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Skilled Foreign Workers Treated as Indentured Servants

DavidHumus Quick - destroy the records! (284 comments)

...the U.S. changed its H-1B record retention policy last week, declaring that records used for labor certification, whether in paper or electronic, "are temporary records and subject to destruction" after five years under the new policy. "There was no explanation for the change, and it is perplexing to researchers," reports Computerworld.

"Perplexing to researchers" would not be perplexing to criminal investigators.

about a month and a half ago
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LAX To London Flight Delayed Over "Al-Quida" Wi-Fi Name

DavidHumus Importance of hyphenation (339 comments)

Clearly this would not have been a problem but for someone's ignorance of hyphenation. If the intent was to declare the network was free of "Al-Quida", the proper spelling would have been "Al-Quida-Free Terror Network", but someone with that level of sophistication would probably have spelled "Al-Qaeda" correctly as well.

This is the like the difference between "high-school boys" and "high school-boys".

about 1 month ago
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Another day, another crowdfunding scam

DavidHumus SEC? (2 comments)

Isn't there a well-established body of law intended to prevent this? Look up the Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934 - not a recent thing.

about 2 months ago
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Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

DavidHumus Backwards Compatibility - Backward Languages (240 comments)

So far, I don't think I've seen a single comment here that got the point of the essay.

He's not talking about incremental "improvements" to existing languages, he's pointing out that the common attitude of "we'll make this language easy to learn by making it look like C" is a poor way to achieve any substantial progress.

This is true but everyone who's invested a substantial amount of time learning the dominant, clumsy, descended-from-microcode paradigm is reluctant to dip a toe into anything requiring them to become a true novice again.

I've long been a big fan of what are now called "functional" languages like APL and J - wait, hold on - I know that started alarm bells ringing and red lights flashing for some of you - and find it painful to have to program in the crap languages that still dominate the programming eco-system. Oh look, another loop - let me guess, I'll have to set up the same boilerplate that I've done for every other loop because this language does not have a grammar to let me apply a function across an array. You want me to continue doing math by counting on my fingers when I've got an actual notation that handles arrays at a high level, but I can't use it because it's "too weird". (end rant)

There have been any number of studies - widely ignored in the CS world - going back decades (see this http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/...) - pointing out how poorly dominant programming memes mesh with the way most people think about problems and processes. Meanwhile, the 1960s called - they want their programming languages and debugging "techniques" back - "printf", anyone?

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

DavidHumus Are you old? (479 comments)

That might be your problem.

about 3 months ago
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The Man Responsible For Pop-Up Ads On Building a Better Web

DavidHumus Re:Paving to the road to hell (135 comments)

Not to troll, but the problem with restricting advertising is that you are restricting free speech. This is a legitimate concern: who makes the decisions and on what basis when you start down the path of "strictly factual"? It's not that simple. Any number of repressive governments across the globe have laws against publicizing "false" statements but these laws are clearly used to suppress anything they don't like.

about 4 months ago
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New NSA-Funded Code Rolls All Programming Languages Into One

DavidHumus Naive predictions (306 comments)

Without having looked at the post or scrutinized the language, here's a couple of guesses:
1) looks like C: i.e. verbose, vacuous, loopy.
2) has crappy (i.e. industry-standard) array-handling.
3) fails to incorporate any of the decades of research about how people approach problems versus how programming languages do.

about 4 months ago
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New Car Heads-Up Display To Be Controlled By Hand Gestures, Voice Commands

DavidHumus This will be a big hit... (142 comments)

...especially with law firms specializing in personal injury.

about 4 months ago
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Getting Back To Coding

DavidHumus for( mostly=0; mostly < lengthOfVec; mostly++) (240 comments)

How much time do you waste with boilerplate crap like this because of nearly clumsy array-handling ideas that date back to the Great Flood?
How bloated is code because of the vacuousness of most common languages that
require
several lines
to do
the simplest
things?

about 5 months ago
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Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

DavidHumus Popular + backwards-compatible = glacial progress (315 comments)

Basing one's choice of language to learn on its current popularity - though this may be economically prudent - retards progress in programming languages almost as much as new languages' emphasis on backwards compatibility and ease of learning for novices.

"Backward compatibility" gives us the backward languages that predominate today. Making things easy for beginners gives us languages mostly only suitable for newbies.

Contrast this novice-oriented, backward-looking orientation with the little-understood idea that a language can be a tool of thought, that it can provide us with useful conceptual building blocks for thinking about computation at a high level.

about 5 months ago
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Age Discrimination In the Tech Industry

DavidHumus Re:Software fails the test of time (370 comments)

If you follow the "Risks Digest" - formerly the "Risks in Computing" newslist - now in its 27th year, you'll see that one of the most common themes is the repetition of known bad practices.

