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Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

JanneM Take the long view (463 comments)

Charlie Stross recently posted a very good take on this: This is a permanent change. Whatever happens during the first few years is basically irrelevant, compared to the long-term results. Did Norway separating from Sweden cause short-term economic upheaval? Does that matter at all a century later?

This is a long-term change, not a short.term one. Any voter should consider the probable situation twenty or fourty years from now, not whatever happens in a year or two.


The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

JanneM Re:MOOC is designed like a physical classroom (182 comments)

"Also some of the science and tech courses are very demanding but the teachers don't simplify it leading to many whooshing sounds for the student throughout the courses. Such courses could benefit from a simplified overview of the course material."

How many employers would like to hire people that can't understand the actual content and need "simplified overview" to get a grade? If you really don't grasp it to the point where you can actually apply the math for new, novel problems, then you don't actually know it, do you?

MOOCs have a serious credibility problem already. The very last thing they need is to dumb things down. If it becomes common knowledge that, say, an engineering MOOC graduate can't even handle a system of differential equations in an intelligent manner, or don't understand the implication of Green's function, then the credits will become truly worthless.

4 days ago

When Scientists Give Up

JanneM Re:If you think medical funding is bad (347 comments)

It does depend on the size of the field as well, though, as well as the funding. I can well imagine astronomy having major problems; everybody has heard of astronomy, and lots of people dream of being astronomers.

A friend of mine is working in paleogeology. As you might imagine there's not a huge amount of money in the field. On the other hand, few people have heard of it either, and there aren't that many people dreaming of working there. There's no movies starring daring paleogeogists with hat and bullwhip in hand ducking poison arrows and swinging across pits of snakes in order to determine the local sea bed temperature during the cambrian. The end result is that funding is pretty stable and dependable. People that are qualified and willing find funding. I bet there's a fair amount of other obscure fields in a similar situation.

about a week ago

UK's National Health Service Moves To NoSQL Running On an Open-Source Stack

JanneM Re:Holy shit! (198 comments)

You could write an open source application in C++ rather than the much less mainstream R language and you'd have lots of people ready skilled to maintain it.

You may be right in general. But R is not a general-purpose language. It's a programmable tool for statistical computing; you'd have to spend a lot of time to reimplement a set of high-quality statistical libraries to do the same. Doing that correctly is very non-trivial and not quick. Very similar to saying you can replace Matlab with your own C++ code.

about a week ago

New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

JanneM Re:Do the math (338 comments)

Wow, that's a lot. I wonder why they allow so much power per outlet?

Because of all those damn industrial vaccuum cleaners.

about three weeks ago

Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

JanneM Re:Can we rid the word of "Gelling"? (127 comments)

One function of special vocabulary is for specialists to easily communicate. But another, important, social function is as a badge of in-group membership. If you use the words correctly (from the point of view of the group) you show that you belong, and that you probably know and understand all the other explicit and implicit rules of the group. If the word use spreads too far it loses this function and the group needs to find new words and expressions instead.

You dislike "gelling". You dislike "paradigm shifts". It would probably be a fairly risk-free bet on what you think of expressions like "optics" (as in "the optics of this decision is good") and the like. You dislike these words and refuse to use them. Which signals to management people that you are not management and should not be treated as part of their in-group. "gelling" works exactly as intended, in other words.

Asking for words to not be used like this is futile. It would be like asking people to no longer care about fashion (another in-group signal) or to not form groups of like-minded people at all.

about a month ago

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

JanneM Re:What are they complaining about? (341 comments)

Not many other countries intentionally bankrupt accident victims the way the US does.

I don't live in the US, and I agree. But, if you're found liable for an accident you will tend to pay a lot of money in any country; the accident victims likely have life or accident insurance and their insurance company will want to get reimbursed.

So good, comprehensive accident insurance is a very good idea no matter where you live. Usually we have that as part of our home insurance or other thing like that, and if you own a car you have mandatory insurance for that.

But in a case like this you may well be completely uncovered. The vehicle insurance is likely not valid for commercial traffic, and your home insurance may well not be valid either. As I said, I would never, ever get into a car like this without first being absolutely sure that the liability situation is crystal clear.

about a month ago

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

JanneM Re:What are they complaining about? (341 comments)

What they do need however is a license to operate a taxi, and that's determined locally, with a criminal background/medical/eyes check, and a very stringent but outdated local geography test that has been rendered completely useless by mobile applications such as Google Maps Navigation and Waze.

