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How to Destroy Someone's Life or They called me a child pornographer salon.com
425 points by georgecmu 2 days ago   208 comments top 35
156 points by kls 1 day ago replies      
I had a similar run in with DCF, not for child pornography but for accusations of child abuse. I helped out a high school friend who had become a heroin addict (I had no idea what I was getting into), by letting his family and himself live with me while he tried to recover. It ended up that this was a common scam with him and his wife and they use a sob story to get friends to help them out and once they wear out their welcome they move on to the next friend. They would exploit their two girls to make you feel bad about putting two little girls out on the street. This worked very well on me.

Anyways, we finally had had enough and we asked them to leave. I notified his brother of this an his brother had had enough as well, fearing for his two nieces the brother called DCF on them and started an investigation in an attempt to get the girls and provide them some stability (they where in and out of school, watched their father do drugs, and eventually watched him OD - more on that latter).

So, after that the crazy wife calls DCF on every family, that had kids, that they stayed with. So we end up getting cops and a DCF agent knocking on our door, conveniently at 11PM, a time when any dirt bag would be doing their nightly supply of drugs and we get this condescending attitude while we are being read a list of charges being levied against us. My father is there, because he is helping me install a wood floor in my living room and the DCF agent gives me a condescending lecture about unsafe environment for children (I answer well that is why we are doing it while they are in bed). She looked at me and asked what is going on here like it was some illicit activity.

They make us wake the kids up, and then they make them disrobe to see if they have any marks and take them on the back porch to ask them questions. Right before that, I asked if I needed a lawyer and the cop told me they are not needed in these situations.

Anyway, they told us we had to be at the court house for a urine test at 8AM the next morning. To which we complied after calling a lawyer once they left the night before.

In the mean time, I call the brother and tell him and his mother what happened. He, his sister and their mother calls the agent handling the case of his brother and tells her that their has been a false report that was used to victimize another person as a form of retaliation. He pretty much has to threaten the lady to contact the DCF agency in my town, which she finally does.

So, pretty open and shut right, nope. I ask our agent if she has been in contact with the (now network) of agents investigation false reports on everyone that has ever let these people stay with them and she tells me that she cannot confirm or deny it due to the fact that she has to protect the anonymity of the reporter but that our case was in active investigation, because they found items of concern in our house (If they provided half the case work diligence that they do to protect the anonymity of a random caller, we would have never been in this mess).

The items of concern was a pot pipe in the room that the family stayed in. I did not allow drugs to be used in my house and the brother clearly described the pot pipe to them as he had seen his brother pipe before, so there was no doubt that this pipe belonged to a known drug addict that lived in that room. Still no go, so now we are being investigated not for child abuse, as the original allegation claimed, but drug abuse, so they go through my medicine cabinet and catalog every pill bottle I have.

Then the drug test come back, and I come back positive for a controlled substance, Alazopram, I have had panic attacks since I was about 10 years old and have been under a doctors care for that long. They know this but feign like they don't.

They then decide to contact my doctor and volunteer the information that I am being investigated for drug abuse and then show up on my door to inform me that I will have to attend mandatory drug classes and enter a rehab facility or they will bring it before the judge. My lawyer called their bluff because they knew I had a prescription for the medication because they interviewed my doctor. Yet when they came to my house they acted like they must have missed the pill bottle with my name on it and asked to see it again. They looked at it for all of .2 seconds and then said well since you have a prescription it is probably best that we go ahead and close the case.

DCF gets brownie points if they can get you entered into some social program if they cannot build a case to get a conviction. They will do everything in their power to do so.

In my case they had a blatant case of their system being used to victimize someone else and instead of upholding justice they saw an opportunity to score a win due to poor circumstances (me not finding a pipe in the closet when we cleaned the room). They would have railroaded me if they could have with no concern as to right and wrong. I feel so bad for those who do not have the resources to retain a lawyer. Nevertheless like the article states the stain remains even after the case is closed. I always wonder if my doctor secretly thinks that I am a drug addict now. I was in a state of fear that my medicine for panic attacks would not be available to me due to the political risk of having me as a patient.

I feared having my children taken away and believe that they had pushed me past the point of breaking. If they had taken my children I believe at that point I could have hurt myself or others. To be innocent with the truth so obvious and to have people ignore it makes you feel victimized and it makes you want to victimize the ones that are doing it to you. I think that is probably the one time in life that someone or some thing had driven me to the edge of sanity. I love my children more than anything in my life and I started to have crazy thought of having to protect my children at all costs. It was insane and they had no regard for the human wreckage they where leaving in their wake.

Fortunately, I held it together, my lawyer, just like the one in the article, constantly reminded me that if I displayed aggression they would use it against me. If I snapped and went postal they would use it against my wife and I would no longer be here to help my wife and children navigate that mess. And if I just killed myself that I would be a coward that left my wife and kids to fend for themselves. It is hard for a man because he has a natural instinct to protect his family and to have to quell that instinct in times of extreme stress when people are truly trying to attack your family is difficult to say the least.

In the end the case was closed, DCF thought they where going to get out quick and quite when they where rebuffed with my prescription, but my lawyer had one last volley with them, in which he insisted that it be noted on our file that the report be marked as a false report. They tried to resist but he threatened civil action against the agency and they relented. I requested the file and on the last line it states subjects request that this be labeled a false report. To the very end they cannot see the victimization that they did.

Anyway, like the article said it fades into a bad memory but leaves you always looking over your shoulder. The part that I am most bitter about is that I asked the agent as she was leaving, are you guys going to bring charges against them for filing all of these false reports. To which she said well the agency dose not really do that, with the case load we don't have time to chase false reports.

The man that we tried to help ended up overdosing 2 months later. The children where never taken from them because they complied with the mandated social programs that DCF required them to do so that DCF could get their check mark. They sent him to a welfare doctor that gave him methadone and klonopin (a stronger relative of the medicine that I take, which they had no issue with their doctor prescribing to a known drug addict), he took too much of both one night and died. His 8yr old and 5y old daughter found him the next day.

EDIT: forgot to mention, wife was pregnant and had baby during the investigation to which they showed up at the hospital to decide whether we could take our new born child home or not.

39 points by DanielBMarkham 1 day ago 2 replies      
Welcome to Child Protective Services, where folks with sociology degrees, sometimes poor cognitivie abilities, and questionable work ethics who want to be on a mission to save the world are given powers that would make the local police chief blush.

I hated to write that. Snarky it was. Of course most of the cases these folks work are really sad -- I have family that work there.

But it's a blunt instrument, and politicians have decided that anything to do with kids gets "special" treatment. I know of about a dozen good people who have had run-ins with these guys. None of them were guilty of anything bad, yet all of them went through hell. (this list includes me) I also know (from my family members who work there) of really bad people who keep their kids through atrocity after atrocity. Very sad.

EDIT: Just guessing, but it's almost like the closer to upper-middle class you are, the more likely you are to be a victim of CPS-gone-wild. The really poor crackheads don't give a shit, so CPS charges them and shuffles them through the system. Nobody has resources for these kids, so they go back to mom and/or dad. The really rich have a platoon of lawyers descend on CPS (and they have political connections). It's the poor schmucks who have the energy and wherewithal to screw around with CPS (probably in a useless attempt to save their reputation) that get dragged through the dirt.

36 points by btilly 2 days ago 1 reply      
It saddens me that for every ridiculous story like this, there is someone out there who really thought that trying to bring the case was a good idea.

Some things have improved in recent years. The incidence of bad therapy leading to false memory syndrome has been reduced, and with it the rate of false accusations. (There are also now improved odds for abused kids to be able to get information on what abuse is actually like, rather than getting detailed, unrealistic fantasies.) Others are worse. For instance in Miami the rule that sex offenders have to live at least 2500 feet from any school means that about the only place they could live was under a particular bridge. (As of April this year they have been transferred elsewhere, but which elsewhere that is I'm not sure. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Tuttle_Causeway_sex_offen... for more.)

I would be the last to trivialize abuse or its very real problems. But there is a world of difference between 50 year olds going after prepubescent kids and 19 year olds who dated 16 year olds. And there is little to be gained from treating them all like lepers. Certainly less than could be gained if we, for instance, took some of the energy that goes into following up on almost certainly bogus reports and instead put it into improving the foster care system.

60 points by holdenc 1 day ago 4 replies      
This kind of story is indicting of our culture.

Outside the US nudity is not so taboo. In my daughter's kindergarten (a nice private school in Southeast Asia) boys and girls share the same bathroom, with no private stalls, and no door on the entrance. Everyone sees everything -- passers-by included. Meanwhile, in the US, nudity is synonymous with sex, and good people have to worry about things like this.

51 points by Jun8 2 days ago 2 replies      
America has one of the absurdly strictest set of laws for sex offenses against minors, Economist had a great cover story about this some weeks ago. Problem is, since politicians know proposals for stricter laws bring in votes and no sane politician would ever propose a relaxation in these laws, they get stricter every year.

On the other hand, the US has one of the most sexualized tweens and teen-agers I have ever seen, go to the Mall or the local movie house on a Friday and you would be shocked at how girls dress (and how their parents let them dress like this). And if that doesn't shock you, watch the movie Thirteen.

56 points by cagey 1 day ago 1 reply      
We had "a run in" with Child Protective Services about 10 years ago. The charge: "Shaken Baby Syndrome" (symptoms medically caused; a long story). The "advocates" at CPS had me and my wife (in hospital having just delivered child #2) tried and convicted immediately. Only, I think, thru my self-advocacy directly to the head of pediatrics at the county hospital where my child was being held for examination, resulted in the case being resolved in our favor within a few days (in contrast, I could have talked to the bureaucrats until I died w/o making the slightest headway). Due process? What's that? Various lawyers I consulted advised me to not even hire a lawyer (imagine multiple lawyers saying _that_!) because the law was so stacked against parents, and so completely protective of the CPS bureaucrats, that it would be an utter waste of money with no hope of lawyer-aided "victory".

Miraculously we got our kids back in very short order, however the bureaucrats wouldn't give us the slightest scrap of documentation that the event had ever taken place (and this remains true til now). And needless to say, we received no apology either (at best they were all "just doing their jobs", just like concentration camp guards).

I have nothing good to say about the arbitrary, condescending, totalitarian bureaucrats/"advocates", or the (CA) legislators who wrote such one sided laws ("for the children", no doubt) giving these petty tyrants their obscene powers. I guess many reading this will think "necessary collateral damage by wonderful, diligent state employees pursuing the greater good"; all well and good until _you_ are the ones in their crosshairs: then we'll hear what kind of tune _you_ sing about the glories of the state when you are deprived of due process among other things.

28 points by siculars 1 day ago 2 replies      
Wait until some enterprising district attorney confiscates your hard drive, surmises you frequent HN, subpoenas your voting history from pg, finds this thread and examines which anti-governement/pro-common-sense comments you up voted.

Everything you say (and/or write) may be used against you.

Have a nice day :)

23 points by midnightmonster 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm very close to people who were saved from really horrible situations by state intervention. But then for them, foster care was hardly any better until they were adopted.

The state taking my kids is actually my worst parental nightmare--even beyond all the accidental and criminal bad things that could happen. I'm a very good parent (you'll have to take my word, I guess), but I'm not conventional. And I know all it takes sometimes is a little misunderstanding.

31 points by megablast 2 days ago 2 replies      
Everyone should read Franz Kafka's The Trial. This story and The Trial depict the helplessness anyone can feel with our legal system, or any big bureaucracy.
9 points by jgoewert 1 day ago 1 reply      
I remember reading this when it first came out and reminded me of my own run in with DFS right around the same time. Stopping real child abuse is important, but the system is so lopsided that merely being accused makes you the criminal. People spread the rumor of you being investigated by DFS, they don't spread the rumor of you being cleared.

My run-in was no where near as large of scale, but aggrivating, humiliating, time wasting, and ridiculous. I'm no hippy journalist letting my kids run free, basically just your run of the mill suburbanite developer 8-to-5 schmoe and my wife is a Special Ed teacher . One day, we come home from work to find that DFS had tried to visit and that we must call back with a time we can be interviewed. At the time, we had a six year old and a less than 1 year old. Someone had reported us for child abuse. It was like a record scratch. What? I don't hit my kids. My oldest went to a private school. I spent plenty of time with them. Our #1 fear is leaving them somewhere so my wife watches them like a hawk. It made no sense.

We called back and an agent came by the next day. We tried to leave our oldest at school because at that age, he would babble about what was happening and other parents would find out and the stigma would be set. But she demanded to see him, so my wife went and got him while I got the 5th degree. We were accused of some stuff that seemed hilariously lame.

* We made our son pee in a dollhouse toilet and just left it there full. --- Uh, yeah, one day we found it in the back of his room behind the shelf. We think he did it and hid it. Kids do weird things.
* We let our oldest run around screaming and being reckless and has untreated ADHD. -- Yeah, he has ADHD, he's took Ritalin since he was 5 and is now on Adderall.
* Our home is unsafe with rotten food all over. -- Yes, my wife is messy, but not to the level of fire hazard or health violation. Rotten food? You mean like having cans from last night's dinner still next to the stove?
* And numerous other things like this...

After being checked out, she said that it was most likely a false report and that it would most likely be dropped, but the file stays around permanently and that we can't find out who made the report.

Of course, our son blabbed about the experience, and now even 5 years later, none of his school friend's parents let their kids come over to our house because the original rumor. No one makes false claims, right?

I figured out who made the report through the neighborhood network. Some old guy across the street who was mad that I left the trashcans out on the front of my home instead of the side and one time when I had let our grass grow too long because every night that I got home from work and all weekend for 3 weeks it had rained a crap-ton. I still catch him taking pictures of our house to call the Neighborhood Preservation office with when I let the slightest thing go wrong. (ie, a storm gutter fell off over the night and I didn't notice until I got home from work that evening)

The worst part is, there is little you can do. Everything is "anonymous". You can't hire a lawyer to go and tell this guy to piss off. Retaliation would be stupid. You are just "stuck".

7 points by ErrantX 1 day ago 2 replies      
Besharov also said that the current law should be amended to grant immunity to those who in good faith deem a situation not to be child abuse or pornography. That way, those who report cases of abuse of questionable merit, simply to err on the side of mandatory reporting laws, might feel less pressure to do so. In our case, maybe the responding officer, who initially commented that he didn't find the pictures pornographic, would have dismissed the case at the drugstore and not reported us to child services.

This is the key takeway - and the thing that really needs to change.

In this case, like some many others, the process really broke down at that point.

But it is incredibly difficult, I imagine, to make such a call. If it later turns out you just let a child pornographer go free you will be proverbially screwed; both by the LE services and the media. We ask completely the wrong people to make these choices; inexperienced officers with a lot to lose if they make the wrong call.

4 points by Dove 1 day ago 1 reply      
It makes a mockery of the life, liberty and property clause that family can be threatened so lightly.

In my opinion, it is a fundamental right to raise your children according to your standards. Parents should be in control of the risks, ideas, and experiences their children are exposed to. Minority views on what is appropriate should be protected as rigorously as minority political or religious views.

I would like to see limits on state intervention in families. I'd like to see CPS investigations require probable cause, warrants, and time limits. I'd like to see a clear standard for circumstances under which the state can take action. Personally, I think the standard for any enforced separation should be clear and convincing evidence before a jury of gross neglect (lack of life necessities, repeated serious reckless injury, serious risk of death) or malicious, repetitive physical abuse. And even in those cases, I'd prefer the first conviction to result in parole, not immediate action.

Child abuse is serious business, but separating families is serious business too.

7 points by jvdh 1 day ago 3 replies      
On the one hand I completely sympathize with the author. As a parent myself I would not wish this upon anyone.

On the other hand, the author is a journalist, exactly the people who are the cause of this type of witch hunt. If you would leave out the prologue of the story, and make it into a story where the accusations actually were true. Then noone would have blinked about what happened. If they were treated any other way, there would have been a public outrage.

Think about the officers handling this case. There is absolutely zero incentive for them to handle this case differently. If the accused turn out to be guilty, then they better have handled this case with the utmost seriousness. Any leniency can possibly lead to a scandal. And media love childmolesting scandals, so the officers will be part of a nation if not worldwide scandal. They will be singled out, their mistake will be broadcasted for the whole world to see, and they effictively lose their job.

If people turn out to be innocent, psyches have been damaged, it's bad but they'll get over it. More importantly, maybe a complaint will be filed, they will have done the right thing within the rules, and case is closed.

8 points by georgecmu 2 days ago 0 replies      
"If we get down to the bottom line, there is no clear-cut definition," said Dean Tong, who wrote "Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused," after being jailed and then spending 10 years and $150,000 to clear himself of abusing his young daughter. Now a forensic consultant in thousands of false-accusation cases across the country, Tong told me that even most police officers are not well enough trained to interpret the law, let alone photo lab employees. Tong said that when facing the slightest doubt, law enforcement officers "err on the side of the child," noting the potential results: "I see families stripped and ripped apart in the middle of the night."
7 points by loewenskind 1 day ago 1 reply      
Why wasn't the Clerk investigated for child pornography/molestation?

If you look at a picture of naked kids in non-sexual situations and think you're seeing something sexual then there is something wrong with you. Full stop. Either you've been abused, you're an abuser yourself or you've been horribly brain washed. Any of these possibilities makes you more of a risk than the person who shot the photos.

Taking this a step further, people need to start filing scary "child pornography" charges at judges, lawyers and everyone else who participates in this kind of insanity. If the judge doesn't take one look at the photo, realize it's nothing and dismiss the case then he might well be a consumer of child pornography. Otherwise, why didn't he realize it was innocent? If a few people in power start getting their lives ruined by this nonsense maybe it would stop.

6 points by noonespecial 1 day ago 0 replies      
I half expect these stories to end with:

"He loved Big Brother."

We use "Orwellian" a little too loosely but for the victims of this, it seems almost that bad.

5 points by dan00 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sometimes I'm pretty scared of the missing of common sense and disgusted by the people who are "just" doing their job,
without compunction what this might imply for other people.

It's a confession of failure for a society, if the determinant of acting is fear.

12 points by reader5000 2 days ago 1 reply      
This guy's anger is justified and I think his lawyer failed him.
2 points by cromulent 1 day ago 1 reply      
The spectrum of human sexuality that is accepted by society is narrower than the human biological spectrum of sexuality. Rightfully, we reject behaviour that can damage children.

