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Why We Still Can't Really Put Anything In the Public Domain

petes_PoV Just post it (91 comments)

Simply stick your work on a website somewhere. No names, no declarations, no email address, no attribution -- just the stuff.

Why make things harder than they have to be?


Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming

petes_PoV Whatever the TEACHER understands best (642 comments)

If the teacher doesn't know Python, they will have a difficult time teaching it and the quality of the lessons will be poor.

In practice, it probably doesn't matter what the language is. The key is that it will only be a student's first language - not the only one they will ever user. So it's far better to teach them well, in a language the teacher is competent in, rather than to have the teacher just a page or two ahead of the children in the class. Apart from anything else, that will give the kids a more positive impression of CS, rather than having a teacher who continually has to look stuff up or answer questions with "I don't know".

It's also important for assessments that the teacher is experienced in the language that coursework is written in. Otherwise the marking will be hit and miss and the teacher won't be able to properly distinguish well written work from stuff that works by chance rather than by design.

about a week ago

The Missing Piece of the Smart Home Revolution: The Operating System

petes_PoV The simpler, the better (252 comments)

All an operating system does is file (and secure - more or less) data and schedule/manage tasks: some at given times and optionally concurrently.

An IoT or "smart house" has little need for anything more than a state machine with local in-RAM data and possibly the means to interact with other IoT's within the same house. There are many solutions to this that have been around for years. Whether that involves 432MHz Tx/Rx modules, I.R. or the overkill and high power needs of a WiFi on a chip such as the ESP8266.

My own preference would be for as small a footprint as possible, with very little additional cruft -- even encryption would be too difficult for the average homeowner to manage (as evidenced by the parlous state of home PC security - even with the "can it get any simpler" functions of WPS) and therefore physical security would be the preferred path: not letting any signals out of the house. Have whatever sensors and controls on a I2C bus and get the unit price down to $5, so the units are both disposable and interchangeable without any need for reconfiguration.

about three weeks ago

At 40, a person is ...

petes_PoV Re:"Experienced" (286 comments)

the only word I feel appropriate is "experienced"

Well, some are - some aren't. The best professionals will have used their 40 years - maybe 20 of which have been in the pursuit of their career, to expand their knowledge, experience and value. However there are a significant number of people who have been working in IT (and many other fields) who gained one year of experience very early in their careers and have simply repeated that year ever since. And some will have regressed.

about a month ago

3D Printer?

petes_PoV Re:Currently 3D printing my own 3D printer (175 comments)

It's a mobius printer that prints itself.

Really - it prints everything needed to make a printer that can print itself?

Or is it like these "robotic" vacuum cleaners, that can merely clean small parts of a household that are just floors, so long as they are all on the same level? - Conveniently forgetting about all the other surfaces (and curtains) such as shelf-tops, stairs, behind the TV cabinet or under the cooker that collect crud, too.

Once someone designs a 3D printer that actually can print all the parts needed, then it might (just) start to have enough applications that I might need one, maybe once a month.

about a month and a half ago

UK Announces 'Google Tax'

petes_PoV Re:Why tax profits, why not income? (602 comments)

Individuals aren't taxes based on their profit but income

Not strictly true. Individuals pay some taxes (here, at least - other countries: different rules) on their taxable income. That allows for certain deductions such as some expenses paid by people for items necessary for their work. It also allows them quite generous allowances and reductions.

It would be simple to think of all the income that a person received from their job as "profit". But governments don't apply rules like that, to protect low-paid workers and be progressive (tax those who can afford to pay more, at higher rates). Taxing companies on their profit is the only way that a sensible and proportionate system could work - while still incentivising companies to invest in their (and, by association, our futures). It is a reasonable parallel to the way that income is taxed. Sadly, companies employ cleverer accountants than governments do.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Starting and Running a Software Shop?

petes_PoV Keep the money close (176 comments)

I'd like to start my own software product line and I'd like to avoid outsourcing as much as I can. I'm seeking advice on what you think are the best practices

The two "best practice" points that I know of are linked.

The first is to have a great deal of money - far more than you could possibly think is necessary.

