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The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage

SplawnDarts There's definitely a shortage of competence (392 comments)

I have no opinion about STEM as a whole, but there's a huge shortage of competent engineers in the US. Depending on how hard nosed we are about it, between 50-80% of candidates with nominal programming backgrounds fail FizzBuzz or equivalent even with their choice of language. Similar rates of EEs fail a basic question about series and parallel resistance, V=IR and P=IV.

The solution however is not H1B visas. They fail at much higher rates than those not seeking visa sponsorship. In fact I feel sorry for them - they've gone to a foreign country for college, paid 5 or 6 figures for an education, and have a piece of paper they might as well wipe with because somehow they managed not to learn a thing. Someone sold them a bill of goods.

about a month ago
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OKCoin Raises $10 Million To Become China's Largest Bitcoin Exchange

SplawnDarts Re:Here we go again. (48 comments)

It shows you that what's yours, aka what your wealth is, truly is only what you can lay your hands on right now if there's nothing to support your claims to wealth. At this exact moment in time that's a laptop computer and an open, half-consumed can of Mountain Dew, and a physical wallet with a few dollars in it.

It's regulation that says that I own cars, a home, the contents of that home, and the contents of my bank accounts. If someone tries to take any of those things then I either get them back or I get compensation for their value, because there's regulation that supports me.

I think that the bitcoin crowd is slowly coming to realize that this massively libertarian construct doesn't work due to a lack of true oversight.

While there's something to what you state, I think you're being unfair to libertarians (and I'm not one - I just think they deserve to be defended on this point). Broadly speaking libertarians believe that one of the legitimate functions of the state is providing the (threat of) violence needed to allow the ownership of property without having to personally protect it.

A person who didn't believe that was a legitimate function of the state would either be an anarchist (if they opposed the idea of a state entirely) or an extreme form of socialist (if they believed there should be a state but that individuals should either not have or not be secure in their property).

about a month ago
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The Future of Cryptocurrencies

SplawnDarts Deflation = BAD (221 comments)

As long as they're deflationary, cryptocurrencies will never be used as conventional currency. Deflationary currency rewards hoarding, which takes it out of circulation, which causes something else to be used as currency.

For a historical example, look at gold-backed currency in the US after the civil war and the Fourth Coinage Act. A nice, hard, deflationary money and largely ignored in favor of marginal reserve bank notes that frequently turned out to be worth no more than the printing. And yet by and large the later drove out the former for the purposes of actually doing business. That deflationary money was in fact so disfavored that William Jennings Bryan got within a stone's throw of the Whitehouse basically running a single issue campaign against it.

It's hard to imagine anyone who has experienced long term deflationary money wants to ever see it again. It's just that most of the people who've had that experience in the US are dead or so close as not to matter.

about a month ago
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How Do You Backup 20TB of Data?

SplawnDarts Just buy disks and a JBOD (983 comments)

The cheapest solution where you retain a decent amount of control is basically to replicated what Amazon or whoever would do - create an array of the cheapest high-cap disks you can buy and put the data on it. Your net cost will be about $1000 plus ongoing electricity cost.

Anyone who's charging you less than that (with the $1000 amortized over 3-5 years) is running at a loss and likely won't be around when you want your data back.

about a month ago
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Interviews: ESR Answers Your Questions

SplawnDarts Re:AR15 != battle rifle (117 comments)

In modern parlance the AR15 is definitely a "battle rifle". Does it have the terminal ballistics and barrier penetration of 762 NATO or .30-06? Nope. But it's more than sufficient to put someone down, and the light ammo load makes it ideal for a wide range of applications. The 69+ gr. loads even have good external ballistics so you can hit out past 500Y.

There's only really two reason you'd want to get into a 7.62 rifle - either you need sub-2MOA accuracy (which the 5.56 ecosystem isn't really set up for) or you need to stay supersonic out a few hundred more yards. Other than that you're just lugging more weight around.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is a Better Career Opportunity Worth a Pay Cut?