Wrongfully, many modern societies (until recently) fiercely rejected homosexuality, with often tragic results.

The current methods of dealing with pedophilia - by suspecting everyone, every man in a park taking photos of his children - are a blight.

At some point, society will have to stop trying to drive pedophilia into the ocean and find a different way to deal with it. Nobody chooses to be a pedophile, they can just choose to repress their behaviour. We should find them and help them instead of victimizing the innocent.

3 points by impeachgod 1 day ago 1 reply      
I tend to hold the Thoreauvian point that one ought to resist unfair laws. As I noticed, Child Protective Services are state agencies. If someone was falsely accused of child abuse/child porn, with no hope of winning the case whatsoever, how effective would it be to run away with the family?
7 points by danbmil99 1 day ago 1 reply      
Thank god for digital cameras. I've avoided film since that Robin Williams movie about the crazy at the 1-hour place.
3 points by Twisol 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've read just over 30 pages of the comments on Salon to this story, and undoubtedly I'll read many more. My main observation is that most of the commenters seem to be sensible people who do understand what parenting is like, and how kids really act. Thank _God_. But some of the other comments just make me facepalm terrifically.

Legally, I'm going to be an adult within the month. I'm certainly not a parent, but I am a kid, and I haven't been so brainwashed as to lose sight of what pre-adolescence is like. I could go on and on about the funny, stupid, and downright embarrassing things I did, particularly before I turned "double-digits".

Side-point: Giving these decidedly private photos to a public agency to develop was an absolutely stupid thing to do, but by no stretch of the imagination can I blame everything on him because of it. That's a lesson learned, for sure, but the idea that anything else he did was "wrong" just blows my mind. I'd like to say to some of the salon commenters... don't impose your personal morals on everyone else, please. I know there's a fantastic one-word term for people who do that, but it escapes me.

4 points by waterhouse 1 day ago 0 replies      
3 points by Debugreality 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think the fact that false leads are investigated is really the problem. But that investigation should be resolved much more quickly and much more transparently.

Really the harm seems to be in they way people are being treated not in trying to prevent child abuse etc...

1 point by sdh 1 day ago 0 replies      

It seems like the best way to handle something like this is to bring public scrutiny to bear on the insanity. Make a politician answer for it and the case will probably disappear.

1 point by hga 1 day ago 0 replies      
Recently I've noticed a ... crystallization of a meme about America's ruling class and this is the most trenchant essay on the subject ... and one that just happens to explain a whole lot of what's going on here at the broad level. Highly recommended: http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-cla...
1 point by elbrodeur 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is tremendously disturbing, but according to the article pretty common. It's a tough line.

On the one hand, nobody wants children to suffer. If at all possible, every child should be protected from abuse. I think the key, as the author elaborates on, is education. Knowing the difference between a crazy hippy family and pedophiles seems like common sense -- but if you, as an uneducated clerk at a crappy CVS in the middle of nowhere, saw something that offended your sensibilities and seemed perverse... Without education things like this will happen again and again. Once something like this gets into the bureaucratic pipeline it becomes an unfortunate problem of due diligence.

4 points by known 1 day ago 0 replies      
Changing your name may help.
0 points by VladRussian 1 day ago 0 replies      
The DCFS/CPS employees are your wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, ..., basically they are _you_. So stop whining and just think for a second whose life you're going to make miserable today.
0 points by davidmurphy 1 day ago 0 replies      
-1 point by troubledwine 1 day ago 0 replies      
"I took a few of my youngest daughter, Eliza, then age 3, skinny-dipping in the lake, and my son, Noah, then age 8, swimming in the lake in his underwear, and another of Noah naked, hamming it up while using a long stick to hold his underwear over the fire to dry. Finally, I took a photo of everyone, as was our camping tradition, peeing on the ashes of the fire to put it out for the last time."
-1 point by dotBen 1 day ago 3 replies      
I read this story, and it's very sad. But I just feel the need to ask... why is this on Hacker News? Surely this is Reddit type content?

I read loads of really interesting and eye-opening posts about all sorts of non-tech subjects... but I don't feel they should be on Hacker News to the detriment of other tech stories that could be on the front page.

-1 point by mkramlich 2 days ago replies      
Horrible story, and I totally empathize with their situation. yes, the US is practically insane sometimes in how they deal with sexuality and minors, and yes there's a history of witch hunts in this area. all horrible.

That said, they did make 2 very big mistakes, and if they hadn't done either or both of them, none of the rest would have happened. first, they took pictures of the kids naked. two, they let those pictures get into the hands of strangers, ones who can then misinterpret and/or be legally obliged to do certain actions which could start a witch hunt. These people knew they were innocent, that's fine, but the problem is that from a stranger's POV, what they see is that two adult men went into the forest with some some kids, some of the kids got naked, they took photos of it. Connect the dots. It paints a bad picture. They were incredibly naive to have not realized this ahead of time.

But yes, we have a horrible system, and we need to find some way to make it better so we can protect children while at the same time not persecuting innocent adults. I'm not quite sure how we can do that.

-3 points by mattmaroon 1 day ago 0 replies      
Taking pictures of naked 8 year old boys and groups peeing on a fire is really weird. If I were the random drug store employee processing that film (for $8/hr) I'd report that without hesitation. If I worked for the government agency tasked with such things, I'd investigate it too.

I know this won't be a popular sentiment here because there's so much loathing of government in general. It's hard to make a judgment about how well the situation was handled from one side of the story, but that he was investigated seems about right.

-4 points by jrockway 1 day ago 4 replies      
Sounds like the system worked. She was accused of a crime, an investigation was performed, the state realized they had no case and that nothing was wrong, and the charges were dropped.

I guess it's kind of a pain to be the target of an investigation, but nobody's life was ruined.

Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police go.com
392 points by mikecane 1 day ago   113 comments top 26
38 points by DanielBMarkham 1 day ago replies      
I wish I had ten upvotes for this. Or a hundred.

I love devil's advocate, so I'll say this just as a way of keeping things in perspective: not a lot of folks would want people videotaping everything they did at work and putting it on YouTube (along with criticisms) I know it would drive me nuts.

Society as a whole is going to have to go through some major contortions as people get their heads wrapped around the idea that everything -- and I mean everything -- is going to be digitized and recorded. Cops are pushing back first, but I expect lots more professions to have problems with this as well. A huge shift is going to be that most folks are going to learn exactly what policing is all about. Overall I think this is going to be good, but hell if I'd want to have to live through the changes if I were a policeman.

77 points by Groxx 1 day ago 4 replies      
There's just something massively wrong with "public servants" claiming they can't be photographed while performing a public service.

Bullshit. There would be no complaints if some of them weren't incriminating abusive cops.

Notice how many of the cases against photographing are in potential (or blatant) police-abuse situations. The public and the government should be applauding citizens for helping to maintain control, not punishing.

54 points by Sukotto 1 day ago 3 replies      
Funny how "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear" only works when the authorities are recording what you say and do and not when you do the same to them.
24 points by pg 1 day ago 1 reply      
The ACLU should make these cases a priority. I'd join again if they did.
23 points by mike-cardwell 1 day ago 0 replies      
When its your word against that of a policeman, you've not got much hope. It pisses the police off when you introduce evidence which takes that advantage away from them. All of a sudden they can no longer fall back to lying to defend themselves.
6 points by arethuza 1 day ago 0 replies      
The UK equivalent:


According to the Terrorism Act you aren't allowed to take pictures of police if the pictures might be of use to a terrorist - which seems to have been translated into a blanket ban on taking any pictures.

3 points by tokenadult 1 day ago 1 reply      
The Maryland law is different from the law in other states. The article text reads, "A dozen states require all parties to consent before a recording is made if there is a 'reasonable expectation of privacy."" First of all, it's very dubious that a state law enforcement officer would consider himself to have an expectation of privacy while interacting with citizens in public places. Fortunately, most states have a more reasonable body of law (like mine) and allow any party to an interaction to record the interaction without permission of the other parties (which is also the rule of federal law on taping interstate telephone conversations, absent a more restrictive rule of state law). It's outrageous that members of the public can be prosecuted for recording the public activities of law enforcement officers. It is also unusual for such a prosecution to be possible.

After edit: Another HN thread a while back recommended the book Arrest-Proof Yourself: An Ex-Cop Reveals How Easy It Is for Anyone to Get Arrested, How Even a Single Arrest Could Ruin Your Life, and What to Do If the Police Get in Your Face


which I greatly enjoyed reading and which my son is reading this week. There is a lot of good information there about how and why to stay out of trouble with the police.

3 points by adolph 1 day ago 1 reply      
I really hope that Maryland removes their law against recording public officials and adds a law against recording obnoxious public stunts. This particular case is a really bad example of the “war on photography” because the motorcyclist is not an innocent photographer but a traffic provocateur.

Like many, I've followed Radley Balko's articles for some time and have a growing sense of paranoia/constitutional outrage regarding false arrest. I think there are a couple of interesting phenomena here. Some folks may not like the two ideas below but I offer them as a conversation starter for understanding what is happening instead of just venting outrage (which is cool too).

1.) Growing ubiquity of recording equipment formerly thought of as "surveillance equipment.” In the not distant past, very small cameras were specialty equipment only available to certain people. In that time, the common thinking was that a person should have some highly-motivated intent for using such stuff because it was very expensive and if you weren't in law enforcement or a PI, then your use was probably not for good.

2.) Law is complex and large, so law enforcement uses some heuristic of propriety instead of actual laws. My impression is that law enforcement people contain a large but not all-encompassing menu of crimes and use some form of pattern matching to compare the behavior of other humans to this menu. Since it is inefficient to compare every rule to each encounter with other people, law enforcement people use the general feeling they get from an encounter to first signal that something is "wrong" and then guide them to a particular item from the crime menu or reach into the foggier area of laws off their personal menu.

Fitting idea 1 with idea 2, it makes sense that there would be an unofficial "war on recording" by law enforcement as the propriety value of the law heuristic is driven in part by cultural values which in turn are slowly influenced by technology. In this case, technology change has occurred more quickly than many people’s sense of probity.

5 points by RyanMcGreal 1 day ago 1 reply      
I used to think Steve "wearable PC" Mann was a crackpot, but his sousveillance [1] argument is making more and more sense.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sousveillance

6 points by ssp 1 day ago 1 reply      
Doesn't this mean a defense attorney could get publicly recorded video or audio evidence thrown out on the grounds that it was illegal wiretapping?
5 points by brianbreslin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm friends with Carlos Miller who is mentioned in this article. He runs a blog "Photography Is Not a Crime" which has won him several awards. You'd be surprised how many people are getting harassed by cops after they document their encounters with them (outside of the prosecutions).
2 points by sukuriant 1 day ago 0 replies      
Small thing I was noticing, that at least one of the comments to an article[1] makes reference to. The police officer outside of uniform pulled a gun on a man on a bike. In states where citizens are allowed to have equivalent force against an attacker, that police officer could have been shot because he was, as seen in the video, "some dude that jumps out of a car, pulls a gun and says nothing of his being a cop". He is very fortunate, however unwise in that situation. I do hope he learns from it and is removed if this sort of habit is found again.

[1] http://carlosmiller.com/2010/04/16/maryland-motorcyclist-spe...

5 points by SeriousGuy 1 day ago 1 reply      
wow 16 years for filimng a police officer who is handing him a ticket! and that guy is in armed forces, good luck with keeping morale of your troops high.
1 point by ErrantX 1 day ago 4 replies      
Was the camera obscured - as it appears to be? In which case I can kinda see the issue they have (i.e. unaware of being filmed). That seems different from most of the other cases where the filming was pretty overt.

Still; it is an extremely bad reaction even so.

The thing that shocked me most was.... he drew his gun. Are things really that bad that a traffic stop requires a drawn weapon? Jesus :(

1 point by motters 1 day ago 0 replies      
If they're in a public place the police should be just like anyone else when it comes to taking photos or videos. The Ian Tomlinson case is the best example I can think of which demonstrates why videoing police activities can serve an important civic purpose. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Ian_Tomlinson
4 points by buzzblog 1 day ago 1 reply      
These prosecutions aren't just wrong, they're un-American. How police and prosecutors sworn to uphold the law can abuse it to this extent boggles the mind.
1 point by scotty79 1 day ago 0 replies      
Isn't there some kind of law that citizens have right to record public servant on duty?

In Poland you can record policeman on duty (provided that he does not work under cover at the time). Also police cannot routinely record you during for example being pulled over to check your driving licence.

That said practice is that policemen routinely record citizens on such occasions and try to make life miserable for the people who record them by even arresting them on false pretenses.

1 point by mikecane 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why being able to tape the cops matters. One of the most popular posts on a prior blog I did:
2 points by mtomczak 1 day ago 0 replies      
My experience with the legal system has been limited to a handful of vehicular violations and one tour of jury duty. But from that limited perspective, I cannot see why the justice system should minimize useful facts.

Apart from the laws that protect other rights incompatible with perfect knowledge.... As a maxim, justice should never hide from evidence.

1 point by jcl 1 day ago 0 replies      
Are there any states with laws in place to explicitly protect citizens from this kind of abuse?
1 point by sleight42 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised that no one bad mentioned this: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-hc298/show.

HC RES 298 is directly related to this issue. If you have a congressman on the House Judiciary Committee, you should be chewing his ear off on the phone, by email, or better still in person!

2 points by davidwparker 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by VladRussian 1 day ago 0 replies      
An employer is allowed to monitor and record employees at the place of work. Applying to police - public is allowed to monitor and record police on public property.
-3 points by openfly 1 day ago 0 replies      
The cops in all these cases should be charged with treason.
1 point by known 1 day ago 0 replies      
Never talk to police. Let a criminal lawyer or some competent authority do the talking for you.
-4 points by nailer 1 day ago 1 reply      
Great article. But for Reddit, not HN.
One of the most amazing physics engines I’ve ever seen crunchgear.com
370 points by jmillerinc 1 day ago   49 comments top 14
83 points by SandB0x 1 day ago 3 replies      
Rather than sharing a blog post about a cool thing, why don't we share the cool thing directly?

The video is at http://vimeo.com/13457383 - you can get to this page by simply clicking the Vimeo logo on the embedded clip. From here, you can click on Thiago Costa's profile http://vimeo.com/thiagocosta/ and have a look at all of his 48 videos, and find a link to his website (which looks pretty interesting): http://thiagocosta.net/

The CrunchGear article doesn't really add anything, other than a layer of indirection.

Having said that, the video is awesome and thanks for sharing :)

29 points by bd 1 day ago 3 replies      
If you like physics simulations, there were some very cool papers at this year's SIGGRAPH:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMsc48e41AQ A Practical Simulation of Dispersed Bubble Flow)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyfB_vQHMAo (Physics-Inspired Topology Changes for Thin Fluid Features)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Who8EpbvCY (A Multiscale Approach to Mesh-based Surface Tension Flows)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHH8N_lNZzI (Rigid-Body Fracture Sound)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx80u6hJT6o (Efficient Yarn-based Cloth with Adaptive Contact Linearization

17 points by Groxx 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interesting... but not all that amazing, really. There's a rather glaring error, repeated many times, which many engines suffer from. Twitchy, spontaneous motion:

1) at ~23 seconds, look at the top-1/3, left-1/4 location. Chunks of particles literally spontaneously accelerate towards each other. Towards the top-most corner of the top platform, there's even a little snake-like thing that starts inch-worming around for no apparent reason, and a blob that leaps into the air at far higher velocity than it is made of.

2) with the 8-second cloth clip, note the twitching as the cloths try to find a stable resting point. Remind you of stacked objects in the Source engine[1], perhaps? Jump on top of them and it's like walking on an earthquake.

3) note how long the left block at ~2:40 takes to settle (almost, it doesn't actually), and the weird thrown-on-top chunk that twitches up and down a couple times, and then gets a burst of energy right when it starts fading out, moving up, and faster than the pieces it's touching, and without any visible ripple which could account for it.

If it's done by one person (Thiago Costa?), yes, very impressive job, that's a lot of work. But overall... more of the same.


[1]: chosen only because it's a relatively modern engine, and one many are familiar with.

16 points by javanix 1 day ago 1 reply      
The article seems to have the wrong idea about what that engine is.

While impressive, it was developed using ICE - a rendering package addon for Softimage, and is probably not able to be calculated in anything remotely resembling real-time.

So no, you won't be able to tell what religion Kratos is unless it's during a cutscene.

6 points by gfodor 1 day ago 1 reply      
If this isn't real time, then this isn't that impressive. This type of fluid rendering has been possible for almost a decade:


That said, if it is realtime, then yay.

3 points by mikecane 1 day ago 4 replies      
Anyone out there from Pixar? How does this compare to what you guys have? I still gape at The Incredibles, especially the fine hair animation. But what I saw in the demo here of the cloth looks like something Pixar would want to have. Let me caution everyone, however, I haven't seen UP!, so perhaps Pixar has this or surprassed it.
6 points by smackfu 1 day ago 3 replies      
Does charcoal really act exactly like water?
1 point by maushu 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Funny, this reminds me of all those old 2d mass-spring engines. I believe there was a cool one like asteroid where you could shear off one of your engines making your ship spin around. It was open source too. Can't remember the name.

Ah, found it: http://www.alecrivers.com/physical/overview_physics.htm

There is even a older one that was an form-based application for windows where you could edit particles and connections. Pretty fun.

4 points by Rhapso 1 day ago 0 replies      
The friction seems a bit off, but it looks great.
1 point by GrandMasterBirt 1 day ago 0 replies      
Pretty incredible! Now I'd love to see them take high quality video inside/outside a demolition of a building and compare that to the simulator. For video games and such though, this would be incredible already. Is this sort of engine used to design cars and such?
-4 points by openfly 1 day ago 0 replies      
On the negative side, the potential use of an engine as advanced as this in the world of 3D porn will almost certainly result in more furry sex.
0 points by nnash 1 day ago 0 replies      
Definitely impressive. I can't imagine the framerates with this engine being practical though.
-1 point by levesque 1 day ago 1 reply      
This stuff always has a warm and fuzzy feeling to it, but imagine the pain of implementing a full game with such physic effects, setting all the particles...
-4 points by lowkey 1 day ago 2 replies      
Man, I am so proud to be a Montrealer right now. This is an amazing example of the Creativity + Talent + Technology = Innovation that exemplifies this city.

