The Tech Industry Is Getting Ridiculous
Boy, when you remove context from misleading headline excerpts, things sure do get wacky!
You know those jokes that sometimes aren't funny from old movies, that your relatives laugh real hard about? A large number of those came from the same logic - taking a topical story, removing the context, and applying hyperbole to the idea. They know the idea is misleading, and are 'in' on a joke that they just can't explain to you and still be funny.
Just bundling some of those together with a 'technology' theme isn't making a point - its bungling a joke. Not as bad as that whole 'beta' attempt, but still, a bad attempt at a joke.
NASA Pondering Two Public Contests To Build Small Space Exploration Satellites
I'll join the crowd and help post in every thread that pops up, and upvote all the other comments I can find doing the same.
Slashdot Beta is not fixable - it is trash code that should be abandoned as a "lessons learned" exercise. It's not even a close decision - it's pretty much unanimous amongst the users - the ones that provide 90+% of any meaningful content on this particular site in particular.
If this advice that everyone is giving isn't honored by the local 'beta' admins, I believe it's time to start communicating with the people in charge, and pulling the levers of power a bit - and hopefully get these folks a stern talking to about what they were throwing away.
Shorter version: THE BETA SUCKS. LOSE IT.
Update on the March of Progress: How Slashdot's New Look Is Shaping Up
I wasn't able to post this until I logged in, and found a way to reach this url without the beta:
Link to the non-beta version
Holy crap, the beta is just useless! I don't think it can be patched - it really, really should be abandoned if this is where it is after all this time. Use it for 'lessons learned' but that's it.
Nobel Prize Winning Economist: Legalize Sale of Human Organs
What is evil? I like the AD&D definition - a scale of more and more willing to allow harm to others for your own benefit. Of course, what is seen as harm that matters is the rub.
Would an open organ market save lives - oh, yes, and prohibiting it does cost lives - so one could certainly argue like here that the prohibition is evil.
But allowing such a market will create a society that allows much more willful harm for profit. Right now, organ illegal organ harvesting exists, but is somewhat rare and difficult to make a safe profit from. The legal 'market' is based on donations - so there is no prohibition on the act of getting organs, there's just more people with failing organs than people dying with healthy organs.
The results of allowing an organ market would be an opening bubble resulting in increased harvesting amongst the ethically 'invisible' (poor/isolated), and a greatly increased demand for 'donors' either desperate or false (in order to launder organs). Some of this will be caught, but much of it would become institutionalized.
The endpoint would be a lot of poor people across the world dead and permanently disabled, a lot of wealthy and older people living a few months longer, a relatively few children of the wealthy saved, and a HUGE number of people financially invested in the organ market through their banks and mutual funds.
This last part is the big evil thing - markets always, ALWAYS demand more - more organs, more secrecy, more profitability. They thrive on multiplying evil in terms of harm ('externalities') in order to create better profit ratios.
The whole pattern is just far to evil for me.
I'd suggest putting more money into single-organ cloning (there's been some amazing developments lately), but if there's one thing the market process is HORRIBLE at, it's doing scientific research - it always seems to abandon anything long term, treats it only as marketing, and destroys far too much (to prevent helping 'competitors'.) Taxes, though a limited kind of evil, tend to be much more productive over time for the same result.
The Desktop Is Dead, Long Live the Desktop!
There's many, many more PCs in the world than there were last year, and there will continue to be many, many more PCs next year.
Just because it's rate of growth is slower than it used to be, does not mean there will be fewer PCs used - PCs are not actually getting less popular, they're just not getting more popular at as fast a rate as before.
The 'desktop' is as necessary, and as used as ever - there's just fewer folks needing a new copy right now. The role of PCs in doing most of the creation of content, serving of data, and as a customizable platform will not be reduced - there's just other specialized devices getting into their own growth phases in popularity, consuming the content created by an industry of PCs and PC servers.
It's like saying that micro organisms are in danger, because they've filled most of the world, they aren't doubling in number periodically anymore, and other creatures that eat them are increasing in number. But none of those 'competitors' actually fill the same niche, and they all depend on the lowly class of micro organisms to function in the end.
