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Interviews: Rachel Sussman Answers Your Questions

pthisis Re:Rubbery definition? (24 comments)

My guess is that "continuously living" is meant to exclude spores and the like, but it's unclear.

about a week ago
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The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait

pthisis Re:100% Agree (566 comments)

For most all other cases, reading documents, coding, surfing the web, portrait view is better. Think about the flow when you are reading, isn't it natural that you want to see more rather than scrolling up and down?

I'm with you on e-reading.

Landscape is vastly superior to portrait for coding--I always have multiple windows open side-by-side. Stacking them vertically makes line-by-line comparison more difficult. And you can easily have a web browser open on the right half of the screen for stackexchange/docs/whatever while you edit on the left half.

about a week ago
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Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4, Promises No More Broken IPhones

pthisis Re:Competitors? (203 comments)

At least most studies show it is more shatterproof glass than scratch resistant, which is Gorilla’s forte it seems.

That's too bad, I was about to complain about Corning worrying about drop tests when scratches are a far bigger problem for most people. It's easy enough not to drop your phone, it's difficult to avoid scratches from everyday wear without resorting to crappy screen protectors and the like.

about a month ago
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Firefox Signs Five-Year Deal With Yahoo, Drops Google as Default Search Engine

pthisis Re:should be easy enough to change it back (400 comments)

They never had a search engine, they had a hierarchical link index.

It was almost like using a massive, nested bookmarks folder, and it relied on user-submitted pages to grow (no spidering).

about a month ago
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Firefox Signs Five-Year Deal With Yahoo, Drops Google as Default Search Engine

pthisis Re:should be easy enough to change it back (400 comments)

Yes, but there are rumblings of them trying to launch their own engine again. http://searchenginewatch.com/a...

Yahoo's never been effective at writing their own search engine; they were powered by Google up until 2004, and before that Inktomi. In 2004 they tried their own engine for the first time, but it sucked. In 2009 they cut a deal with Bing.

about a month ago
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Colleges Face New 'Gainful Employment' Regulations For Student Loans

pthisis This is the latest in a long unfortunate evolution (331 comments)

A liberal arts or pure science education is not meant to be a professional degree. It's a way to learn a lot about a particular topic, independently of whether that directly helps your employment chances or not.

Historically, there was a fairly sharp delineation between universities and vocational schools--even "white collar" vocational schools like engineering were at separate institutions (often A&T or A&M schools), and lawyers and doctors were primarily apprenticed. At some point doctors, and later lawyers, became highly skilled professions that needed more formal training. To a degree it made sense to combine medical schools with pure sciences under one university, since some of the basics overlap.

But it had the unfortunate side effect of starting the thought in people's minds that universities are vocational institutions, rather than institutions of higher learning. I certainly don't mean to insinuate that a liberal arts degree has no application in the real world--quite the contrary. But it's intentionally targeted at longer-term learning rather than particular vocations per se, and not everyone who pursues a higher degree does so as a job entree.

Nonetheless, the law schools and med schools were followed by a spate of mergers between technical institutes and universities. Suddenly non-university vocational institutes were looked on as crappy and inferior, and it became a mantra (for no good reason) that you needed a 4-year college/university degree to succeed at jobs that historically had been done quite successfully without it. Even a shorter professional program started to become more prestigious if allied with a 4-year college, for no good reason (e.g. nursing schools at universities being, generally, valued more highly than independent nursing colleges).

The result was a massive spike in the number of people going to 4-year colleges--that number has sextupled or so over the past 60ish years--and a massive decline in the number of people going to vocational and technical schools. The latter have become a joke to the point where vocational school brings to mind TV commercials for Devry or Andover tractor trailer driving or dental hygeniest schools.

The downfalls of this are manifold. University prices skyrocket as everyone seeks to get in, whether they are really interested in a university degree or not. Vocational schools fold and a large percentage of the people who'd have attended them are forced into universities, exacerbating #1. Jobs see more and more college degrees, and start expecting them, making people start viewing colleges and universities as professional/career prep schools.

And universities become disincentivized to teach pure liberal arts or even theoretical mathematics, as they start being judged based on how good they are as job factories rather than as educational institutions; the result is a short-term focus that harms long-term research and eventually job opportunities (much akin to eliminating R&D budgets, but on a national scale).

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Books On the Life and Work of Nikola Tesla?

pthisis Re:Read Tesla's patents (140 comments)

If you want a non-bullshit view of Tesla, read his patents. His real achievement was that he figured out most of the kinds of modern AC motors. It's not at all obvious how you get an AC motor started and turning in the right direction. Clever tricks with bits of copper in the magnetic circuit are used to bias starting direction, and synchronous motors start up as induction motors. Tesla worked all that out

Like Edison, Tesla had a surprising knack for suddenly inventing and patenting things that had been invented shortly beforehand by people in other countries, and then failing to credit the original inventor while pocketing their profits; the modern induction motor is one example. Galileo Ferarris worked it all out and published in 1885; Tesla (supposedly independently) invented it and filed for a US patent on it a couple of years later, and Tesla and Westinghouse abused the patent and court system to deprive the original inventor of credit and rights (Even if Tesla actually did come up with it independently, he was second to the table).

