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Tesla Aims For $30,000 Price, 2017 Launch For Model E

twasserman 20% smaller? Not likely (247 comments)

As a San Franciscan, I'd love to have a smaller and less expensive Tesla, even if the range were considerably less than the 200 miles of the Model S. But 20% smaller is unlikely, since that would make it the same of a Mini Cooper. If they are going to compete with the BMW 3-series or the Audi 3 in the $30K price range, then the Model E should be 8-10% shorter than the Model S. At 196 inches, the Model S is about 20 inches longer than the new Audi 3 sedan. Typical extras on the German cars puts their sticker prices closer to $40K (or even above that). But a Model E measuring around 180 inches and selling for $35K would make it my first choice to replace my old Honda, especially when you consider that a Chevy Volt, with only a 40 mile range, lists for more than $40K.

about 3 months ago

Why Is Science Behind a Paywall?

twasserman Publishing in academic journals (210 comments)

Anyone pursuing an academic career knows that there are certain journals that are considered prestigious. Publishing your papers in such journals (typically those of professional societies and many of those owned by Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley) is an essential part of the academic promotion process. Failure to do so means that you are unlikely to be promoted to a senior tenured rank (e.g., Associate Professor), and is typically the end of your stay at that institution. Publishing in some of the new "fake" journals is worse than useless, even though it pads your resume. Many fields also look down upon conference papers, though that is less of a problem in computer science where there are numerous highly selective and well-regarded academically-oriented conferences, such as the Int'l Conf. on Software Engineering. Not surprisingly, many of the proceedings for those conferences are published by Elsevier and Springer.

The whole process, to date, is self-perpetuating, since serving as an Editor or Associate Editor for a prestigious journal also gets you points when you come up for promotion. As noted by others, serving in an editorial capacity or even as a reviewer for these journals is uncompensated. (You might think of it as falling into the same category as contributing voluntarily to an open source project.) The best that one can say for this activity is that it helps build an academic network, making it easier to obtain recommendation letters from senior faculty to include in your promotion case. The best way to disrupt this system in the short-term is for libraries refuse to renew their exorbitantly-priced journal subscriptions. (Money talks.) The high-quality online journals (e.g.,PLoS) have not yet made a significant dent against the biggest academic publishers.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Assess the Status of an Open Source Project?

twasserman BRR Project - tried building FOSS eval tools (110 comments)

In 2005, several of us started the Business Readiness Rating project. Its goal was to provide an objective (quantitative) evaluation of free and open source projects largely based on metrics, including project activity, downloads, publications on the project, etc. We originally defined 12 areas for evaluation, which I later reduced to 7. We thought (and still think) that such a tool would be a good idea, but we were an unsuccessful project ourselves, unable to attract sufficient funding or volunteers. There's an inactive SourceForge project and a single page website, ready to spin up if there is sufficient interest. I subsequently discovered that people wanted not just the numbers, but also subjective reviews in the style of Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, or Yelp. I also personally believe that we need a way to evaluate FOSS projects against proprietary software so that more organizations will be able to justify FOSS solutions.

about a year ago

Course Asks University Students To Tackle Medical Device Insecurity

twasserman Source code access for medical devices (38 comments)

I think that the FDA should require medical device makers to submit the source code of any device that is considered for approval. If someone is going to implant a device in my body, then I want the opportunity to see what it does and how it does it. What data is it collecting? What data is it transmitting? Can the operation of the device be modified or shut down over-the-air? As an example, is the algorithm for a heart pacemaker written efficiently so that battery life is maximized, thus reducing the need for repeated surgery?

This proposal raises the question of whether the creator of a device can protect the associated intellectual property if they are required to include source code as part of their submission for approval. I hope that we can have that discussion instead of continuing to treat all medical devices as black boxes.

about a year and a half ago

Petition For Metric In US Halfway To Requiring Response From the White House

twasserman Forward a meter, back a yard (1387 comments)

We had a similar conversion proposal 40 years ago, back in the early 1970s. Apart from the very sizable costs of converting everything, the winning argument in favor of the status quo was that the American people wouldn't be able to learn to think in metric. Really! I think that meant that our elected representatives didn't understand the metric system.