The second is to be very careful, to the point of stinginess, on what you spend it for,
I would work on the assumption that it will be a year before you see any invoices getting paid and during that time you will have to pay out for both the startup costs and the people you employ. Since people will be the single biggest cost item, employ as few as is possible to get away with and work them as hard as possible - but only on things that will contribute directly on creating income. And then, only on short-term income.

Once you do that all the high-level questions will either answer themselves (and usually the answer will be "no") or they will turn out to be irrelevant to the immediate survival of the enterprise.

about 2 months ago

What is your computer most often plugged into?

petes_PoV Re:UPS (236 comments)

... not buying a UPS every few years ...

Why replace it? I occasionally change the SLA battery when the self-test shows it's become unreliable. It's a common 12V 7aH unit and a good quality replacement is far cheaper than an entire new UPS.

about 2 months ago

Do Good Programmers Need Agents?

petes_PoV Re:10x Productivity (215 comments)

Plenty of studies have shown that it's [ 10x productivity ] true. If you can't see it, maybe you're one of the less productive ones?

Being able to bang out 10 times as much code in a day is not "productivity" - although, sadly, far too many people use this as a measure.

True productivity is to complete a project: from initial requirements specification through to testing, documentation, integration and acceptance in a shorter time. This is not the job of a single, lone, "superstar" programmer but of a fluent, experienced, team of professionals who know how to work together. Just parachuting in someone who can crap out code at ten times the rate of another programmer won't speed up a project (ref: The Mythical Man Month adding manpower slows a project down) and if they are an arsehole or prima-donna who won't work as part of a team, it will cause more long-term damage than it's worth.

The key to fast project delivery is good management and perceptive staff selection. Looking for a superstar programmer as some sort of silver-bullet is both naive and doomed to failure as it will make hardly any difference to the overall project timescales.

about 2 months ago

Do Good Programmers Need Agents?

petes_PoV Agents work for the long term (215 comments)

Most likely outcome: the agent, whose entire compensation is based on separating me from as much cash as possible, manages to take more than that difference and I get screwed while thinking I got a good deal

A good agent will be in it for the long term. Working in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

So there won't be any "screwing" as they will have a reputation to uphold amongst yourself and their other clients. If people feel they are worse off, they will fire their agent and word will spread.

As a freelancer, I've had an agent since the mid 90s. The real problem is that I am only one of many clients, so as long as things are going well, they tend to get complacent and lazy - just rolling over the contracts and taking their commission. What the software world needs are MORE agents and better contracts with their clients: which at present seem to be rather one-sided, since the agents are responsible for getting all the work, they are the ones with all the IT business contacts.

about 2 months ago

Japanese Maglev Train Hits 500kph

petes_PoV 500KPH - but what is the average *journey* speed? (419 comments)

When you factor in the amount of time it takes to get from where you are, or where you live, into the city centre to catch this centre-to-centre train - and then out at the other end to your actual destination, is this really any faster than driving if you have a decent road network?

about 2 months ago

Comet Probe Philae Unanchored But Stable — And Sending Back Images

petes_PoV Re:Couldn't they have used an RTG? China syndrome (132 comments)

I don't know how much heat an RTG emits, but if you're trying to land on a comet, it would be a real pain if you melted away the surface you had landed on.

about 2 months ago

PC Cooling Specialist Zalman Goes Bankrupt Due To Fraud

petes_PoV Re:easy (208 comments)

They shouldn't be getting their $3 billion back

It seems to me that the auditors, who passed the company accounts as being "true" should be held liable - and then get punished for negligence.

about 3 months ago

What People Want From Smart Homes

petes_PoV Unlike "smart" TVs (209 comments)

What would you look for in a smart home?

First of all: reliability. The house must be able to retain all its functionality during a power outage.

After that I want security. It must be impervious to unwanted intrusion: either physical or hackers.
Next comes self-cleaning - probably the biggest chore after home maintenance. This would include cleaning the household appliances, too
Talking of maintenance, the house must never, ever require a software upgrade.
After that we can start talking about useful features such as tending the garden, washing the car, cooking meals, collecting, washing, ironing and re-storing clothes - picking up dishes, pans, cutlery, cups and glasses, cleaning them and replacing them in the correct cupboards.

