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Comments

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Toward Better Programming

Half-pint HAL Re:Looking at the wrong part of the problem (391 comments)

The original author is looking at the part of the problem that gets the most attention, but not at the part that causes the most problems. He's looking at programming languages and their expressive problems. Those are real, but they're not why large programs break. Large programs usually break for non-local reasons. Typically, Part A was connected to Part B in some way such that an assumption made by part B was not satisfied by part A.

I believe the author ascribes most non-local problems to "incidental complexity". Incidental complexity introduces bugs, which in turn make code less predictable, which causes non-local problems. Furthermore, Grainger focuses on carrying out non-destructive data transforms, à la functional programming, which alone should wipe out a large percentage of non-local problems, as you shouldn't find yourself having to chase down any erroneous value-change bugs.

In fact, Grainger's whole point is about the attitude that you express being typical -- we focus on the fixing the problems created by the imperative programming paradigm within the imperative programming paradigm, rather than simply replacing the imperative paradigm with something more appropriate.

This essay is basically what all our CS lecturers have been saying for the last 40 years....

about two weeks ago
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Toward Better Programming

Half-pint HAL Re:After Decades of Wondering What's Wrong (391 comments)

he chose two rather bad examples. His math formula is as likely to look like gobbledygook to a non-math person as the program is.

Ah, but the thing is that the back-end that allows the formula to be shown in a mathematical notation is an abstracting backend. In current programming, the formula has a machine representation that maps to a single visual representation. Once we start storing abstract forms, we can let the IDE present it according to the user's wishes and knowledge.

about two weeks ago
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Toward Better Programming

Half-pint HAL Re:We Choose Framentation Over Consolidation. (391 comments)

These days, I see a lot of code that CANNOT be read without using an "IDE".

... and herein lies one of computing's biggest paradoxes. We are obsessed with plaintext as being the only suitable format for code because it is "human readable", yet almost every coder on a project of any scale uses an ID with autocompletion etc. The IDE would be much easier to use if it was freed from the constraints of plain text -- rather than linear code ordering, we could order instead by dependencies, and display on screen left-to-right ordered by call when viewing the logic. Away from plaintext, we could start using standard mathematical notation for mathematical problems (see also TFA). We could eliminate most typo bugs by simply not allowing an undefined keyword or label to be used. And we could implement spreadsheet/database-style table displays for the setting of nested arrays of data, rather than faffing around with bracket-matching and erroneous commas.

We need computing to be more closely bound to the IDE.

about two weeks ago
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Toward Better Programming

Half-pint HAL Re:80%? A lofty goal indeed. (391 comments)

I was always a pretty competent coder, but I hardly ever code these days. I'm perfectly happy thinking in logical terms -- my problem is keeping the logic in my head while I spend several days coding around the logic. When I'm fighting with syntax, eccentricities in library execution etc, I have to not only think about the problem logic, but also the language logic, the library logic, etc etc etc. This is what Grainger calls "incidental complexity" -- everything other than the problem at hand. It distracts from solving the actual problem, and it places a massive unnecessary cognitive load on the coder. It becomes frustrating and limiting, and you sometimes find at the end of the day that you haven't coded exactly what you intended to, because you were so distracted. But all that incidental complexity means that it's very difficult to unpick your code and rewrite it to what you wanted. Incidental complexity is very bad both for the experienced and inexperienced coder.

about three weeks ago
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Dropbox's New Policy of Scanning Files For DMCA Issues

Half-pint HAL Re:Not as bigger deal as it sounds if you RTFA (243 comments)

Yes, and someone suffered to bring you that video... just not the uploader. There is more suffering in a vapid Hollywood blockbuster than in a 3 minute homemade short, but the repeated uploading of the same blockbuster does not constitute new art.

about three weeks ago
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Dropbox's New Policy of Scanning Files For DMCA Issues

Half-pint HAL Re:Not as bigger deal as it sounds if you RTFA (243 comments)

You've never been involved in any commercial film production then: it's a long, arduous process. Or code development: it's also a long, arduous process. Perhaps in these cases it's the toolchain that's at fault, but at present, suffer you will. But there's nothing that you can do to stop your fingers hurting if you want to learn the guitar to a really high level.

about three weeks ago
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Dropbox's New Policy of Scanning Files For DMCA Issues

Half-pint HAL Re:Not as bigger deal as it sounds if you RTFA (243 comments)

The only legal way to run this sort of service and not be liable for it's misuse is to design it in such a way that you cannot see what is being stored at all.