"Live and don't learn" could be the official motto of the IT industry.

about 6 months ago
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Age Discrimination In the Tech Industry

DavidHumus Re:Families come first (370 comments)

How does this bullshit excuse apply to someone like me who's only child has graduated from college?

about 6 months ago
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High Frequency Trading and Finance's Race To Irrelevance

DavidHumus Re:Mmhmm (382 comments)

The facts are otherwise. Based on estimates at a talk I was at recently - see the latter part of this (pdf) http://www.orie.cornell.edu/en... - traditional asset management comprises about 20% of trading volume; HFT accounts for over 30% and hedge funds for more than 25%. There may be some HFT done at hedge funds as well, but it's clear that the tail is wagging the dog.

about 6 months ago
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Why You Shouldn't Use Spreadsheets For Important Work

DavidHumus Re:Spreadsheets - best and worst thing there is (422 comments)

Good suggestion - much like a suggestion to apply a band-aid to a punctured artery.

You can follow these rules - and more - as rigorously as you please but still be undone by any number of simple things someone can do to a spreadsheet quite easily - like adding a row or column that looks like it's included in a calculation, but isn't.

about 7 months ago
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Fixing the Pain of Programming

DavidHumus Re:Smalltalk live images (294 comments)

I suffer the same incomprehension, except I've been using other interpreted environments throughout my career, but the idea is the same.

Compiled languages, though sometimes necessary, often substantially increase the difficulty of programming for no benefit whatsoever.

I understand this looks like flamebait, but I'm _only_ basing this on forty years of personal experience, so what the hell do I know? Since an example is worth a lot, here's one: I recently offered to help a colleague who's taking a C++ class and was reminded of all the unnecessary crap it takes to get even a very simple program to run at all. The problem was to build a Fahrenheit to Celsius (and vice-versa) temperature converter. It was friggin' painful - all the crap we had to put together to assemble even a simple, crappy program that is, at best, capable of doing
one
conversion
at
a
time
(and only a hard-coded little subset of them in an initial version).

The result was multiple source files, comprising a couple dozen lines of code, compiling to megabytes of peripheral files (in the debug version) - you know how this goes. In contrast, I write the Fahrenheit-to-Celsius conversion in a short, single line of my favorite interpreted environment (J), and am able to test it on multiple values at a time, instantly - taking seconds instead of hours. Moreover, J is smart enough that it has a built-in inverse construct to allow me to write the inverse function with another few seconds of effort.

I already hear the compiler-lovers muttering darkly about run-times and "large projects" - completely ignoring the first rule of optimization: find the bottleneck. Most code is - and should be - in small pieces that benefit from being tested quickly in small modules. The metric we should care about is "total time to completion" but this is harder to measure and more subjective than "run time", so we continue to focus on this latter measure to the detriment of productivity.

about 7 months ago

Submissions

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Project Euler knocked out because of "a serious security issue"

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 6 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "Attempting to access Project Euler — a site with numerous computational problems with solutions in numerous programming languages — gives the following error:

Project Euler is offline.

Due to the discovery of a serious security issue a decision was made on Sunday 15 June 2014 to take down the website. The full extent of the issue is still being investigated but in an attempt to be as honest as possible to our members we must make you aware that we have reason to suspect that all or parts of the database may have compromised. Passwords at Project Euler are strongly encrypted using a one-way hash, but if you use the same password at other websites then it is strongly advised that you change it. We are extremely sorry for this inconvenience. At this time we can provide no more information and there is no indication when Project Euler will return.

"

Link to Original Source
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High-Protein Diet Considered Harmful - who wants to hear that?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 9 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "There's a report in the Wall Street Journal recently on two studies showing an association between low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets and longevity. The TL;DR is "eating a lot of meat (and other animal-derived protein like cheese) in middle-age lowers longevity but the same things help longevity after the age of 65."

These studies are not too surprising if you follow this sort of thing. What is perhaps more interesting is the strong reaction against this article and articles like it. The comments on the article range from the merely dismissive — "...this study means nothing in the real world" — to the abusive — "what the food nazi's approve....grass, cardboard, tofu, yogurt" and "just more commie propaganda to get americans to eat grass and tree bark like our North Korean comrades".

What's interesting is that you don't get this sort of thing only from WSJ readers — many /. responders parrot the same sort of irrelevant nonsense upon encountering a scientific study pointing to conclusions they don't like: the study "is biased", "fails to account for X", "was based on mice so doesn't apply", and so on with no evidence the responder has looked at (or even understood) at the actual research, of course.