At this point we have a house that just about qualifies as "smart". The key problem is not the simplistic features such as turning lights on or off, setting room temperatures and the like: these are the domain of little 8-pin microprocessors. Describing those functions as "smart" is as sensible as talking about a "smart" amoeba. The big problems are associated with moving household items in a safe and reliable way and it's only what a house can operate on that level that "smart" begins to cover it.

about 3 months ago

UN Climate Change Panel: It's Happening, and It's Almost Entirely Man's Fault

petes_PoV The easiest solution (695 comments)

it [ climate change ] is indeed happening, and it's almost entirely man's fault

So let's find this man and ask him if he wouldn't mind stopping, please?

about 3 months ago

A Library For Survival Knowledge

petes_PoV Fixing the wrong problems (272 comments)

All the technical solutions will either remain known or are easily re-discovered. There are two big problems with rebooting society:

First, you need LOTS of people. Most of the stuff we have today relies on a certain minimum population density. That is especially true of transportation systems and without them, it would not be possible to move the raw materials around. So medical knowledge and knowing how to keep young children from dying will be paramount.

The second problem will be producing an effective counter-argument to all the superstitions, ignorance and religions that are bound to appear if "civilisation" dies off. That is what held back our scientific and technological development: From Aristotle to the Industrial Revolution there was 2,000 years of very little progress and what there was, was usually achieved DESPITE religion, not with its encouragement.

The technology will come of its own accord, but speeding it up will need manual for social survival, not designs for steam engines

about 3 months ago

NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew

petes_PoV Closed system - energy is just energy (399 comments)

The calories consumed "argument" seems like a red herring.

The spacecraft will be a closed environment: recycling waste from food and water (with some slight inefficiencies and consequent loss - but you'd expect that to be very small). So once the craft is loaded with enough raw materials to produce food fast enough (a function of energy availability) then it won't matter how many calories per day the crew consume, so long as the onboard systems can recycle the waste and replenish them fast enough. Same applies to water use: very little will be "consumed" (lost irrevocably) and if there's enough energy to recycle it the crew could use as much as they please. It's not as if there will be a stream of empty MRE package dumped out of the vessel every morning.

As far as calories goes: this is just heat generation. So however many calories the crew "consumes" will ultimately contribute towards the heating of the cabin. Obv. if the cabin needs cooling more than heating there will be a greater energy cost - but again it comes down to the ability of the craft to generate power to run itself, not very much in the way of "lost" consumables.

about 3 months ago

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

petes_PoV Fixing the wrong problem (342 comments)

The reason this situation exists is because the vendor has nothing to gain from changing.

If they have a fixed amount of ice, or can only make a fixed amount per hour then they have nothing to gain from selling that amount at a faster rate. Sure, the customers may not like it but since these guys are the only source of ice, what the customers want is of little consequence.

If you really want to speed up the line, introduce some competition. A 3 word answer instead of a 1,600 word one.

about 3 months ago

Microsoft, Facebook Declare European Kids Clueless About Coding, Too

petes_PoV Mountains and molehills (213 comments)

Learning to "code" is about as difficult as learning to drive, but in a different way.

Hence it can be learned pretty much at the convenience of the individual in question in a few months, even starting from scratch.

There is no reason to teach "coding" to 7 year-olds. They are too young to fill any vacancies that may exist and by the time they have got to an employable age, obtained a degree (as few employers will touch an IT person without one) the "coding" skills they learned 15 years ago will be almost completely obsolete. One might argue that they will have learned to employ logic, but again: unless that skill is exercised regularly, it too will be lost.

about 3 months ago

When will the first successful manned Mars mission happen?

petes_PoV The wonder of exploration (219 comments)

The wonder of exploration is gone

The wonder of exploration is as strong as ever. And for the same reason: greed and the hope of exploitation.

However, humanity has found better ways of doing it, than sending loads of expensive, fragile, high-maintenance people to wander around knocking lumps off rocks. That's what the robots and satellites do. However, it does seem unlikely that there is anything on Mars that is worth the effort of sending people for - or worth the cost of shipping back to Earth - it does seem to be a rather desolate wasteland containing nothing of any consequence.

So the only reason that people would wish to go there would be to remove themselves from this planet - or for society to want them removed.

about 3 months ago


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