Vive le Montréal! Oh and kudos to Thiago Costa. This is just awesome!

The Top Idea in Your Mind paulgraham.com
334 points by tarunkotia 8 hours ago   121 comments top 55
40 points by grellas 6 hours ago 1 reply      
There is a lesson here about lawsuits, which will drain you of both money and peace of mind all at the same time. Sometimes you can't turn the other cheek, much as you would like to do so, and have no choice but to fight. Having the guts to stand up for yourself (or for your company) is in itself a virtue and there are times when it is best not to walk away. Unless you are in such a spot, though, always consider that the engagement will cost you dearly in just the ways pointed out in this fine essay - it will consume your waking thoughts and may even pop up in your dreams (or nightmares) (and it will cost lots of money, enough to sink most startups as a matter of course). Therefore, when it comes to lawsuits, use your best judgment but always count the cost before proceeding.
72 points by michael_nielsen 7 hours ago 4 replies      
A very closely related idea is that most people have a "ground state": an activity that they naturally gravitate toward when nothing else intervenes.

For many people, their ground state is shopping, or talking with friends, or watching tv. Nothing wrong with any of these.

For some people, their ground state is aimless coding, or writing, or drifting around some community (e.g., the community of actors, or musicians, etc). Again, nothing wrong with any of these, and they may be a useful way of learning, or having ideas.

But for a very small number of people their ground state is much more focused. I've known people whose ground state is writing papers about physics or mathematics. And it's simply unbelievable what such people can get done in a year. (Note, mind you, that very few professional physicists or mathematicians fall into this category.)

I haven't founded or worked at a startup. My observation-from-the-outside is that founders often have to take on many different tasks. And I wonder how difficult that must make it for any of them to become a ground state task.

34 points by nostrademons 6 hours ago 2 replies      
I suspect that one of the major reasons why big companies are incapable of innovating is that the top idea on most employees minds' is "What is my boss thinking about me?" Followed closely by "What are my coworkers thinking about me?" Social approval is a powerful motivator, particularly when that social approval is essential for your continued livelihood. Only the most self-confident (or delusional ;-)) people can completely ignore their boss's opinion and focus on innovating.

I suspect that at least some of Google's success has come from the hands-off culture of its management. You don't generally fear your manager's disapproval, since the bulk of your review comes from your peers. OTOH, you're still thinking about your coworkers' approval, and while it's a bit easier to ignore many people than it is to ignore one person, it's still hard. I suspect that one reason why startups can still out-innovate Google comes from an intense focus on their product, instead of being distracted by all the other perks, projects, and people at the Googleplex.

Similarly, scrappiness in a startup isn't just a matter of saving money. It's also a matter of avoiding distraction: when you're thinking about how awesome your life is, you aren't thinking about your product. You want enough perks so that employees don't have to have other things intrude on their consciousness (like where to buy lunch or what will happen to them when their COBRA benefits run out), but not so much that the perks distract from the project.

13 points by sridharvembu 6 hours ago 0 replies      
This is great essay - pg's best in my opinion!

I call the thoughts my mind drifts to as the "background thread" in my CPU. And there are times when that background thread is very productive and enjoyable. Alas, there have are times when that thread is destructive - conflict, as pg mentions, is a very destructive background thread.

In general, I have found that the bad threads are much more persistent than good threads, which means that is is harder to get out of a bad thread than a good one. As an example, it is far easier to slip out of "How does this thing work" thread running in the back of my mind, but very hard to get out of "How unfair that ..." in that it takes a more conscious effort to get out of it.

I also would say that the difference between when I was 25 vs when I reached 40 is that I am now much more conscious of these threads. That awareness makes it somewhat easier to avoid bad threads (alas, not always). There is still a kind of thermodynamic efficiency involved, in that there is a maximum good-thread percentage.

As an aside, the spiritual philosopher Eckhart Tolle has many interesting things to say about these.

21 points by dangrossman 7 hours ago 4 replies      
I realized the ability of my unconscious mind to solve hard problems some time around high school. I made good use of it in college, especially in courses involving coming up with algorithms or proofs. I could rarely come up with a good solution consciously, but if I spent 30 minutes thinking about the problem right before bed, the next morning optimal answers would come easily.

I also formed a habit of driving at least an hour away to do regular shopping (groceries and such) on weekends. The long drive on the mostly empty highways let me daydream without distraction, kind of like a long shower. I made a lot of architectural decisions for my web apps while on those drives.

17 points by DTrejo 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Nassin Taleb calls this "glander."

Glander best describes the notion of lifting all inhibitions to “tinker intellectually in an undirected stochastic process aiming at capturing some idea that will enrich your corpus”. “Researching” or “thinking” smack of a top-down activity." More on Glander by Taleb: "It is an irony that the academy does not have a word for the process by which discovery works best –but slang does. I was trying to describe in a letter what I am currently doing: French would not let me. But argot lends itself very well... I am involved in an activity called “Glander”, more precisely “glandouiller”. It means “to idle”, though not “to be in a state of idleness” (it is an active verb). Gandouiller denotes enjoyment. The formal French word is “ne rien faire” (to do nothing), which misses on the active part –so do words that have a languishing connotation. Glander is what children without soccer moms do when they are out of school. It resembles flâner which has this perambulation part; though Glander does not have any strings attached. The Italians have farniente but it is really doing nothing. Even the Arabs do not have a verb for Glander: the construction takaslana from the Semitic root ksl denotes laziness (other words imply some inertia)."

Newton was a “glandeur”; In Dijksterhuis 2004:

George Spencer Brown has famously said about Sir Isaac Newton that “to arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is that one needs to know.”

— Excerpt from The Black Swan

8 points by jazzychad 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I've called this type of thinking "subconscious thought" for years (thought "ambient thought" has a nice ring to it). This is exactly why I always have at least two current projects to work on. When I get stuck on some problem in one project and cannot solve it in a reasonable amount of time (depends on the project, could be 5 minutes, could be a day), I will force myself to stop working on it and do a full context switch to another project.

My subconscious mind grinds on the problem in the background without me having to exert any real effort thinking about it, until it finally finds a solution and raises an interrupt in my conscious mind.

This process has become so effective, that if I can spot a problem coming, I say to myself, "I should figure out how to solve X", and don't think about it. A few days later when I come back to it, as if by magic, I have a solution already starting to form.

This is the same phenomenon that causes you to wake up in the middle of the night with an answer to a question you were thinking about earlier in the day... usually, "who sings this blasted song?"

The brain is an amazing, complicated, wonderful thing.

5 points by JesseAldridge 5 hours ago 1 reply      
While changing your top thought directly may not be feasible, I think you can at least adjust the weights on various competing thoughts. For instance, my aunt is the president of a teacher's union and she recently recruited me to work on their website. She's paying me $25 an hour. I can feel the money pulling around my ankles like quicksand. It would be dangerously easy to get sucked into making web pages for the rest of my life. I tell my friends about the job and they say, "That's great!" and their respect for me increases palpably. I can tell they don't really understand startups and hacking and have been thinking of me as just being kind of a bum all this time.

But I tell myself: "This is not what I want to do with my life. I'm doing this as a favor to my aunt. I'm doing this on the side, just to make enough money to keep working on the stuff I really want to work on. That is my real focus, designing web-pages is not." And then when people say, "That's great!", I tell them the same stuff I told myself. I think saying the words out loud to others helps me convince myself on a deeper level.

So maybe by affirming your own values you can allow what you really want to be focused on to naturally rise above the petty stuff.

I also agree with disputes being a huge distraction. One guy I used to work with is extremely contrary by nature. He would argue with anything I said, seemingly out of habit more than anything else. After arguing with him, I would invariably find myself turning over the argument in my head and having a hard time focusing on work. Eventually I decided the guy was hurting me more than helping and that I needed to stop working with him. There were several other factors involved, but that was a big one.

One way to avoid disputes like that is to be single founder. Or at least seek out a co-founder who is agreeable. I watched an interview with Larry and Sergei the other day. They were asked, "What do you guys argue about?" and they seemed kind of stumped for a moment before one of them said, "We don't really disagree about much..."

This essay also helps explain the vague sense of frusteration and despair I feel whenever a friend wants to visit, or whenever I need to visit my family. Inevitably interpersonal relationships end up forcing their way to the top of my brain. Living a monk-like life of isolation is the best way I know of to focus on real problems.

Lastly, I think it is possible to do "ambient thinking" intentionally. Just sit or lie down somewhere comfortable (but not so comfortable you fall asleep), and do nothing for several minutes. Time passes amazingly slowly when you're doing nothing, so you don't need to worry about wasting time. Your mind will naturally start defragmenting itself and playing with various ideas -- at least mine does.

4 points by BrandonM 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I've recognized this phenomenon in myself in the last several years, but I never articulated it this well. I would just tell people that I had a "one-track mind," and that even though I find myself analyzing things a lot, it tends to gravitate towards whatever I happen to be working on most.

I have observed this several different times in my life: When I thought I was in (actually out of) love in high school, that was all I could think about, and I put out a ridiculous amount of poetry describing my "anguish". At various times I got caught up with different games: Everquest, Chess, Minesweeper, Battle for Wesnoth, Poker, and Chess again; at each point, I found myself spending all my leisure time on a single game, and all of my idle thoughts considering different opening sequences, or mine layouts, or starting hands: whatever was applicable to current "addiction". When I have been in relationships, I find that I tend to be consumed with not only the small disputes (as pg describes), but with things like "sweet" things I can do or say to make my s.o. happy -- thoughts tend to drift toward planning, anticipation, reconciliation, and any number of other difficult bits that are part of a serious relationship. At various points I have also found myself wrapped up in technical things like math, physics, computer science, and startups in general. And lately my top idea has been the nature of life, human relations, introspection, and psychedelics.

So for me, it basically seems to be whatever is currently consuming the majority of my consciously-used brain power. Some social problems are hard and require a lot of brain power to try to solve. The same goes for philosophical or cash flow problems. Of course, topics in math or science or engineering are most likely to take up this brain power, but for me at least, those are the things that I tend to procrastinate on the most.

So even though I find myself inclined to consume my top idea space with relevant technical stuff, I tend to nudge those out of my mind when I'm thinking consciously, instead focusing on more immediate topics (entertainment, socializing, paying bills). The worst part is that I know that if I'd only restructure my free time to actually work on worthwhile things, I would see my productivity increase many-fold due to the "Top Idea Effect". I'm really not sure what's stopping me from doing that.

3 points by maxharris 1 hour ago 0 replies      
"Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages. Someone who does you an injury hurts you twice: first by the injury itself, and second by taking up your time afterward thinking about it. If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head. I'm always delighted to find I've forgotten the details of disputes, because that means I hadn't been thinking about them. My wife thinks I'm more forgiving than she is, but my motives are purely selfish."

This is brilliant, ethically (and practically - the two are never at odds in my view).

5 points by proee 5 hours ago 0 replies      
My background thoughts and ideas are usually based on what I really WANT to be doing, not what I SHOULD be doing (i.e. for my employer).

In fact, the basis for our startup came when I was focusing on the first, and ignoring the latter. The distraction to focus on the first became so strong that forming a startup was inevitable.

Now that I'm focused 100% on the startup, my thoughts are based on what I want to be doing AND what I should be doing - it's a great feeling!

5 points by ErrantX 6 hours ago 0 replies      
On the subject of dispute as a distraction; I've observed this almost every day for the last 4 years as a Wikipedia contributor.

You jump into article looking to improve them - add content, format, tweak, source and so on.

But within hours someone disputes the use of a word or the reliability of a source. Which usually gets sorted in a quick discussion - but often takes ages, drags in other editors and winds up with a month long discussion on various noticeboards and talk pages and edit wars on articles.

And you can see four or five of them start a week.

All over a single sentence. :)

So, yeh, I can relate a lot to what Newton was saying.

5 points by physcab 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This is exactly why you want a company culture like Zappos. If you work for a company like Zappos, you probably think less about things like disputes, medicare, salary, etc which means you can focus more on doing great work. I'm sure they aren't perfect but I've heard enough about Tony Heisch's philosophy about creating a great workplace to know employees are probably on average happier working there. Any Zappos employees here care to elaborate?
10 points by photon_off 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I love reading these essays so much. There's something about the tone, perhaps because it's slightly playful and a bit pensive, that causes the curiosity at the core of the writing to become the unstated focal point. And for some reason, I find it more enjoyable to find meaning in things when they aren't explicitly written. Kind of like a special bond you have with someone, even a perfect stranger, when you're the only group of people to really "catch the drift".

I love the process of trying to figure things out that happens in these essays. Really, it's just great. Keep it up pg.

7 points by hugh3 7 hours ago 1 reply      
The effectiveness of thinking in the shower is why I hate shower curtains. If you have a proper transparent glass shower screen instead, you can write and draw on it as it steams up.

When I get my own place, this will be my first renovation: the ultimate thinking shower.

5 points by barmstrong 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow - this really resonated with me.

I have some investment properties and I've been realizing recently that even if they are decent investments, they have too often become the top idea in my mind when I didn't want them to be. This tax on my productivity and creativity could actually make them a net negative.

3 points by euccastro 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Minor nitpick:

The reason this struck me so forcibly [...]

While "forcibly" isn't wrong here, if you mean "with force" (sin. poignantly) rather than "by force" (sin. inevitably) then "forcefully" is less ambiguous:



1 point by Arun2009 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Jacques Hadamard gives an account of a similar phenomenon (a sudden flash of an idea) in Mathematics in his Psychology of invention in the Mathematical field (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Hadamard#On_creativity).

Also, very coincidentally, I have been reading up classical works on "proper conduct" in an attempt to do a spring cleaning of personal attitudes for pretty much the same reason as PG's - it just frees up a lot of mental energy. I'm currently doing a parallel reading of The Dhammapada and the Analects of Confucius. Earlier I read the Thirukkural (English translation, alas! - http://www.scribd.com/doc/20912297/Tirukkural-of-Tiruvalluva...).

If you or I rationally considered affairs and made up quotes ("'Tis easy to achieve an aim, if it be firmly kept in mind"), they wouldn't have the moral authority and rhetorical power they do coming from the world's classics. It just feels nice to work from ready-made axioms of conduct.

11 points by b_emery 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is why meditation can be so beneficial. With practice, you can take control of the thoughts going through your mind, eventually becoming quite good at it. Later on, say at work (or in the shower), you can then make the top thing on your to-do list the top idea in your mind.

Usually my top idea is a lot more fun to think about than all the other nonsense (conflicts, minutiae, etc) so that helps too.

2 points by olliesaunders 4 hours ago 0 replies      
In response to the first footnote: I know it by the name intellectus, which apparently comes from Thomist Josef Pieper in his book "Leisure: The Basis of Culture". In it he says:

The middle Ages drew a distinction between the understanding as ratio and the understanding as intellectus. Ratio is the power of discursive, logical thought, of searching and of examination, of abstraction, of definition and drawing conclusions. Intellectus, on the other hand, is the name for the understanding insofar as it is the capacity of simplex intuitus, of that simple vision to which truth offers itself like a landscape to the eye. The faculty of mind, man's knowledge, is both these things in one, according to antiquity and the Middle Ages, simultaneously ratio and intellectus; and the process of knowing is the action of the two together. The mode of discursive thought is accompanied and impregnated by an effortless awareness, the contemplative vision of the intellectus, which is not active but passive, or rather receptive, the activity of the soul in which it conceives that which it sees.

1 point by gfodor 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Great essay, and great writing.

This is why I shower twice a day. The morning shower is to boot the brain and for all the other things that showering is done for.

The second shower is simply to think, before the night's coding binge. Refreshed and with clear thoughts, I find that it provides a fresh start for the evening's challenges.

1 point by MJR 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This hit me like a ton of bricks. It makes so much sense now that this could easily be the grounding principle behind the common saying "Do what you love and the money will follow". If you're doing what you love, your thoughts are focused on that. When what you love is your top idea you have the focus to innovate, solve problems, etc.

If you're too worried about making money, you'll be too preoccupied with that to give any thought to other things. If you're too concerned with a specific outcome, you end up taking energy away from the actions that will ultimately drive any outcome at all. Focus on your top idea and the rest will follow. It's not always as simple as it sounds, but I think there's a lot of truth there.

2 points by ashishbharthi 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I mostly juggle between what I call work thoughts and life thoughts. Work thoughts are strictly work related and life thoughts are buying house, paying mortgage, buying car, paying loan, planning vacations and the like. I am having this trouble only after I got married.

Does anybody having similar problem? Which ones should be your shower thoughts: work thoughts or life thoughts?

I think my problem could be resolved if I start taking shower twice a day!

1 point by statictype 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Playing Devil's Advocate: I would say that sometimes you have to bring unpleasant thoughts (like fund raising) into the top of your mind. Because if you don't do it now, then it becomes an even bigger problem later on.
2 points by covercash 6 hours ago 0 replies      
For me, water in general has a calming effect, letting my body relax and my mind wander. I can stand in the shower with water flowing over me and get lost in thought or I can float in a pool and not realize where time went. I find I have more technical thoughts in the shower and in the pool I tend to lean toward more creative ideas.
1 point by steveplace 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I always wanted to sell markers you could use in order to write ideas on shower tiles.
1 point by mmphosis 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Dreaming, a technique employed by Warriors to achieve a "dreaming body" or "Double". The technique requires the apprentice to see his hands in sleep dreaming. Once the hands are envisioned the dreaming process has begun. The "Double" or dreaming body is a metaphysical manifestation of the self that can be employed by the dreamer to do any number of tasks. Individuals within the realm of the Tonal (day-to-day conscience) would see the "Other" (also known as the "Double") as ordinary persons or as other metaphysical (see philosophy) beings. Seers, would see them as very bright luminous beings, brighter then their human luminous counterparts. As such the dreamer and the dreamed become one but not in the same place or time. Dreaming might be compared with experiences such as lucid dreaming. Through the art of "Dreaming" Naguals theoretically can shape shift into numerous forms including but not exclusively the following: coyotes, crows, and non animals.

Gazing is another form of "dreaming" and is a waking meditative state.

