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"Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

alispguru The one woman is the Barbie brand manager (555 comments)

Jean McKenzie has been Executive Vice President of Mattel since September 2012. She was named President of American Girl Jan. 1, 2013. Prior to re-joining Mattel in 2011 as Senior Vice President-Marketing, she was President and CEO of Gateway Learning Corporation and Senior Vice President for The Walt Disney Company. From 1989-1998, Ms. McKenzie served in various executive positions at Mattel working on the Barbie brand, most recently as Executive Vice President and GM of Worldwide Barbie for Mattel.

Not sure if this makes the screw-up better or worse...

about a week ago
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NSA Director Says Agency Shares Most, But Not All, Bugs It Finds

alispguru Which should be split out into two agencies (170 comments)

There shouldn't be just one organization with those two jobs. There should be an open, well-funded office in, say the National Institute for Standards and Technology that searches for vulnerabilities and has a responsible disclosure policy for everything it finds.

The Government has had this problem before - there used to be one body that handled both promotion and regulation of atomic energy in the US, the US Atomic Energy Commission. In 1974 it got broken up into two agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (the regulator) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (the promoter).

about three weeks ago
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One In Three Jobs Will Be Taken By Software Or Robots By 2025, Says Gartner

alispguru This is why I'm a programmer (405 comments)

Automation will take us last.

about 1 month ago
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Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?

alispguru Local voice recognition (253 comments)

Voice recognition is the most processor intensive thing most users commonly do, and today everybody does it remotely on big servers, primarily because you need a bunch of data in RAM to do it fast.

We probably won't see this on phones until we get really low-power RAM (memristor-based, maybe).

about 2 months ago
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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

alispguru Reason is concentration (521 comments)

The "bad for wildlife" question basically comes down to:

* how much mass you have to move
* how much land area you have to occupy

per watt generated.

Coal and hydro lose because they both require a lot of mass (water and coal) and a lot of area (dammed waterway, mines and transport).

Nuclear and geothermal win because they both require very little mass and very little area other than the plant itself - uranium ore has at least 1000 times the energy per gram as coal.

Any kind of solar is in the middle because of the large area needed to capture relatively dilute solar energy.

about 3 months ago
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Don't Want Google In Your House? Here Are a Few Home-Tech Startups To Watch

alispguru Given the choices, go with Apple (88 comments)

Realistically, your choices are:

* Facebook and their ilk, who will sell your individually identifiable data without a second thought.

* Google, who will absolutely sell your info, probably aggregated. At least they're upfront about it.

* Apple, who views their non-release of your data as a market differentiator and thus a valuable part of their brand.

As long as people choose Apple for privacy, Apple will value privacy and not sell their data.

about 5 months ago
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Bill Gates To Stanford Grads: Don't (Only) Focus On Profit

alispguru Or maybe Do as I say, not as I did (284 comments)

That way you'll never be in my position of wealth and generosity, and my reputation will have less competition.

That's Gates for you - always competing.

about 5 months ago
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Kerry Says US Is On the "Right Side of History" When It Comes To Online Freedom

alispguru Is he ignorant, stupid, or lying? (261 comments)

Unfortunately those are the only three choices here.

about 7 months ago
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Skilled Manual Labor Critical To US STEM Dominance

alispguru Of course do this, but... (367 comments)

Don't go thinking that learning trade X or skill set Y or getting credential Z means anyone is set for life.

There are no simple fixes for the current situation where anybody's livelihood(*) can be reduced in value by automation. All the old middle-class certainties like:

- I own a house, which is an asset whose value will only go up
- I have a college degree, which guarantees me a middle-class job
- I have trade labor skills that have been valuable for many years, and will be valuable for the foreseeable future

are no longer certain.

(*) If you're lucky enough to have monetary assets of $500,000+ that you can invest conservatively, and are disciplined enough to live on only the proceeds, you're pretty safe.

about 7 months ago
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The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science

alispguru There should be a three-line bumper sticker (600 comments)

QUESTION AUTHORITY
Listen to Authority's response
If Authority is right, accept it

Most people stop at the first step.

about 7 months ago
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It Was the Worst Industrial Disaster In US History, and We Learned Nothing

alispguru Coal sludge is bad, hyping it doesn't help (290 comments)

One billion gallons is about 10 billion pounds.

There was 140,000 pounds arsenic in 10 billion pounds of sludge.

Concentration of arsenic in sludge is 1.4 * 10e5 / 1e10 = 1.4 * 10e-5

Or about 1 part in 100,000.

This is why they got away with it. Coal ash sludge is nasty, but not quite nasty enough to be a hazardous substance per se. Hell, one of the best ways to get rid of it is to add it to concrete, which is then poured where people live.

The figure you should worry about is the change in the arsenic level in the river after the spill. I didn't see that figure in the article.

about 8 months ago
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Snowden A Hero? Gates Says No, Woz Says Yes

alispguru Gates and Woz are bad privacy references (335 comments)

Both of them can choose exactly how much privacy they want, because they're both rich. Gates is maybe three orders of magnitude richer than Woz, but both of them are at least three orders of magnitude away from the American median income ($45K or so).

