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US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer

JanneM Re:Nice and all, but where's the beef? (127 comments)

How should one go about getting a job programming a large supercomputer?

Become a researcher in a field that makes use of lots of computing power, then specialize in the math modeling and simulation subfields. Surprisingly often it's quite easy to get time on a system if you apply as a post-doc or even a grad student. Becoming part of a research group that develops simulation tools for others to use can be an especially good way.

Or, get an advanced degree in numerical analysis or similar and get hired by a manufacturer or an organization that builds or runs supercomputers. On one hand that'd give you a much more permanent job, and you'd be mostly doing coding, not working on your research; on the other hand it's probably a lot harder to get.

But ultimately, why would you want this? They're not especially magical machines. Especially today, when they're usually Linux based, and the system developers do all they can to make it look and act like a regular Linux system.

If you want to experience what it's like, try this: Install a 4-5 year old version of Red Hat on a workstation. Install OpenMP and OpenMPI, and make sure all your code uses either or both. Install an oddball C/C++ compiler. Access your workstation only via SSH, not directly. And add a job queue system that will semi-randomly let your app run after anything from a few seconds to several hours.

about two weeks ago
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I'm most interested in robots that will...

JanneM Re:Basic jobs, but not to avoid talking (307 comments)

I do that on the train every day already. I mostly read, play games or study language. I have occasionally done light developing too, but it's too short a time frame to get into it and really get anything done.

about two weeks ago
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New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable

JanneM Re:What *is* the hard work. (212 comments)

Once a task has been automated to the point that a reliable mass market tool is available to do the work for you, what possible reason can there still be to do it by hand any more?

Fair point. But one remaining reason to have done it yourself is to understand how the tool actually works behind the scenes. And that deeper understanding is generally what separates a master of the craft from dabblers.

Slightly different field, but, for instance, if you are doing any amount of real numerical programming, you really should have implemented a floating-point system as well as algorithms such as FFT, matrix factorization, numerical integration and the trigonomertic functions at least once.

You should of course not use any of your own implementations in production; that's a recipe for disaster. But having done it once, and understanding some of the underlaying theory and the challenges of implementation means you're much better equipped to use the high-quality library versions in an intelligent manner. You'll understand why functions such as expm1() actually exist and how to avoid the common numerical pitfalls.

The same really goes for tools in any other field. You might want to do it manually not to actually use your work but to better understand when and how to use the tool. Or, for that matter, realize when the situation calls for implementing a completely new tool.

about two weeks ago
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Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

JanneM Re:Nothing really new (720 comments)

The Pitapa card in Kansai is connected to your account, and deducts money automatically every month. You can use it in convenience stores and vending machines around Osaka and Kansai. And in order to be compatible with Suica and other train passes, you can _also_ add money to the card; that's effectively a second, separate prepaid card. Convenient when you're travelling to Tokyo.
 

about a month ago
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Stem Cells Grown From Patient's Arm Used To Replace Retina

JanneM Re:One thing missing (56 comments)

So is the answer "No" she cannot see? And where did you get the safety and viability quote from?

Japanese media reported about this earlier this year when they decided to try this and were looking for volunteer patients, as well as now when they want ahead with it. It was made very clear from the start that this was a procedure to test if the cells would survive and not cause any unwanted side effects.

Kind of the same as with the man who got some feeling back in his legs after a stem cell treatment in Poland the other day. They did not expect to see significant improvement (and the other three patients had much less or no effect at all), but just to confirm that it was possible and didn't make things worse.

about a month ago
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Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

JanneM Re:Nothing really new (720 comments)

The streets are very safe, and cash is accepted everywhere. A credit card, on the other hand, needs approval, has a yearly cost, and adds a charge to each transaction. People do use cards here - most people pay public transport with a card, and you can use those on vending machines and the like too - but credit cards specifically haven't really caught on.

about a month ago
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Stem Cells Grown From Patient's Arm Used To Replace Retina

JanneM Re:One thing missing (56 comments)

The purpose of this round of tests is to assess the safety and viability of the procedure. There is no expectation that she will substantially improve her sight. That's a major reason they selected a volunteer her 70's for this, not somebody young.

about a month ago
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Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

JanneM Nothing really new (720 comments)

Plenty of cheaper restaurants here in Japan - chain izakayas especially - have used terminals for ordering for years already. And while they certainly do it in part to reduce staff, the fact is that many customers like it. You don't have to flag down a waiter to place an order, and you can always see exactly what you've ordered, what dishes you've yet to receive and your current tab.