"I am going to teach you right here the first step to power. I am going to teach you how to set up dreaming. To set up dreaming means to have a concise and pragmatic control over the general situation of a dream, comparable to the control one has over any choice in the desert for instance, such as climbing up a hill or remaining in the shade of a water canyon. You must start by doing something very simple. Tonight in your dreams you must look at your hands. Don't think it's a joke. Dreaming is as serious as seeing or dying or any other thing in this awesome, mysterious world."

    DON JUAN MATUS, Journey to Ixtlan
1 point by tmsh 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Now that I think this phenomenon is very clearly articulated, I wonder if it isn't possible to have multiple 'top [ideas] in your mind' or 'ground states'.

It could be simply a matter of training your brain to have a strong stack for traversing the two or maybe three key areas or contexts that you're thinking about.

I.e., one solution is: make sure your top idea or ground state really is what you want. Another solution may be: train a better graph visitation algorithm.

However, trying to train one's unconscious may be sort of like quantum physics -- i.e., for lack of a better word: difficult. Perhaps you can just throw two or three main things you'd like to see happen into a collider, go to sleep or take a shower, and see what happens. But it may be possible to train yourself to think with very clear visitation between different contexts consciously, and actually have this process bubble down into the unconscious and take hold there too. I.e., hack your unconscious. Arguably it's the same sort of thing we do when we try to offload parallel processing onto a GPU or cloud (though in those cases the hardware is much more specific).

3 points by ddewey 7 hours ago 2 replies      
PG talks about the problem of having a top idea that he didn't want, something practical like making money or impractical like disputes, stealing his ambient-thought time.

I have the opposite problem: practical things that need some ambient thought to really get right (day-to-day work, money stuff) fall by the wayside, while things that I care about or find more interesting (like programming projects or relationships) take all the ambient time. Anyone else find this happening? Have coping strategies?

I guess I have a long way to go towards controlling my ambient thought. Maybe this is part of why I always had trouble "forcing myself" to study effectively?

1 point by sanj 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I refer to this as my "back brain processing".

I've had conversations where I tell people that I'll do the work that they want me to, but it will only be a fore-brain effort because I've got a much more interesting problem percolating.

And I try -- hard -- to avoid working for/with/on anything that doesn't engage the back brain.

1 point by euccastro 3 hours ago 0 replies      
[1] No doubt there are already names for this type of thinking, but I call it "ambient thought."

The metaphor I had for this is background process, stressing my suspicion that they hog precious mind resources even when you're not consciously pondering them.

1 point by billswift 3 hours ago 0 replies      
page 119 - But Dijksterhuis's work also shows that our unconscious thought processes don't engage with a problem until we've clearly and consciously defined the problem. If we don't have a particular intellectual goal in mind, Dijksterhuis writes, "unconscious thought does not occur."

from Nicholas Carr's The Shallows.

My local library got a copy right after the review of it was posted on HN. It makes a really good case against too much browsing web pages or other hypertext.

2 points by redsymbol 7 hours ago 2 replies      
(I hear similar complaints from friends who are professors. Professors nowadays seem to have become professional fundraisers who do a little research on the side. It may be time to fix that.)

Now there's a startup idea!

2 points by scottyallen 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I realized while in college that I did my best thinking in the shower/bath tub. But I always forgot my good ideas in the process of drying off/getting dressed, before I could write them down.

So I went out and bought an underwater slate (divers use them to communicate and record information underwater). It's probably 6"x9", made out of plastic, and has a pencil attached with a cord. I can jot down notes/sketches/doodles/whatever when I come up with an idea, and take the slate with me when I get out of the shower to record in a more permanent fashion. To erase, I just scrub it with a green scrubber sponge. I love it - it's paid for itself many times over.

I also tried bathtub crayons. They're good in that you have more surface area to write on, but they wash off more easily and it's not as convenient to permanently record whatever you wrote down (it's hard to take the shower wall with you when you get out).

1 point by thingsilearned 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Well written PG. I sent this to a lot of friends with whom I've had issues describing my tendency to ignore details, pointless worries, and simplify my surroundings and lifestyle.

I personally find that keeping schedules in my head is a particularly distracting practice. If kept in my head there's always something I'm afraid of forgetting and continually think over it in my mind to keep the thought fresh. When I use a calendar or have very consistent days my thinking is much clearer.

3 points by kenpratt 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the famous poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann. Same sort of philosophy.


"Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit." is a good method of keeping overly dramatic interpersonal interactions from affecting your top idea.

1 point by ziadbc 7 hours ago 0 replies      
PG is a bona fide philosopher. Just as we had the epicureans and the stoics, and their houses, we now how the house of ycombinator. AFAIK PG doesn't necessarily want it to get cultish, but its not cultish if its based in reason. And based in reason it is. Articles like these are what makes yc more than just a group of people doling out money for good material ideas. Its a forum for thinking about philosophical ideas too. This makes it an idealistic culture, and thats pretty cool.

Background on sensate, ideational, and idealistic cultures.

1 point by moolave 2 hours ago 0 replies      
That is why they say, ask for something (your good idea for instance) then let it go. It happens when you least think about it.
1 point by jiganti 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If anyone is interested in further reading on the subject of ideas and how to manipulate the "drifting" of them, I suggest reading "The DaVinci Method". A decent amount of research has been done correlating the tendency to be distracted with creativity, the rationale being that these people have less control over their thoughts.

Those with ADD/ADHD among other "disorders" tend to be more prone for an outside-the-box thought process.

Some things you can do to stimulate your Alpha brain waves, which give you adequate conditions for what Paul Graham calls "drifting" include walking barefoot on grass, and staring into the darkness while laying in bed before falling asleep.

I tend to have a lot of abstract thoughts, some brilliant and many more ridiculous, and I have benefited greatly from writing them all down in my phone. Translating them into english is extremely beneficial, and it's surprising how easy abstract thoughts are to forget. I would suggest this for anyone who is in any field requiring an ounce of creativity.

3 points by ztay 7 hours ago 0 replies      
A nice actionable insight, "You can't directly control where your thoughts drift. If you're controlling them, they're not drifting. But can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into."
1 point by johngalt 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds almost like Nietzsche on solitude. If you can't control your environment then you become a product of it. It's difficult to force yourself to NOT think about something. The brain is a very reactive piece of equipment.

If I said "Don't think about the hexagon on top of Saturn" how many of you would actually be able to avoid considering it?

1 point by bootload 4 hours ago 0 replies      
"... If you learn to ignore injuries you can at least avoid the second half. I've found I can to some extent avoid thinking about nasty things people have done to me by telling myself: this doesn't deserve space in my head. ..."

Sage advice. It doesn't always work because you can't control what you think all the time but a good, "habit of mind".

1 point by shaunxcode 6 hours ago 0 replies      
For me I find if I DONT "steal" back the time to pursue the top idea I will perform poorly on what ever else I am trying to get done (contract work). So it is actually necessary to "procrastinate" and flesh the idea out - more often than not it ends up being something that has far greater worth than the "paying" contract work.
1 point by runT1ME 7 hours ago 3 replies      
Has PG matured an incredibly amount in the last few years? Honestly, I hated his writing before (which may be part of the point, incite controversy and get me to remember who he was and what he said), but lately I've thought his essays were very well done...

Am I alone in this trend? Did he just win me over because of time?

On this particular topic he's quite right that letting your mind drift, but also controlling the environment of that can lead to good things. I'm going to actively make an effort to try this from now on.

1 point by danielharan 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Corollary: stop working so intently on the problem, and give yourself time to let your mind wander. Being a workaholic actually impedes creative ability.

No need to stay in the shower for hours. Go dance, swim, skate or climb a tree: anything but startup related work.

1 point by yewweitan 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks for this one Paul. After reading this I just had to draw this one - http://scrivle.com/2010/07/22/ideas-in-the-shower/
1 point by ajj 7 hours ago 0 replies      
"I knew it (in the shower) was a good time to have ideas. Now I'd go further: now I'd say it's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower."

This is so very true. It is incredibly hard to get myself motivated about things I do not think about in the shower. On the other hand, it is impossible to stop myself from working towards things I do think about.

Sometimes this is scary -- its almost as if I don't have any control over what I will be passionately pursuing.

0 points by eds 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Good essay, but paragraph six is redundant.
1 point by dgudkov 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This topic confirms one more time that personal productivity strongly depends on capability to manage thoughts. While it's not possible to manage thoughts fully, at least there are some ways to influence the way of thinking. Successful high-performers (like PG) usually have found their own ways to do it.
1 point by da5e 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is such a simple, yet powerful, idea. It's one of those "why didn't I think of that" ones. Another good time to discover your real top idea is at 3 am when you wake up thinking about it.
2 points by danielford 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been doing this for the last six months, and I didn't even realize it until now.

Thank you.

1 point by m_myers 7 hours ago 2 replies      
That's funny; I'm almost sure I've read the same basic idea somewhere else within the past year or two, but I can't for the life of me remember where. I thought it was Joel on Software, but a little Googling didn't turn it up. Anyone else?
1 point by sashthebash 4 hours ago 0 replies      
This is exactly why dating women is dangerous to your startup success ;).
0 points by cammil 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a really good essay. Absolutely spot on.
-2 points by TotlolRon 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Brilliant observations weakened by a cultural biased conclusion.

> Turning the other cheek turns out to have selfish advantages.

It is only true if someones self is defined by the culture of turning the other cheek. There are other ways to define self and solve a dispute. For example:

And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!"

That's also a valid selfish conclusion.

A prescient footnote oddhead.com
260 points by jplewicke 6 days ago   discuss
28 points by lambda 6 days ago 3 replies      
Those footnotes have a mix of prescience and just plain wrong. For instance, there's one about how a good open source browser can fundamentally change the industry; and Firefox has in that time gained much ground and helped spur innovation in IE and across the web (as have WebKit and Chrome). However, Firefox was already underway by the time he wrote this, so that prediction isn't necessarily so forward looking.

His opposition to client-side software, though, is less prescient. He says that JavaScript may not be available when you can browse the web on your phone; but JavaScript support is now one of the distinguishing features of new smartphones. He says that writing client-side apps is a bad idea, but the popularity of client-side JavaScript is proving that wrong. Mostly, Java applets themselves were a bad technology, but client side code that integrates with the Web is a popular idea, in the form of Flash and JavaScript.

So yeah, there's one prescient quote in there, but some more that are wrong. And many people were hoping for an Apple iPod/phone for quite a while; see, for example, http://technologizer.com/2009/12/28/iphone-rumors/ the first list of collected iPhone rumors I found in a google search).

20 points by alain94040 6 days ago 3 replies      
Very impressive. In 1994 (I think, I can't be sure of the date anymore), I wrote an article in MacWorld France where I said the combination of Apple's GUI with the Unix kernel had a promising future.

I didn't know it would take another 10 years...

8 points by bitwize 6 days ago 4 replies      
Alan Kay was heard to have said something along the lines of "Give this a 9-inch screen and you'll take over the world" when he first saw an iPhone.

My favorite one of these was from my favorite music band, The KLF, who after the success of "Doctor in the TARDIS" decided to write a book called The Manual, Or How to Have a Number One the Easy Way, which explains, as it says on the tin, how to go about producing a hit record without any money or musical talent.

One of the most impressive things about this book is this bit, from the section on coming up with a good catchy chorus for your smash hit, something people will remember:

Stock, Aitkin and Waterman, however, are kings of writing chorus lyrics that go straight to the emotional heart of the 7" single buying girls in this country. Their most successful records will kick into the chorus with a line which encapsulates the entire emotional meaning of the song. This will obviously be used as the title. As soon as Rick Astley hit the first line of the chorus on his debut single it was all over - the Number One position was guaranteed:

"I'm never going to give you up"

It says it all. It's what every girl in the land whatever her age wants to hear her dream man tell her. Then to follow that line with:

"I'm never gonna let you down I'm never going to fool around or upset you"


Amazing. By two decades these guys anticipated mashups and the Rickroll.

30 points by motters 6 days ago 1 reply      
In hindsight if you do enough searching you can always find people who predicted, or appeared to predict, future events.
5 points by presidentender 6 days ago 5 replies      
Suppose you've made such a prediction about a tech company. How do you act on it? You can buy stock, of course, but is there a more powerful action available?
4 points by stuff4ben 6 days ago 1 reply      
Heh, I made the same prediction one year before Apple released the iPhone.
Oddly enough, it was the last post I made on my blog. Wish I could have capitalized on my foresight.
3 points by clemesha 6 days ago 1 reply      
What about the 2nd comment on the post, by "Sean O"?

Javascript/Ajax has been fundamental to "new-age" tech giants. See Google's Gmail.

4 points by austiniteye 6 days ago 1 reply      
Ha, this made me search the web for things PG said recently. I didn't find anything that specific although I wonder what he thinks of Google/Facebook or Android/iPhone standoffs

Come to think of it, I wonder what is going to happen to Microsoft? Something is obviously coming (they won't just fade into background), but what would it be?

People say that oh, don't worry Microsoft will become just like IBM, but I don't buy it. IBM does a lot of different things, and it did even more in the past but stopped. Microsoft, on the other hand, really does just one thing well: Windows/Office and, assuming those are going to fade away, what does it leave them with? That's why I believe there's going to be a major shift/transition in Microsoft business model.

6 points by patrickryan 6 days ago 3 replies      
PG also made this statement in May 2009 (iPad released April 2010):

What would be your dream setup?

I'd like it if the Air was about half the size. I don't know why Apple won't make something in between the Air and an iPhone...

Source: http://paul.graham.usesthis.com

4 points by kul 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm pretty sure PG bought a lot of Apple stock in 2001-2003
1 point by stcredzero 5 days ago 0 replies      
A conversation several jobs ago, well before the iPhone:

Engineering Manager: Well, mobile is obviously a next big thing.

Me: You know what would be hot? If you could be listening to your MP3, then you get a call and the music fades out into your call. Then when the call ends, it fades back in. That would sell like hotcakes.

Engineering Manager: [Looks at me like I'm an idiot]

6 points by celticjames 6 days ago 1 reply      
Bad reasoning: Remember the hits, forget the misses.
1 point by code_duck 6 days ago 0 replies      
So, the key to being seen as prescient is to make sure you get it in writing. John Doe of Hoboken could have said the same thing, but it wouldn't be possible to quote him on it since he only told his barber. Good reason to start blogging, I guess.
1 point by CUViper 6 days ago 2 replies      
Perhaps Apple reads pg, so it was a self-fulfilling prophecy...
1 point by coliveira 6 days ago 1 reply      
Everybody has opinions. Some of them become true, most don't.
I am doing a startup (putting virtual machines on the web) catonmat.net
260 points by pkrumins 15 hours ago   98 comments top 39
31 points by barrkel 14 hours ago 4 replies      
I wouldn't be so positive about open-source everywhere. I'd recommend keeping some amount of the server-side closed source. The risk I see is that competitors can simply use your code and run the cheapest hardware they can find, while you have to run the cheapest hardware you can find and maintain and improve the software. Unless you have a different edge on the hardware side, you have no sustainable competitive advantage.

So I'd suggest you stick with the open API, and perhaps have an open reference implementation, but add value in a secret sauce on the server side which competitors can't simply copy.

21 points by duck 14 hours ago 1 reply      
This is one of those things that you would never think of, but once you see it you're blown away. Very cool and promising. Great job Peter.
4 points by mleonhard 10 hours ago 1 reply      
When I read your headline, I was excited to think that someone was building a VM service that was tailored to hosting webapps. I wish there was a service with a UI & API for configuring sites and starting up VMs to serve different areas of the site. For example, I could set up mysite.com on this service and then have requests for mysite.com/blog proxied to a VM running WordPress on PHP/MySQL. Requests for mysite.com/manage would be proxied to CherryPy stack running on another VM. Other requests for mysite.com/* would be served out of an S3 bucket. And of course the hosting service would do logging, monitoring, automatic error recovery, automatic scaling, backups, etc.

You two are doing something different with StackVM, and it looks cool. I currently use FreeNX on EC2 and the NoMachine Windows client. Here are a couple of feature suggestions:

1. StackVM would be much more useful to me if the windows could pop out of the browser. I don't want to use a remote-desktop client that is confined to a browser window.

2. For real productivity, cut & paste must work between StackVM windows and other native apps.

3. Get James or someone with a lighter accent to do the demo video voiceovers.

4. Make it easy to deploy test environments, execute integration tests, and capture the results. For testing webapps, make it work with Selenium and keep videos of tests that fail. I would pay for this if it was sufficiently developed.

I'm looking forward to the private demo. Good luck, you two! :

11 points by ydant 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I was skeptical from the title. My first thought was "isn't this what EC2, and every other VPS provider does?" I have to admit, your pitch won me over - this looks interesting.

On second thought, you did say "web", not "internet". I'm so used to people treating the two as synonymous that I didn't make the distinction myself. So I'd say make that more clear.

10 points by nailer 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Nice. I'd suggest demoing Windows XP before the Linux OS - not only is it more widely recognizable but there may be more users who have old desktop XP (or 98, etc) apps that could use your software.
8 points by patrickk 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This is very cool. I could certainly see myself using this.

The very best of luck with your YC application.

A similar project you may get inspiration from:


5 points by rapind 10 hours ago 1 reply      
". You can easily rent 10 virtual machines with Linux, Windows, MacOS, and other operating systems and test your software."

Linux I can see. Windows and especially OSX though, won't that create licensing issues and a special deal with MS / Apple to provide those VMs?

1 point by peteforde 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I just wanted to say congrats, good luck and one of you should be a 51% partner. Trust me, it's painful if a 50% partner takes off.

Give this a read, paying specific attention to founder share vesting: http://startuplawyer.com/startup-issues/if-i-launched-a-star...

4 points by vijaydev 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Nice idea! Congrats for the venture!

A small feedback about the site. The email signup UI is the coolest I have seen. However, I would like the string "you@example.com" to be retained when I click in the text box and then click outside. Currently, it disappears when out of focus after clicking inside the text box once.

7 points by bootload 15 hours ago 0 replies      
"... At the moment StackVM is in its 3rd major iteration already and is almost entirely built on node.js. Since we're doing everything open-source, we've written a bunch of reusable node.js modules: ..."

Most significant bit, many thx.

3 points by japherwocky 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I worked for a "startup" in LA that did something like this. They had big funding, and big names, but were kind of incompetently run.

