hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    13 Oct 2014 Ask
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Ask HN: Apart DO and Linode, are there other good alternatives?
9 points by pdappollonio  2 hours ago   9 comments top 7
latch 1 hour ago 1 reply      
I recently discovered Vultr [1]. Slightly cheaper than DO with lots of location. I only had a couple instances running up for a bit while I benchmarked some code (I wasn't benchmarking them, so I didn't compare it to someone else). Was alright.

I run my own "everything" box at Hetzner [2] and I've used OVH (France, though they had a DC in Canada). OVH has gotten confusing, a lot of different brands (SoYouStart, OVH, Kimsufi and all types of stocking issues...so I'll let you google it if you really want). Both of these completely decimate pretty much anything else for the price.

Finally, there was a recent story about Atlantic.net offering a 0.99 SSD-backed VPS [3]

[1] https://www.vultr.com/

[2] http://www.hetzner.de/en/

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8389477

kngspook 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
Slicehost, now owned by Rackspace and rebranded accordingly I think, used to be almost exactly the same as Linode. To the point where, when I was picking my first VPS box, I narrowed it down to those two, and then ended up picking based on how pretty their websites were.
joshmn 1 hour ago 0 replies      
If you want the best bang for your buck, check out RunAbove [1] We've found them to be excellent: performant, good people behind them, and the value is unmatched.

[1] http://RunAbove.com

Disclaimer: Really, really happy customer.

marketingadvice 36 minutes ago 0 replies      
OVH is awesome, super affordable but its dedicated boxes mostly.

Heroku is another option but quite expensive.

ZenoArrow 2 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're looking to save money... http://lowendbox.com/
general_failure 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Ramnode does not have a api if that matters.

Ec2 is an alternative. They have SSD these days.

Ask HN: How to build a technical org from scratch?
7 points by upjumped_mgr  5 hours ago   2 comments top
mswen 3 hours ago 1 reply      
The first thing to strike me is the double-edged sword which is the current massively profitable status of the business. Any sane executive will be very careful about doing anything to harm a massively profitable business. If they are not careful that would mean that they were not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities to the owners.

Having said that the current leaders are trying to be very forward thinking and say we have to get deeply competent in technology because the world is changing under our feet. And for that I commend them. And, the current profitability certainly gives them the firepower to get ready for the next stage of their business.

If I were the owners I would do a multi-pronged approach. I would create a venture fund to do seed and series A venture investments and I would find the 10 most promising ideas and teams that could disrupt or replace my current business and invest from $250K to $2M in each of them, depending on the stage. I now have a chance of participating in a future big winner. And, for those ideas that don't work out I create another fund to do acquisitions of those start-ups that have forged really competent teams. It becomes a means of identifying really competent technical people and knowing that they have experience in the challenges of my media space.

In parallel to that I would go ahead and build out an internal technical organization like you have described but take it kind of slow, especially with the lines that generate the current massive profits.

Your position internally will, as you have already discerned, require the utmost of tact and team building even while you seek to make the decisive moves that the new technologically driven business requires.

You will need vocal support from the very top of the organization, expressed through your title, your budget, your reporting line, and inclusion in strategic planning sessions at the highest level in the organization. Otherwise it won't work. Those executives leading really profitable business lines will resist your "crazy" efforts to remake their golden-egg laying division, and they may be right! And, those who are already becoming obsolete and seeing their business model undercut by technologically sophisticated competitors will be fighting you out of fear.

If you can forge a vision that uses the units hard-won domain expertise and super-charge it with technology you will be the hero, otherwise you face opposition at every turn and you need authority from the very top to succeed.

Ask HN: What do you use for PDF reports these days?
85 points by jguimont  1 day ago   55 comments top 31
mkhattab 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm using Org-mode which can export to LaTeX -> PDF [0]. I use Org-mode for invoices [1], reports, time-tracking, etc. Using org-babel you can use Gnuplot[2] or R [3] to embed charts and other visuals.

[0]: http://orgmode.org/manual/LaTeX-and-PDF-export.html#LaTeX-an...

[1]: http://orgmode.org/worg/org-contrib/

[2]: http://orgmode.org/worg/org-contrib/babel/languages/ob-doc-g...

[3]: http://orgmode.org/worg/org-contrib/babel/languages/ob-doc-R...

yogthos 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I ended up wrapping iIText with my [clj-pdf](https://github.com/yogthos/clj-pdf) library for doing that sort of thing. I also created a standalone service using it, that accepts JSON and returns a PDF that can be found [here](https://github.com/yogthos/instant-pdf).
tambourine_man 23 hours ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I've been Chrome's print to PDF + Quartz Filter to compress JPEGs for over a year.

These are the most important tricks:

  .A4page {width: 793px;height: 1120px;position: relative;padding: 200px 50px 50px;box-sizing: border-box;  }  @media all {.page-break{ display: none; margin-bottom: 100px; }  }  @media print { .page-break{ display: block; page-break-before: always; }  }
Good font rendering, selectable text. Not perfect, but the best I've seen so far.

car 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I've used PhantomJS with CoffeeScript, and Reportlab with Python.

The PhantomJS solution became a bit painful, since there are issues with the way Qt converts HTML into PDF. I was impressed that even SVG generated with D3 faithfully was converted to PDF. But not being able to precisely control formatting was a problem.

After that I decided to try Reportlab, and it's been amazing. There is a free open source Python API version, and the commercial Report Markup Language product (RML). It's possible to mix Python and RML with a template engine (Preppy), very powerful. We opted for the commercial support, since time was a factor. RML is really baked, it's been around for over a decade. The documentation is extensive, but I still had to find a couple of things via googling. However, their commercial support is awesome.

If you don't want to spend a lot of time handcrafting documents, I recommend RML, despite the cost. It has features for page layout control, fonts, tables, styling and multipage text flow. There's even a charting library, which I didn't use yet. Also important was the ability to include existing PDF pages as backgrounds or chart inserts.

Geee 1 day ago 2 replies      
Docraptor, http://docraptor.com

It uses the Prince engine (http://www.princexml.com/), so it supports paging, headers, footers, page numbers etc. in addition to standard HTML+CSS3. It's great overall but quite pricey.

vram22 8 hours ago 1 reply      
ReportLab is a good product all right. Also, it has been around for a while and is pretty stable.

For text-only PDF reports (i.e. no styling, graphics or image support), my xtopdf toolkit may be worth a look, since it provides a higher-level and really simple to use API for basic use cases of PDF report generation: lines of text with pagination and page numbering, headers and footers, and setting the font - that's about it. But it turns out that you can generate many kinds of useful reports with just those features. As an aside, xtopdf can also create simple PDF ebooks from either text or XML. xtopdf is built using ReportLab.

xtopdf is open source, under the BSD license, and free.

