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'Google Buses' Are Bad For Cities, Says New York MTA Official

cjonslashdot Re:Ain't no body got time for that (606 comments)

I agree.

I commuted into Washington DC for a year and it was hell. The noise, and just walking on the sidewalk was stressful, with the traffic and congestion and all the drivers in a horrible mood because of it. And when using the metro (subway), I would have to deal with sleet and snow and rain and walking long distances from the metro stop to my destination, avoiding cars and buses and horrible weather, usually with the stress of being on the verge of being late because commuting took such a large chunk of my day.

Today I have a really nice house on a lake in a suburb. I could not have a home like this in a city - it would cost tens of millions of dollars. I can walk to the store if I choose (or kayak there), as well as kayak on the lake for exercise (which I do several times a week), and bicycle on a nearby path with no cars and lots of quiet and beautiful scenery. And nowadays I have a very pleasant 20 minute commute to my job in a suburban office - on the ground floor with windows and my car parked right outside instead of me tucked away up in some high rise prison.

Why anyone would want to live or work in a city mystifies me.

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

cjonslashdot Re:Because we are stuck in an imperative paradigm (876 comments)

The rationale for a graphical approach is that one can visualize concurrent behavior more easily.

Structure is also easier to perceive if it is visually apparent - unless it is cluttered up with detail level features, as you have pointed out. So to be able to perceive large scale structure, one must "factor" low level features into larger, more conceptual structure.

I agree that software tools on the market for "visual programming" are not what we want here: you are completely right about those tools being suitable only for simple programs. I am talking about the class of models/designs that represent concurrent behavior, including event oriented designs.

For example, consider a system that is designed completely around events. If one can visualize the inter-connection of components, and one annotates each component with the types of events that it generates (perhaps using expressions), one can easily grasp the overall behavior much more easily than one could if that same design were expressed textually. Thoughts?

PS - I was on the team that designed the VHDL language at Intermetrics circa 1984, and I built the first synthesis compiler for VHDL, so I definitely appreciate your points. I am just not convinced that we are not on a path that is a result of the dominant computing paradigm (imperative programming), rather than the optimal path... I have been out of the HDL field for a long time though, but I often build simulation models of complex systems, and a visual paradigm seems to really help with analysis. That is what makes me wonder about visual approaches to design. I have also wondered about the fact that software programs - created using an imperative paradigm - are so buggy, whereas electronic systems tend to be far more error free. What are your thoughts on why that is?

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

cjonslashdot Re:Because we are stuck in an imperative paradigm (876 comments)

Interesting. Thanks for the clarification.

I can see that low level schematics would be hopelessly complex to wade through, and would be missing "intent". But what about design level?

E.g., suppose that the design was based on an event paradigm? In that case, the signals are high level flows of information, and the events triggering the signals are not electrical level, but rather are at a conceptual level such as "task A completed".

I wonder if an even based programming paradigm would lend itself to a more graphical approach.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

cjonslashdot Re:Because we are stuck in an imperative paradigm (876 comments)

Is it really true that IC are designed with HDLs? I worked in that field during the '80s, so things might have changed; but back then, graphical tools were used, and then the final design was documented using an HDL. I.e., the HDL (e.g., VHDL) was a final generated output, but was not used during the actual design process.

Good point about symbols documenting intent. Symbols enable a comment to refer to something else, e.g., "module ABC".

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

cjonslashdot Because we are stuck in an imperative paradigm (876 comments)

It is because there are millions of programmers who are experienced using an imperative programming paradigm, and that keeps it going, because imperative constructs lend themselves to textual form.

It is true that if one were to create graphical equivalents for current programming languages, those graphical languages would be cumbersome. One has to think beyond that:

E.g., an event-based programming paradigm is much more powerful than an imperative paradigm, but event based programming is hard to understand when expressed textually; but it is easy to understand if expressed graphically. And that is why concurrent systems - electronic systems - are designed graphically.

And they tend to be relatively error free, compared to imperatively written programs. Complex chips can be designed with few errors, whereas imperative software code tends to have lots of errors.