I'll just say this: the government / military was verrry interested in the honeypot angle.

3 points by d0m 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I would use it instead of always have to re-download putty when I'm not on a linux box.

For the money part, you might also consider setting up the domain and redirect for a small fee. For instance, my-name.com could be my VMs securised with a password.

Also, what is the limit of GB I can put on the VM? Say I want to upload files and mp3s.. is there a limit? May I pay to increase it?

Finally, I would like to be able to connect to my VM from other way than web. Say I'm on my linux box with my terminal prompt, it would be nice if I could just ssh to my-name.com and get my VM.. upload/download stuff with scp, and connect to it with FTP. But of course, this would work more with the linux part I suppose :p

Anyhow, congrats also for the "I started my startup" which is, in my opinion, amongst the hardest part (starting!).

6 points by blueberry 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Based on the confusion that others and I had, I suggest changing your name and dropping VM from it. It really doesn't convey what you are trying to accomplish. When I first heard it, I thought you were making a VM together with an OS with an eccentric stack allocation algorithm or sth.
2 points by barmstrong 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Very impressive - so is the main use case remote desktop without installing any software (Goto My PC killer)? Or browser testing? Or what?

I think it's awesome I'm just having trouble visualizing a use case that isn't super nerdy.

4 points by blueberry 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Looks really impressive, congrats. I don't really see why it is called VM though, did you actually implement an emulator? How does this differ from online remote desktop solutions (say logmein)? Also if you want to reach beyond the geek community you might want to focus on a few of the ideas instead of the many ones that you currently have. For example, making the screencast great or making the demo of an application on a StackVM great. If you don't come up with a particular use case you might need to compete with giants like VMware or XEN.
2 points by gojomo 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Cool. Is it only a matter of time before someone implements hardware virtualization in pure Javascript? Perhaps FireFox 10 will open machine instances as a supported MIME type.
4 points by chunkbot 14 hours ago 0 replies      
The use cases are really interesting; online product demos will be a killer feature, and we wouldn't have to worry about piracy (we're able to monitor the piracy rates of our desktop app, and it's about 25% of our paid subscriptions)...
2 points by jefffoster 15 hours ago 3 replies      
Have you seen http://www.spoon.net/? It seems very similar to the StackVM idea.
2 points by cmurphycode 14 hours ago 1 reply      
First, I have to say that this looks ambitious. There are some pretty exciting things in the gameplan; I am especially interested in the vmcasts idea. While I have to wonder if they can accomplish all of the ideas they lay out here, given the posts I've seen from catonmat.net before, I think they can do it. From what I can tell, Peteris is not just clever, but very motivated and loves to code and introspect his talents. This is usually a winning combination.

I am excited you decided to open everything, but I wonder if you're going to be able to raise the money necessary to fund the infrastructure. Do either of you have a lot of business experience? If you can seize your opportunities well enough, you can probably monetize your idea while letting others do what they will with the code.

Looking forward to see how this evolves.

2 points by samwillis 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I think the most interesting aspect of this is that you have implemented a VNC client in JavaScript and HTML. That realy is your core technology and probably has the most value. I could see that being realy useful for implementing things like 3d CAD in the browser, the interface and controls could be plain HTML/CSS and use your vnc technology to show the 3d graphics being drawn on the server.

Could you offer some insight into how your JavaScript vnc works?

3 points by michael_dorfman 15 hours ago 1 reply      
That is a very cool idea, Peteris. I wish you the best of luck!

A question, though: how do you plan to monetize it? Without a business model, it's a web app, but not really a startup.

1 point by surki 14 hours ago 1 reply      
That's pretty neat.

If you are going to support Windows, how does stackvm compare against "Terminal Services Web Access (TS Web Access)" [1]

[1] http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc771908(WS.10).a...

1 point by DrJokepu 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Very interesting!

Assuming that you will have reasonable pricing and a fast connection, I would be very interested in using this service for my own startup.

4 points by tomstuart 14 hours ago 1 reply      

I'm so disappointed you didn't open the XP VM inside XP's Chrome!

1 point by moolave 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. Our company also does virtual appliances through different operating systems. It'd be nice to learn more. We also use the virtual appliances for exchange, saas, NFS, and web servers.

Keep up the good work.

1 point by theBobMcCormick 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Have you considered offering a customer self hosted option? It sounds like you could easily position it as a lightweight alternative to Citrix and Windows Terminal Services.
2 points by gsk 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Excellent execution. I'd certainly be interested in the paid service when it comes out. The 100% opensource idea is probably a distraction you can do without at the moment. I want the paid service to be great. I won't care if it is opensource or not.
1 point by ivenkys 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I can see a few use-cases where this can be quite useful especially if easy to use.

To me the more interesting aspect of it is the - Complete open-source , idea-open and source-code open. For a startup looking for funding (applying to YC) , this is new, i wonder how it would gell with the investors.

2 points by kaens 11 hours ago 0 replies      
This is just insanely impressive.
1 point by kirvyteo 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Cool stuff. The first thing I thought about was the latency. One of the problems running VNC or remote desktop over internet is always latency. I tried running VNC to EC2 instances for a test but the experience is terrible. It will be nice to see this run faster.
2 points by pasbesoin 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Wishing you much luck. It's great to see you launching.
2 points by koevet 15 hours ago 1 reply      
The use cases are exciting, I see a lot of potential for education purposes. Good luck!
1 point by altuzar 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I would love to see the recursive XP desktops. And a Hackintosh too! (Tiger runs well with VMWare, so maybe that's possible)
1 point by msy 15 hours ago 0 replies      
It's awesome to see a startup developing some genuinely new interesting tech rather than yet another project management or GTD app on $framework. Really neat stuff!
1 point by ndimopoulos 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Very good idea! I liked very much what I saw in the video. I agree with koevet this would be awesome for educational purposes.

Keep up the good work!

1 point by aquark 14 hours ago 1 reply      
This looks great! Any comments on how feasible Windows VMs will be to offer from a licensing perspective?

Best of luck with this.

1 point by teisho 8 hours ago 1 reply      
What are you using for the underlying virtualization?
1 point by arvinb 15 hours ago 0 replies      
There's good potential for these kinds of app, especially now in the age of cloud computing.
-2 points by flyosity 14 hours ago 3 replies      
FWIW I think saying "doing a startup" sounds pretty childish. Why not say that you're starting a company? "Doing a startup" sounds like you're just messing around with a concept, testing the waters. "Starting a company" makes you look more serious, like you know what you're doing. Just my opinion.
My experiment with smart drugs (2008) johannhari.com
250 points by pw 4 days ago   141 comments top 31
25 points by DanielBMarkham 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am currently taking provigil (the drug in the article) because I have a sleep disorder. Not just insomnia or some bullshit like that, but a serious medical condition. During the consultation with my doctor we decided on using the drug, partly because I had heard about it here and then ran across it again when researching my condition. It seemed like it could both help my medical problem and also more directly help me in my job performance, so it was a double-win.

After 60 days, off and on (I discontinued use at random intervals to make sure I wasn't becoming a junkie), I have a mixed bag to report. On the good side, there is no doubt in my mind that for folks who have sleep problems or are ADHD that this is a really good thing. It improves both focus and creativity, it allows you to be more in control of what you are doing. Best of all, it's not speed.

For regular people? I don't know if I would mess around with my brain chemistry so much if I didn't have to. I found the drug to be so effective -- and with a very slight worrying hint of euphoria attached to it -- that it really continues to bother me about addiction and side effects. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Which brings me to the bad part. After several weeks of stopping and starting, I found the stop-go process was introducing terrible nausea and headaches. So a couple of weeks ago we sat down and decided that it's either all-in or nothing-in. Since the difference with the drug was noticeable and needed, I am taking it continuously for a month or so and then we'll re-evaluate.

There is a bounce-back with provigil. You stop taking it after prolonged use? Be prepared to spend a few days under-stimulated and in a fog while your brain chemistry re-adjusts. If I didn't need the drug for other reasons, and if I were of a mind to take brain-enhancers, this bounce-back alone would be enough to give me serious pause. My advice for a 20-something is to learn to exercise everyday and control what you eat -- I know from experience that a normal person can gain this same effect through hard work.

Couple of notes. First, if you buy this drug in the states be prepared to get screwed by Big Pharma. They charge something like 15 bucks for a pill, simply because they know lots of knowledge-workers can afford it (in my opinion). Buy overseas and the price drops to a couple of bucks. The markup here is crazy high.

Second, as noted, there is a mood-elevation effect with provigil. Not a peaking/tweaking/euphoria kind of thing, but a long-term I'm-happier-now-in-general kind of thing. If you're older than 25 or so, you might experience a slow, growing bit of low-level depression that occurs very slowly over many years. I know many of my friends have. I never thought I did. But after taking provigil for a couple of weeks, I realize that my mind is performing now in the same way it used to, many years ago. I guess the change is so slow over the years that it is unnoticeable for some? So it makes for a great A/B test of where your mood is.

Also, I suspect that provigil is the best adult ADHD drug on the market today for knowledge workers, hence all the interest. But it's not been tested in this role, so you're just on your own. Not a good spot for somebody with serious ADHD to be in, but there it is. (and that's just my guess, like I know anything)

40 points by jrockway 4 days ago replies      
Why do articles about any drug that affects the mind always have a section about, "what if I used this during exams?"

Who cares?

School is an anomaly that's not worth discussing in the context of "mental enhancement". Exams make you do the exact same thing as everyone else to see where you rank relative to them and produces no actual value. Computers do this sort of work much better than humans, so there is really no actual point (except to assign rankings to individuals so the Corporate World doesn't have to come up with tough interview questions, or whatever.)

The real world is not like this; the game is not zero-sum. When you write an article, it doesn't directly make someone else's articles more or less valuable, it merely adds to the sum total of human work. Anything that allows the sum-total of human work to increase at a faster rate is good. It doesn't matter if you opt-out of taking "viagra for the brain", your contribution is still just as valuable as before. But if someone else does choose to take drugs, then they may be able to add value more quickly, which is as good for you as it is for them. Now you have more stuff to build off of, which is always going to get you farther than any drug would. (Try discarding 5000 years of human experience and seeing if a drug gets it all back. It won't even come close.)

In the real world, artificial performance-enhancers don't matter. And we shouldn't ignore their possible benefits because someone might get a higher test score if they take them; school is not so important that we should throw the rest of the world under a bus to cater to its strange needs.

25 points by markbao 4 days ago 1 reply      
Previous discussion on HN: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=190676

More about Provigil and other nootropics from my personal experience in researching about them: modafinil (the non-marketing name for it) is under Schedule IV in the US and is prescription-only. However, there is an unscheduled drug called adrafinil (marketing name Olmifon), which directly metabolizes into modafinil (though it does take longer and has a higher risk for liver damage.) It is also considerably less expensive (though you have to take a multiple of a dose to receive a similar effect.) Here are some reports from individuals that have used it from Erowid's Experience Vaults, including those who compare it to modafinil. http://www.erowid.org/experiences/subs/exp_Adrafinil.shtml

Adrafinil isn't readily available in stores in the US, but is available by mail order by vendors such as QHI and the like. You can also get modafinil this way as this guy did, but it runs the risk of getting caught at customs, so I can't suggest it.

As for other nootropics, some people have gotten results form the racetam class of drugs (which include, in rough order of intensity, piracetam, oxiracetam, aniracetam, pramiracetam, and others) that some users have reported benefits from and that have extremely few reports of side effects, even with high doses. Some side effects include headaches from (primarily) piracetam (aka Nootropil), which is usually solved by taking it with choline. Some sellers sell gelatin tablets with piracetam and choline. Piracetam and all of the other racetams are relatively inexpensive and obtainable without a prescription, i.e. it is unscheduled. However, the general consensus is that the effects are rather subtle and the tolerance builds up quickly, though some people have experienced significant gains from it.

There are always, of course, drugs like Adderall and Ritalin which are under prescription that also have various side effects but are effective for an enormous amount of those who require it. There are also other OTC products like vinpoectine, which is a vasodilator which is an ingredient in some mind supplements such as Think Gum and others.

There are a lot of nootropics and it's fascinating to read and learn about them and their mechanisms of action.

EDIT: here are some more interesting things you might want to read. PubMed has a long document about modafinil, precautions, guidelines, and its side effects [1]. Quora also has some information (some first-hand experiences as well) [2].

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000196

[2] http://www.quora.com/Nootropics | http://www.quora.com/Modafinil | http://www.quora.com/Productivity-Drugs

13 points by jawngee 4 days ago 4 replies      
I take provigil, or I should say I have a prescription for it.

I typically only take it:

a) Have to write a lot of boring code that has already been mapped out, ie I'm not solving any ridiculous problems that require imagination and/or being clever.

b) Learning a new technology I'm not entirely interested in.

c) Learning Japanese

d) Playing poker. I'm a little iffy on this one though. Without Provigil I can play a good 12 hour session no sweat. I have a really shitty short term memory so most of my game consists of the social aspects and the math aspects and reading people, which I'm very good at. I have a general impression of how people play, but I couldn't tell you about a hand I played 30 minutes ago or what anybody did in the hand exactly. On Provigil, however, the game becomes absolutely crystal clear and I can tell you what hand you played 4 hours ago or 4 minutes ago in striking clarity. Really creative playing goes out the window though and I become a very ABC player with the advantage of total recall. I've never had a losing session on Provigil, but I've also never 4x or 5x buyin session on it either (making 4x or 5x my initial buyin) which is probably due to the fact that I play smaller pots because I'm not taking as many risks.

I can stop taking it for months, go on a "binge" and then stop taking it again. It's a lot like marijuana in that regard. I've never mixed the too, btw.

29 points by hotpockets 4 days ago 5 replies      
One interesting thing I learned by getting my genes sequenced is that provigil would apparently have no effect on me. This would probably account for why a lot of people think provigil/modafinil didn't do anything for them.

About 25% of people of caucasion decent are (A,A) at rs4680, which is in the COMT gene whose enzyme degrades dopamine/epinephrine. Modafinil probably works by raising these catecholamines (at least in part). I haven't read it but the study is here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19037200?dopt=Abstract

21 points by jawngee 4 days ago 3 replies      
One thing to note, Provigil has a very nasty side effect called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

It is pretty rare, but f*ck all if I'd ever want to get it:


8 points by barrkel 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've tried it, but it doesn't substantially affect me. Mainly, I don't get sleepy as soon, and I sleep worse. Then I crash for the next couple of days, feeling a bit like I had a glass of wine the previous night (I don't drink often), and sleeping sooner and longer than normal. Overall, a definite net negative to performance, except with a deadline looming and you can afford the down time on the other side.

Like very strong coffee that gives you a mild hangover but no jitters etc.

9 points by proee 4 days ago 3 replies      
The author should do a placebo test on himself. Find an identical looking sugar pill and put them in one of those small film canisters - one pill per canister. On the bottom of the canister write if its real or placebo. Wake up and grab a canister out of a hat at random. Down the pill with a glass of wanter and begin your day. After the next day (or number of days) go back and determine if you were on the drug or not.
7 points by Groxx 3 days ago 0 replies      
>I paced and agonised and finally concluded that taking narcolepsy drugs when you don’t have narcolepsy is just stupid.

While I don't disagree with the overall choice here, I must point out: WHAT? And how many drugs have found alternative, sometimes better uses than the ones they were originally advertised for? This includes drugs re-branded, minor non-functional changes to avoid copyright / patent laws of another company, and damn near every plant-originated drug in existence.

Drugs have side effects, and sometimes different ones when used to treat non-existant symptoms (like this situation), but that has nothing to do with marketing.

5 points by clistctrl 3 days ago 1 reply      
While reading the description of him on the pill I couldn't help but realize that It seemed very much like my own behavior . I've always been an extremely finicky eater where one persons half (or sometimes less) portion would be more then enough for me. I can think back to multiple nights where I'd get the picture of a system in my head. I could sit down, and code all night. The next morning I'd wake up feeling great, and my apartment would be sparkling clean (I had this habit of roaming the place cleaning while I considered the best ways to write a component) Anyways that was before I turned 21. After I turned 21 I started to slow down, where as I used to get into that "zone" some times 4 times a week, i'm lucky to get it once a month. I always seem to walk around feeling as if my head is filled with air, but yet still feels like an extra 50lbs. In addition I also gained 20lbs, my appetite changed dramatically. I went from easting only because I have to, to becoming obsessed with it. There is some good news though, I recently started to drastically reduce my beer consumption at the beginning of July. The last 2 days I have enjoyed 2 very productive days, I have also lost about 10lbs, and I'm almost back to my old low appetite self.

On the note related to the thread below, my rs4680 is AA.

9 points by mmaunder 4 days ago 0 replies      
The most valuable data in this discussion is how interested we are in improving our intelligence and our ability to apply it.
6 points by adbge 4 days ago 0 replies      
I took 250mg of Provigil daily for almost a year and it's nothing like what this Johann fellow describes it as. You cannot get an accurate "feel" for Provigil over one week.

I've taken a lot of drugs. Dozens. If you're looking for "brain viagra", it's not Provigil. Amphetamines are much more effective for that kind of thing. Provigil is good at keeping you awake and preventing you from "winding down". It does not improve concentration beyond that point, in my experience, and it seriously impairs creativity.

Honestly, you're better off just drinking a coffee.

5 points by metastew 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm thinking of asking my doctor to put me on Provigil because I have Shift Work Disorder due to the nature of my jobs (one in the early morning, one at late night).

Also, I followed the link at the bottom of the article, which stated that the possible tax of using Provigil is the loss of creative thoughts (or distractions). I may be the only one who thinks this, but I think that's also an upside. I consider myself a very creative person but I rarely commit any of my ideas into reality, so I perceive 99% of them as distraction and harmful to my focus.

Now if I'm reading this right, Provigil supresses the distractions in the brain, which allows you to the ability to clear up the backlog of creative ideas you've thought up (I assume this because Hari says that in an evening, he read a book cover to cover and finished an article he's been mulling over in the last couple of months.)

I don't know if Provigil permanently stifles your chances to have creative thoughts after you stop taking it though, but it would be nice to be uncreative for a while and just get down to the dull grunt works and actually produce results.

Just my two cents.

6 points by stretchwithme 4 days ago 1 reply      
Inability to focus is worth treating, but why not look at potential causes instead of potentially risky substances that cover up the problem?