A good high-level overview of xtopdf:


The above URL is a presentation with many links in it, to more information about xtopdf, and many programming examples of the use of xtopdf for various applications.

The xtopdf project is at:


Also, a plug: I've available for consulting on PDF report generation from Python, using either xtopdf or Reportlab, or to some extent (can be decided on a case by case basis), even for PDF report generation using other libraries and from other languages, at least Ruby, Java and PHP.

I'm interested in feedback on xtopdf, including bugs, suggestions for features, etc.

veidr 20 hours ago 4 replies      
I use the Prawn gem. I usually have a Rails controller to spit out the PDF files, even if the main project isn't Rails.

Prawn provides very fine control over the rendering, at the expense of having to finely control your render.

You can use your own fonts (and have to, for Asian languages etc) and it is easy to do layouts where the size is fixed and you shrink the text down to fit it in (or truncate it). On the other hand is not good for really rich text layout like you can do in HTML and CSS, where the size might vary.

Aheinemann 1 day ago 2 replies      
For Reports with lots of tables and mathematics:generate LaTeX file -> PDFTEX to PDF using MiKTeX
redact207 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Microsoft Sql Server Reporting Services - does everything you mentioned and exports to pdf

same for Business Objects, but IMHO needlessly more complicated than the former.

obviously neither are open source, and an SSRS license is worth it if your business spits out many reports.

nbevans 1 day ago 2 replies      
What's wrong with WkHtmlToPdf? It is pretty damn good in a "it just works" way.
maxharris 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I use pdfkit.js: http://pdfkit.org/

You can run it directly on the client (or the server, if you like), which is really nice.

LarryMade2 9 hours ago 0 replies      
In PHP the best one is TCPDF (replaces FPDF) along with FPDI. TCPDF is a library to generate PDF content, FPDI extends TCPDF/FPDF to allow for importing PDF (as templates, etc) for use in your creations.

Works really well.

eschutte2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Jasper works pretty well and gives you a designer, but you could also roll your own like Aheinemann says. I've done the wkhtmltopdf road before and it was tough to deal with paging.

I'm working on a related problem right now (end-user report design in the browser) so I'll be interested to see what other people say.

kawera 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been using speedata-publisher[1] and pdf-writer[2] with good results.

[1] https://github.com/speedata/publisher

[2] https://github.com/galkahana/PDF-Writer

Some other options I've played with:

- https://github.com/signintech/gopdf

- https://github.com/mstamy2/PyPDF2

- http://www.jagpdf.org/

xiljin 1 day ago 1 reply      
Our rails app generates dozens of accounting related reports on the fly in HTML and we use Flying Saucer to generate a PDF version -


To help minimize request time, we keep Flying Saucer persisted with Nailgun -


For generating checks, IRS forms and other PDFs that involve precise formatting we use Prawn -


vivekchand19 23 hours ago 1 reply      
We use reportlab (https://pypi.python.org/pypi/reportlab) for invoice generation. Once you decide upon the template it's very easy to use.
seven 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I run http://template2pdf.com/ as a side project.

Take a LibreOffice/OpenOffice document as your template and send a simple http request with the values you want to replace (with support for images and what you call 'repeatable parts'). The system will then return a link where you can pick up your generated pdf.

bemmu 22 hours ago 0 replies      
In the one place where I need to create PDFs from code (generating address labels), I use the fpdf port of Python. It is probably too limited for most cases, but if you just need to position some simple images and text it might be enough.


raphael_kimmig 17 hours ago 0 replies      
We used to do wkhtmltopdf but nowadays we are using weasyprint + django templates. Much better support for css (including CSS Paged Media). See http://weasyprint.org/
thematt 1 day ago 0 replies      
I generate the report as a normal HTML page and then render/export it using PhantomJS. Easiest solution I've found so far and I've done quite a bit of exploring.


jonah 1 day ago 0 replies      
ashokvarma2 1 day ago 0 replies      
We use shrimp(https://github.com/adjust/shrimp) which internally uses phantomjs. It works well but you will need to do the page break yourself which can become a pain.
razzaj 19 hours ago 0 replies      
We use BIRT to design & run our reports. It is flexible and renders in all sorts of ways (including PDF). We have not had major issues with it.
sandstrom 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Somewhat related: what is a good process for turning html-emails into PDFs (or images)?
danellis 1 day ago 2 replies      
enduser 1 day ago 0 replies      
Generate SVG using an XML DOM library and then convert to PDF using Inkscape on the command-line.
JohnHaugeland 1 day ago 1 reply      
I use PrinceXML, which is a few hundred or a few thousand depending on what you need, instead of fifty thousand. Prince converts [html/xml + css] to PDF, and has the most complete CSS3 implementation I'm aware of by a green mile.

There's a free version you can experiment with, to find out.

ibotty 19 hours ago 0 replies      
pandoc is great too. you supply it with e.g. markdown and it can generate many different output formats. pdf via tex is one of it.
chris11 1 day ago 0 replies      
PDFsharp is a pretty good opensource library for .NET languages.
asteiger 1 day ago 0 replies      
there is always itext / itextsharp. or pdflib. i think ghostscript does pdf conversions as well.
sebastianavina 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Are apps demanding humans not to be themselves?
2 points by ozuvedi  2 hours ago   1 comment top
skidoo 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I have been begging for the Butlerian Jihad to begin for years.
Ask HN: Early Stage Startup Product Advice
2 points by brianliou91  3 hours ago   4 comments top 2
sharemywin 1 hour ago 1 reply      
The latest start school video talks about the magic moment for your product. when the user uses your product and they get it. have you defined it for your site. for facebook it was having 10 friends.
kylelibra 3 hours ago 1 reply      
The first place I'd look would be the UX around your onboarding process and if it encourages immediate use of the product. Without further details it is tough to say.
What to see in Silicon Valley
3 points by zackabaker  4 hours ago   1 comment top
lastofus 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Hard to say without know the kids ages but


SF in general will have way more museums and sights to see than the peninsula which is mainly business parks, residential, and scenic drives along the coast. Also traffic...

Pitching to an angel tomorrow. Any last minute tips
2 points by Blakefolgado  4 hours ago   7 comments top 4
techdog 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Hey man, first of all, good luck!

Be ready to do your pitch with or without graphics, with or without white board,, with or without aids of any kind.

If you were pitching to Steve Jobs, rest assured that after your fourth slide, or 30 seconds of video, he would interrupt to say you're full of shit. Chances are, you won't encounter that kind of abruptness. Just saying, be ready for anything.