YANAL. The DMCA states that companies must take reasonable steps to prevent reuploading. Designing a system with the express purpose of not being able to prevent uploading would be thoroughly illegal.

about three weeks ago
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Dropbox's New Policy of Scanning Files For DMCA Issues

Half-pint HAL Re:Not as bigger deal as it sounds if you RTFA (243 comments)

First of all, learning and understanding what it is to be human shows that we are creatures who literally NEED to create and share.

On the other hand, it could be argued by the same token that internet sharing and lolcatz-esque memes are actually a drug that latches onto that need, corrupting it and distracting us from the act of creation by giving us a false sense of achievement through constant sharing. If we take pride in posting other people's creations, we cheat ourselves of the urge to create something unique ourselves.

After all, why should I suffer hours of preparation to put something on the net and get a few dozen views, when for a few minutes work I can copy someone else's file and get a million views?

about three weeks ago
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Dropbox's New Policy of Scanning Files For DMCA Issues

Half-pint HAL Re:Huh? (243 comments)

I suspect that they use more than just a plain hash. Even if you just use hash plus explicit filesize, you've narrowed down the chance of hash collisions massively.

about three weeks ago
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Toward Better Programming

Half-pint HAL Re:Separation of Concerns (391 comments)

Variable scope is a strange concept to get used to at first. It seems cluttered if you're used to explicitly defining your variables, then having those variables only available in that function. Having variables available to scopes nested in your scope is very flexible and lends itself to writing some beautiful code.

Yes, scoping is very powerful, and almost all languages use it for very good reason. The point is that in JavaScript the easiest scope to use is the effective global one (yes, it's a property of the "window" object, but as far as the programmer's concerned, "window" is "main"). The easiest thing to use should always be the safest -- the programmer should always have to make an active choice to do something the more dangerous way.

about three weeks ago
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Toward Better Programming

Half-pint HAL Re:Separation of Concerns (391 comments)

"Environment variables" must exist, whether as a passed object (which my university lecturers favoured) or as bog-standard global variables. But as soon as environment variables are available, lazy programmers will use them as global variables. Attempting to engineer mechanisms to prevent this happening is a complete waste of time, and only makes programming more complicated. You can't just make the "wrong way" harder -- you've just got to make the right way a little easier than the wrong way. Grainger's Aurora seems to follow that principle quite well -- whereas functional programming tried to force you not to update values (destroying data) unnecessarily by making it practically impossible to do so, Grainger simply makes non-destructive data processing one step easier than destructive data processing: the only destructive action is an explicit update with the result of a non-destructive process.

The default "lazy" state is therefore the right one, so the appropriate behaviour is rewarded. Doing unnecessary destructive changes takes the programmer longer and makes the code less clear, so will naturally be avoided. But crucially, programmers are still able to do whatever they want, when they want.

about three weeks ago
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Mazda Says Its Upcoming Gas-Powered Cars Will Emit Less CO2 Than Electric Cars

Half-pint HAL Re:Do electric cars actually produce CO2? (330 comments)

A lightning collector would never gather enough power to offset the energy used in its construction.

about three weeks ago
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Mazda Says Its Upcoming Gas-Powered Cars Will Emit Less CO2 Than Electric Cars

Half-pint HAL Re: co2? (330 comments)

Clouds are formed as water vapour condenses, so the local humidity decreases as the clouds form.

about three weeks ago
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Mazda Says Its Upcoming Gas-Powered Cars Will Emit Less CO2 Than Electric Cars

Half-pint HAL Re:Do electric cars actually produce CO2? (330 comments)

Hydro destroys river ecosystems. For an extreme example of the effects of damming on waterways, look at France. It's a mass of hydroelectric plants and drinking water reservoirs, and its major rivers have almost all been canalised, with a network of locks and sluices to reduce winter flow to ensure that the water level is high enough for navigation during the summer months. Fish stocks in the French rivers are dangerously low, with the Atlantic Salmon now all but unknown to French anglers.