A graphical language obviates the need to define symbols. Symbols are only needed to cross-reference things; but in a graphical language, you just connect them. The fact that all communication pathways are explicit means that there is no need to control "aliases", and that makes the design process inherently more reliable, and it lends itself to simulation.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many (Electronics) Gates Is That Software Algorithm?

cjonslashdot It doesn't work like that (365 comments)

It's about more than gates. It is about registers, ALUs, gates, and how they are all connected. There are many different possible architectures, so it depends on the design: some designs are faster but take more real estate. There are algorithm-to-silicon compilers (I know: I wrote one for a product company during the '80s and it is apparently still in use today) but each compiler will assume a certain architecture. I would recommend one but I have been out of that field for decades.

about 7 months ago
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"Clinical Trials" For Programming Languages?

cjonslashdot Maintainability? (232 comments)

In any such trial, it is important that aspects such as maintainability, reliability and securability be considered. The ability to hack out a-lot of functionality is not the only criteria that is important, unless you are building a home hobby project.

about 7 months ago
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Yahoo Advertising Serves Up Malware For Thousands

cjonslashdot Java? What about Javascript? (184 comments)

"...reminder that Java has become an Internet security menace."

Actually, the largest menace is Javascript. That's why so many people use NoScript.

Any kind of in-browser active code execution will inevitably have security challenges.

about 7 months ago
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Former CIA/NSA Head: NSA Is "Infinitely" Weaker As a Result of Snowden's Leaks

cjonslashdot Re:Treason? Not if illegal behavior is revealed (572 comments)

Yes you might be right - perhaps there are some lines that one should not cross no matter what.

about 6 months ago
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Former CIA/NSA Head: NSA Is "Infinitely" Weaker As a Result of Snowden's Leaks

cjonslashdot Re:Treason? Not if illegal behavior is revealed (572 comments)

You are right, it does. But one could also say that merely voicing one's opinion against a war "gives comfort to our enemies". Thus, the issue is not "black and white" and there must be a matter of degree as well as consideration of concomitant circumstances.

In my opinion, it all comes down to the level of risk: If we were in an actual war, with a true existential threat and bombs falling on our cities every day, that would be one thing, and it would be acceptable for the government to use any tool at its disposal - including martial law and concentration camps for foreign nationals. But we are not in that situation: averaged over the last 20 years, the chance of dying from terrorism in the US is less than the chance of dying from lightning . Given that low level of risk, we should not be so willing to sacrifice our Constitution in the name of the alleged and over-hyped "war on terror", and allow a secretive organization to engage in widespread surveillance of citizens without effective independent oversight. As a patriotic American, I value our Constitution too much to dismiss that as unimportant, and I applaud Snowden for his courage in uncovering the scope of the surveillance that is occurring. He is not a traitor: he is a hero.

"An enlightened people, and an energetic public opinion... will control and enchain the aristocratic spirit of the government." --Thomas Jefferson

about 6 months ago
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Former CIA/NSA Head: NSA Is "Infinitely" Weaker As a Result of Snowden's Leaks

cjonslashdot Treason? Not if illegal behavior is revealed (572 comments)

"I think there's an English word that describes selling American secrets to another government, and I do think it's treason," Hayden said.

Well, not if the revelations are about illegal - and especially unconstitutional - behavior.

about 6 months ago
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Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

cjonslashdot Re: The answer is SIMPLE (786 comments)

I agree in principle but it is not all-or-nothing. There is an appropriate balance. Keeping the right balance is hard: it is an endless tug of war among special interests of all kinds.

about 9 months ago
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Why Can't Big Government Launch a Website?

cjonslashdot Re: The answer is SIMPLE (786 comments)

"Get back home alive" is not really a story. I think it is more like an acceptance criteria.

about 9 months ago
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U.S. Reps Chu and Coble Start Intellectual Property Caucus

cjonslashdot Re:The very term "intellectual property" is misgui (150 comments)

'chrismcb', you wrote, "Note that it also refers to Authors and Inventors, it doesn't refer to people or corporations or groups, or anything. Just 'Author' and 'Inventor.' "

But the Constitution starts out with "We the People..."

I think that if we continue down the road of imputing personhood to every kind of grouping of persons, then we are in big trouble; and I think that if we continue down the road of conferring the rights that people have to every kind of grouping of persons, then we are in even bigger trouble.

