can do (because it was given the power to do so from me). Likewise, anything the people cannot do, they cannot authorize their government to do.

So unless you want to argue that the Army and Air Force have to give up all of their tanks, planes, and H-bombs because nobody has a right to such things, then the American population has an absolute right to buy them as individuals.

about a year ago

Snowden Used Social Engineering To Get Classified Documents

Catiline Re:C'mon people! Who has been telling the truth? (276 comments)

Personally, I think the crimes of Nixon (and cohorts) pale in comparison to the crimes committed by the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama administrations. Where are the impeachments?

Waiting on the American people to elect politicians who don't all dream of one day having their name added to that litany.

about a year ago

The NSA Is Looking For a Few Good Geeks

Catiline Re:world ramifications... (388 comments)

The US Constitution does not GIVE us rights. .... Just because the right of privacy is not mentioned is not to imply it does not exist and cannot be claimed.

Exactly so. The Ninth amendment is worded in such a way as to deliberately outline this fact: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

In any case, a strong argument could also be made that the fourth amendment's phrasing ("...secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches...") is pretty much the textbook definition of "right to privacy".

about a year ago

Medical Costs Bankrupt Patients; It's the Computer's Fault

Catiline Re:No so much (637 comments)

Okay, let me try clarifying by presenting my conclusion first and giving the specific argument afterwards.

Are you absolutely certain that you have the right way of things? Are you 100% sure that your answer is the best possible answer, forever and ever, for all people, no exceptions? Is there any chance, no matter how remote, that this rule could actually cause harm -- not more harm than inaction, but any at all?Faced with a dilemma of where inaction causes great harm versus actions that cause small harm, human beings often choose inaction; the exceptions have significantly higher incidents of sociopathy and psycopathy ... are you so certain you can boldly proclaim, "Yes, even in a world where everyone acts like complete anti-social psychopaths, this action would still be correct"?

If any of this has given you have even the least smidgen of doubt—even just one tiny whisper of "well, but..."—then why are you willing to force suffering upon your fellow human beings?

With such absolutely certainty in your rightness, should I not take your belief seriously, but call you "arrogant" instead?

If somebody can't cover the costs of their treatment at the time they enter a hospital, they can seek assistance from a charitable organization (either specific to the nature of their care or a "general" community charity, like a church).

The hidden little gotcha of that particular argument is that there are organizations out there that will pull heinous shit like denying services to certain classes of people...

Are you certain that government cannot fall prone to any classist, racist, sexist, bigoted behavior? Are you so certain in the goodness of "Western" (European and the US) society that I can't provide multiple examples from those same governments (albeit far less extreme) within recent history? Are you so certain a central system is superior you would boldly proclaim "Yes, even if the government itself were to be racist, it would be the superior choice for all people"?

I'm not.

Answer the Second: <sarcasm seriousness=90%> I have no problems with turning away a patient from a hospital because they can't afford to pay. After all, they can always go to a charismatic/Pentecostal minister for miraculous healing, and they tend to charge far less less for their services. Heck, while we're at it let's also allow witch doctors, homeopathy, acupuncture, and every other "alternative medicine" practitioner to tend to medical care!</sarcasm>

If this is a '90% serious' answer, then you are a barbarian.

It's 90% serious because it's a pure expression of my argument—that absent absolute, crushing certainty in the correct behavior, freedom of choice is better than any mandate—presented in a tounge-in-cheek fashion.

And for that levity, I am called a "barbarian"?

In all seriousness: all "medicine" has started out as either "alternative medicine" or "experimental medicine". Are you so certain that the procedures in place are a perfect, immutable method of separating the healing methods from quackery that you're willing to force everyone to obey your preferences?

I'm not.

Do you believe that someone who has been mis-informed, or who remains willfully ignorant, should be forced to live according to "the right and proper nature of things", rather than allow them to chart their own course, even to the point that their incorrect beliefs will kill them?

Don't quit your day job, O Hippocratic Comedian.

Okay. I've presented this argument flatly, with the least humor possible. Is this more understandable?

about a year and a half ago

Medical Costs Bankrupt Patients; It's the Computer's Fault

Catiline Re:No so much (637 comments)

BTW, what was this basic "human right" again? I can't seem to place it from what you're saying. You've just been yacking about "socialized health care".

Question: Do you believe that someone without insurance, or who otherwise has no ability to pay, who is suffering from an acute medical emergency, should be turned away from a hospital emergency room and left to die on the sidewalk?
If the answer is "No," then I've got some even worse news for you: we already have "socialized medicine." The patient will, in fact, be treated, and you and I will, in fact, pick up the tab.