Walter Bailey had also demonstrated induction motors in 1879, but they were a more primitive design.

about 2 months ago
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Possible Reason Behind Version Hop to Windows 10: Compatibility

pthisis Re:Windows 9X (349 comments)

It's how Java exposes the OS name to its users. If you look in that list, that os.name property is a native Java function. The Java library itself probably goes through all the BS required to get that, instead of the version number or some other more reliable method to see if your stuff will run.

Java actually does the right thing. System.getProperty("os.version") returns the version number ("4.0", "4.1", etc). System.getProperty("os.name") returns the human-readable name ("Windows 95", "Windows 98", etc).

It's some third-party Java developers who are too dumb to use the right property (or to look up capabilities directly rather than attempting to infer them from version numbers).

about 2 months ago
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Could Maroney Be Prosecuted For Her Own Hacked Pictures?

pthisis Re:losing your rights (274 comments)

I guess under these standards the papua new guinea indigenous dress [google.com] would be considered pornography and 'child pornography'.

No. There's nothing "sexually explicit" about that dress. Nudity is not per se sexually explicit (see the example of Thora Birch cited, or any number of TV commercials featuring naked babies).

about 3 months ago
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California Blue Whales Rebound From Whaling

pthisis Re:It wasn't environmentalism ... (91 comments)

The white rhino was saved due to the efforts of a few visionaries who convinced the South African government and Swaziland, if I recall correctly, to allow the commercial breeding of white rhino (which means for profit, in case you don't understand economics 101). The fact that people, including Mericuns, could hunt them for large sums of money, meant that there was money to protect them and breed them. That's what saved them

The timing simply doesn't support this theory as sole or primary driver--the hunting program wasn't launched until 1968. By then conservation measures had already resulted in a tenfold increase in the white rhino population from their turn-of-the-century lows.

about 3 months ago
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California Blue Whales Rebound From Whaling

pthisis Re:It wasn't environmentalism ... (91 comments)

Want to see the true value of an endangered species act, look at the rhino. It regrettably has a high economic value and it is on the path to extinction despite protective acts.

The white rhinoceros is one of the biggest success stories in environmental conservation. It was down to about 200 individuals by the late 19th century. Following the imposition of hunting restrictions, populations have rebounded to over 20,000 individuals and it was de-listed as an endangered species under CITES in 1995; limited hunting is now allowed to control population growth.

The black rhinoceros has recovered significantly as well, from a low of about 2400 to almost 5000 current individuals, and it's been reintroduced into at least 3 countries (Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia) where it had been extinct.

The Indian rhinoceros has also shown rebounding populations in the wake of conservation efforts.

The Javan and Sumatran rhinos have seen continuing declines in population, as has the northern white rhino (which is either a separate species or a population of normal white rhinos depending on classification); all 3 are now conservation-dependent. But rhinoceri on the whole have shown remarkable comebacks since the advent of environmental protection laws.

about 3 months ago
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California Blue Whales Rebound From Whaling

pthisis Re:See?! (91 comments)

You're comparing raptors and protozoans, there.

It could easily be true that both eagle populations recovered _and_ thousands of people died of malaria because of DDT restrictions (especially pre-2006, when the WHO endorsed the use of DDT to fight malaria). It could also be true that DDT can save lives by reducing malaria rates and also has a negative impact on fertility in humans and is carcinogenic and potentially carries other health risks.

It is true that Carson never advocated for banning DDT and that the anti-malarial effects have been overstated by some, but it's probably also true that negative press surrounding DDT caused many deaths (though nowhere near Michael Crichton's "worse than Hitler" assessment).

about 3 months ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

pthisis Re:Computer Science vrs Software Engineering (546 comments)

No, it shouldn't. It's a computer science degree, not a programming degree, it shouldn't be trying to prepare you for a career in programming any more than a mechanical engineering degree should be preparing you to be an auto mechanic.

In fact, it's not a professional program at all; the idea that college degrees are supposed to prepare you for a job of any sort is one of the biggest problems with the modern university system in the US (it began partially when professional programs like law schools and med schools got folded into universities, and has caused a dramatic falloff in the respect given to vocational schools that aren't part of the university system).

about 3 months ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

pthisis Re:Computer Science vrs Software Engineering (546 comments)

I don't remember software engineering degrees at CMU when I was there. It was the beginning of the B.S. in computer science though. Until then they only had a doctoral program. People who wanted to go into CS took Math or Physics with a specialization in CS. They developed an undergraduate CS degree when they realized that the CS majors were taking over the other programs.

I was there during the end of the Mathematics/CS degree era (1993-1997). The SEI was definitely around and offering degrees (Masters only, IIRC) then. I worked for them one summer, 1995ish.

Graduates come out with a particularly strong background in unit testing, something that my CS training skipped entirely. This is odd since unit testing may well be the most important aspect of programming.