In the meantime, virtually all manufacturing is done in metric, and almost every product that is sold includes metric weight, capacity, or dimensions, since that's what the rest of the world knows and expects. But even if the current petition inspires action (highly unlikely), it will take another 40 years before the majority of people use the metric system, and longer for Honey Boo Boo.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Which OSS Database Project To Help?

twasserman How about NoSQL database systems? (287 comments)

Not to take anything away from PostgreSQL and MySQL (and their forks), but these are mature systems with extensive communities and a very complex code base. If you want to learn the architecture of a new class of open source database systems, as well as to have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to a project, then you should consider joining a NoSQL project, such as Neo4j or MongoDB.

about 2 years ago

Computer Science vs. Software Engineering

twasserman What Makes a Good Software Engineer? (322 comments)

I have always found that the best software engineers are those people who have a solid background in computer science. That knowledge is valuable throughout one's career and enables one to participate effectively in discussions and reviews of architectures, data models, and more even after being promoted to a position that doesn't include writing code. To me, the two areas are complementary.

Side note: I'm mystified at how someone with a Bachelor's degree in business can earn an MS in Software Engineering. Yes, management skills have an important role in an SE curriculum, but not to the exclusion of the technical skills.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding Work Over 60?

twasserman Re:What do you have to offer an employer? (306 comments)

About teaching -- don't just think of teaching CS in community colleges. Lots of other options: corporate training departments, software vendors who need field-based instructors for product training and consulting, online education, etc. For example, just think about the number of companies who are going to need Windows 8 training (whether or not we like it). I could imagine an entrepreneurial soul developing a couple of short courses of different lengths, picking a well-chosen domain name, creating a website to promote them, and strategically buying some keyword search terms to attract prospects.

Someone else mentioned teaching certificates - check out the alternative NYC programs at and (tech at the very bottom of this list).

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Finding Work Over 60?

twasserman What do you have to offer an employer? (306 comments)

I suggest that you think about how you could market yourself. What are your top three features that would make you particularly attractive to an employer? Are there specific application domains where your experience would make you more valuable than less chronologically advanced people? Make sure that you have taken all of the modern steps to create an online presence, e.g., LinkedIn. Unfortunately, for many people who have been out of work for a few years, and especially for older people, it's hard to build a strong case for yourself over someone who is willing to work > 60 hours/week and who is more current in terms of technical skills and job history.

It's much easier to find a tech job with a government agency (local, state, or federal) than it is to find a job in industry. Government jobs are publicly posted, and governments are especially sensitive to various laws regarding equal employment opportunity; there's also a higher percentage of older employees in governments than you will find in most companies. There's something positive to be said for a steady 40-hour/week job. While I don't think much of certifications, some government job postings include them, in which case it would be worth pursuing that certification for a specific position.

If you enjoy teaching, you should consider finding a way to teach at the college level. Community colleges and university extension programs often need instructors, and there are numerous for-profit institutions that don't require advanced degrees of their faculty. While teaching itself can be personally rewarding (not so much financially, though), many of your students will be working for companies that might be willing to hire you as a contractor or perhaps even as an instructor for the company's internal education programs.

In summary, be realistic about what you can bring to the party, recognize that many companies simply find legal ways not to hire people over 40, and focus on those opportunities where you are on a relatively even playing field in seeking a job. Good luck.

about 2 years ago

HP Plans To Cut Product Lines; Company Turnaround In 2016

twasserman HP in permanent decline (184 comments)

For the past 10 years or so, going back to Her Worship (Fiorina), HP has been cutting staff. Total layoffs through Hurd, Apotheker, and Meg are now up to 100K. HP has decimated its R&D capabilities, to the extent that they are essentially incapable of creating innovative products, which partly explains their 2100 printers. Too many of the people who are left are lifers who know how to keep their jobs. Anyone who is capable of finding a job elsewhere has done so.

If you are looking for a job, HP is a company without an interesting mobile strategy and a cloud strategy focused predominantly on IT services - not very attractive for entrepreneurial types, who have many other excellent opportunities.