What's also interesting, perhaps not surprisingly, is the corresponding prevalent confusion between information based on empirical evidence and notions from popular culture: many commenting on the article seem to think that there was scientific support for some of the recent high-protein diet fads — that scientists "keep changing their minds"."

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Eating meat and cheese may be as bad as smoking

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 9 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "According to an article on medicalxpress.com:

In a new study that tracked a large sample of adults for nearly two decades, researchers have found that eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet—a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.

Uh-oh, not only should I be a vegetarian, maybe I should be vegan."
Link to Original Source

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Why do we think bankers get paid too much, but not technology CEOs?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 10 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "From the NY Times article (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/outrage-over-wall-st-pay-but-shrugs-for-silicon-valley/):

Big paydays on Wall Street often come under laserlike scrutiny, while Silicon Valley gets a pass on its own compensation excesses. Why the double standard?

The typical director at a Standard & Poor’s 500 company was paid $251,000 in 2012, according to Bloomberg News. Mr. Schmidt [Google's CEO] is above that range by over $100 million. ... The latest was the criticism of Jamie Dimon’s pay for 2013, given the many regulatory travails of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. The bank’s board awarded Mr. Dimon $20 million in pay for 2013, $18.5 million of which was in restricted stock that vests over three years. ... For one, the outsize pay for Mr. Schmidt doesn’t square with Google’s performance. Putting aside the fact that he is not even the chief executive, Google had net income of $12.9 billion last year. JPMorgan was higher at $17.9 billion....

On pure economics, Mr. Schmidt appears to be receiving an inordinate amount. By every measure, JPMorgan is bigger, with more profits. And yet Google awards $100 million to its chairman and there is nary a peep.

Maybe the bigger question is why is CEO pay so entirely disconnected from company performance?"

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Less vaccination then, more measles now

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a year ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "Some of the longer-term effects of the anti-vaccination movement of past decades is now evident in a dramatic increase in measles. From the article: A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011.

There continues to be no credible evidence that vaccination causes autism but the a significant minority believes this anyway."

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Top Exec: I don't know what CDO stands for even though we traded them

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a year and a half ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "A top executive at a major financial firm where they made billions creating CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) didn't know the meaning of the acronym.

From http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/top-witness-for-the-s-e-c-turns-testy-on-the-stand/ :

Paolo Pellegrini has been lauded as an architect of one of the biggest hedge fund victories in recent memory: Paulson & Company’s audacious bet against subprime home loans in 2007.

But in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Tuesday, Mr. Pellegrini professed not to know what one of the basic acronyms of the industry meant."
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Peppers Protect against Parkinson's

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a year and a half ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "A recent study indicates that consuming vegetables from the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and peppers (as well as tobacco), decreases the risk of contracting Parkinson's disease. Earlier studies had shown that smoking tobacco seems to provide protection against the disease and the newer one seems to confirm that the key ingredient is nicotine, which is present in some vegetables like peppers."
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US Educational Scores Not So Abysmal

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 2 years ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "The much-publicized international rankings of student test scores — PISA — rank the US lower than it ought to be for two reasons: a sampling bias that includes a higher proportion of lower socio-economic classes from the US than are in the general population and a higher proportion of of US students than non-US who are in the lower socio-economic classes.

If one were to rank comparable classes between the US and the rest of the world, US scores would rise to 4th from 14th in reading and to 10th from 25th in math."

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Republicans quash evidence they don't like

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 2 years ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording."

There may be legitimate problems with the report's findings, however, the default response seems to be not to engage in reasoned discussion but to avoid raising questions about conservative orthodoxy."

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Scientist threatened with arrest for finding leaky drain source of "holy water"

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 2 years ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "A scientist in India investigated claims of "holy water" dripping from the feet of a statue of Jesus in a Catholic church. He traced it to leakage from a blocked drain coming through the wall and statue by capillary action. For his trouble, he has been threatened with arrest under a law against "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community"."
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Can People Sense Wireless Signals?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 2 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Ask Slashdot: Can people actually detect wireless signals? I've encountered two people who claim to be sensitive to wireless emissions — they find them bothersome. One of these people is blind.

My BS detector says they are mistaken but is there a chance that this could be true?"

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Flaming considered harmful

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "An article in the "European Journal of Information Systems" — (abstract only — payment required for article) — reports on a study of the effects of flaming during a negotiation.