Most investors are pragmatists. They will want to know HOW you know that customers will come; they'll want to know what your market research consists of; you'll need to provide some kind of market "proof." Do a mock preso with somebody interrupting all the time to say "That's pie in the sky. Prove to me it's not pie in the sky."

How many customers do you need to make this thing fly? How soon? What's the timmetable? Where will those customers come from? How many will come from each channel? How do you KNOW they'll come? What market testing have YOU done already? Those are the types of questions to expect. (Among others, of course.)

If you don't have those kinds of answers, be ready to tell how you'll get them. What are your income milestones? How can you prove you'll hit them? What happens if you don't? How soon will you be able to prove you're on track? What form does the proof take?

Angels see and hear good ideas all the time. What they want to know is why you're the one to do this and how you know it will work; why this is the right time; why no one else can execute on this; why it will succeed if YOU do it.

Best of luck to you. Hope this helps.

opless 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Don't "give away" everything of your company.

Remember these people you are pitching to will want to sell it on for a quick buck. They're not your friends or colleagues, and they absolutely will have knee jerk reactions at the first sign of problems to protect their investment.

I'm sure not all investors are like this, but unfortunately you need to know what the bottom line is.

I hope it goes well for you!

l33tbro 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You must listen to this before your pitch, if you haven't all ready :)


Longtime This American Life producer Alex Blumberg decided, a while back, to try and start his own business. He also decided to record the whole process, including investor meetings that go off the rails, and other tense and awkward moments that business reporters usually dont get access to.

peterhunt 4 hours ago 2 replies      
If I were the investor I'd ask you these questions:

1. Why would anyone use Venteo instead of Facebook's shared album feature? http://mashable.com/2013/08/26/facebook-shared-photo-albums/

2. Why don't I know anyone who has used Facebook's shared album feature?

Ask HN: How viable is it to live off of freelance programming while travelling?
16 points by EvanZ  9 hours ago   18 comments top 11
namecast 9 hours ago 2 replies      
I've done this. In a word: don't.

The digital nomad freelancer lifestyle is fine, but one of the things you need to pull it off is a steady base of consulting clients already available, preferably with long term project needs, who are ok with your remote schedule.

If you go the ad-hoc elance route you'll be competing with 10/hr workers who speak English as well as you in countries with much lower CoL who do this for a living while you're scrambling to deal with flight tickets, airbnb fees and wifi drama in foreign countries. Never mind the problems of getting compensated in a timely fashion.

The second time I took an extended working vacation, I had four clients with semi-steady requirements and actually had to turn down work so I could spend as much time on the beach as possible. Way less stressful than hustling for elance/odesk jobs on a daily basis.

TLDR; first you get the clients, then you start the travel. ditch elance and use craigslist / your personal network, the lead quality will be much higher.

yitchelle 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I am going to go against the tide here and advise you to specifically not take programming jobs while travelling.

As someone here already mention, travelling is meant for you get out of your comfort zone and to experience life in a different forum. I would suggest that you save as hard as you can before starting your travels. Once you have started, starting looking for jobs that you wouldn't normally do. You would not believe how much you will change once you have experienced it.

I did that with my wife for about 9mths. We sold everything we had, and travel along the east coast of Australia. We did jobs like vegetable harvesting of cucumbers and pumpkins, labouring at the construction sites, caring for the elderly, caught our own fish for food on a daily basis, slept on the side of roads in our caravan while moving on from town to town. We met many folks that we would have not met in our regular lives. It gives us a different perspective on life. This 9mths was life changing.

aidanlister 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I did it for just shy of six years in over 60 countries. Cheap countries (Thailand, Colombia), expensive countries (Norway), countries with Wifi in every corner (Finland, Estonia), countries with barely any wifi (India, Guyana), safe places, not so safe places (Kashmir, Venezuela) ... It's amazing. Do it. You'll work it out.
MalcolmDiggs 7 hours ago 2 replies      
I'd stay away from Elance/Odesk, etc, the rates you can expect there are bottom-of-the-barrel "commodity-programming" rates. Don't bother.

I'd recommend aligning yourself with a half-dozen dev shops. (They may call themselves "Full Service Marketing" firms, or "Agencies" or whatever.) Just look for some shops that are getting consistent clients. Reach out and tell them you're capable of XYZ; many will be willing to farm work out to you if you're good and reliable. They typically don't care where you're physically located....just that you can hit a deadline.

There's very little downside to them bringing you on (the more programmers in their arsenal, the larger they can scale their client base), so your chances are pretty good at landing a gig. But, as each agency is typically "Feast and Famine" (big project followed by lull) you'll want to balance out the highs and lows by aligning yourself with several shops, and always keeping multiple incoming streams. This last part is crucial, always assume that any given shop may screw you over at any moment, keep your income diversified.

I lived this way for several years, and it was a blast.

gaelow 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I totally agree with namecast.

Also, it depends on your destination(s) and your connections along the way.

If you don't mind traveling cheap and light to cheap countries and live off a traveling bag on student dorms and the like, you'll be ok.

It was a really nice experience for me but it was more of a working vacation and by the end of the second year I was already tired of the working part: uncomfortable hours, environment and gigs. I was glad I finally got back home, earning the good bucks on a regular schedule again.

P.S: The "wifi drama" is true, and no better way to express it.

aliston 8 hours ago 0 replies      
It is definitely viable, particularly if you're traveling in countries where the cost of living is low. The biggest problem I ran into was that it was incredibly difficult to find motivation to work while traveling.

Traveling is fundamentally about meeting new people and getting outside of your comfort zone while experiencing a new culture. If you haven't done long-term travel before and particularly if you're staying in hostels, there will always be things to do and new people to meet. You're having the time of your life -- the last thing you will want to do is pick up your laptop and start coding.

segmondy 8 hours ago 1 reply      
So long as you understand that you won't work hard any less, but will probably work harder, then it's viable. Most times I see people wanting to freelance while travelling they also equate it with "easy work" and being able to work 4 hours a week. Yeah, that's going to be rough. You can freelance, travel, but you might have to work 60 intense hours a week. Most people are not sufficiently motivated to work hard when answering to themselves. How motivated are you?
nbardy 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm doing it now, and unfortunately I can't really tell you how easy it easy to get a job because I was lucky enough to have an incredibly flexible and reliable long term contract fall into my lap. I'm making less than I would like, but my hours and methods are flexible.

If you can find a good client relationship I would fully recommend it; however, I think it would be pretty rough doing it scrounging on E-lance. It would put a good strain on the joy that is traveling.