All human activity has an impact, and there is no such thing as "clean" electricity.

about three weeks ago
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Mazda Says Its Upcoming Gas-Powered Cars Will Emit Less CO2 Than Electric Cars

Half-pint HAL Re: co2? (330 comments)

Clouds are not made of water vapour, but of water. Liquid water droplets suspended in mid-air. Water vapour is a gas, and is indeed a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases allow certain infrared wavelengths through, but block others: specifically they allow the light of the sun in, but reflected/radiated heat from the Earth is kept in.

about three weeks ago
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Mazda Says Its Upcoming Gas-Powered Cars Will Emit Less CO2 Than Electric Cars

Half-pint HAL Re:japs can't innovate for shit (330 comments)

Indeed. The US car makers being well-known for their "gas guzzlers", so-called because of their wonderful efficiency ratings....

about three weeks ago
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The Mystery of the 'Only Camera To Come Back From the Moon'

Half-pint HAL Re:Salvage Opportunity... (54 comments)

That's why proper art thieves always steal to order.

about three weeks ago
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School Tricks Pupils Into Installing a Root CA

Half-pint HAL Re: In their defence. (417 comments)

Or to put it another way, on the eleventh of September 2001, the world changed, and everything that was once "youthful indiscretion" is now the sign of a terminally warp mind that has as its sole aim the downfall of humanity and everything that is good in this world. It's not only the individual that suffers for this, but society as a whole - how many of the "greats" of the computer world broke systems in their school days? And now we wouldn't let them work with computers at all. No wonder technology's stagnating....

about a month ago
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School Tricks Pupils Into Installing a Root CA

Half-pint HAL Re: Probably not Illegal. (417 comments)

For that to hold, the company has to expressly forbid using the laptop for personal purposes, otherwise (as previous cases have ascertained), there is reasonable grounds to expect that the device will store personal information.

about a month ago
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Drone Pilot Wins Case Against FAA

Half-pint HAL Re:How did this go to trial? (236 comments)

It buys only the state-required minimum insurance.

...quad erat demonstrandum. Let people go cheap, they'll go cheap. Remove the regulations, and they won't even have that basic level of cover.

The problem here isn't "regulation" it's "inappropriate regulation". I agree that when regulation simply protects vested interests, it's bad. But that doesn't mean we'd be better off without regulation at all.

about a month and a half ago

Submissions

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Half-pint HAL Half-pint HAL writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Half-pint HAL (718102) writes "From Linutop.com:
Linutop is a Linux-based diskless computer. It offers a completely silent, low-power operation in an extremely small package. Its main purpose is to surf the Internet.
With Abiword, Firefox, GAIM, Totem media player and Evince PDF Reader, they expect to be able to sell the units to libraries and net cafes, and to developers of custom displays/interactive demos. No pricing information is on the website, but The Register reports a price of "280 ($368/£190)"."
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Half-pint HAL Half-pint HAL writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Half-pint HAL (718102) writes "The Register reports that a mobile software company has been granted a patent on customised dynamic content on mobile phones. From the article:
UK patent GB2408658 talks a great deal about notifying client devices using a special signal, such as an SMS, which then triggers the client to fetch information from a server using an HTTP connection — in exactly the same way as an MMS message. But the novel component of this invention is that when the client application contacts the server (having received the specially formatted SMS) the server puts together a package containing only the latest and most pertinent content for that particular user. This just-in-time generated package is then downloaded by the client.
Patent GB2408658 seems somewhat confused. How it works: user recieves notification of new content; user follows link to retrieve content; page is generated on-the-fly accounting for any changes (eg in sports scores) subsequent to the original notification. So is this little more than a patent on a link to a dynamic webpage? Where's the difference between this and — for example — an online wedding list?"

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