The bottom line: flaming someone decreases chances of a successful negotiation (OK — duh!) but flaming the negotiation context (e.g. "this link is too slow") increases chance of resolution. Moreover, in both cases flaming seems to increase the chance of the resolution favoring the the flame-receiver at the expense of the flame-thrower."
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Amish medical needs vs. modern meds and insurance

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Amish people suffer higher rates of genetic disease than the general population because of in-breeding. Many of these diseases are treatable but the treatment, and other medical needs, can be expensive. However, since the Amish also refuse to participate in insurance, they can run up huge medical bills that bring their traditional ways of life into conflict with modern ways."
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India outsources

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "The race to the bottom continues! According to this BBC story, software firms in India are finding it too expensive to operate there and are considering moves to cheaper countries.

Where will it all end? When will it get so expensive everywhere that developers will be forced to compete on something other than price? Or will employers finally start to measure effectiveness of development rather than just cost?"
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Can IT's potential be realized?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "From an article "How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential" in the Wall St. Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120467900166211989.html by Amit Basu and Chip Jarnagin: "...top executives at most companies fail to recognize the value of IT. ...there is still a tendency to think of IT as a basic utility, like plumbing or telephone service."

The article goes on to list five primary reasons for "the wall" between IT and business: "...mind-set differences between management staff and IT staff, language differences, social influences, flaws in IT governance (defined as the specification and control of IT decision rights), and the difficulty of managing rapidly changing technology."

Does this fully explain the extreme lack of understanding of IT at high executive levels? The article is even-handed in apportioning blame but touches on a few good points. In particular, how "[m]ost top executives fail to recognize the value of information technology. They think of IT as a basic utility, or as an expensive headache that they'd rather not deal with.""
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Age discrimination is OK

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "An article in Business Week by a Duke University researcher http://businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2008/tc20080115_576235.htm makes the case, by re-iterating the usual, that companies are best served by hiring younger programmers, but it's not about the money. Nor is it about management's inability to measure productivity or quality.

Anytime someone tells you that it's not about the money... it's about the money."
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Movie violence a benefit to society?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "An article in the NY times, titled "Economists Say Movie Violence Might Temper the Real Thing", presents an argument in favor of violent movies as a benefit to society. Essentially, a movie theatre is a better place for people attracted to violence than other places — like bars — because it keeps them from acting on this attraction. Article at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/07/business/media/07violence.htm — registration, yada yada."
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Brain scans to help politicians pander

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 7 years ago

DavidHumus writes "The Wall Street Journal has a story http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119759511839128473.html about a company that analyzes brain scans of people listening to political speeches to determine their responses to what a candidate says. The idea is to get around the problem that people sometimes lie when they answer surveys: what they say they will do doesn't match what they actually do in the voting booth. One well-known is example is how voters overstate their willingness to vote for a black candidate http://books.google.com/books?id=nk-QXKu6DhgC&pg=PA245&lpg=PA245&ots=jlFZZ3J4Gn&sig=hsy3cmfBPuFGKkI2yk6uzrCXBuc .

This technique appears to be geared to unearthing people's true prejudices, better allowing candidates to exploit them. Shades of Nixon's Southern strategy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy. This gives a new meaning to the phrase "collective unconscious"."
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Are CS students poor programmers?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 7 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Recently, at a computer conference, I heard two separate people say the same thing during the same day: computer science students are usually very poor programmers. Both these people were college professors in areas that do a lot of computing — mathematics and biology (population genetics) — and have dealt with a lot of students who have had to write programs for their courses.

The specific complaint of both professors was that CS students seem to have very superfical knowledge, that they don't understand things like the limitations of floating point arithmetic and verifying their output. One professor recounted the story of a student who wanted a good grade on a program because it ran to completion — never mind that the answers it gave were off by many orders of magnitude.

Do slashdotters agree or disagree with this? If it is true, why? Shouldn't computer science students be good programmers?"
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Screen type: dark on light or light on dark?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 7 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Recently, there was a query about whether 80-column displays are sufficient in the modern world. This standard apparently dates back to the 1920s, based on IBM punchcards designed to be the size of the then-current US dollar bill. Another standard that is perhaps even more archaic is the convention of displaying black text on a white background — this dates back to Gutenberg and before.

However, is this optimal for modern displays? When I customize my editor or programming environment, I choose light-colored text on a very dark background as I find this easier on my eyes. Am I alone in this preference? Are there studies on which is better — dark on light or light on dark for text on a monitor?

I know that when I worked in a fast-paced trading environment where traders had to monitor many screens — on a system where it was easy to customize and retain the color settings — they tended to use light text on dark backgrounds. Also, it seems that an emitting display like a monitor is fundamentally different from a reflective one like a piece of paper: for one thing, the way colors combine is reversed — one is subtractive, the other is additive.

What are the opinions of Slashdotters? Does anyone know of any serious studies on this?"

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