Dave_TRS 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd say it works best if you're a project manager, and have a few others working steady (and longer) hours that you can bill out. Also a well established set of clients is a must. I did this while in SE Asia and Nepal for months at a time and my trips were all cash positive, and didn't require too much of my time working.
Dave_TRS 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd say it works best if you're a project manager, and have a few others working steady (and longer) hours that you can bill out. Also a well established set of clients is a must. I did this while in SE Asia and Nepal for months at a time and my trips were all cash positive.
jordsmi 8 hours ago 0 replies      
It depends on many variables that we don't know from you. Things like how many current clients you work with, your rate, which countries you plan on going to, if you want to travel like a baller or as cheap as possible, etc.
X-37B plane can stay in space for years, power source?
12 points by MysticFear  11 hours ago   16 comments top 10
gvb 11 hours ago 0 replies      
It is extremely likely it is the hypergolic fuel used for the on-orbit manoeuvring rockets. Hypergolic fuel is really nasty stuff.

It is likely the same rocket fuel (maybe the same rockets) as used by the space shuttle (OMS).


See also:

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Discovery#Decommi...

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypergolic_propellant#Disadvant...

dalke 10 hours ago 0 replies      
That's chemical protective gear designed to protect the ground crew against hydrazine or similarly hazardous vapors .

They were first developed in the 1960s for the Titan missiles, which use the chemically nasty (but room temperature) nitrogen tetroxide and Aerozine 50. See http://books.google.com/books?id=MdTZFu1fZ4AC&pg=PA186&lpg=P... for some of the history.

Here you can see the suits in use at the end of the Space Shuttle STS-1 mission: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=gYc... along with explanation by both the news and NASA commentators.

http://www.xcor.com/blog/category/thrusters/ and http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering/Clean_Sp... are pictures of people in similar suits, in order to fuel spacecraft. I picked those to give commentary about how hazardous hydrazine is, and that there's a push to use alternative fuels.

Hoff 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Months are not a particularly long duration for spacecraft, and solar arrays are not at all unusual as power sources for spacecraft in the inner solar system.

Some data on satellite lifetimes:

* http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Operations/GOES/status.html

* http://noaasis.noaa.gov/NOAASIS/ml/life_expectancy.html

* http://noaasis.noaa.gov/NOAASIS/pubs/life%20expectancy.pdf 2009)

As for the protective equipment being used in that Yahoo photo, that's probably due to the use of hypergolic fuel:

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypergolic_propellant

Notice nearly-identical protective equipment being used in the Wikipedia entry.

As for protective equipment for radioisotope thermoelectric generators, here's an example from Cassini:

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_gen...

This being the Internet, there's far more information on related topics available:

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_(satellite)

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._RecSat_Big_Picture.jp...

Hmmm. Wonder what other and far more familiar satellite that KH-11 Kennan looks like.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HST-SM4.jpeg

JabavuAdams 11 hours ago 2 replies      
The protective equipment is probably for fuel or oxidizer leaks.

This page: http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/boeing-x37/

says that the vehicle uses either hydrazine or nitrogen tetroxide.

Aside from the main engine, reaction thrusters could foul the surrounding fuselage with nasty chemicals.

stevengg 10 hours ago 1 reply      
the guy who took this picture gave a talk 30c3 he takes pictures of military instantiations Seeing The Secret State: Six Landscapes


qwerta 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I guess the fuel could be poisoning (that was case for some soviet military rockets). Other option is just caution not to introduce dust particles etc...
exabrial 8 hours ago 0 replies      
anovikov 10 hours ago 0 replies      
It is simply an MMH or UDMH propellant onboard, which is carcinogenic.
benologist 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Apparently this thing can fly 500 miles high which is space, maybe it's related to that?



Tell HN: SSL error on HN- not accessible on Firefox
3 points by critiq  9 hours ago   2 comments top 2
kogir 30 minutes ago 0 replies      
This seems to happen with CloudFlare pretty regularly. Has it resolved itself?

I'll follow up with them.

critiq 9 hours ago 0 replies      
(Error code: ssl_error_bad_cert_domain
When I could only connect to HN using Internet Explorer
2 points by noisy_boy  11 hours ago   1 comment top
mithras 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Yaah this was happening to me as well, I just waited and now it works again.
Are encryption based solutions a viable business?
4 points by vikramsrao  21 hours ago   1 comment top
sullivanmatt 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm going to be making some assumptions here, with assumption #1 being that you would be based in the US.

It wouldn't be illegal, but I think you'll have serious issues with viability. Concern #1 would be when / where / why you would distribute my encryption keys. For example, I am a SaaS, perhaps small, perhaps big. You are a one-or-two person startup holding my encryption keys, and the FBI comes knocking with an NSL. You will not have the money / resources to fight it, so you'll turn over those keys without telling me (as you are required to by law). However maybe it was a BS request, and maybe had I known about it I could have fought it with my A+ legal team.

The other issue is one of data mutability. If you are just storing files, there is some merit in separate key storage. However, if your SaaS does something with that data (converts it, processes it, moves it), then those encryption keys will be right back in the hands of the company doing the data holding.

Finally, there are very few companies that care enough about encryption to actually do it, and those who care that much about it probably won't be willing to ship that functionality out of the company.

(A bit about me: I am a webapp security / crypto guy at a mid-sized SaaS company)

Ask HN: Solving a founder dispute in a successful bootstrapped startup?
6 points by disapproval  1 day ago   3 comments top 3
tptacek 10 hours ago 0 replies      
What's your company structure? Are you actually incorporated? Do you have an operating agreement in place? Does your partner vest? There's paperwork to that effect?
loumf 1 day ago 0 replies      
At your stage investors generally want their money to stay in the company and be used to help it grow, not be immediately taken off the table.

How big is the share? People with minority stakes are asked to leave all of the time. He can keep his shares, he just can't be part of the company any more (talk to a lawyer).

jtchang 1 day ago 0 replies      
The only way you can resolve this is by talking to your cofounder and figuring out what he or she wants. Do you have any paper in place to describe what happens in these types of situations?
Ask HN: Retraining into data science?
6 points by eli_gottlieb  1 day ago   4 comments top 3
mailshanx 13 hours ago 0 replies      
You might find my comment on a related thread useful: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8444705
mattxxx 1 day ago 1 reply      
Let me preface this with my background: mathematician, software engineer, and statistical programmer. Doing this way before the data science hype.

Regarding your friend, it's possible, but - right now - data science is more closely related to implementation than interpretation of results.

Maybe your friend is looking for something more similar to a Quantitative Analysis position?

It would probably be easier to extend stats and science knowledge into a statistical analysis domain, rather than practical programming, neural networks, database algebras, computational complexity, etc.