Finally, the 100K HP departees are not likely to purchase HP products or to recommend them in their new settings. That's a very large pool of people who are going to advocate for competing products.

So the turnaround projected for 2016 is unlikely to happen, but it's a pretty fair bet than Meg Whitman won't be around HP when that day arrives.

about 2 years ago

Steve Ballmer's Head On the Block?

twasserman Einhorn is losing money on his MSFT investment (410 comments)

Sometimes the world just passes you by.... Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, John Chambers at Cisco, Sir Howard Stringer at Sony. Three hugely wealthy and successful men who now seem at a loss to address, let alone control, the sweeping changes affecting their respective companies. They all have loyal Boards that have supported their companies' strategies, at least until now. So it's unlikely that they are going to push their leaders out the door without external impetus or internal scandal.

Whatever you may think of him, Einhorn has a reason to provide that impetus at Microsoft. He's losing money on his Microsoft investment, which makes him and his hedge fund look bad. When his hedge fund performs poorly compared to others, investors take out their money and invest it somewhere else. So Einhorn's complaint is strongly in his own self-interest, since he is unlikely to concede that he made a bad decision to invest in Microsoft. The question is whether other institutional (large and influential) investors will support him. If so, then they can put more financial pressure on the Microsoft Board, and hold down the Microsoft stock price.

more than 3 years ago

Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths

twasserman Re:Who pays for the bridge? Tourists or commuters? (349 comments)

I live in SF, and have also run a business here. We were at 2nd and Market, very close to all kinds of public transportation, including GG Transit from Marin (bus and ferry). We couldn't do much about the absence of BART, since that issue was decided in 1962 when only San Francisco, Alameda (Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont), and Contra Costa Counties voted in favor of BART. The other counties didn't want to spend the money and were afraid that criminal elements from the urban areas would use BART to reverse commute and rob them and their homes. (Really!) My current commute to Mountain View from SF can be pretty painful, again because of that long-ago vote.

Back to the subject at hand, though...

The GG Bridge toll is now $5-6, depending on the time of day. A fair amount (15%?) of that is out-of-staters and drivers of rental cars, many of whom drive across the bridge Northbound to the vista point on the Sausalito side, then drive under the bridge to return to the City Southbound through the toll booths. The word will quickly get out about the toll system, and most of those revenues will be lost. So I still think that taking away the human toll takers is a bad idea in every sense.

more than 3 years ago

Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths

twasserman No human toll-takers will raise overall costs (349 comments)

I'm mystified about how the Golden Gate District is going to save money by eliminating human toll takers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are some questions that immediately came to my mind -- each has negative financial implications for the District.

1) How will the District be able to collect tolls from drivers in new vehicles? There is no license plate available to the cameras.

2) How will the District collect tolls from out-of-state vehicles? If I have an Oregon or Florida car, I'll just sail right through and ignore any bill that I receive.

3) Who's going to send out the bills to the people whose license plates were captured by photo driving through the toll area without a FasTrak? Apart from the postage, how much will that cost per driver? Will they have to hire back the toll takers to send out these notices? The number of cars without a FasTrak is pretty high.

4) Who's going to open up all of the envelopes that contain the payment checks? Toll takers can collect about 5-6 fares per minute. It takes longer to open and sort envelopes.

5) Who's going to follow up on the bounced checks? That takes time, too.

In all, my sense is that the switch away from human toll takers is likely to result in lower revenues and higher costs for the District. They'll have to hire all of the toll takers for the manual tasks, and then some more people. Overall, it looks like a terrible business decision, even apart from the human costs.

more than 3 years ago

Is Mark Zuckerberg the Next Steve Case?

twasserman New Facebook users are companies, not people (470 comments)

Count me as someone who has not drunk the Facebook Kool-Aid. No wall, no friends -- poor me. Every now and then, I get an invitation from a friend or personal acquaintance to join. But lately almost all of the invitations are from corporations -- inviting me to Like them in return for some coupon or other offer. I know that the Supreme Court recognizes corporations as people, but I'm still able to make the distinction. Will I offer my identity (which they probably already have) in return for a sweepstakes entry or a 10% discount on some product I don't really need? Probably not. FB is clearly very exciting and innovative in developing countries, at least for now. If I lived in Indonesia, where FB seems to be a basic part of life, then I would surely sign up. From my perspective, though, FB's growth is in quantity of users, not necessarily in quality. Not a good sign.