Bizarre Six-Tailed Asteroid Dumbfounds Scientists
Why do so many of these stories have things like "dumbfounded" or "baffled" in the title? Are these scientists just standing there, exclaiming to everyone who will listen - "I'm just so gosh-darn BAFFLED!" Not from any scientist I've met - but it's always reported as such, as if unknowns weren't a crucial element of the whole, you know, SCIENTIFIC PROCESS.
A Math Test That's Rotten To the Common Core
I've worked on programming games of chance for various states and governments, and learned that's there's a lot of problems communicating odds/ratios/differences in the ways this test is laying things out, especially for wide audiences that will validly complain about the terms used.
While they're not always fully ambiguous, you're just going to get a large percentage of test-takers answering incorrectly for things they legitimately know, just because they were thinking 'wrong' about how the information was present at that moment. Now, while this does a good job of showing where real-life problems can mislead people - it does a poor job of testing the actual skills being taught, as it's testing too many distinct things in each question to be meaningful in measuring math alone.
In order to have these kinds of questions be meaningful, you'd have to ask several variants over 100's of questions to filter understanding of each aspect of the questions - and you couldn't do that in one sitting either - which is why these are bad questions for a test of math.
If you wanted to test understanding of language context, use a question just for that - a 'what is the best sentence to describe..', then you don't have to have it as part of every question, and can even use previous questions to establish a context.
What this seems designed to do, is provide poor test results for people who haven't been given special training about 'math sentences' (which don't correspond to much), so that they can inflate their "improvement" when people improve in their tests, which are mostly just about 'math sentences'.
That doesn't sound like a math class - that sounds like a product training class.
Richard Feynman would rant much about this.
New Technology For Converting a Metal To a Semiconductor With a Laser
So... you're saying that the whole "we've got to alter the polarity on the deflector array" technobabble on Star Trek, may be retconned... as reality? With lasers, onto metals?
Seriously though - neat new twist on material science, and great exploration of particle coupling/entanglement! Could result in some rather odd, but promising advances in chip design and layout.
Antigua Looks Closer To Legal "Piracy" of US-Copyrighted Works
Sounds less like 'piracy', and more like early America, where our forebears had little stake in maintaining the seemingly unjust control of foreign interests, but much interest in creating a large body of works that the public could use to generate culture in this new world.
I'm sure there were a lot of folks an ocean away decrying the 'free ride' those Americans were taking then too - but those resources had some heavy work to do, and it would rightly seem absurd at the to pay several times the cost of production for a 'licensed' book at the end of the day. What parts of culture we were able to 'steal' helped make us diverse and strong - and I don't blame any developing nation for wanting to repeat that, either officially, or unofficially like most nations.
MIT Develops "Kinect of the Future"
Using radio waves to track position/movement is VERY far from new. Even imaging through walls is extremely old hat. A control interface with 10cm+/- resolution would be drastically worse than any current game controller.
This isn't for gaming - it's use would be primarily for surveillance and automated 'security' tools of various kinds. It's not Xbox - its NSA/military/creepy 'spy' tools.
Valve Shows How Steam Controller Works In Real Life
A very good video showing movement mapped to real gameplay.
The obvious: It's not QUITE as 1-1 as a mouse with 4 inches of control surface.
But I'd still rate it a bit higher than a trackball, which is high praise from me, since I really enjoy using trackball inputs when a mouse isn't convenient.
This is a real accomplishment in input innovation - even without considering the dynamic haptic feedback portion of the design.
I'd be amazed, if this works as advertised, if Sony and Microsoft don't push for a copycat controller very rapidly - especially given the PC-like nature of their new consoles.
The remaining challenge: How would it fare against a 360/Dualshock controller in specialized console games. From what I've heard from developers so far:
Super Meat Boy dev trys out the Steam controller
It sounds like it's a good compromise overall - but it's still got some hurdles to clear to being "the best" - but man, it sounds promising so far!
Ultimaker Debuts Ultimaker 2 3D Printer With Open Source Cura Software
$200 for PLA plasic-only, or $300 for one that handles ABS plastic too. Plastic is around $16/kg, and I just ordered the $200 one after reviewing the inventor's careful (and very honest engineer-style presentation) instructions on how to put it together.