Too much sugar in the diet, persistent muscular tension and the stress hormones it produces, and lack of sleep are all problems that impact our ability to think clearly.

5 points by whalesalad 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just ordered some online. We'll see how this goes.
3 points by metamemetics 4 days ago 0 replies      
Reposting here since this one is more popular.

My ranking in order of both effectiveness and least physical-harm\withdrawal for stimulants:

2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine > Desoxypipradrol > Modafinil\Provigil > Adderall

For me, Adderall and to a lesser extent provigil are better for repetitive motor tasks like cleaning an apartment but inhibit creativity.

2 points by nicpottier 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've used Provigil a few times, mostly when there has been some fantastic deadline and I know I need to be working long hours and remain focused.

For that, at least for me, it works wonders. I can work 16 hours and just be insanely productive, my ability to focus and work through problems at least feels way better. It could be all placebo, pretty impossible to judge that, but whatever causes it makes me write a lot of (generally good) code very quickly.

That said, it scares me a bit, mostly because I worry about getting addicted psychologically to that focus. So I use it very rarely, basically only when absolutely necessary. Maybe two or three times a year.

But a fun thing to experience for the geek in you.

2 points by donaldc 4 days ago 1 reply      
It seems to work by restricting the parts of your brain that make you sluggish or sleepy.

Since good sleep is needed to solidify learning for the long term, I personally will be unlikely to ever try provigil, at least not for more than a couple-day sprint. Getting a good sleep when my brain is full is an investment in long-term productivity (better retention of learning) over short-term productivity.

4 points by ww520 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ahem, I notice most people here wrote lots of text for their posts. Is that the effect of Provigil?
2 points by throwaway25 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm on 200mg of Modafinil right now, so let's see how it affects my ability to contribute to a HN post. This is obviously a throwaway account, since I'd prefer not to be terribly public about using it (although I'd be more than happy to talk about it in person). Note that I'm not really the best writer in the world normally, and you'll probably find that this writing is similar - despite being "boosted" with "mind-enhancing" medication.

Some highlights: I've been taking it off and on for almost 2 years now. The first stint was for a length of about 3 months back in 2008/2009. When I first started taking it I was affected so dramatically I routinely paused using it to make sure it wasn't something I was going to become dependent on, or would have a noticeable cumulative damaging effect upon discontinuation of use. I'm the founder of a technology startup (which I won't name so don't ask) and so I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities when I read about the drug. At that time I had just started on a massive code rewrite project that had to be done as soon as possible (since every day this project wasn't finished we were losing potential revenue). One of the other members of the team estimated the project would take around 3 months, and we couldn't avoid doing it. I was able to finish the project in 1 month. However, I should admit that I had a lot of things going for me besides the medicine - it was a new code base and a new language that I had wanted to learn, so that combined with the urgency and reward of increased revenue was a huge motivator. I will say that the focus that the drug gave me was probably a significant factor in getting it completed as fast as I did. I'll explain why I think it's a perfect compliment for this kind of project by talking about all of the "features" of the drug below. Other notable effects of my use which I will expand on include loss of about 15-20lbs (205-185/190), a much improved social life, enhanced/stabilized mood, and the ability to be alert and awake and mostly functional at any conceivable time of day or night, regardless of the amount of sleep achieved in the previous day. This is not to say there aren't any downsides of tradeoffs, there definitely are - it just turns out that for me, I find that the benefits so far outweigh the consequences.

This comment was too long, so I continued this here: http://throw-nhnzo.posterous.com/

1 point by gwern 3 days ago 0 replies      
> It was originally designed for narcoleptics in the seventies, but clinical trials had stumbled across something odd: if you give it to non-narcoleptics, they just become smarter. Their memory and concentration improves considerably, and so does their IQ.

Wikipedia links these studies in its modafinil entry; it's worth noting that 'considerably' is something of an exaggeration. The boost is perhaps on par with piracetam, which is to say, noticeable & measurable but not massive.

5 points by teoruiz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anybody know whre to get Provigil (or modafinil, for that matter) anywhere online that ships to Europe?
1 point by cwilson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Can anyone comment on how Provigil has effected a relationship? Are you so focused on work you ignore your significant other? Does your sex drive go away? Does it increase?
2 points by fmora 3 days ago 2 replies      
I cannot believe that anybody would recommend a drug to be able to stay awake longer or work longer (with the exception of coffee). Any drug that is able to do this to your body will probably decrease your health drastically. If you really do have to work a lot the best way that I have found is to sleep 8 hours and work 16 hours. Unfortunately shower time will probably suffer so use plenty of deodorant. You will also be eating junk food for a couple of weeks but believe me, it is a much better alternative than using drugs. A cup of coffee would be the strongest drug I would use but that is it. Taking drugs like the ones mentioned is an extremely bad idea. You can end up being addicted to them.
1 point by BrandonM 2 days ago 0 replies      
So really, what's the difference between this and, say, cocaine? The effects seem pretty similar to me.
1 point by hippich 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure if it's valuable for anyone. At some point I tried Modapro - generic, containing modafinil - same stuff in Provigil.

I do not have any sleep disorders, so it was pure experiment about getting more productive/etc.

In short - it didn't worked for me at all. I tried it in different dozes, different conditions - same no effect.

There is two possible reasons for this:
1) This modapro is fake
2) Modafinil affect only people with some sort of sleep disorders.

1 point by nhnifong 3 days ago 0 replies      
What we have is a vocabulary of mental qualities (intelligence, creativity, stubbornness, etc..) and a collection of mind-altering drugs. And there is no one-to-one mapping between these sets.
1 point by nivertech 3 days ago 1 reply      
You can overclock your CPU, but it will last far less, than non-overclocked one (a one third?)
If you want your brain to last only 3o years instead of 90 - then take the drugs ;)
1 point by nhnifong 4 days ago 2 replies      
I think additional intelligence only makes moral dilemmas (Should I or should I not do X) harder to cope with. So the drug that makes you smarter also makes you less sure you should take it.
1 point by pclark 3 days ago 0 replies      
Where can i buy this from the uk?
1 point by MrSafe 4 days ago 2 replies      
How does he get Provigil without a prescription? Shouldn't he see a doctor or something first?
My Google Interview cforcoding.com
226 points by cletus 5 days ago   discuss
37 points by etherael 5 days ago replies      
I had an interview for a systems administrative position way back when that was my primary gig, admittedly this was in the twilight after ten years of experience and I had already mostly gotten sick of systems administration and was deeply into coding so maybe I was just too jaded, but the single question I recall that they asked me I actually found so stupid it was insulting;

What's the default bytes per block in random linux distribution x version y when using filesystem z?

My response;

I'd google it.

Perhaps this is unique to the Australian branch of Google or something but I get the impression that they're much more into the whole meaningless rote memorisation of facts than is often let on.

I had a contact from another Google HR person a couple months back in Estonia, this time for a development position. I can't say I wasn't tempted but this time I turned them down flat.

30 points by endlessvoid94 5 days ago 5 replies      
The lack of feedback is crippling. I interviewed at a similar company and I thought the interview went GREAT. I'm usually a great judge of whether or not someone likes me, I pay attention that kind of thing, I got all the answers to their satisfaction while explaining, in detail and concisely, my thought process.

Didn't get the job. I didn't make one mistake and I thought they liked me. I have zero clues as to why. I'm not really upset about it, it was just a very frustrating experience.

All the more reason to do your own thing :-)

13 points by gruseom 5 days ago 5 replies      
Clearly, many of us agree that this process is broken; not specifically at Google, but broken more or less everywhere. So fine, what would you do differently? I hate everything about job interviews, on both sides of the transaction: I don't want to ever job-interview or be job-interviewed again. So let's hear some radical ideas about how else to approach the problem. The crazier the better.
10 points by cousin_it 5 days ago 1 reply      
I seem to always fail spoken interviews, but easily pass ones where I get to write code. As a particularly hilarious example, this spring I completely failed a phone-screen on the subject of 3D graphics, then sometime later I released a 3D terrain engine that is apparently the best of its kind in Flash as of today (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1500338). And I can't say I know much more about the subject now! I just tend to learn stuff "situationally" and immediately forget it when the problem is solved. That applies to concepts too, but it's like 100x worse for APIs: my work nowadays is mostly ActionScript and JavaScript, but I can't even fill a polygon in AS without having the reference open.
12 points by gcheong 5 days ago 1 reply      
If I have an interview scheduled to go through lunch hours and the company does not offer me lunch, that makes a very bad impression on me. To me it's part professional courtesy as well as an indication of how well things are planned. Also, if you are able to lunch with the team, it lets you get to know each other in a less stressful situation.
15 points by danbmil99 5 days ago 3 replies      
TL; DR: Google's recruitment process is opaque and arguably leads to many false negatives. True 3 years ago and apparently still true.

I suspect they would argue the impact of false positives (hired but don't work out) greatly outweighs the loss of false negatives (potentially great employees that can't pass through the filter). This may be true for the one company everyone and their dog wants to work for, but I wouldn't apply this kind of process to my startup.

It also feels like it might result in a surfeit of homogeneity. Genetic diversity is important; if everyone is a clone, all it takes is one pathogen to wipe out the population.

5 points by brown9-2 5 days ago 2 replies      
But everyone knew C++. I’ve read about this before. This combined with my own experience now leads me to believe that C++ isn’t optional for any Google applicant. Not because you need to use it to work there. I have no direct experience of this. But because of “interviewer lottery”. Some at Google (it seems) do nothing but C++. You might be interviewed by one of these people.

Not true one bit. I don't know a lick of C++ and never encountered it in my interviews there.

In fact, the questions I was asked there could have been easily answered in any language, as they were language-neutral and heavily on the side of pure algorithms.

Your experience may have been thrown off by having C++ on your resume, assuming you do.

5 points by tmsh 5 days ago 0 replies      
The key, I think, to hacking most interviews is to take into account the fact that most interviewers overoptimize for their own contribution to the process; i.e., you want to put yourself on a path where the interviewers have some sort of insight into why you're valuable.

This can be the traditional: wow, this person has mastered all these fields very well. But it can equally be: wow, this person did extraordinary things with this thing that I've heard good things about; or, wow: I could totally use a person like that on my team -- I think culturally this type of person is valuable; etc.

Basically, you want to figure out the selection of likely thoughts the interviewer will have about you -- choose the set of most optimal, most distance-traversing in their mind (some of which ideally differentiate you for your peers), and give them some excuse to figure those out.

It's, sadly, not completely unrelated to PUA, as our minds are trained to seek and, with cognitive dissonance, to esteem the general direction of what we've verified before.

Fwiw, same pattern as setting traps in poker. Though hopefully you're not being duplicitous, but rather smoothing out an already error-laden, discontinuous situation.

5 points by mkramlich 5 days ago 1 reply      
Part of the problem that bit him, I think, is that the traditional interviewing/hiring process is fundamentally flawed and handicapped.

Superficial elements have way too large of an impact. it filters out things that should not be filtered out. and way too big of a judgement is made too early, and on too little information, and with too little confidence in the correctness of that judgment. resumes are demanded and then either not read or not remembered. small comments can be magnified in the mind of the listener and used to conclude things that cannot possibly be concluded. ridiculous questions are asked. and lastly, there's very often too much of an attitude that the company/interviewer is in the superior/owner position and the applicant in the subservient/inferior/slave situation (perhaps carried over from blue collar industry) when in reality it should probably be considered an exchange of equals.

5 points by csomar 5 days ago 3 replies      
I don't know Cletus, I just noticed his profile somehow in StackOverFlow. However, as a brilliant StackOverFlow member with over 100K of points and 3K answers, I really wonder if he is not above the average developer.

Only experienced developers can contribute and answer question in Stackoverflow. Questions are generally hard and random.

So if Google hires only from the top 10% (say in Australia); isn't this a critical fail in the hiring process? (considering cletus with ranking 4 in sof, I can safely say he's among the top 1% or 0.5%)

4 points by codexon 5 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting how they are scouting stackoverflow profiles for potential hires. I suppose it takes more than 10k reputation (talking about my own profile of course).

The part about being denied because he was Microsoft-centric and yet Jon Skeet was accepted was quite amusing.

3 points by enneff 5 days ago 5 replies      
"But the process does seem to be a lottery to some extent."

They go to great lengths to ensure this is not the case. If the feedback from five different interviewers led to a 'no hire' decision, the chances are good that it was the right decision. Of course, no system is perfect. They tend to err on the side of exclusivity; it's much cheaper to decline a suitable candidate than it is to hire someone who won't work out in the long term.

1 point by heresy 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're currently going through a hiring cycle, and while admittedly, there's a lot of people applying, I get annoyed by some of our guys doing interviews removing people from consideration for things that simply do not matter.

I would likely have failed our own interview processes, yet I was one of the guys let know I was indispensable and not to worry about my job security by upper management when we were going through layoffs in the middle of the financial crisis, going so far as to offer me a raise in the middle of it.

The post-interview review of candidates needs to be:

(1) Are they smart?

(2) Do they practice self-improvement? A given if (1).

(3) Can we work with them?

But not many people have the balls to take a chance on someone from the left field, so they'll settle for the mediocre plodder who has learned how to game the interview process.

1 point by yason 5 days ago 4 replies      
Why don't companies just hire people after a quick discussion at 50% salary for the maximum of four months and see how they do.

If, after four months, the people turn out to be "smart and get things done" and the company wants to keep them, they'd get the missing 50% from the first four months as a one-time bonus and 100% salary afterwards.

It costs something but it also costs a lot of time and money for both parties to engage into this mutual guesswork game called job interviewing. It might even cost everyone less as I bet many candidatepeople would have to be fired after only a few weeks or days.

3 points by kno 5 days ago 0 replies      
When rejection occurs after an interview, I generally try to my best to identify what I did wrong and prepare to the next interview.

My advice don’t feel disappointed if you don’t get the OK there are many reasons why someone get rejected, most of them not necessary skill based; so JUST MOVE ON.

1 point by bosch 5 days ago 1 reply      
Playing Devil's Advocate:

Has anyone ever thought they randomly fail someone who might pass just to keep all future applicants on their toes?

0 points by bosch 5 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with the fact that not getting any feedback (good or bad) hurts people in the long run. Having feedback and either improving in those areas or adjusting how you approach them would help people and if you don't know their an issue how can you improve them?

I've sent previous interviewing managers questions asking what I can improve when I didn't get a job this year, and none of them returned my e-mail. Very frustrating, especially if you're someone who would like to improve themself!

1 point by known 5 days ago 0 replies      
Interview != Quiz
High Ground Maneuver (Scott Adams on the iPhone 4 press conference) dilbert.com
222 points by salar 2 days ago   87 comments top 11
45 points by abstractbill 2 days ago 6 replies      
I really do hate to admit it, but if BP had said "All of the easy sources of oil have been found fifty years ago. If the oil industry stops taking risks, many of you would be out of work in less than a decade. We all want a future of clean energy, but no one sees a way to get there as quickly as we need to. We will do everything we can to clean up the spill, and to make things right with the Gulf economy." then I think I would feel better about the company than I do now.
20 points by sbaqai 2 days ago 2 replies      
Something I think that needs to be mentioned is that what was happening to Apple in the media is similar to what happened to Toyota with their acceleration issue a couple of months back.

The number of complaints of "unintended acceleration" shot up after it was initially covered in the media. There was no real focus on investigative journalism, or analysis of the actual statistics by news organizations. There was also the whole rigged ABC News broadcast, which they admitted later to faking. Toyota's Recall became the top most reported story in Jan-Feb 2010. And IIRC, as the media hysteria was winding down, the NHTSA concluded the majority of unintended acceleration was driver error.

In Apple's case, they had made a weakspot into a visual accent. And Jobs mentioned their algorithms made things appear more dramatic than they were. Both of these things were probably dumb, but dumb-like-the-recessed-headphone-jack (gaffe), not dumb-like-the-Microsoft-Kin (flawed design). The software fix is already out and the hardware will probably get fixed next iteration (perhaps coated?) and isn't a big deal. Yet the media coverage greatly outpaced the issue, and again no mention of statistics or data.

There are a lot of parties interested in seeing these reputable companies take a dive. It's great for competitors; but more cynically - its great for hedge fund managers with certain short positions... Reporting misinformation and sensationalizing news for securities price manipulation isn't new, and it's been done to Apple before.

From 2006:

Aaron Task: Okay. Another stock that a lot of people are focused on right now seems to be Apple.

Jim Cramer: Yeah. Apple’s very important to spread the rumor that both Verizon and ATT have decided they don’t like the phone. It’s a very easy one to do because it’s also you want to spread the rumor that’s it not gonna be ready for MAC World. This is very easy ‘cause the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim that it’s credible because you spoke to someone at Apple, ‘cause Apple doesn’t –

Aaron Task:They’re not gonna comment. They’re not gonna –

Jim Cramer: So it’s really an ideal short. Again, if I were a short Apple, I would be working very hard today to get that. The way you would do that is you pick up the phone and you call six trading desks and say, “Listen, I just got off the phone with my contact at Verizon and he has already said, ‘Listen, we’re a Lucky G house. We’re a Samsung house. We’re a Motorola house. There’s no room for Apple. They want too much. We’re not gonna let them in. We’re not gonna let them do what they did to music.’” I think that’s a very effective way to keep a stock down.

10 points by zmmmmm 2 days ago 2 replies      
> He spoke indisputable truth

Scott Adams' problem seems to be that he is living inside the reality distortion field. Part of the whole problem with Jobs' handling of this is that he has repeatedly failed to tell the truth (at very least not the whole truth, but arguably he has lied in an absolute sense). To be specific: Jobs stated that all phones have this flaw. But all phones do not have this flaw. The flaw is that the phone has an antenna that is shorted by the user holding it a normal way. No other phones have this flaw. It is an outright lie. Jobs himself made a big deal on stage about how no other phones have this kind of antenna when he was selling it as a good thing. Now he says that all phones have the same problems that are caused by this unique antenna design. No they don't. It's a lie.

The real tactic here is simply to gloss over the truth and hope you get away with it - at the moment I'm not sure whether Jobs has or not.

14 points by jamesbritt 2 days ago 3 replies      

    But the central question that was in everyone's head 
before the press conference - "Is the iPhone 4 a dud"
- has, well, evaporated.