SplawnDarts Run. (263 comments)

"Career opportunities" don't come with pay cuts. They come with pay raises. Run.

about 2 months ago
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Mt. Gox Gone? Apparent Theft Shakes Bitcoin World

SplawnDarts Tip of the hat... (695 comments)

This will have to go down as the best example of a self contained "long con" in the history of separating fools from their money. Certainly the best example that didn't use governmental power to do the separating. And of course, as with essentially all cons, it works by preying on the inherent greed and biases of the mark - in this case, a libertarian fascination with deflationary money.

about 2 months ago
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Are You a Competent Cyborg?

SplawnDarts Re:No. (101 comments)

The definitions of "cyborg" and "cybernetic" are in an academic context VERY broad. Really only science fiction has narrowed the concept to a William Gibsonesque "person with machine bits grafted on".

In Norbert Wiener's sense a person holding a phone definitely qualifies. Many scholars would have no problem at all with the "machine" part being something even more disconnected or abstract - perhaps business/social/economic in nature.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

about 2 months ago
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GNU Hurd Gets Improvements: User-Space Driver Support and More

SplawnDarts That's nice... (163 comments)

User space driver's are one thing, but I'm still waiting for the day whe HURD gets a user.

about 2 months ago
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A Thermodynamics Theory of the Origins of Life

SplawnDarts Re:So more enthalpy=more life? (185 comments)

You must be those guys who label organic food with "contains no chemicals" and similar nonsense.

Here's a hint: a "group of atoms" difinitively implies one or more chemicals.

about 3 months ago
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Surveillance Watchdog Concludes Metadata Program Is Illegal, "Should End"

SplawnDarts Re:Probably won't have much affect (138 comments)

While this opinion is in no way binding, it may still be valuable. The courts have not weighed in on the various NSA activities with any finality. One district judge has indicated it's probably constitutional. One has indicated it's not. Public disapproval can still help sway the outcome when this dispute makes its inevitable way to the supreme court.

about 3 months ago
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You Might Rent Features & Options On Cars In the Future

SplawnDarts Re: All I Have To Say Is (437 comments)

No one's "rising through the ranks" because they own the heated seats on their car. Most people who build wealth do so because, when faced with choices like having heated seats or 1/500th of a local business or income property, they repeatedly choose the later.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Often-Run Piece of Code -- Ever?

SplawnDarts I may just own this one... (533 comments)

We're looking for a CPU that has the following properties:
1) it runs a tight wait loop when idle
2) high CPU clock speeds
3) high number of them in the wild
4) it's not turned off for power management reasons

Now, I'm just guessing, but the winner may be the "waiting for command" loop on datacenter type disk drives. In many implementations it's a tight loop (sometimes empty waiting for command arrival interrupt), the clock speeds are about 400mhz (which while it isn't THAT much leads to millions of iterations per second), there's a CRAPLOAD of them out there, and the datacenter type drives don't generally have power management that turns them off the drive CPU. Whereas laptop drives, system main CPUs, and GPUs all do get power managed.

So disk drive firmware engineers may in fact deserve the trophy.

about 3 months ago
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Tech's Gender and Race Gap Starts In High School

SplawnDarts Re:This is the AP Comp Sci exam (489 comments)

My question, very much in general, and not to troll, is: at what point people just get to do what they fancy?

The instant you remove from them the political power to confiscate my money to provide a "safety net" in the event that their fancy proves economically untenable. In the absence of that change, I am sadly forced to care.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many (Electronics) Gates Is That Software Algorithm?

SplawnDarts Re:Knowing The Algorithm Is NOT Enough (365 comments)

Substantial, certainly. The deep pipe for fetch/decode and the superscalar backend make a big difference. Maybe 10x and 2x or so respectively. They also interact with the memory system (system RAM and caches) very differently so it's hard to make a perfect comparison.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many (Electronics) Gates Is That Software Algorithm?

SplawnDarts Knowing The Algorithm Is NOT Enough (365 comments)

Knowing what algorithm you want to run in hardware in not even close to enough to estimate gates. You need to know the algorithm, and the required performance, and have a sketched out HW design that meets those goals. THEN you can estimate gate count.

For a simple example of why this is, consider processors. A 386 and a Sandy Bridge i7 implement very similar "algorithms" - it's just fetch->decode->execute->writeback all day long. If you implemented them in software emulation, it would be very similar software with some additional bits for the newer ISA features on the i7. But a 386 is about 280 THOUSAND gates, and the i7 is about 350 MILLION gates/core - three orders of magnitude different. Of course, there's at least a 2 order of magnitude performance difference too - it's not like those gates are going to waste.