It's an elegant setup, and a really nice looking toy, that might get some interesting use, but I won't even try and justify it on that count.
Here's it printing a Yoda figure:
It'll probably take a few months before it gets here, but it'll be a great home project.
Study Shows Professors With Tenure Are Worse Teachers
It would be nice if we could have careful training of each of our precious growing minds, for years and years, at the lowest possible cost, by people who did nothing but deeply care for the interests of who these people were going to be... but having teaching (and research) being one of the lowest quality-of-life jobs, with very low relative pay does mean something.
The best way we end up compensating for that, historically, is offering other forms of quality of life - more time to prepare outside of teaching, more job security, and some other limited benefits. Take away these things, and you fully transform the role into a job for masochists.
The cost dynamics never made sense to me - it really wouldn't cost that comparatively much to make teaching a desirably paid position, and the research positions that go along with them. Instead, what we get are colleges charging historically absurd cost increases every year to have, well, better sports teams, I can only guess.
I guess if this trend continues, we'll just move to compensating them with coupons to Subway, then rail at how so many of them get 20% off for how 'little' they do.
Research Shows "Three Strikes" Anti-piracy Laws Don't Work
You can't enforce strict copyright. I'm saying this as someone who has worked on a lot of commercial software and games, even written copy protection systems of various kinds.
Public: Police services would charge the public far too much for any meaningful enforcement to make it practical - and we're already spending far more than any other nation on rule enforcement systems. It would either be far too spotty to be effective, or be politically impossible for many reasons, at least in a somewhat democratic system.
Private: DRM systems that get invasive enough to be effective (and there haven't been many for very long), will incur a drastic competitive disadvantage to competitors who are less invasive. Longterm strict DRM would not be sustainable for many, many reasons. DRM is in effect asking players to pay a tax in both money (bandwidth/dev costs) and quality (time, inconvenience) that is far, FAR too high for the results. Oh, and it will always break in commercial software to some degree - and be a giant point of failure, the more strict it gets.
Legal: Even with oceans of legal text, and lawsuits constantly popping up - you can't scale anywhere close to the level of "fixing the problem" using the legal system. Physical counterfeiting you can come close - but you can't stop the world from copying music from radio, or any of the thousands of ways copies of stuff can be made with a legal system. Some judges may be accommodating, but to scale to the level you'd need - even the most industry-friendly judge is going to get sick of the game and dance, and the whole thing is going to get shut down just by targeting such a large portion of the populace. Think the drug war is a travesty? A significant war on 'illegal copying' would catch even more in its net.
This system of vaguely increasing 'ISP warnings' followed by inconvenience is about as close to what you can expect to be tolerated. Give the industry the right to issue fines at will, and the backlash (and targeting failures) would be amazing.
Want to make a system that works? Look at Steam. That setup is amazing - promote the games, make it really easy, prioritize a good direct experience, make it easier and better on average than the Pirate Bay experience - and you'll get 70+% of your potential market. I know that 30% you think you're losing hurts in the gut a little - but irritating your customers with DRM will lose you much more over time, and devote a portion of your development setup towards a developer job everyone in the room will hate, taking up large parts of meetings, making everyone uptight about worrying about pirates, making your product worse.
Amazon and and iTunes and such also do a somewhat decent job, and getting into worse areas would be the XBox/Playstation marketplaces and EA's Origin - the sales techniques get more invasive the worse you go, and they get to feel less a good experience than The Pirate Bay as you travel along this road of annoyance.
I like being paid for my work - but I don't find DRM or annoying interfaces (including unnecessary network usage) to be good ways to make a living. People can and most definitely WILL buy software they would otherwise download if it is a good convenient experience, and if the software isn't sabotaged against use. Investing time in sabotaging your sofware is NOT time well spent.
The Decline of '20% Time' at Google
Everyone in a position of being judged wants to show that they're productive compared to others. Without a strong force to oppose the progression towards everyone doing everything they can to look busy, the trend in every business is to force everyone towards a saturation point of perceived effort.
That tends to include things like more time filling out checklists, more time in more kinds of meetings, "peter principle"-style promotions, increasingly redundant cross-checks with everyone your work touches, and inevitable legacy management of previous projects.