That was never the central question in anybody's head. No one thought the phone was a dud.

A more common question was, will Apple own up to making an avoidable design flaw? Look around the Web at the responses to the press conference and decide just what questions have evaporated, and what new ones appeared.

7 points by kqr2 2 days ago 3 replies      
Is there a list of other language "maneuvers" one can employ?
1 point by stcredzero 1 day ago 0 replies      
For an example of a backfiring "high ground" maneuver, take a look at Mark Zuckerberg's Hoodie.


Really, the message he wanted to convey included goals that sounded as lofty as Google's. In short, he seems to want to organize the world's connections in much the same way Google organized much of its HTML information.

Why did it backfire? Well, the intent was obvious to Mark, but not so obvious to the audience.


Also, a flop sweat during your interview/presentation is a big hurdle to overcome.

2 points by yanilkr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Over analysis. That might be part of authors line of work, but this reminds me of something my humanities professor talked to some of us, engineers about some time back.

Three doctors, a general doctor, an orthopedic doctor and a neuro surgeon are casually talking to each other outside a building. They notice a man walking abnormally, slightly
dragging one foot.
The General practitioner says, the guy must be shot on the left foot thus causing the behavior.
The orthopedic doctor predicts, the guy was born with one foot longer than the other thus explaining the behavior.
The neuro surgeon predits, the guy seems to have suffered a stroke in the past and this might be a result of that.

Now all of them are curious to know the truth and approach the guy in question.
The guy just had his shoe damaged.

1 point by marze 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the PR world, there is a saying that "all publicity is good publicity".

What about this antenna issue--is all the coverage a net positive for Apple or is this an exception to the "rule"?

Just curious to know what others here think.

1 point by tghw 2 days ago 0 replies      
0 points by SwellJoe 2 days ago 2 replies      
Anyone else consider his response to be pretty much exactly the expected level of arrogance and disregard for customers from Steve Jobs?
1 point by ryanricard 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm surprised he didn't mention the "Our phone doesn't have a problem," "All phones have this problem" combo as well.
Show HN: HackerNewsers,com, find other hackers near you
208 points by phpnode 5 days ago   discuss
16 points by shaddi 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very cool! I really liked the registration process, very smooth. I also like that you made it clear that I could delete my account if I wanted on the front page, before registration: that made me much more likely to sign up.

One point: your Google map uses custom icons, which are cool I suppose but I'd prefer the standard ones for the sake of consistency. More importantly, I'd like to see an info box appear when I click an icon on the map: it took me a bit to realize that full info was being displayed below. Otherwise this is a great tool!

11 points by limist 5 days ago 1 reply      
Great work, especially for 1 afternoon/day, and I like the account verification process too - it's quick and effective. Look forward to meeting more HNers via your site!
23 points by phpnode 5 days ago 1 reply      
5 points by RiderOfGiraffes 5 days ago 2 replies      
Suggestion - add to the karma listing how long someone has been registered with HN. Absolute Karma is less use than dK/dt. Someone may have Karma 100, but only been registered for 10 days and hence be accruing Karma quickly, as opposed to someone registered for 100 days, hence not active, or not getting much karma.

Just a thought.

4 points by davidw 5 days ago 1 reply      
This isn't the first time someone came up with one of these. I don't recollect the URL of the previous one though. What often happens is people put their data in, and then, with time, it just sits there because it's not a site that's actively linked to from this one.
6 points by david927 5 days ago 1 reply      
This has been done before here:
1 point by lionhearted 5 days ago 1 reply      
This looks cool, I'm way into this. Unfortunately didn't work for me and I didn't do anything particularly screwy:

> CDbCommand failed to execute the SQL statement: SQLSTATE[42S02]: Base table or view not found: 1146 Table 'hackernewsers.userSkills' doesn't exist

I'm in Hong Kong until early August if anyone is around and wants to grab a coffee. Vietnam after that, probably China sooner or later... also if anyone is doing general Asia travel and wants a perspective, it's what I've been doing this year while working off laptop. Drop a line, I'm friendly, email is in profile.

3 points by RossM 5 days ago 1 reply      
Annoying as I made something similar with the same objective last night - but a much better implementation than mine (largely because most of the time was spent figuring out PHP's crap SQLite3 class). May have to take you on :)
6 points by phreeza 5 days ago 0 replies      
My nearest neighbor has -7 karma. nice...
3 points by dublinclontarf 5 days ago 1 reply      
One point I'd like to make, don't use the same password for this as you do for HN. Now I don't think anything bad is likely to come of this it's just not a great idea thats all(using the same password that is).
3 points by jah 5 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a way to add an "interests" or/and "areas of expertise" section to our profile, and have those show in the search results?
1 point by philh 5 days ago 1 reply      
As a student, I move between two places a lot. I would guess this is fairly common among HNers. Being able to give multiple locations might be worthwhile.

(For now I gave my uni location on the basis that I spend more time there.)

Also, it might just be my particular biases, but I would be inclined to add "mathematics" as a skill, or possibly category. I have no idea what to put for "career name" though.

3 points by Chirael 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's confusing to have the search check boxes below the registration section like it is now; it makes it seem that the check boxes are part of the profile one is filling out.

I spent time going through the entire list checking boxes off, only to get to the bottom and see a Search button when I expected a Submit or Register button.

Now I've spent all that time checking off boxes, I really don't feel like doing it again :(

2 points by icey 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is pretty cool. I like your signup process.

It would be nice if the pins on the Google map were clickable after drilling down to the city level.

2 points by samratjp 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good work for an afternoon's effort. The only problem I see is that all these HN add-ons are hard to track for everyone unless if they were on to see this on the front page. What we really need is an Evergreen HN - where one could track such add-ons and perhaps greatest hits. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to have top news of the week/month/year for those who live on an ent time scale :-)
2 points by nnash 5 days ago 0 replies      
I really like all of the community things that have been coming out of HN lately. The HN yellow pages has already produced a cool freelance offer for me (just added my info to it earlier today), and this site is definitely much more robust than a google docs page. I'm sure great things will come out of this for everyone.
1 point by marilyn 5 days ago 1 reply      
I love it.

One suggestion: When you click on a pagination button on a Find Hacker News Users listings page, the page should either reload, or scroll to the top. The way it is now, it feels like it isn't answering my request for the next page.

Great work!

1 point by cwilson 5 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like HN killed HackerNewsers. Anyone else having trouble getting to the site?

You might look at a beefier server and adding a proxy in front of Apache.

1 point by thesethings 5 days ago 0 replies      
Great job, just registered.
(Heya Northwesters, I feel all alone as a blue dot in Portland. Seattle? Portland? Eugene? I know you're out there. Represent!)
1 point by raju 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very nicely done. Great signup process. Unfortunately, not too many HN'ers around me (Columbus, OH). I will keep an eye out and see if it changes.

Again, great work. Thanks

1 point by tomh- 5 days ago 1 reply      
There is a bug in your code, my hn account ends on "-". Your routing system doesn't seem to recognize this..

Other than that, looks nice :)

1 point by niels_olson 5 days ago 0 replies      
Obviously these aren't staying in the cultural memory. Maybe a link to a community-maintained list of trackers should be added as one of the links at the bottom, along with "Lists | RSS | Search | Bookmarklet | Guidelines | FAQ | ...etc"
1 point by vkdelta 4 days ago 1 reply      
I got this error while registering on your site. I am concerned after seeing this.

Sorry, we screwed up

Looks it looks like i've lost your password, hopefully the bug that is causing this is fixed now. Please re-enter your password in the form below and hopefully you'll never see this message again, but if you do, please Contact phpnode


note to self. get beta testers!

1 point by GeneralMaximus 4 days ago 1 reply      
I see all your pages end with .html. Are you generating static pages for everyone behind the scenes or did you just name them that way?
1 point by theycallmemorty 5 days ago 1 reply      
How long should it take for me to show up on the map? I don't seem to be on there.
1 point by dublinclontarf 5 days ago 1 reply      
woops, broke it.

Here's the pastie with the error and what I was doing.

Otherwise it's nice, I like it.

1 point by thomas11 5 days ago 3 replies      
Fantastic site. I like the aggregating map, did you make that yourself?

I've almost given up finding fellow hackers in Geneva, CH, but who knows...

2 points by pietrofmaggi 5 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty awesome, I signed up.

Can you show up distance even in km? miles don't give much information to me.
May be you can choose from imperial units and standard ones by people country...

1 point by d0m 5 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty nice. One suggestion (or bug I'm not sure): If I search in a city in Canada, I get result from usa.. is it possible to configure the "range distance" ? It's a huge difference if it's a 30min distance or a 10 hours or 3 days distance.. :D (But when I talk about range distance, I mean it in miles or somthing)
1 point by phpnode 5 days ago 0 replies      
If you've registered already, and you're still logged in there's a chance i've lost your password. If so you should see a message telling you so in your account page. If you don't see the message, don't worry about it.
1 point by fuzzythinker 4 days ago 1 reply      
Seems like whenever I click on a drop that is 2+, it keeps zooming in until it reduces to a single profile, losing all other profiles..
1 point by RiderOfGiraffes 5 days ago 0 replies      
Hmm. For some reason it's called me a physicist. Not sure why ...
1 point by sharpemt 5 days ago 1 reply      
My only suggestion might be to add some finer granularity to location. I zoom into Boston and just see one blob - when it might be nice to see zip-code level granularity.

I try to change my location to Cambridge MA, but it stays in Boston.

Maybe handle geocoding zip codes etc.?

1 point by DotSauce 5 days ago 1 reply      
My skill-set is poorly represented here. The only things currently relevant to me are Marketing related.

What about... writing, front-end development, sales, networking, branding, research?

1 point by draegtun 5 days ago 0 replies      
Inspirational stuff... makes me what to get off my lazy arse and start some of my pet projects!


1 point by perplexes 5 days ago 0 replies      
When searching for people near me, I try clicking on the blue spots in the map, and I expect a list of people in the area to come up, or the list below to change. Is that not the case?
1 point by bambax 5 days ago 2 replies      
I get
htmlspecialchars() [function.htmlspecialchars]: Invalid multibyte sequence in argument

when trying to access the homepage?


1 point by polynomial 5 days ago 1 reply      
Does this have the ability to update location in real time? I travel a lot and would be interested both in seeing stats for HN in some of the cities I visit and as displaying my current location.
1 point by slindstr 5 days ago 1 reply      
What did you use to auto populate my city? A while back I tried using a Google Javascript API but it was always pretty far off - your site (which looks great btw) got it exactly right
1 point by marcamillion 5 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome idea...doesn't help me much though...seems I am the only one from Jamaica on HN...which is kinda depressing.
1 point by ihanif 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow.. great job done, withe ease of use. It's also an eye opener for me, to add some salt to my Karma.
1 point by bnoordhuis 5 days ago 4 replies      
Awesome, I signed up.

On a tangential note: any hackers in the greater Rotterdam area (or maybe Amsterdam or Utrecht) up for a beer sometime?

1 point by damienfir 5 days ago 1 reply      
So what's the technology behind your website ?

For an afternoon only, that's quite a nice job.

Edit: didn't see the FAQ (Yii PHP framework)

1 point by ezrider4428 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty awesome. When this site fills out it will be interesting to see what the actual demographics of the site are.
1 point by altuzar 5 days ago 0 replies      
Really nice! Somehow when I search for Mexico (country), some Texas users appear. Anyway, quite useful.
1 point by csl 5 days ago 1 reply      
Suggestion: Can you please require (re)CAPTCHA or similar when sending mail to people?
1 point by yock 5 days ago 1 reply      
Neat! I signed up. One question, why do you only ask for city and not city and state?
1 point by Ernestas 5 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe have page with statistics of most ticked skills?
1 point by svag 5 days ago 0 replies      
Nice site phpnode.
-1 point by livando 5 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like a cool site! Anyway you can add some blinking texts and some scrolling marquees, and some really cool things that I've already built and feel like bragging about?
Startup Competitive Advantages that Work asmartbear.com
200 points by stakent 2 days ago   39 comments top 12
28 points by btilly 2 days ago 3 replies      
What is sad is to see a company with a competitive advantage fail to see it and throw it away.

I used to work at Rent.com. A key competitive advantage is that its revenue cycle is wrong. When it started its competitors all made money as soon as they referred someone. Rent.com only made money after the person was referred, leased, reported it to us, the apartment was contacted, and the apartment paid. Optimizing for this was difficult, but once Rent.com had traction none of its competitors could afford to switch models because that would open them up for apples to apples comparisons, with a company that had already been optimized, when they didn't even know how to track that data!

Then Rent.com got a new, well-funded, competitor called MyNewPlace.com with deep industry connections. Same model. Some people there used to be at Rent.com. Absolutely no idea how to implement. This is where Rent.com should have increased their spend on advertising to the point where the unoptimized upstart was losing money on every sale and Rent.com was making money. Wait until the competitor went under. Then cut back on advertising.

Unfortunately Rent.com had been purchased by eBay, eBay didn't understand Rent.com's business model, and so Rent.com was forced to squeeze margins. This gave MyNewPlace all the time in the world to figure out the business model. Worse yet, Rent.com put someone in charge of internet advertising who completely didn't understand affiliate relationships (even at break-even they are profitable because of positive SEO), and that self-inflicted wound only helped MyNewPlace more.

It was a great competitive advantage. No competitor should have been allowed to flourish. But if you don't understand your competitive advantage, it is easy to throw it away. And they did.

26 points by arturadib 2 days ago 4 replies      
I still think that the best predictors for success are variables that characterize the founders (smarts, perseverance, adaptability, etc), rather than their initial ideas or pitches.

People like to dissect ideas and pitches because that's a lot easier to do than assess the competence of the founders. (Via for example, recommendation letters, but that's a whole new topic).

Try doing this: Read "Founders at Work" or some other collection of startup stories, and try to identify any pattern in the initial ideas that were reasonable predictors of success.

I am sure you will scratch your head for a long time before realizing that it's all about the founders: how they adapted to the circumstances, how they dealt with the tough times, etc. (Ask the very author of the post above!).

My family is full of successful entrepreneurs in totally different market segments (ice cream shops, uninterruptible power supplies, ornamental rocks, etc), and frankly if I didn't know them I'd think they'd all flop: their markets were saturated at the time, they were non-experts, and there was no clear "competitive advantage".

I love the following quote from my cousin (the most recent and already very successful entrepreneur in the family), when talking about how he dealt with all sorts of difficulties with his company:

Sometimes I'm afraid of what I might want in the future. Because it seems like if I really want something, there doesn't seem to exist anything I can't have. (Loosely translated from Portuguese).

17 points by ntoshev 2 days ago 1 reply      
The founders he admires (Gates&Allen, Jobs&Wozniak, Page&Brin) probably wouldn't be able to articulate competitive advantages that this guy considers "real". They didn't have insider info or authority. They were passionate about what they are doing, but who knows if they were more passionate than their competitors (also applying this point to Apple for design and Google for search is not correct; Apple sacrifices very little to make their products look beautiful (and this is a narrow understanding of design), Google founders cared more about collaborative filtering at first).
5 points by baguasquirrel 2 days ago 0 replies      
I keep hearing about "complementary skill sets", but what was complementary about Brin and Page? They were both computer scientists with a mathematical bent.
3 points by jargon 2 days ago 3 replies      
None of these are competitive advantages that are the opposite of the suggestions from the previous post about things that are not competitive advantages.

There are plenty of people who are passionate about their startups, working in a team of talented people, with customers, and insider information.

If a company went to a VC and used these competitive advantages, they'd be shot down in a second. Imagine this scenario:

Hi, I'm jargon. I am really super passionate about this idea and it's in my knowledge domain, because I have retail store. I'm a programmer with a retail store who has this software that I wrote to help me manage my retail store. I got 5 other retail stores on my block to buy it because it is so awesome. No other company is going to be able to compete with it, because all I care about is retail store software. Plus, we got Donald Trump to market it for us!

What VC in their right mind would ever invest in something like that?

6 points by yurylifshits 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think number #1 competitive advantage is Distribution.

Microsoft got to be an exclusive OS for IBM PC.
Yahoo got a free button in Netscape.
Kindle was pushed by Amazon (the default place for book buyers)

2 points by ohashi 2 days ago 0 replies      
He makes a fair point, those are definitely competitive advantages.

Now the question becomes, most companies won't have them but they will still be expected. Then what?

Of course, where do we draw the line? semi-fame? is that competitive advantage? I have 20,000 twitter followers? 100,000? 1 million? (or mailing list members, rss feed subscribers, whatever metric you want).

4 points by dgudkov 2 days ago 1 reply      
Good article.

Asking questions like "what would you do if someone will fully copy you" is a bit dirty trick. Abstract competitors are always better, so it's meaningless to talk about them. Real competitors, even very smart and mighty, can't cover everything - they must limit themselves to something (market niche, demography, geography, price range etc.), and this may become a chance to avoid competition.

2 points by Charuru 2 days ago 1 reply      
I like it! These advantages sound very good. But my problem is that these are reformulations of the 'fake' advantages for purposes of marketing to VCs, rather than any substantial actual difference IMO.

It seems to me like fake advantages Passion + Feature = Real Adv One Thing and PhDs / MBAs is simply one way of saying Dream Team. I mean as a marketing term 'Dream Team' is even less substantial than PhDs / MBAs.

5 points by atomical 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's good to see someone admit that they didn't have an advantage in the market place and then built something great.
1 point by paraschopra 2 days ago 1 reply      
There are a ton of successful companies that don't fit any of the criteria (Facebook, Nike, McDonald's, etc) In fact I have to think hard to come up with companies that may have had unfair advantages.

So, while unfair advantages may work in your favor. Not having them (yet being successful) may actually be a norm.

1 point by Scott_MacGregor 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very well written, I got a lot out of this. I think it provides a good framework for thinking about this part of the business.
Zed Shaw on C++ librelist.com
199 points by mattrepl 6 days ago   discuss
25 points by tptacek 6 days ago 5 replies      
I agree totally with Zed Shaw on this, but some quick observations:

* C++ circa 2000 (before mainline g++ could handle Alexandrescuisms) is significantly different from C++ circa 2010, albeit in ways that probably upset Shaw even more (the more central role boost has taken, the more "expressive" templates have gotten, don't call me on any of this stuff).