Point is, knowing the algorithm isn't enough to get even a finger in the wind guess at gate count. If you need an answer to this question, you need to get competent HW design people looking at it.

about 3 months ago
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Company That Made the First 3D Printed Metal Gun Is Selling Them For $11,900

SplawnDarts Re:WTF (182 comments)

The 1911 isn't a perfect design by any means - I would flag three issues that can't be corrected via trivial gunsmithing:

1) The extractor has several functional issues, not the least of which that it's supposed to be both a structural element and a spring. It tends to get clogged with crud and be at the wrong tension.
2) The "ski jump" between the frame ramp and barrel throat and general feed geometry is less than ideal.
3) The clearance between slide stop and bullet is far too similar to the clearance between slide stop and mag follower, leading to situations where the slide doesn't lock back when it should or does lock back when it shouldn't.

That said, there are many upsides to the 1911 design as well that subsequent designs have failed to match. The trigger design is such that it's possible to get an excellent trigger in terms of crispness and ability to tune to a desired weight - better than is possible on any striker or double action platform. The barrel to slide lockup is better than any other design because of the tunability afforded by the bushing and barrel link. The 1911 is very thin given the caliber it's chambered in, which makes them excellent concealed carry guns. The 1911 ergonomics just "feel right" in most adult male's hands. The positive action safeties prevent "glock leg".

Personally, it's one of the two pistol types I choose to carry (the other being S&W J-frame revolvers).

about 4 months ago
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Hoax-Proofing the Open Access Journals

SplawnDarts Write Only Science (114 comments)

The publication process has gone so far downhill it's basically not recognizable as science any more. This is driven by the university tenure process. Being a tenured professorship is a sweet job. The hours are short and flexible and the work is interesting and varied. Pay is less than industry, but once tenured the pay is guaranteed. Benefits are usually top-notch. That's an appealing package for anyone of reasonable intellect, middling ambition, and a desire for ironclad security. Not surprisingly, the supply of would-be professor labor greatly outstrips demand.

So who gets that cushy seat? Well, it's all based on publications and grant money. Grant money is based mostly on publications. So what you, would-be professor, need is a pile of publications. This is a huge change from the scientific publications of yore, which were by and large written for the benefit of the reader. These papers are written for the benefit of the WRITER, and that makes all the difference.

Most are on insanely obscure topics. The writer needs novelty (which is easiest achieved by obscurity) to get past peer review and no one cares if anyone else actually wants to know about the topic. Organization and clarity are for the birds - as long as the reviewers can't prove you're wrong per say it will get accepted somewhere eventually, especially at a pay journal. Reproducibility is actually undesirable - the last thing you want is scrutiny. It can't get you another publication, but it could force you to retract one. The problem being addressed by a given paper is typically very easy, but made to look very hard. Solve a hard problem, get one paper. Solve an easy problem that looks hard, get one paper. It's a no brainer.

Think these papers won't get past peer review? Think again. Mostly the journals don't REALLY read them. Just sort of skim. Think tenure committees will evaluate the papers on their merits? Think again. They don't have time, and in most universities the ultimate arbiter of tenure is the whole body of professors, most from different fields. TAre they're going to parse your obscure minutia? Heck no. They weigh it.

This can't be changed by fixing the journals. The real problem is that many of those publishing are doing so in bad faith. Right now scientists have exactly the journals they deserve.

about 6 months ago
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4K Ultra HD Likely To Repeat the Failure of 3D Television

SplawnDarts Makes a great monitor (559 comments)

4K is unnecessary for TV due to viewing distance and lack of 4K content, but it's GREAT for certain applications as a monitor. Basically anything where large amounts of screen real estate is required.

The Seiki 50" 4K TV is only $1000 and looks very good as a monitor once sharpness is set to zero. It's basically the equivalent of having a quad rack of 25" monitors but there's no bezel in the middle and the video card requirements are easier to meet. For applications like coding and finance, that's exactly what you want and not any more expensive than an equivilent monitor rack. It's not so good for gaming or anything where you want to look at the whole screen at a single time.

The "retina" distance where the pixels disappear is about 30-40", which is just about right for a huge monitor.

about 6 months ago

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