Also, neither of them can just go out in public in the US without being recognized.

That's the problem with the privacy "discussions" in the US - most of the people who can actually change things are members of a minority who gave up big swaths of their privacy, voluntarily, as an entrance requirement for their profession. They can say "privacy is an illusion - get over it" with a straight face, because they haven't had any themselves for decades.

They may be over it, but I'm not, and it pisses me off that they get to choose my privacy level.

about 8 months ago
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Stanford Researchers Spot Medical Conditions, Guns, and More In Phone Metadata

alispguru If it's just metadata... (193 comments)

... then Ms. Feinstein should have no problem with a FOIA request for the metadata for her cellphone.

I bet it would take about an hour to find a call from a lobbyist, received during a break in a legislative session.

about 8 months ago
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Crowdsourcing Confirms: Websites Inaccessible on Comcast

alispguru DNS flaky, Comcast incompetence, Comcast malice (349 comments)

Those are the possibilities, in decreasing order of probability.

As much as I despise Comcast, they are unlikely to deliberately block random DNS lookups.

about 9 months ago
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College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy

alispguru Extracurricular performance correlation? (134 comments)

Do you have a source for that other than "admission folks"? Casual web searching didn't find anything.

about 9 months ago
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Vast Surveillance Network Powered By Repo Men

alispguru I find government scarier (352 comments)

Government can afford to do scanning that doesn't make money.

Government can send people using deadly force after you.

Government can declare itself immune from the law if it makes a mistake.

It's much harder for non-governments to do any of the above.

about 9 months ago
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Who's On WhatsApp, and Why?

alispguru Zuckerberg knows exactly what he's doing (280 comments)

He creates/offers/buys a free service that by its nature can learn a lot about its users. He then gradually relaxes privacy assurances and changes the sharing defaults to "we can do whatever we want with information we collect about you", and sells the info to advertisers.

Anybody who thinks this won't happen to WhatsApp hasn't been paying attention.

about 9 months ago
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Not Just Healthcare.gov: NASA Has 'Significant Problems' With $2.5B IT Contract

alispguru ACES hardware support is OK. Now, software... (176 comments)

I am typing this on an ACES 15" MacBook Pro. We're supposed to get refreshed every three years; I got refreshed at the change to ACES, which was less than three years, but they gave me a year-old MacBook model, which was a little chintzy. They did give us decent docking stations, though, and they do replace and restore when stuff breaks within a reasonable amount of time.

My beef with ACES is their support of NASA-required software. This machine is running 10.8.3, because ACES has not blessed for 10.9 the required third-party software for whole-disk encryption, remote patch support, remote backup, and remote access.

My previous machine ran 10.6 well into the 10.8 era due to ACES' inability to support this steaming load, and I would put the odds of them certifying a load for 10.9 before 10.10 ships to be below 50%.

about 10 months ago

Submissions

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Fortress project wrapping up

alispguru alispguru writes  |  more than 2 years ago

alispguru writes "The Fortress project (readable, highly parallel scientific code for the JVM) is shutting down after almost ten years of effort.

This is really sad. I thought that if anyone had a chance to put a stake through Fortran's heart, it would be Guy Steele."

Link to Original Source
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Apple's Exclusion of Apps - for multitasking?

alispguru alispguru writes  |  more than 4 years ago

alispguru writes "AppleInsider claims that Apple's restricting of iPhone apps to their native toolkit is for technical reasons — apps created with their toolkit will play nice with the new iPhone 4.0 multi-tasking. Sounds fishy to me..."
Link to Original Source
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alispguru alispguru writes  |  more than 8 years ago

alispguru writes "With options like the "first programming language" poll, and one extra:

Assembly
Fortran
Pascal
Basic
C/C++
Java
Perl
Other
I Know Only One"

Journals

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There are things WORSE than XML

alispguru alispguru writes  |  about 11 years ago

As bad as XML is, I would be the first to admit it is possible to create a worse language for representing nested property lists. In fact, I encountered one in actual, operational use in my travels as a migrant information worker and NASA contractor.

The name of this atrocity is Object Definition Language, and it is a standard format for metadata that NASA attaches to many of its major remote sensing imagery products, as well as data from planetary probe missions.

You should really look at the PDF linked above to get the true flavor of this stuff, but I can give you a quick taste right here. S-expressions, XML, and ODL all are syntaxes for representing nested property lists.

S-expressions are what you get if you ask John McCarthy.

XML is what you get when you ask people who know and love HTML/SGML

ODL is what you get when you ask people who know and love FORTRAN.

I'm serious! The simple S-expression

(foo "bar")

would be this in XML:

<foo>bar</foo>

and this in ODL:

object = foo
  value = "bar"
end_object = foo

I got to know about this stuff as part of several tool-writing exercises where we were trying to make complex, deeply nested ODL intelligible to its scientist users. The "solution" we came up with involved parsing the ODL, translating it into XML, then hosing the XML through different XSLT translators to generate pretty HTML.

As a result of those projects, I now know more about ODL, XSLT, and DHTML than I really want to.

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