more than 3 years ago

Battle Escalates Between Airlines and Online Agents

twasserman American AAdvantage Platinum and Gold members (279 comments)

If you are a high-status member of American's AAdvantage frequent flyer program, you are probably already booking directly on the site or through a travel agent who has access to all of American's flights through SABRE or one of the other reservation systems. If you want to fly in or out of DFW, you may know that American has about 85% of the total traffic, since Southwest flies to the more convenient Love Field. But that doesn't cover a very large percentage of American's potential customers. While many of us know about Kayak and other fare comparison sites, there are a lot of people who automatically go to Travelocity or Expedia to arrange their flghts. If the American flights don't pop up on a search, then these people are going to choose from the options that are shown. It's not as if American has retained the strong passenger loyalty that they had back in the days when their crew smiled at you and fed you. So American loses those revenue opportunities, and gives a different carrier the opportunity to fill the seat. If I were an AMR stockholder, I would bail. AMR stock was even in 2010 while JetBlue, Southwest, Delta and other airline stocks were up. Without a presence on a major reservation site, AMR is likely to lose market share (and thus stock value) in 2011. I can't imagine what American execs have been smoking to have made such a poor decision.

more than 3 years ago

Does Anyone Really Prefer Glossy Screens?

twasserman Re:MacBook Pros require high rez option to get mat (646 comments)

Yes, you can enlarge text in individual applications, but here you have to go to considerable effort to end up with a solution that is inferior to what was standard before. All I want is the option to buy an i7-based 15" MacBook Pro with a matte screen and 1440x900 rez.

more than 4 years ago

Does Anyone Really Prefer Glossy Screens?

twasserman MacBook Pros require high rez option to get matte (646 comments)

My 3 year old MacBook Pro has a matte display with a 1440x900 screen. In the current MacBook Pro product lineup, the matte display is only available with the high rez 1650x1080 screen. That's not so great for those of us with aging eyes, which presumably includes Steve Jobs, who is now 55. I tried the screen in an Apple store, and (fortunately) I could still see everything OK. I also tried stepping the resolution down to approximate the current resolution. That gives you 1440x852, which means that the resolution is 5% worse than on the current matte displays. Even the staff at the Apple Store were surprised by that. So I'm hoping that those of us with a strong preference for matte over glossy will be able to prevail on Apple's MacBook product managers to again offer a matte display with a 1440x900 resolution.

more than 4 years ago

DARPA Issues Call For Computer Science Devotees

twasserman DARPA funded BSD Unix and the Internet.... (80 comments)

Some respondents have misread what DARPA is trying to do here. From the announcement, it appears that DARPA is looking to put together a study panel of computer science researchers composed of junior computer science faculty to help them identify promising research areas for the future; they aren't hiring anyone. Some of the panel's ideas will lead to fundable research, and the members of that study panel will have an inside track on getting funded, something that is likely to help them get promoted to a tenured position in their universities. In the old days, many DARPA-funded projects were "dual use", meeting the needs of the military, but also having value for the public at large. The Internet is a good example of that, as is BSD Unix. Many of the US's top computer science departments have received a very substantial percentage of their external research from DARPA. Under Bush, DARPA's focus was more on the military side, but the focus may now be shifting back toward dual use.

DARPA is probably seeking junior faculty members because they are more likely to have fresh ideas than do the more-established senior faculty. Also, junior faculty are in greater need of funding, especially in this economy where a lot of corporate funding for computer science research has been cut. Those research funds primarily support graduate students working on their advanced degrees. Finally, DARPA is sort of marketing itself to these young researchers, who may never have considered working with DARPA, especially when it was so directly focused on military programs.