Answer the First: You present a false dilemma; "the patient (or his insurance)" and "the public" are not the only possible answers to the question of who pays. It's quite sad that so many people are ignorant of the March of Dimes' origins as a anti-polio charity that they never imagine that there could be such a concept as a medical care charity. If somebody can't cover the costs of their treatment at the time they enter a hospital, they can seek assistance from a charitable organization (either specific to the nature of their care or a "general" community charity, like a church).

[That is, if we didn't live in a world where government-run centralized care systems (like Medicare/Medicaid) hadn't driven 99% of such charities out of the marketplace. After all, a focused or local charity, struggling to raise even $100K in donations, will collapse with no donations when 'competing' against the government who can swoop in with millions of dollars in tax/"aid" money.]

Answer the Second: <sarcasm seriousness=90%> I have no problems with turning away a patient from a hospital because they can't afford to pay. After all, they can always go to a charismatic/Pentecostal minister for miraculous healing, and they tend to charge far less less for their services. Heck, while we're at it let's also allow witch doctors, homeopathy, acupuncture, and every other "alternative medicine" practitioner to tend to medical care!</sarcasm>

[In all seriousness, hospitals are far from the only people who claim to heal life-threatening medical conditions. On what grounds do you limit the legitimacy of "health care" to hospitals alone? Furthermore, on what grounds can you then claim to limit my choices to those same restrictions?]

Answer the Third: <sarcasm seriousness=0% tone="humorous">Oh, I absolutely LOVE this game!
* Do you believe that someone who has no ability to pay, who is suffering from an acute starvation, should be turned away from a McDonalds and left to die on the sidewalk?
* Do you believe that someone without relevant skills or a degree, or who is suffering from medical conditions that make them unable to work, should be turned away from life-affirming "gainful" employment?</sarcasm>
* Do you believe that someone who has been mis-informed, or who remains willfully ignorant, should be forced to live according to "the right and proper nature of things", rather than allow them to chart their own course, even to the point that their incorrect beliefs will kill them?

about a year and a half ago

Repurposed: Ground Circuit Board Waste Can Clean Up Toxic Metals

Catiline Re:good tech doing good work (33 comments)

I think here people are waiting for the "The circle is now complete.... once I was e-waste now I am the cleaner product." jokes.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Richard Stallman Anything

Catiline Any regrets? (573 comments)

It has been very nearly 30 years since the founding of the GNU Foundation. In all that time, what is your biggest regret?

more than 2 years ago

Judge Rules Sniffing Open Wi-Fi Networks Is Not Wiretapping

Catiline Re:your intent doesn't matter (308 comments)

It isn't the function of government to protect your "intent" against your own stupidity.

Bingo! Furthermore, the last few wireless routers I've setup automatically prompted to turn on some form of encryption during that process. If you choose not to use this feature, it should be viewed as a deliberate (not ignorant) choice in the nature of your setup.

more than 2 years ago


Catiline hasn't submitted any stories.



Eldred Thoughts: One Week After

Catiline Catiline writes  |  more than 12 years ago This being the one-week "anniversary" of Eldred v. Ashcroft in the Supreme Court, I am going to post the various thoughts I've gone over in the week since. I'm feeling rather secure that Lessig covered his arguments well, so my take on the copyright clause here is going to be quite different.

First, to lay the groundwork of the discussion. The Copyright clause grants Congress the power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries". Any law passed that exceeds this grant of power is unconstutionioal.

Lessig stood before the Supremes and made a very convincing argument for "limited times" being a limit on congress' power. No doubt, he indeed was sucessful in prosecuting that vein; however, in reading the Constituition again last week it was a different word-- "exclusive"-- that lept at me. I realize that the Eldred case cannot address both issues; however I would imagine that this is the single word in the copyright clause that will overturn the DMCA.

Now, (an excerpted) reading the clause without that single word forms "...securing for limited times to authors ... the right to their respective writings...".

"Wait a minute," you may ask, "How does that make things any different?" The answer, I'm afraid, is dreadfully simple and one that seems to be in conflict with all of the US' copyright history. If the clause must establish exclusivity for authors, then it implies that the rest of the population has right to the same writings. (Most simply put, this one word is the link between the copyright clause and the first amendment: what good is free speech if there is nothing to be said?)

Now, examine the effects of the DMCA in the light of whole-populace rights to a work. Either it is illegal because it attempts to extend copyrights for an unlimited time (by not having a exemptive clause for public domain works), or it is illegal because it attempts to secure exclusive rights via mechanisms outside of the grant of power contained in the copyright clause.

Damn, I just had another thought. That single word, "exclusive", also seems to veto / trump the line of reasoning that states computer programs require an EULA because the computer will copy the data in the process of executing it (thus violating copyright). After all, if the rights of the author in nature are not exclusive (and are made so only by the acts of congress), then such a requirement is (depending on the exact wording of the fair use clauses) nonexistent.