A group of persons is not a person, just as a pack of wolves is not a wolf, a computer is not a transistor, and a brain is not a nerve cell. A group of persons has emergent properties that make is substantially different from an individual person. A person has a conscience, but large a group of thousands of persons does not. A person can put their own self interest aside and think of the greater good, but it is very unusual for a group to do that. If one were to anthropomorphize a group of persons, the group could usually be characterized as selfish and unfeeling - the characteristics of a sociopath.

Do we want the protections of the Constitution to automatically extend to such things, without some careful consideration?

about a year and a half ago
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U.S. Reps Chu and Coble Start Intellectual Property Caucus

cjonslashdot Re:The very term "intellectual property" is misgui (150 comments)

And since I think you are being ironic, I think you will agree that that is part of the point I am making. The Constitution is about the powers of government over people, and the rights of people. Nowhere does it say "business" or "corporation". (I believe that corporations of sorts did exist at that time, especially in Europe, although US corporate law was still someone non-existent I believe but I could be wrong.) Regardless, the assumption that the Constitution's provision "...securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings..." is about anything other than people is an extrapolation and should be subject to question.

about a year and a half ago
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U.S. Reps Chu and Coble Start Intellectual Property Caucus

cjonslashdot The very term "intellectual property" is misguided (150 comments)

Nowhere in the US Constitution does it equate protections of rights pertaining to intellectual works as "property".

The term "property" implies that it can be sold, that it can be inherited, that it can be owned - and owned by non-persons at that. Nowhere does the Constitution say these things, nor does it even use the term "property" in this context.

Rather, it says that Congress shall have the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." And that is all it says on the matter.

Note that it says "Authors and Inventors". It does not say businesses: if it had meant to include businesses, it would have said so, but the Constitution starts out with "We the People", and it is about the rights of people and the powers and limitations of government over those people (much less corporations or unions, which are not people: a group of persons is not a person any more than a human body is a cell). And note that the Constitution uses the term "exclusive Right": it does not use the term "property". A right is akin to a lease. It is not ownership of the object in question. Thus, in the term "intellectual property", the "property" is merely a lease of sorts granted to Authors and Inventors (people) - for a limited time. That does not automatically imply inheritance to me, nor does it automatically imply that it can be bought and sold as we assume that property can: those are extrapolations of the "rights" intended and we should question those extrapolations and not take them for granted: do they actually promote science and the useful arts? I therefore think that the term "intellectual property" implies extrapolations that might not have been intended.

Copyright and patent law (these terms are also not in the Constitution) have made huge leaps beyond what the Constitution intended. That is why we are off track.

about a year and a half ago
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The First Amendment and Software Speech

cjonslashdot Re:It is about not lettting ideas be silenced (194 comments)

BeanThere wrote, "But what you are referring to, let's be open about it, is using financial clout to purchase politicians."

Yes, that is the central problem with our system. The role of money in elections. It is too easy to influence politicians. Before every election they have $1000 plate dinners and one by one contributors tell the candidates what they want in return for their donation. It is a horrible system. Elections should be about votes, not about donations. Volunteers should go door to door, rather than all the campaign advertising in the media. There really needs to be a way to stop the advertising but I don't know a way, especially since the Supreme Court equated paid advertising by an organization as "free speech". (That case was a couple of decades back.)

about a year and a half ago
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The First Amendment and Software Speech

cjonslashdot Re:It is about not lettting ideas be silenced (194 comments)

BeanThere wrote, "Wow - you've never really been a shareholder or member of any real organization, have you? You'd know that the moment you have more than one person, you already start having disagreements."

I have. I was on the board of the company that I founded some years back. But I understand your point. You are right that shareholders debate and don't agree on the mission. But my point was that it is not one person one vote. The more stock you have, the more votes you have. Thus, a corporation is dominated by the largest shareholders, with a single-minded mission to make money. Corporations take on a life of their own in that they have a strong tendency to act in any way available to further their goals, irrespective of considerations for the greater good or anyone else. Just as a mob has "mob behavior", a corporation (or a union or non-profit) has emergent behavior.

about a year and a half ago

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