Many of those projects, of course, will be created with the goal of reducing the overhead of other things, and some will succeed - but the culture always seems to still shift towards everyone at least acting busy so they can focus on what they see as more important with the discretionary time they have.
It's the nature of perspective - people will always see things slightly differently, have different priorities, and compromises will be made in any cooperation in order to make something that serves the shared needs. The more "important" perspectives you bring in over time, the more difficult it tends to become to optimize the shared collaboration, and the more time is needed to find a working compromise. And everyone becomes busy just to work through the ever-growing details.
Can the Wii U Survive Against the PS4 and Xbox One?
There's simply been no compelling games for the system - and I'm saying that as a fan of most big-hitter Nintendo games, who has purchased all the previous major systems to play those big games, and a large number of the more quirky third party titles and RPGs too.
No Metroid Prime games (haunting and epic), no Mario Galaxy games (wonderful and diverse exploration), no Zelda games (charming and intricate systems to explore), no compelling RPGs over here at least (Dragon Quest, etc.), and nothing interesting like a Kirby game. Even the one captivating game I played at PAX - Pikmin 3 - hasn't even been released yet.
All I've noticed has been lame party games, shameless re-releases, cross-ports, and a freakin' zombie game. Even more for the download titles.
That is precisely a system that should not sell well.
If they wanted to sell this system, there's a risky thing they could do though - open up a downloadable game section devoted to indies, and release a quality free SDK. Only let them be free downloads, but allow an optional (based on developer intention) greenlight-style voting mechanism for them to become sold in the marketplace, with multiple voting questions like "is this game bug-free enough to be a professional product?" THEN, you can charge the indie developer for an in-house testing cycle and you can end up having something more than re-releases to remind people about. This likely wouldn't be acceptable to staunch managers from a software 'piracy' perspective, but if the system is selling so poorly - really, lure the potential pirates in, and let a community of indie developers convert them into paying customers.
Microsoft YouTube App Strips Ads; Adds Download
Data scraping can work, as long as you have a team that can keep up with changes to the interface and counter various approaches to block the scraping-specific requests. Somehow, I don't think this will work for the long-term on Windows Phone systems - but then again, Windows Phone itself may not last too terribly long in this incarnation either, so it may be fine for its purpose, which is to latch onto low-information customers with shallow but momentary appealing features.
Belief In God Correlates With Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes
Ha! Am I biased, and selective in the messages I put out into the world? Yes - I'm a human being.
Is there anything wrong with that?
I just want appropriate labeling on the biased articles that are using misleading language to disguise the bias they are proffering.
I'm perfectly OK with bias - in fact, I highly encourage proselytizing and debate, and love to learn about religions of all sorts. I just don't appreciate approaches that use lies and distortions to push the proselytizing as if it were something it were not. Like with the Templeton foundation.
Belief In God Correlates With Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes
The key thing missing in the headline: "In treatment of depression".
Other things missing: "in one isolated study", "in an article summarizing the study, without any direct link to the research", and of course, "a highly biased interpretation meant to generate views based on obvious controversy."
Keep in mind, this may also be highly cultural, as many nations have much larger percentage non-believing populations, but not worse depression or suicide rates that correlate.
Stephen Hawking Warns Against Confining Ourselves To Earth
Basically, this advice either boils down to "get out if/while you can", or else we're going to have to take some amazing steps to even get a small portion of the population out of the gravity well.
Which is actually good advice from one perspective - it's a very good negotiating approach.
We know that all paths we see before us seem to lead to epic population tragedies.
The cost of each of them is almost unlimited, in terms of taking away a meaningful future for humanity.
The private sector very strongly resists any attempt to do basic non-commercial research that can lead to a solution to any of these tragedies (and in fact is at least the indirect cause of many of them).
The reasonable answer, without requesting it, would seem to be an increase in funding by many of the nations of the earth for basic research. An increase in space exploration by China, for instance, would lead to a new space race, meaning more research and education.
More research and education will lead to progress towards solving basic problems, and possible escape from earth.
But for now in the US, conservatives think it will lead to more liberals, so it will be opposed strongly until they fear China enough to allow some progress.