So require that the drivers have it, outdated or not. It's required by all commercial passenger traffic so it's not as f it discriminates against Uber after all. If they really don't like it, they're free to lobby and argue for a change to the relevant laws. Just arguing that "but we don't wanna follow the law!" gets tired really fast.

In the US, Uber covers you for up to one million dollars.

That's a pretty pathetic sum for traffic insurance. Remember, you may potentially be economically liable for several injured, permanently disabled or killed people, property damage and other costs. And again, as the one that commissions and pays for the trip, you just might find yourself shouldering part of the criminal liability too, if you didn't check that the guy you hired had a valid license for commercial traffic.

about a month ago

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

JanneM What are they complaining about? (341 comments)

I don't know why Uber is complaining. All they need to do, after all, is to recruit drivers with a commercial license; require the vehicles to comply to commercial safety standards; and provide the needed insurance. It's not as if the deck is stacked against them - the other services they compete against all follow the same rules.

For my part as a potential user, liability is the real issue. I would never risk taking a car service where I'm not fully covered in the case of an accident. It's not just medical and other costs for myself; if the driver is not licensed you, as the one paying for the ride, may be regarded as co-responsible if your driver caused the accident in the first place. You want to risk hundreds of thousands of Euro in damages to save a few bucks on a taxi ride?

about a month ago

Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

JanneM The basic problem is (249 comments)

The basic complaint of the poster seems to be that in a store of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of titles, only a very small number ever get discovered and successful. Huge numbers of very worthy apps never get a chance.

That problem can't be solved by any reasonable reorganization. We users (I use the Play store, but the same situation applies) have only so many minutes of time to spend looking for and using new stuff. However you make new apps visible to users, you're punishing apps that would have been visible otherwise. Competing for user attention time is a zero-sum game.

The Play store "people you know" ratings are surprisingly helpful. Unlike general user ratings this is not easy to game by the developers. But of course, those people may only have tested that one app because it was already more popular already.

I guess the only way to really fix it is to show each user only a random 0.1% subset of all apps. That would give every app a good chance of being seen and tried. But it would rather annoy all those people looking for irritated avians and not finding them.

about a month ago

Telegram Not Dead STOP Alive, Evolving In Japan STOP

JanneM Re:Makes sense (144 comments)

Of course. I don't suggest my experience is typical. But I hear the same thing from other places. My wife is a freelancer, so we have a fax machine at home, but again, it is almost never used any longer. She only has it in case some client still want to use it over email. I suspect - and this is of course just my own supposition, nothing else - that people now buy fax machines only to be covered for the rare case of doing business with a technical laggard, not as a daily office tool.

about a month ago

Telegram Not Dead STOP Alive, Evolving In Japan STOP

JanneM Re:Makes sense (144 comments)

Stamping documents is seen as a way to say "I have checked this" or "I endorse this", and because you can't stamp an email or text message they print, stamp and fax documents.

I'm working in Japan, and while I almost never get or send a fax any more (it must be years now), it's decently common to send and receive PDF scans over email. In fact, sometimes you need to print out the scan, add your stamp, re-scan and send it back. I do - want to print a reference copy for myself anyhow - but I suspect some people simply add their stamp graphic to the document directly.

about a month ago

Auralux Release For Browsers Shows Emscripten Is Reaching Indie Devs

JanneM I jut tried it (44 comments)

Just tried it a little. And it really seems to work flawlessly. Smooth graphics and gameplay, and music and sound effects come through just fine. And it's a very nice abstract game too; reminds me more than a little of Osmos in both style and pacing.

about a month ago

Judge Rejects $324.5 Million Settlement For Tech Workers, Argues For More

JanneM Re:And yet (268 comments)

Given the premises of this thread (the costs and salaries of work immigration need to be controlled by the state), here a half-serious suggestion:

Have work immigrants be employed by your federal govermnent, not by the company they work for. The immigrant reports their working hours and conditions to the government, and they get their salary paid out from there. The government dispatches the worker to the company, and get the salary and other costs paid back from them.