Good luck though!

brudgers 1 day ago 0 replies      
Coursera offers a data science specialization:


It's cheap [if you want the certificate, free if you don't] and provided through John's Hopkins.

The Meteor Testing Manual book is now available
3 points by samhatoum  1 day ago   discuss
Ask HN: How do you conduct technical interviews if you don't have experience?
7 points by bsquared  2 days ago   5 comments top 4
asadlionpk 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I am assuming you are technical yourself but have no iOS skills. In my experience, you should interview candidate based on the basic CS principles and algorithms. Start with some classical textbook problem and based on candidates response, build around it. While the interview, focus on the thought process more than the end results. I have been doing this for a few years now and even have built tools for interviewing.

Check https://codepad.remoteinterview.io

Good luck!

staunch 1 day ago 0 replies      
Find someone you can reasonably expect to be an expert. The author of a well reviewed iOS book, app, library, toolkit, framework, whatever. Have them review code samples or even interview candidates over Skype. It shouldn't cost more than an expensive recruiter. And still cheaper than hiring the wrong person.
otoolep 2 days ago 1 reply      
Ask them:

How do they ensure that the code they deliver to their teammates is of high quality?

Regardless of domain, the principles are the same -- answers that can be understood even by a non-technical person include "peer review of my work" and "assume good faith when a person provides feedback on your design and results". If you do have a technical background, then the technical answers provided should apply to all types of software development and technical operations. You don't need to specifically have iOS experience.

MalcolmDiggs 2 days ago 0 replies      
In my experience, there's little reason to do it alone.

Handle whatever you can (the non tech stuff), you'll be able to narrow down a lot based on non-technical factors (like years of experience, projects in their portfolio, etc). When you're ready for the tech screen, call in a favor from someone you trust. Ask them to spend an afternoon grilling your candidates.

Ask HN: Share the time you most successfully hacked some (non-computer) system
2 points by ramoq  16 hours ago   7 comments top 3
jtfairbank 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I learned how to sail without a rudder. The trick is to use the force differentials between the fore sail (jib) and main sail to steer. I did this on a 20 foot boat with a crew of 4 people, and could tack, jibe, and safely pick up a man overboard.
stevekemp 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I live in a city with a very comprehensive bus service, cheap, reliable, all that good stuff.

Over time it became obvious that people who worked for the bus-company would just jump on the buses, chat briefly to the driver, and not pay. They'd get off after 1-15 stops and have ridden for free.

I figured there were sufficiently many bus-drivers and buses that they can't all have been personally familiar to each other, and reasoned that the "uniform" must have been what swayed it.

I created a replica-bus-driver-uniform and had a weekend where I rode around for free, unchallenged.

Not terribly useful, and perhaps not possible these days now that the staff also wear ID-cards a lot of the time, but I was a little pleased with myself regardless.

ramoq 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's a good one from FamilyLeaf's YC app: "We used a comedy twitter account to get meetings with tech superstars who wouldn't have returned our emails. In the week before our YC interview, we started @YC_Y_U_NO as a joke with the tech communityand ended up featured on TechCrunch -- and more importantly (coupled with serendipitously meeting FredWilson at the airport, who tweeted out Readstream) used cold DM's to build relationships with brilliant startuppeople, angel investors, and VCs (along with more than a few YC alums/Garry and Harj)."
Ask HN: What are some ways to get my first 1000 users for my parenting website?
6 points by kunalspunjabi  1 day ago   5 comments top 4
PeterWhittaker 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The headlines read a bit like those from supermarket checkout magazines.

That's a bad thing for me, but it might serve you and your core audience well.

(My daughter is 20. The idea of taking parenting advice from random Internet sites and strangers is anathema.)

brudgers 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Visiting the link, it looks like another blog. The posts appear to be sporadic and at least on the front page, related to pregnancy more than parenting.

I'm a parent. My parents are parents. Parents isn't a market segment. Announcing a baby name or picking a doula where not issues for us. Decide who the site is really for beyond "anybody who visits". Figure out a value proposition.

For a blog, the only proven one is really good content.

Good luck.

ASquare 1 day ago 1 reply      
Get your first 10 from people you know.You must know parents or know people that know parents.

Do your problem/solution/MVP interviews with these people.Then use them to refer you to others that may have the same issue/be interested.

Pour gas on your social networks - Facebook, twitter, linkedin whatever. Spread the word and force close friends to like/share/retweet etc to maximize reach.

That should get you to your first 50-100 easily.

Beyond that, in parallel, post to /r startups and /r parenting on reddit.Submit link to Betali.st and ProductHunt and do a ShowHN.

With all of this, you should get to your 1000 number.

need_the_auths 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm going to be a parent very soon, and my first piece of feedback is my kid isn't a tiny adult -- she is a child. TinyAdult.com brings up mental images of people with various forms of dwarfism, and child labor of yesteryear.

I may be an outlier in my opinion though.

Ask HN: Could you help me price a mobile application?
3 points by a-saleh  22 hours ago   4 comments top 2
staunch 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Tell him to create a YouTube channel with the videos first. That's the hard part. If he can't do that then don't even consider doing the mobile app unless you just want the experience.
siscia 20 hours ago 1 reply      
I am not really sure that doing this kind of work for the family is a great idea...

But if you really need to go forward I don't see it extremely difficult...

Probably there are a lot of libraries you can use to manage youtube video on Android, as well with vocal command...

I will focus only in an American base version, it is easier and I don't see much market outside US.

I would say one whole months for a little prototype, working close to full time...

When did this happen last?
2 points by pbhowmic  23 hours ago   discuss
Computer Science vs. Applied Math?
3 points by snowcaps  1 day ago   4 comments top 4
brudgers 9 hours ago 0 replies      
My observation is the more maths you know, the more useful you are likely to be as a computer scientist, e.g. the maths are the hardest part of Knuth.

My suggestion is to study what you are interested in.

bzalasky 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I have an anthropology degree (switched from CS), and it hasn't hindered me. You'll be fine either way. I'd make sure to work on some interesting side projects and contribute to open source projects. Lack of experience is more of a hurdle, and showing that you've been working on things outside of school can help you get past it. I can't speak to grad school.
khnd 6 hours ago 0 replies      
study math if you're more interested in that- try to take a data structures and algorithms course. maybe an os course to learn how computers actually work. otherwise you should be good to go!
cblock811 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I have a degree in Hotel Management and it isn't an issue for me. If you're worried about opportunities being shut out just network and do side projects. Networking is huge imo.
Pixitar: Pixelated Live Avatars
2 points by pixitar  1 day ago   1 comment top
pixitar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Pixitar stands for Pixelated Live Avatar. It's a webapp that shares a pixelated picture of yourself every so often in order to foster closeness amongst distributed teams. Think "peripheral vision" over your webcam. pixitar.com

Checkout our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8PSeiNRBxo

Pretty simple: Would you use this? Would you pay for it? How much? And what suggestions do you have about the experience?