For Openness Not of Source

Catiline Catiline writes  |  about 13 years ago This isn't what I expected my first journal entry would be like. While the whole time I knew this would be the place where I put my opinions out to /.'s readership for further examination (rather than make this a personal diary), I didn't think the first entry would be cut and paste.

That just goes to show you how much I don't know about myself.

A nice thread today on the topic of LinuxWorld led me to make a statement- in which I declared I'd post to my journal.
Well, here it is.

I mailed my letter to the DOJ a little too quickly. Rereading it, I would have liked to have made one more editorial pass; however it must lie in the record as I mailed it. So for your viewing pleasure, my Tunney comments to the DOJ on how Microsoft ought to be punished (and afterward, refreshments and light commentary.)

------- To Whom It May Concern:

I am opposed to the proposed settlement in the Microsoft antitrust trial. I feel that,while covering many vital aspects of the case, the current proposed settlement does not fully redress the actions committed by Microsoft in the past, nor inhibit their ability to commit similar Sherman violations in the future.

In the past, the people most hurt by Microsoft were not the hardware distributors or the existing middleware vendors, but the developers of new applications. With each new version of Windows, it has become increasingly impossible for any vendor outside of Microsoft to introduce a new feature -- such as Plug and Play or USB support -- to the market without Microsoft's collaboration. The potential new technologies that have been stifled by Microsoft's vice-like grip on innovation has done the market far more damage than could ever be measured in a dollar amount.

To this end, there is only one possible remedy.

Microsoft, as a software vendor, lives on its' intellectual property. That property does not only include the copyrights it holds on the source code to Windows and the other softwares it sells, but also the patents and trade secrets that Microsoft has, over the years, added to its' code to hinder competition. The copyright and or patent of code, while in some circles of dubious quality, is never categorized in the same manner as trade secrets. The computing sector has an interdependence of intellectual works never before seen in any industry, and the use of trade secrets is the greatest possible artificial barrier Microsoft has erected in its' illegal actions.

Furthermore, this action is in direct opposition of the actions of other software vendors. There are several standards bodies in the computing world, including the International Standards Organization [iso.org] who define standards in many fields, the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers [ieee.org] who help define standards in hardware peripheral design, and the World Wide Web Consortium [w3c.org] devoted solely to Internet standards. The standards are open for public inspection and independent review, and encourage further development in the fields they cover.

I would suggest a single remedy appropriate to this problem: Microsoft must be forbidden to declare any portion of their product a trade secret, and as a result make available to public examination and independent re-implementation (for interoperability, educational and testing purposes only) technical specifications for all of their system APIs, file formats, media codecs, and any other method of system interaction not covered by a patent. The information could be, at little cost, be added to Microsoft's Developer Network, found at msdn.microsoft.com.

The benefits of this action far outweigh the apparent dangers. First, this action is not as invasive as it may seem, still allowing Microsoft to protect its' current patents or copyrights, and no limit is levied against Microsoft for patenting further technologies. Second, this action does not greatly affect Microsoft's competition: most or all of the information to be disclosed has either been disclosed on the Microsoft Developer's Network or has been repeatedly legally reverse-engineered. Third, this completely removes the artificial barrier raised against the developers of new technologies.

While it may be noted that Microsoft is a member of many standards bodies, too numerous to mention in a short letter, as a developer in the computing industry I have noted a distinct trend on the part of Microsoft to abandon widely-held standards in favor of their own protocols and methods, often of similar or identical name to the official standard, and generally a trade secret. While I shall withhold judgment of such actions, it must be noted that they lead to an inevitable destruction of competition. The current settlement does not cover such actions; I therefore submit my solution to be considered as a part of additional action to prevent this violation of anti-trust law from being repeated.

I believe this action is the best possible remedy applicable to Microsoft. As shown by the antitrust trial, Microsoft has historically used the trade secrets cocooned into the products it sells to stifle competition and hamper entrance of new technologies into the market. The most direct and least intrusive method to end such practices would, of course, to remove the possibility of the same circumstances arising again. To this end, I suggest that measures be added to the settlement that would forbid further development of technologies within Microsoft to be declared a trade secret, for they are clearly only used in a violation of the law.


Whew. Let me cool off after rereading that- the whole Microsoft thing makes me really mad and I don't post that clearly for a while afterward.

That's better. Now, if you came here from my comment link, you might wonder why I don't talk just about protocols. Well, to me the whole think stinks just as bad, and if you're going to attack a small portion of the sh*t MS put out as "standards", then go ahead and throw the whole lot out- bathwater and baby (can't do too much harm, other options exist). Needless to say, I will be writing the W3C on the topic of standards very soon, with a similar point.

The floor is open to comments. And I will respond as quickly and often as possible- provided you put down your cookie and glass of punch to post in a reasonably friendly manner.

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