It's not odd to me. Unit testing is one of the most important aspects of programming, but it's largely irrelevant to most computer science. To extend the analogy above, it's like a mechanical engineer not knowing how to change brake pads. That's pretty crucial for a mechanic, but largely irrelevant to most mechanical engineers.

about 3 months ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

pthisis Re:Computer Science vrs Software Engineering (546 comments)

Computer Science is teaching EXACTLY what Computer Science is supposed to. Theory. It's an academic pursuit, not an applied skills program.

If you want to learn how to build usable software, that is a different skillset.

Precisely. Getting a computer science degree in order to become a programmer is like getting a mechanical engineering degree before becoming a mechanic. Yeah, it's kind of vaguely field related and will help give you some background about why things are done a certain way, but it's not at all necessary to the occupation and for many people is a big waste of time. Conversely, a typical programmer can't do CS work (just as a typical mechanic can't do most mech E work) without significant training in that arena.

There should be a professional "Software Engineering" (or call it something else if the Engineers get upset about the term) program for those that want to actually build code.

My school had these, http://www.sei.cmu.edu/ vs http://www.cs.cmu.edu/ The SEI only offered masters and higher level degrees, though, which seems backward if anything.

about 4 months ago
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Choose Your Side On the Linux Divide

pthisis Re:My opinion on the matter. (826 comments)

A bunch?

There are tons of pseudo/local services that are used to start a reasonably functional, secure Linux box: apparmor, networking, apport, dbus, dmesg, hostname, hwclock, procps, udev, urandom, etc.
There's mysql for the music catalog, a nameserver for caching DNS lookups, sshd for remote admin, and nginx for remote control.

And then there's X with attendant support daemons and the media player software itself (XBMC).

(Personally, I also like to be able to play locally recorded files on other media devices, so there's a UPNP server for that too)

about 4 months ago
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Choose Your Side On the Linux Divide

pthisis Re:My opinion on the matter. (826 comments)

Add:

Useful on many embedded devices. When you flip on your media player, the less time you're sitting there waiting at the boot screen the better.

about 4 months ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

pthisis Re:My reason (550 comments)

Age related myopia is a fact of life. It affects your reading ability and pretty much everyone gets it.

You're completely wrong here:
1. Myopia affects your ability to see at a distance, it does not affect your reading ability. Most people do not get it; it typically develops until age 20-25 in those who do get it. It's the reason for most glasses and contacts in people under age 40. LASIK is most commonly used as a correction for those with myopia.
2. Presbyopia is the age-related age decline that most people get; it affects your ability to focus, which is why many old people need reading glasses or bifocals. It tends to start sometime after age 40 and progress.
3. People with myopia absolutely tend to have much-delayed onset of significant presbyopia, less severe cases, and sometimes avoid it entirely; LASIK eliminates those delays.

See, e.g., the American Optometric Association's Care of the Patient with Presbyopia:
http://www.aoa.org/documents/o...
Patients with uncorrected or undercorrected myopia are less likely to experience difficulty with near tasks... Due to lens effectivity, patients who wear spectacle
corrections for myopia experience presbyopia later than those with emmetropia or hyperopia. Patients with myopia typically require less powerful bifocal additions than same-age patients who wear spectacle corrections for hyperopia.

You don't eveb need to deep-dive into the AOA to find this out, either; even Wikipedia says "Many people with myopia (near-sightedness) can read comfortably without eyeglasses or contact lenses even after age 40. However, their myopia does not disappear and the long-distance visual challenges remain. Myopes considering refractive surgery are advised that surgically correcting their nearsightedness may be a disadvantage after age 40, when the eyes become presbyopic and lose their ability to accommodate or change focus, because they will then need to use glasses for reading. Myopes with astigmatism find near vision better, though not perfect, without glasses or contact lenses when presbyopia sets in, but the more astigmatism, the poorer their uncorrected near vision". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...

about 5 months ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

pthisis Re:My reason (550 comments)

Thats' not my understanding at all. my understanding is that when you get old your vision doesn't so much "change" as become less "elastic", you loose the ability to easily re-focus.

That much is true, but myopic individuals are naturally focused at nearer range. It's not uncommon for presybobia--or at least significant enough to need reading glasses--to be delayed past age 50 in people with myopia (especially those with little or no astigmatism), or even avoided altogether. Well, that's not entirely correct: if you're wearing your contacts or glasses, you'll need to take them off to see at close range during that interim period.

http://www.aoa.org/documents/o...

"Due to lens effectivity, patients who wear spectacle corrections for myopia experience presbyopia later than those with emmetropia or hyperopia. Patients with myopia typically require less powerful bifocal additions than same-age patients who wear spectacle corrections for hyperopia."

about 5 months ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

pthisis Re:My reason (550 comments)

That's what you'll have to do if you have LASIK. If you don't have LASIK, you'll avoid the need for reading glasses or push it back by many years. That's kind of the point.

about 5 months ago

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