Thank you!

Tell HN: Moniker/snapnames admits security flaws, emails password in cleartext
6 points by hoodoof  2 days ago   1 comment top
k_roy 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Got those too. I've been transferring my portfolio out of there slowly for the last few weeks, but that was the final straw.
Ask HN: Was there really a dot com bubble?
2 points by itry  1 day ago   4 comments top 4
tptacek 1 day ago 0 replies      
Your syllogism doesn't work. The dot-com bubble wasn't "the ultimate promise of the Internet". It was the irrational valuations assigned to a specific set of unsustainable business models popularized in the late 90s, and driven by pre-profit and often pre-revenue companies going directly to the public market for liquidity.
zwiteof 1 day ago 0 replies      
> If we add up all the value of the survivors, maybe we come to the conclusion that there was no bubble?

Factoring in inflation would that still be true? Do the internet companies make up a significant percentage of the stock market like they did in 2000? Is this comparison even valid since I'd expect the tech/internet sector to have grown significantly as the internet has matured since 2000?

kohanz 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would argue that most of the value of those companies was created post-bubble.
brudgers 1 day ago 0 replies      
Apple is not an internet based company. Facebook's stock is privately held for the most part. Half of Google's publicly held stock is non-voting. The founder's class B shares carry 10 votes apiece.
How real US economy collapse is?
11 points by knivets  3 days ago   discuss
seanccox 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm taking your use of "collapse" too literally, probably. I do expect a decline and possible deflation.

Several troubling indicators exist:- US employment rates are only now on par with pre-2008 crisis levels- Current new job creation tends to be in low-income employment- Margin debt in equities has been touching historic highs- Household debt, particularly among new graduates, is also at or approaching historic highs- Oil and other commodities prices are falling, representing declining demand for goods created with such resources- Political risk is rising and US capacity to deal with it effectively is, in my estimation, limited

Taken alone, these are all concerning indicators. Taken together, they have prompted economists and, recently, the IMF to issue strong warnings about exposure to equities and the upcoming US economic climate.

However, I wouldn't say this constitutes a near-term "collapse". The US will likely go into recession, or stagnate for the coming two or three years. Much of the growth in the past six years has been on the back of Federal Reserve management, so when the support ends, the economic cycle will continue a downward course. This in turn will make it cheaper to resume manufacturing in the US, compared to other countries, and production of a number of new technologies and components being developed now (solar energy, semiconductors, autonomous vehicles) may grow in the US, leading to wider growth and recovery. US infrastructure is also due for a makeover, so programs investing in the restoration of roads and bridges will also lead to improved employment and growth.

Of course, several of these factors require government action, rather than trust in market actors, so it's really a matter of personal politics whether you expect collapse, decline, or growth. Still, as I pointed out, the indicators are difficult to ignore. I personally pulled a lot of cash out of equities and decided to build a cash base to insulate me from a stock market correction and provide liquidity for either buying after a correction, or investing in real estate. Or maybe I'll be able to get a boat on the cheap... always wanted a boat. All of this is to say, you can't predict the future, but I'm expecting a decline and I've created options for myself to deal with what I expect.

sbt 3 days ago 1 reply      
(1) Check whether the economist peddling this view incidentally has a lot of gold he needs to unload, or is running a shop or fund for gold.

(2) Check whether the economist peddling this view incidentally is funded by the Russian government (e.g. works for RT) or a similar entity interested in pushing up US treasury yields.

(3) Check whether the economist peddling this view has been repeating the call for a collapse bi-weekly since the Carter administration. A clock is right twice a day after all.

JSeymourATL 3 days ago 0 replies      
Confirmation Bias Overload from Forbes...23 Charts Prove That Stocks Are Heading For A Devastating Crash


hecty 3 days ago 1 reply      
pertly short but it quiet off .will be having big decline in job.s car house. those 3 plus some small tech bubbles. plus are us wary monger trying go to syrea ny nip lie he been trying work up noting that plus some ethic probems with sheech and veiws of some event like how some conopery kown some wastin realy live to fund warlord prop them a big bogy man sadly in cases as I seen over yr i don't personaly care for the Birgs banks ecmoicaly can't be ingoerd in realy. to ware big amto infsine an hit as end restal but bobbles be pushed . that wa i'm personaly saying out risky assist right now. one housing go back down my think about buy but the buyrs probemly won't thare for long bit of time.
Ask HN: Programmers, what are your min requirements? What is your utopia?
18 points by NullReference  2 days ago   19 comments top 14
HeyLaughingBoy 2 days ago 1 reply      
Not a utopia (no idea what that would look like). This is my bare minimum I set myself as I'm now on the market.

No open plan spaces or sharing. I want an office to myself or at least my own cubicle with full-height walls.

No mandatory overtime or hints at "we all work really hard." I expect to come in at 9 and leave at 5.

No waterfall process (yeah, it still exists)

SCM, reasonably recent toolset, clueful managers. The actual language or technology isn't that important as long as it's not trending towards obsolescence.

Market pay and benefits. I currently have 4+ weeks vacation and I just turned down a job where they said "everybody starts out at 2 weeks." F' that!

AtTheLast 1 day ago 0 replies      
Give me a product I believe in and a team that I respect and enjoy working with. After that everything else doesn't matter much to me. Because, with the right team and project it doesn't even feel like a job anymore.

When work starts feeling like work, that's when I start looking for a change. That's why I've always been drawn to start ups. It's usually a small group of talented and smart people looking to make a dent in the world.

ChintanGhate 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am not going to present my answer as my ideal utopia but rather as a suggestion. You should try one of these things

1. Go Indie

2. Join a startup

These both options have cultural parameters that are weighing in exactly opposite direction to that of a major-corp. Doing this will help you learn about your own definition of an ideal utopia for a workplace. Having experienced both the cultures you'll be able to decide your ideal utopia - what team size you like to work with, at what pace, at what degree of freedom, in a flat hierarchy or well structured one, remotely or inside an office surrounded by colleagues and so on.I hope this helps in finding your ideal workplace. Good Luck :)

dack 2 days ago 0 replies      
For me, I want the freedom to learn new technologies and try out ideas. A humane work environment, such that work is valued and respected - and everyone pulls their weight. The deadlines are reasonable and the management chain understands the tradeoffs inherent in software development and delivery. If I work on a big existing system, the problems still left to solve should be within my (and the team's) ability to understand but still stretching my current knowledge. Of course, that changes constantly because I am always learning new things.