There are many of us in the academic computer science research community (including me) who have never applied for DARPA funds or participated in their programs. But everyone with a computer has been the beneficiary of DARPA-funded projects.

more than 4 years ago

Metasploit As Case Study In Selling a FOSS Project

twasserman Drupal and Acquia plus Drupal distros (50 comments)

Another interesting example of commercial success around a "pure" FOSS project is Drupal, originally developed about 10 years ago as the centerpiece of Dries Buytaert's Ph.D. research. About two years ago, Acquia was started to provide a supported distribution of Drupal with commercial support and now hosting for Drupal projects (drupalgardens). With so many themes and modules being developed for Drupal, many of which are free, we are now seeing new Drupal distros spring up, in much the same way that Linux distros sprung up in the 1990's. The various distros package a "trusted" collection of modules and themes, which work across all community and commercial versions of a specific version of Drupal, e.g.,Drupal 6.x. The recent Drupalcon in San Francisco had about 3000 registrants, hundreds of sessions, and about 20 vendors of Drupal training and professional services. The registration fee averaged about $200, so that added up to some significant revenue, along with some very substantial expenses from holding the event in Moscone Center, the same place that Oracle holds their OpenWorld event with 40,000 attendees.

Even with all of this commercial activity, anyone can go to, freely download the community edition with any desired modules and themes, and participate as a member of the Drupal community, contributing to the project in many different ways.

more than 4 years ago



Protecting against identify theft

twasserman twasserman writes  |  more than 5 years ago

twasserman writes "I recently received a package from with an item that I did not order. The packing slip showed my name and home address as both the billing and shipping address, with my first name slightly misspelled. My first concern was identity theft: someone had enough information about me, and made a small purchase to see that the purchase would go through, in advance of making larger purchases.

When I called's customer service to ask about this item, they provided absolutely no help at all, even as I went through three levels of escalation of their "customer service". All they said is that "for security reasons", they could not provide me with any information about the order, even though I had provided them with the customer order number. I told them that I was worried about my security, not theirs, but they were absolutely unwilling to go beyond their scripted responses. If someone sent me a gift, that's nice, but they wouldn't tell me anything about who placed the order.

Of course, it is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to deal with possible identify theft, especially when one encounters such an uncooperative response from a merchant. Have others had different or better experiences with, or is this incident just a signal that can't and won't help with such problems? Do other online merchants react similarly to this type of problem?"

twasserman twasserman writes  |  more than 7 years ago

twasserman writes "Walt Mossberg's Personal Technology column in the Wall Street Journal describes his irritation at the "craplets" that were preinstalled on his new laptop. He characterizes the manufacturers as not having respect for the consumer, and acting as if the computer does not belong to you. He also noted the serious performance hit and wasted space resulting from all of this stuff, noting that it took 3 minutes to start up the Vista laptop compared to 30 seconds for a MacBook. He expressed his wish that computer manufacturers would stop loading all of these trial programs and offers on computers. Thank you, Mr. Mossberg, for saying to your business readers what many of us have been saying to the manufacturers for a long time."

twasserman twasserman writes  |  more than 7 years ago

twasserman writes "Mellon Investor Services sent a letter to HP Share Ownership Plan members reporting that they "discovered that the rounding logic" they "had been using resulted in miscalculated dividends and proceeds amounts during the period of April 2001 through September 2004." Mellon changed their rounding logic and re-calculated every transaction for this period, then issued checks to reflect the difference. My check, sent by first class mail, was for $0.02, and arrived just in time for last minute holiday shopping. A set of FAQs, which accompanied the check, noted that bank charges may make it infeasible for recipients to deposit or cash the check."

twasserman twasserman writes  |  about 8 years ago

twasserman writes "The Votemaster (Andrew S. Tanenbaum of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) is back, this time to track the various state polls covering the 2006 US Senate races. You can see, for each state, the result of the latest poll for that state's election, as well as the history of polls for that state and an overall summary showing the projected makeup of the new Senate. Another part of the site follows the 40 most competitive races for the House of Representatives. These results are non-partisan, though some of the commentary on the site isn't. The site,, is updated frequently to reflect the latest polls. During the 2004 Presidential election, it was one of the best places to see what was happening throughout the campaign."


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