Also, the basic truth is that if your job can be automated, no wage level will compete with it in the long run. If you accept wage cuts to avoid being replaced by automation, you've only bought yourself a few years, and at a lower salary than you're worth at that.

about a month ago
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German Publishers Capitulate, Let Google Post News Snippets

JanneM Re:I believe the actual concern is... (95 comments)

Newspaper articles are written so that all the most important information is set right at the beginning. That makes them faster and easier to read, especially if you want to skim through a lot of news. So yes, a snippet of the first paragraph or two most likely does contain most of the important information, because it's written with the readers in mind, not the advertisers or google bots.

about a month ago
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Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

JanneM Re:Huh (240 comments)

> This is why we are still waiting for Perl 6, if it ever gets released.

I suspect in the case of Perl 6 (and perhaps also for Python) it may have been better to give the language a new name, and allow even more radical changes. Keeping the name strongly signals that it's still the same language. Breaking compatibility is exactly what makes it a different one.

about a month and a half ago
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Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

JanneM Huh (240 comments)

So.. preserving backwards compatibility and interoperability across versions is a bad thing? If he's unhappy with the feature set of C++ (and I wouldn't blame him for that), then how about simply picking up a different language instead? That's what a new, non-compatible C++ version would be in any case.

Look at how great it has worked out for Python. It's been six years since the only mildly incompatible version 3 was released, and it has still not managed to become dominant over the legacy version 2. A more radical break would almost certainly have had an even tougher road ahead.

about a month and a half ago
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Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

JanneM Re:I'm confused, shortage or glut (283 comments)

If there was a geniune shortage, you'd see sharp increases in salary levels. There's just a shortage of qualified people willing to work for much less than they're worth.

about a month and a half ago
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2014 Nobel Prize In Physics Awarded To the Inventors of the Blue LED

JanneM Re:Useful but physics? (243 comments)

From Alfred Nobels will: "[...]which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; [...]"

So, discovery or invention. Doesn't have to be fundamental science, and can indeed be a pure engineering achievement.

about a month and a half ago
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Japan's Shinkansen Bullet Trains Celebrate 50th Anniversary

JanneM Re:Hai! (111 comments)

That piece is kind of crap. The main reason is that the summer holidays are over. The kids are in school (and busy with clubs, homework and so on on the weekends) and the parents are working. And as most bathers are gone, so are the drink vendors, the equipment renters and so on.You'll still find people on beaches, just not many.

about 2 months ago
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Tetris To Be Made Into a Live Action Film

JanneM Re:There's no script. (137 comments)

I would imagine that this will be the kind of a movie that will be in the five dollar bin at Walmart's within a month of release. And there will be a lot of them that simply stay in that bin.

At least they'll be neatly packed.

about 2 months ago
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Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

JanneM Re:Fine. Legislate for externalities. (488 comments)

"Indeed, in Japan, only the western half of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu have enough sunny days to justify large-scale rooftop solar installations."

Which is why one of the largest solar plants opened near Sendai in northern Honshu a couple years back? What conditions are profitable depend on the technology you use, and the cost of production. And as solar cost decreases and efficiency increases more locations will be realistic.

about 2 months ago
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Update: At Least 31 People Feared Dead After Japan Volcano Erupts

JanneM Re:No warning? (54 comments)

There was some seismic activity for a period of time before it happened - but this is Japan; there's always seismic activity happening. According to interviewed researchers there really was no warning beforehand.

about 2 months ago
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Japan's Mt. Ontake Erupts, Stranding Hundreds of Hikers

JanneM Re:Why didn't they seek protection? (41 comments)

The video is deceiving; that trail is much steeper than it looks. Slowly stumbling downwards is pretty much all they could do. Also, most deaths from eruptions are either from poisonous gas or from heat. A small hut will shield you from neither. But both gas concentration and heat will disspiate by distance, so simply trying to get away from it may well be your best chance to survive.

about a month ago
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DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service

JanneM Re:Copter data (92 comments)

So why are people generally using quadcopters for autonomous systems? What's the disadvantage of a single-rotor copter when you're doing autonomous flight? I can imagine that perhaps it's a size issue - quadcopters are lighter or cheaper or more efficient below a certain size or when indoors? Or is it much more difficult to write a reliable control system for a single-rotor system?

about 2 months ago
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DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service

JanneM Re:Copter data (92 comments)

Could they handle that weight for such a distance, though? And in very rough weather, including rain and strong headwinds?

about 2 months ago

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