The great benefit is that the worker is no longer there at the mercy of the company, and has no incentive to accept bad conditions or missing pay checks from them. And in any labour dispute they have the backing of a major legal and administrative organization. The government gets a clear view of exactly who the work immigrants are and what they do for their employers. The companies are relieved of some of the responsibility for these workers. Everybody has a common, single point of focus where they can turn in case of problems.

about a month ago

Google, Linaro Develop Custom Android Edition For Project Ara

JanneM I like the idea in principle (46 comments)

I like the idea in principle. I do think it's really useful to customize a few specific parts - one person might want a high-performance (and large, and expensive)) camera module both front anb back; another prefers just a minimal camera and gets a larger battery instead; a third has a job where cameras are banned and opts to get none at all. A fingerprint reader, a headphone jack, or an SD card slot are other options people may want to add or skip.

But I do not think upgradeable phones are meaningful. After 2-3 years with a phone, it's pretty beat up. Screen is scratched and dimming, the case is scuffed and creaky, buttons don't quite work, connectors are getting glitchy, the battery is dying and both CPU and memory are getting old. I'd want to upgrade all of it - I want a new phone, not throw money at the old one.

about a month and a half ago

Switching From Microsoft Office To LibreOffice Saves Toulouse 1 Million Euros

JanneM Re:As We Speak (296 comments)

Cheaper than zero?

Bribes would effectively create a negative cost, at least for the peoplereceiving them.

about 2 months ago

Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

JanneM Re:Astronomy, and general poor night-time results. (550 comments)

"They can fix astigmatism now?"

Yes. Here's the Wikipedia entry (though it feels written by a proponent):

Basically, they measure the retinal reflection from lights coming from a number of different angles to map the lens aberration (just a linear approximation, but with a grid of lights that's plenty close enough). Then they use that to map shorter, more focused laser pulses to reshape the cornea appropriately.

If I understand it right, you normally get rid of all primary and secondary astigmatism (such as coma), but you can still have a small bit of residual astigmatism afterwards. In practice it's night and day; once my eyes stabilized (it took two months) I don't have double vision or any of the other annoying effects of astigmatism any longer.

about 2 months ago

Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

JanneM Re:Astronomy, and general poor night-time results. (550 comments)

I'm 45 and I've had presbyopia for five years, bad enough that I always need separate glasses when reading or working in front of a screen, or even using my phone. I still went ahead with surgery last winter. And I'm very happy I did.

I had pronounced astigmatism in addition to nearsightedness. When you add presbyopia it becomes almost impossible to get a pair of lenses that will correct all of it anywhere but right in the center of vision. In practice I had to movemy head instead of my eyes when reading, playing games, programming... It was frustrating and gave me increasingly common headaches.

With LASIK (a fairly new type that maps the eye and removes the stigmatism) I now have 15/15 and only need glasses for presbyopia. I have one pair for close-up work, that now lets me see in my entire field of vision; and my old favourite pair has no correction at all except at the bottom, where mild close-up power lets me see my phone, read labels and stuff like that when I'm out and about.

It may not sound like much of a difference since I still often wear glasses. But it's night and day - headaches are gone, I really see much better now (I actually see towards the sides again!) and for many activitites such as snorkeling or photography I need no eye correction at all.

about 2 months ago

Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

JanneM Re:Why is it cheaper in China? (530 comments)

But an assembly line manned by robots? Why should that be cheaper in China? Is capital that much cheaper?

Even if wages and other costs were equal, the location advantage is substantial. It's not that it's cheaper in China, but that it's cheaper in the huge manufacturing hubs. You have suppliers and manufacturers for just about every single component you need without long-distance shipping, and a deep pool of design and manufacturing expertise working in the area.

That's not to say you can't manufacture efficiently elsewhere (we have plenty of recent examples such as the Raspberry Pi), but that the advantages has as much to do with the concentration of resources as with the cost of labour and regulations. And of course, as this inudstry becomes ever more automated, it no longer matters much for jobs where it happens any longer.

about 2 months ago

Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

JanneM Re:Quite... (468 comments)

You can use the exact same arguments against fly-by-wire technology. Yet, that is now the norm, with not a mechanical linkage in sight.

about 2 months ago



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