For a while, I was really into Angular and badly wanted a job where I could just do that full time. I had been mainly doing backend Java stuff at work, but eventually was in charge of a completely green-field project so I wrote it using Angular/Java. However, I've quickly gotten comfortable with those technologies and now Clojure/Haskell/FRP excite me more. Not to say I would write big production apps with them right out the gate - but it would be valuable for me to learn more about them and understand the tradeoffs. I also still haven't written a lot of backend code for massively-distributed systems, so anything involving that would interest me right now (i.e. need for real-time stream processing, mapreduce, sharding, etc).

I also want to work on a team of really smart people - not arrogant programmer-types, but people that know what they're doing. I want to pair with someone and learn a lot from them. I actually like to impart the knowledge that I have while pairing, but I just don't want it to be a one-way street. I also don't want to work in isolation - so a project where I rarely interact with anyone gets boring for me (and especially if the technology doesn't excite me much) will end in me leaving for somewhere else.

jason_slack 2 days ago 0 replies      
I need a place where if I really have something on my mind I'm free to take a day and explore it. If I think I can improve the quality and codebase I should be free to do so provided I dont break anything or I make all the changes required to implement it fully.

Example: I wanted to start to implement std::thread and use of auto. It required us to start using c++11. I should be free to do this, fix anything, make sure devs are set to compile correctly and start implementing. I can do it locally, demo it and then get the green light to merge.

pjungwir 2 days ago 1 reply      
I freelance but often a startup client will ask if they can hire me. To me it's not about lunches and big monitors, nor git and agile. These are my requirements:

- I want to keep working remotely.

- The salary should be competitive with what I'm making now.

- There should be proof the company is an ongoing concern.

- The company should have a good answer to how it can help me progress in my career, preferably without moving into management. (As far as I can tell most startups have never been asked about career advancement before.)

- There should be some upside beyond the salary, because owning my own consulting business already has upside from side projects and potential to grow into a development firm.

Those are probably unrealistic, so I'm still freelancing. :-)

steedsofwar 2 days ago 1 reply      
A few things actually. I only do my day job to pay for my lifestyle and hobbies. I would be happy to take a pay cut if it meant i could do something of significance. For me that is something that would have a positive impact in others lives as cliche as that sounds. It makes me get up in the morning, and makes my body tingle. For instance a recent ted talk on drones aiding aid/medicine drops to remote places off the world. That just excites me! Or i would love to work on games, which is my side project, that my day job pays for.

In terms of physical env, i don't care much. As long as i'm comfortable and i can do my work. Preferably i'd like to work at home, with little to no interaction with anyone. Working in the IT/Banking industry for over 14 years, has made be cynical on human interaction.

masukomi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'd recommend getting a bit more specific. Your question is so open ended as to be unanswerable in any practical way.

First figure out which areas of "work environment" you actually care about.* location / commute time / remote? * if onsite then physical workspace ? * develpment environment (mac/windows/linux)? * technology stack? * personality of company? * social value (if any) of the company? * etc. etc.

Until you know what aspects of "working environment" you can't really define what the min requirements are. Also, everyone's idea of "utopia" is different. We all have different values.

ramtatatam 2 days ago 1 reply      
I know exactly what you mean - I was thinking the same thing when was making decision to start something on my own.

As of physical environment - stup below works perfectly for me: - 27'' double screen - proper headphones with noise cancellation and DVD's stack with my favorite music - proper ergonomic chair - big desk - non-membrane keyboard - big (0.5 liter min.) cup of something to drink (not necessary coffee since it usually makes it harder to focus)

As of tools I use: - operating system depends on work I do, however Linux Arch is my favorite - subversion as version control (old but still has something in it) - working with code - usually simple kwrite is just enough

circuitslave 2 days ago 0 replies      
My last gig and my current one are polar opposites but both filled needs. I code for a very large direct mailer. It is not interesting work, but the pay and benefits are great and it's super stable. My last gig was with a start up that never really got going. Lots of R&D coding, lots of trying new things - the work was very satisfying, getting paid weeks late, months in a row was not.

Ideally my next gig would be in the middle of these - stable but more engaging work.

MalcolmDiggs 2 days ago 0 replies      
If it's the right product and the right people I'll work in a sewer pipe...at night...in COBOL...

The creature-comforts only start to matter to me when I'm fundamentally unhappy with the job in some other way (not rewarding, incompatible culture, etc).

So my utopia is: A product I believe in, co-workers I love to be around. That simple.

hcarvalhoalves 2 days ago 0 replies      
- Wiliness to sit down and define requirements

- Clear strategic goals

- Continuous improvement

- Feasible deadlines

- Remote work

- Payment proportional to value added

This is the perfect project to me.

PS: An employee might be more interested in perks like iMac and free food. To me it's bull to keep people overworked and underpaid, hence why I consult.

danielmunro 2 days ago 0 replies      
I will only work at companies where I am peers with everyone, from the bottom to the top. Everyone makes good decisions and everyone makes bad decisions. If you're hiring someone you don't trust to make decisions or question yours then it's probably a bad sign.
JoeAltmaier 2 days ago 0 replies      
A place where I can keep innovating, keep creating things that ship and get used. Where, if I know somebody who can help us, I can get them hired on.
Ask HN: Starting a startup but not for money??
5 points by chenglu  2 days ago   8 comments top 7
paulhauggis 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think one of the main problems with startups today is that founders don't think of making money at all..and the company folds within a year.

Money is the life-blood of any company. Any investor, including PG will invest based on a good chance that they will get an ROI. It's silly to pretend otherwise.

If a startup has "no chance of making money", it's not a startup. It's a hobby project..and it should be treated as such.

I only start companies that I know can make money. In fact, I find the profit model first..and then build my idea around the profit model. There are challenges and fun in almost anything.

nicholas73 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think what they mean is:

1. Don't do it for money because you will hate your life if there is no other meaning for you.

2. You are more likely to have blind spots if you are chasing the money, and thus fail.

3. Chances of failure are high regardless, but if you like what you do you at least build skills that will lead your career in a happier direction. If it was just for money you are back at square one.

percept 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really don't think you can go wrong, so long as you're building something. If you're not building something, then nothing will get built.

If nothing gets built, then nothing will be sold (or enjoyed or utilized, if you prefer not to consider the monetary aspect).

I realize we seek inspiration, but this can become its own source of diversion and brain-juice addiction, resulting in lost years spent idly.

When I see successful people, it seems that they've charted their own courses, heads-down and "laser focused."

auganov 1 day ago 0 replies      
AFAIK they're mostly talking about money making being the main focus of the founder/s (especially on a personal level). It might make them over-optimize short-term outcomes, effectively building a profitable lifestyle business. It's rare to have both early profitability and high growth.
pskittle 1 day ago 0 replies      
This question ties into what Chamath said in one of the required background videos for the growth lecture.He talked about how the primary focus should be on creating substantial impact as a result of which your company lies further along on the value chain , which in turn results in the company making more money.

I think what PG meant was that given the odds, one is more more likely to get rich if you go work for a google or Facebook than starting your own firm. Besides revenue coming in from a startup can hardly be "counted" as your own.

motyar 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Its about Wealth not Money.


hashtag 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am not Zuck and won't pretend like I know what he meant by rejecting that million dollar check but if it was me, I would take it to mean I live modestly, that million dollar doesn't do much to impact me.

That said, money should not be the focus. There is a difference between focusing on money as the reason vs money is the byproduct of what you care about doing. In this regard I can relate.

Ask HN: How much do professors make on books they author?
9 points by pskittle  2 days ago   7 comments top 4
benbreen 2 days ago 1 reply      
In my humanities field (history) I've heard that hardcover books from university presses yield virtually nothing in royalties (on the order of a couple hundred dollars) but that if a book is reprinted as a paperback aimed at undergraduate courses, it can be an order of magnitude more. I've also heard that textbooks are the only scholarly publishing outlet that actually makes healthy royalties - i.e. letting you pay a down payment on a house as opposed to paying for a couple nice dinners out. In terms of hours spent (in the thousands) to money earned (in the hundreds of dollars), writing a typical university press hardcover has got to be one of the lowest-paying professional activities in existence.

As for non-fiction popular press books, I've been told that a typical advance can range from less than 10k to around 50k-60k - the idea being that this money will sustain the author for the 6 months to a year or so it takes to finish the manuscript. (Would that this were feasible for academic books!)

Someone1234 2 days ago 0 replies      
It varies wildly. Some professors such as those from top tier universities are basically best selling authors in their own right so therefore they make a ton. Then you have other staff who are a huge risk by the publisher and they barely make anything.

The real reason college textbooks are out of control has nothing to do with professors getting rich, they aren't. They're out of control because publishers are doing professor's grading in exchange for the professor just assigning the book.

Instead of a publisher selling a book for e.g. $70, they sell it for $100 and bundle with it a "one time use code." This code allows students to log into a publisher run website and turn in assignments, complete problems, and so on.

So effectively the professor has outsourced a large chunk of grading to a third party and better still (for them) it is "free." And all they have to do is assign the $100 book instead of the $70 one, then just log into a free portal and collect all of the grades for the semester.

Publishers naturally get very rich off of this. They only have to set up a web-site once and then they can resell it to dozens of different schools, hundreds of classes. Plus they really cut corners with the grading and questions too (often out-sourcing those to the original authors of the book as part of the contract to update the book annually).

The only way to solve this is to put pressure on colleges, departments, and professors. Publishers are doing what they're meant to: trying to make every cent they can. It is professors and colleges which are failing in their duty and effectively outsourcing part of student's education to a third party for a fee (which the student pays).

The only other thing I can see resolving it is states stepping in and essentially making rules which say that the tuition fees must be all inclusive (e.g. you must get given the textbooks on the first day of class, but the cost of those is included into the main fee so there is nothing hidden).

So even if this scheme continued it would all be out in the open, and students could accurately compare the fee structure between two schools, one that is taking part, and one which is not...

techdog 2 days ago 1 reply      
Unless you're a rock star (figuratively speaking of course) the publisher keeps the lion's share.
johntaek 1 day ago 0 replies      
An extreme outlier, but feed into Google "The house that math built". Very interesting story.
Ask HN: Use cases for forms-based software tool?
8 points by ahochhaus  2 days ago   9 comments top 5
gee_totes 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am building a similar forms based framework/product. Here is what I have discovered is needed:

-Proper handling of an other field, like there is on paper forms. I.e. What is your favorite salad? a) Fruit b) Vegetable c) Other __________

-Ability to string multiple forms together in a workflow (kind of like a CRM). Form 1 must be completed before the user can move on to Form 2. However, when some or all of the fields are optional, there needs to be some type of trigger logic to mark the form in the workflow as completed. (I sort of saw this in the video, but it seemed that the forms were marked simply as steps and the end user could skip from Step 1 to Step 9)

-Sub-forms, both in terms of adding multiple contact addresses (for example) or switching from Sub-form A to Sub-form B in the context of a form workflow (you guys seems to have this)

-Permissions on every question and on every part (Form 1, Form 2, etc) in the workflow (you guys seems to have the question permissions down, but I'm not sure about the statistics)

-A rich query language to crunch statistics from every form field filled out (It seems your application outputs CSVs and leaves the user to crunch them in Excel)

-If a form is tied to an entity (say a Student, for example), the ability to assign that Student to a Teacher or an Administrator. (I did not see this)

-Ability for daily e-mail reports on what new forms have been created and updated and what new Students have been added to the system. (this was mentioned on the about section, but I did not see it in the video)

My forms framework does all this and more, but it took quite a bit of effort to build. I would be more than happy to talk specifics with you guys; my e-mail is in my profile.

I must warn you though, you are entering a rabbit-hole.

Someone1234 2 days ago 1 reply      
Doing a MVP is fine, but frankly your web-site is so light on details that I don't have a strong opinion about where this product would slot in.

I cannot help but immediately want to compare it to Ruby On Rails or Microsoft's MVC framework. They both offer a lot of the plumbing for you, and leave the actual content to you.

Maybe it is more akin to Microsoft Lightswitch, not sure.

But that might be just from my misunderstanding. It should be noted I watched the video without audio, and it just shows someone entering XML and showing a form.

eksurfus 2 days ago 0 replies      
We currently use this platform in-house for a K-12 application with 40K+ users.

We found that there was a tremendously high hurdle to building forms-based applications to meet user expectations (eg rich-text editing, PDF generation, auto-saving, real-time collaboration, per-field versioning, etc). FormBig factors out this plumbing, allowing developers to instead focus on the specific forms, business logic, and end-user use cases instead.

semmem1 2 days ago 1 reply      
What kind of cost do you expect to charge for this? A problem I have now with some of the form base software is that the charge for multiple users who each create one form is very high, as they charge per user, not based on how many forms the users make.
ahochhaus 2 days ago 0 replies      
The two co-founders (myself and eksurfus) are here to answer any questions. We are hoping to gain insight into specific use cases for FormBig to guide our to market strategy and development priorities. Thanks for any feedback you can offer.
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