* C++ std::string is an abomination, but you can always just do what I've done and what lots of other C++ programmers whose code I've read have done: just use char* and a simple string library (or a custom string class).

* Ditto for stream IO, which is a huge C++ misfeature but which is also pretty much irrelevant (I know of no part of the standard C++ library outside of things that explicitly support stream I/O that rely on you using it).

* I don't get the POSIX argument at all; just call the POSIX functions, they work fine. Nobody mandates that you use (say) ACE_wrappers to do systems programming.

* const-correctness may be another misfeature (I know I make fun of it), but the point isn't hard to see: if you take the time to const-correct your code, the compiler will spit out errors that would have otherwise been runtime faults.

8 points by DanielBMarkham 5 days ago 4 replies      
I'm going to keep saying this until I turn blue in the face. Perhaps if I stamp my feet it might get more attention (wink)

Please stop confusing the language with the APIs or the available libraries and features of the language.

This sounds simple, but it's profound: simply because you can do something, that doesn't mean that you have to do it that way.

To use Zed's example, let's say I'm hacking around a lot of strings. What's wrong with rolling a string class, adding a member or two? You only have to carry around a bunch of nonsense if you want to. If you don't want to use templates and strings and such, don't use them.

This is another in a long line of articles that go something like this: We did X in this certain way, and boy did it suck. Therefore all of X is the devil's work and will destroy civilization.

You can put about anything you want in for X. It's like a (oddly enough) template engine for writing blog entries.

You should go through stages in your career, with just about any X. Stage one is that you are ignorant. Stage two is that you've tried it. Stage 3 is expertise. Stage 4 is hate, and Stage 5 is grudging acknowledgement that parts of X are okay for certain situations. You realize that yes, X is done poorly maybe 99% of the time, but lots of smart people worked on it and there are some little gems in there that are useful from time to time.

Looks like Zed is stuck on Stage 4

Throw away the templates, throw away all the library stuff you don't like -- is there a reason to make a class and wrap some things? If so, you can do that in C++. You can't in C. It's a very simple question, and it has nothing to do with any of the things Shaw is going on about.

28 points by kqr2 6 days ago replies      
There appear to be a lot of good rants against C++. To name a few:

* Linus Torvalds : http://lwn.net/Articles/249460/

* C++ Frequently Questioned Answers : http://yosefk.com/c++fqa/

Are there any good passionate pro C++ versus C arguments?

7 points by dtf 5 days ago 1 reply      
I don't get these rants. Both C and C++ are such barebone languages that you can take or leave pretty much everything but the common syntax. Zed decides C's string functions are not up to scratch, and so uses bstring. Plenty feel the same about std::string, and will use bstring's CBString, Qt's QString, or some other class in their C++ code. Exceptions? Take them or leave them. setjmp/longjmp? Take them or leave them. Templates? Take them or leave them. Macros? Take them or leave them.
6 points by phaedrus 6 days ago 1 reply      
I love C++, but I upvoted this because most C vs. C++ rants focus on things that are not actually C++'s biggest problems. This is one of the few C++ rants that actually brings up of legitimate points. They are not reasons that would stop me personally from preferring C++ over C, but they are valid criticisms.

P.S. On the subject of format strings vs. cout and the "<<" madness, C++0x's variadic templates will allow a type-safe printf. So hopefully in the future we WILL see C++ move back toward format strings, but without loosing the type safety. It also gives the possibility of instead of having to remember to use %d for ints and %f for floats, we could just use format strings that use {1}, {2}, etc. as format string placeholders, the way C# does. Freeing you from having to specify in the format string what the type is is something C++0x type-safe-printf would allow you to do that you could never do in C.

6 points by watmough 5 days ago 2 replies      
Call me unlucky, but I've never worked at a company that had a high percentage of programmers (myself probably included) that could write solid C++ using anything more than the absolute basics, i.e. basically a C subset.

I'd pretty much agree with Zed's rant, that C++ often isn't worth the bother, unless you have a project that specifically requires C++ features, and you have a development team that can actually write solid C++.

Maybe I'll call this Jonathan's axiom, but if your team doesn't have enough experience to write in a Lisp-y (or any other genre such as ML-y) language, you probably shouldn't be messing with C++ either.

Not many people that say they can write C++, actually can.

3 points by shin_lao 5 days ago 0 replies      
The std::string example given by Zed shows that he didn't hack around C++/STL much.

There is a whole entry in Exceptional C++ Style (or another Herb's book) that says how much std::string sucks and how you can write an equivalent extremely quickly.

Anyway, don't like std::string ? You can use std::vector in place very easily, that's a well known trick (thanks to the guarantee that &v[0] returns a pointer to the data if v is a vector).

He talks about references but he seems to ignore the capability of C++ to offer perfect forwarding which enables you to greatly increase performance and memory usage and that's very difficult to mimic in pure C.

There's a lot to write about inaccuracies in this post actually, but what the point? People who hate C++ will discard them and people who love it already know it.

I tire of reading posts from people who didn't like a language for whatever reason and try to rationalize it.

6 points by fauigerzigerk 5 days ago 1 reply      
I agree with most of what he says but not with his memory management argument. In C++ you could do something like this:

  f() {
LinkedList list;

Freeing the list elements is done in one place only, in the destructor of LinkedList. In C, you have to call some kind of free function in every single place a LinkedList is used. The burden of managing memory is on the user of a library, not on its creator. I don't think this is enough to justify using C++ though.
15 points by mkramlich 6 days ago 4 replies      
I've seen this pattern a lot when it comes to the order of learning/mastering languages: C, then C++, then back to C
8 points by felideon 6 days ago 2 replies      
"If I wanted to fry my brain trying to figure out how to add two numbers with templates I'd go use LISP."

Probably just a tongue in cheek comment, but I wonder what he meant.

4 points by mark_l_watson 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have to agree with the spirit of the article. In the late 80s and early 90s, much of my work was in C++, and I did some mentoring, wrote a bunch of C++ books, etc.

After my C++ period, I did a major project for myself and just used C - like a breath of fresh air after C++

In all my years using C++, I think that the only good applications where C++ made sense was in Nintendo and PC game development at Angel Studios and some VR development for Disney and SAIC. Everything else that I did in C++ should have been done in different languages.

8 points by alecco 6 days ago 3 replies      
Exceptionally good critique. But there are exceptions: programming for Google's V8 in C++ is a pleasure. I've never seen any interpreter code so clean and easy to extend. Like a breath of fresh air.
3 points by drawkbox 6 days ago 0 replies      
I like C or C++ for native but use C++ more because I write it with simplicity. Complex C++ like MFC, Windows API, template hell is disgusting and wrongly gave C++ a bad name.

C++ OO can be done to really abstract the application but still be very manageable and simple. Also C++ is a game industry cornerstone. I think game code in C is actually harder to consume that game code in C++.

4 points by prog 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is the first time I heard of Grace C++[1]. Looks very useful. I was looking for string that can be used for binary data. Looks like they support that too.

[1] http://grace.openpanel.com/

7 points by Terry_B 6 days ago 1 reply      
I really dislike C++ but more to the point I really dislike other people's C++.

This is triple compounded when you only have to do C++ occasionally. I've never even got close to the point of looking at something like const *const char & and reading it like it was something normal like others seem to do.

5 points by mattrepl 6 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty good rip on a few annoyances of C++ in Zed's fantastic ranting style.
6 points by afhof 6 days ago 0 replies      
What would be better is if C and C++ divorced each other and people realized that they are two separate languages. All of Google's results for C questions end up linking to some "C/C++" forum, which is almost certainly not what I'm looking for. I'm sure the other way 'round is true too.
8 points by zaphar 6 days ago 1 reply      
I really do love a good C++ rant.
2 points by ehnus 6 days ago 0 replies      
I always see streams brought up as a critique of C++, at least compared to how it is handled by C, and I agree that they are terrible. However, everyone else also agrees that they are terrible, and as an added bonus the C IO functions are still available.

C++ brings a lot of heavy-weight machinery to the table but the best part is that you don't have to use it. If you just want to write C but desire templates to reduce the amount of writing you need to do then so be it, write C-with-templates!

My big beef with the language is mostly due to the legacy crud it is saddled with in the C preprocessor. Many of the build time issues I find myself suffering with are because of people, for example, including Windows.h a) in the first place and b) not defining WIN32_LEAN_AND_MEAN. Junior (and senior, for that matter!) developers seldom know how to properly structure their code so that their iteration times don't plummet.

1 point by tzs 5 days ago 0 replies      
That was rather bogus. Sure, destructors are horribly complex in their interaction with all of the other horribly complex C++ features. But unless I'm reading it wrong, Aughey wasn't suggesting using all those other features.

If you have some reasonable self-control, it is quite reasonable to use C++ as a small superset of C.

1 point by dan00 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just using constructors/destructors and class encapsulation
makes code so much more readable.

And most exception problems are solved with RAII. If you're using RAII, then you won't have memory leaks when exceptions arise.

1 point by malkia 5 days ago 1 reply      
The problem with const string& is that the resulting string is not interned - e.g. one copy in memory, which would later allow to save memory, compare by pointer equality (eq), etc.

I understand that the language cannot express it, and that's why other languages (such as lua) do it the right way - immutable strings all the way, or at least by default (NSString)

0 points by JabavuAdams 5 days ago 0 replies      
The problem with a lot of these posts on HN is that the audience seems to be rather biased towards low-performance app areas like web, and business apps.

Oh noes! I have to handle 10 requests a second!

Take a look at the SWENG-gamedev mailing list for some of the performance issues that people face in games and game tools.


Note: obviously this is not an argument against C instead of C++. It's more to forestall the meta-discussion.

1 point by malkia 5 days ago 1 reply      
There are great C++ projects, but the big compile/link times they have are not a small deal. Also the compiled libraries take a lot of space. Examples:

Qt, wxWidgets, LLVM, boost

Hopefully we have IncrediBuild at work, and we don't have to deal all the time with such huge frameworks.

1 point by boryas 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to extend his position to the argument that the semantics of any language that isn't ML or Lisp are too complicated...
2 points by obiefernandez 5 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't the D language fix a lot of the issues that Zed is complaining about? Constantly surprised that it's not more mainstream...
2 points by c00p3r 4 days ago 0 replies      
The portable subset of C++ were around long before mozilla, webkit or chromium. Anyone can read mozilla's or google's guidelines about which subset of c++ is safe to use.

One of the best examples is Informix RDBMS which was acquired by IBM in 2000. And the second best is... JVM. ^_^

1 point by rcfox 5 days ago 1 reply      
Forgive me if this is a terrible question, but who is Zed Shaw, and why should I care about what he says about C++?
0 points by BonoboBoner 5 days ago 0 replies      
I hoped it would be a blog post like "C++ is a ghetto"...
-4 points by c00p3r 6 days ago 1 reply      
Bunch of age-old banalities from a famous narcissist on top of front page.. Is there any HN 2.0?
-4 points by d0m 5 days ago 1 reply      
The real problem with C++ is that there isn't a fucking split function in the standard library.
-4 points by travisjeffery 6 days ago 0 replies      
"They'd have been better off to just invent a new keyword:
doesnotfuckingchange and stop there."

And now I have tea to clean off of my monitor and keyboard.

-4 points by blantonl 6 days ago 1 reply      
Zed is literally the Kimbo Slice of the technical community.
Apple’s Antenna Design and Test Labs apple.com
195 points by ujeezy 5 days ago   discuss
80 points by raimondious 5 days ago 6 replies      
After getting called out for having an issue every cell phone has, Apple did a photo shoot of a testing facility that every other cell phone manufacturer also has and used it as marketing.
89 points by johns 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think we've found the problem. The guy in the chair is only testing the phone with his right hand.
57 points by MikeCapone 5 days ago 2 replies      
They certainly don't kid around when they finally decide to answer bad PR.
9 points by Osiris 5 days ago 1 reply      
The one thing they never talked about is the difference between the iPhone 4's external antenna (exposed) and the internal antennas in most phones.

Testing a various websites shows that while most phones drop signal, the iPhone 4's signal dropped significantly more because the antenna is exposed and your skin comes in direct contact with the antenna rather than just in close proximity.

With the bumper "fixing" the problem, wouldn't putting the antenna inside the case essentially create the same fix by putting non-conductive material between the user and the antenna?

8 points by mortenjorck 5 days ago 2 replies      
Fascinating. To my non-radio-engineer eyes the patterns look like acoustic dampers—is it an illusion that they resemble the foam wall inserts in a recording studio, and these are actually composed of a different material to affect megahertz radio waves?

Furthermore, how are they supposed to affect those waves, and to what end?

18 points by callmeed 5 days ago 0 replies      
I like how the $100M testing labs include a rubber band and some sticks to hold the phone.
7 points by Aaronontheweb 5 days ago 2 replies      
This looks like something out of a James Bond movie villian's hideout - all it needs is a self-destruct sequence announced over the PA system by some lackey with a monotone voice who inexplicably sits through the entire process while paitiently waiting to be engulfed in flames by the resulting explosion.

Sorry, I've had a lot of caffeine today.

12 points by sh1mmer 5 days ago 0 replies      
100% high-tech except for the rubber bands to hold the phones to stuff.

Edit: point being that sometimes simple things are the best inventions.

9 points by vecter 5 days ago 5 replies      
I found the base antenna site (http://www.apple.com/antenna/) pretty enlightening.
10 points by dzuc 5 days ago 1 reply      
John Cage visits an anechoic chamber: 'Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but as he wrote later, he "heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation." Cage had gone to a place where he expected there to be no sound, and yet sound was nevertheless discernible. He stated "until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music."' - http://goo.gl/mFI5
4 points by tzs 5 days ago 4 replies      
How rigid and tough are those spikes? If you fell off the walkway while walking out to the test platform in the first picture, would it likely cause serious injury to you, or would it just crush a bunch of spikes and get you in trouble with your boss?
6 points by growt 5 days ago 0 replies      
So, from a scientific point of view, the conclusion is: their model of the real world is wrong.

It wouldn't suprise me, I've never seen so many blue spikes in one place ;)

6 points by elblanco 5 days ago 1 reply      
In other words, this is where Jobs generates and amplifies his reality distortion field.
2 points by vegashacker 5 days ago 0 replies      
Before clicking the link I was about to post a pedantic "please change to a headline that doesn't editorialize", but after a second of looking at the pictures...holy crap! That is (objectively) insanely cool! :)
7 points by samaparicio 5 days ago 0 replies      
Better title: "Apple's insanely cool PR response"
6 points by sgt 5 days ago 1 reply      
I have an HTC Hero and it also drops quite a few calls, but somehow I've just learned to live with it.
3 points by mattdawson 5 days ago 0 replies      
My first reaction when I saw these pictures was "Holy crap! Apple went and built a danger room![1]"

I can't be the only person who had this thought.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danger_Room

2 points by jimbobimbo 5 days ago 0 replies      
I was in one of the cell network provider's testing lab a few times. They also do things like RF testing before putting the device on sale, but their lab doesn't look any similar to that. They have a bunch of Faraday cages (think of labs with sheet metal walls) and lots of RF emulation equipment - phone's getting connected through the RF port on the back; RF emulators take care of simulating any bad RF conditions that you could possibly imagine. So, their labs don't look that fancy at all. Still they manage to have devices that could be held any way you want.
3 points by adelevie 5 days ago 0 replies      
Feature: Antenna tested in state of the art lab
Benefit: The antenna works
3 points by pinchyfingers 5 days ago 2 replies      
I don't see how this helps their situation. This just adds weight to the idea that they willfully ignored the problem and shipped the phone with full knowledge of the antenna problems.
3 points by gnok 5 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know what material is used in making those cone-like pokey things? My immediate guess would be that its some form of dense foam to damp waves; but what exactly are they?
1 point by Emore 5 days ago 2 replies      
I bet you the money in my pocket that this lab was not called "Antenna design and test lab" prior to the press conference; part of the brilliance in this deflection of attention is most certainly found it the naming itself of this awesome place.
1 point by heresy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Do the people with this problem have different physiological properties in their hands? Such as more conductivity..

No matter how I hold any of my iPhones, reported signal strength is the same.

Anyone else experiencing this?

1 point by bprater 5 days ago 2 replies      
How can they make such a massive investment in this type of thing and end up with such a big 'oops'? It must be heartbreaking for the antenna engineers.
2 points by JustinSeriously 5 days ago 0 replies      
That is an alien-looking world.

It gets more exciting if you mute it and put on Liberi Fatali in the background.

1 point by kwyjibo 5 days ago 0 replies      
Why can't they leave the Blackberry and all the other mobile phones out of the game?
1 point by mx12 5 days ago 1 reply      
You think that they could use something other than rubber bands to hold the phones!
0 points by scotty79 5 days ago 0 replies      
Too bad they tested iPhone 4 while wearing their rubber lab gloves.
1 point by veeti 5 days ago 2 replies      
Is it just me or the video is really out of focus?
0 points by netmau5 5 days ago 1 reply      
Seeing a giant 10-story, foam-padded test facility doesn't exactly seem like real world use to me, but then again I know nothing about proper cell phone testing procedures.
-3 points by growt 5 days ago 1 reply      
Apple's insanely cool - but useless - antenna testing lab.
-3 points by mithaler 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wait... what? The fact that they thoroughly tested it and still had as big a problem as they did is supposed to make us think they're more competent?
-1 point by matthew-wegner 5 days ago 0 replies      
No "wall of PR", my ass.
-4 points by nonfiction 5 days ago 2 replies      
why didn't they just test it out in public...where it would normally be used.
-4 points by againstyou 5 days ago 0 replies      
most of the time i can see only robots holding the iphone.
-4 points by Mafiaboy 5 days ago 0 replies      
Well, whatever the critics say about apple,their products are very reliable unlike other.
-1 point by armandososa 5 days ago 1 reply      
-- Here's where Professor Steve sits down in his wheelchair and uses this helmet that amplifies his reality distortion abilities. We call it "Manzana".
-1 point by csomar 5 days ago 3 replies      
The fact that Apple is giving free cases (http://www.engadget.com/2010/07/16/apple-to-give-away-free-b...) means that the iPhone antenna has a bad design.

So they spent million of $ to improve the antenna and forgot this little detail? Where are the testers?

-4 points by maxogden 5 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a screenshot in case they remove it: http://imgur.com/bc5FO.png
-4 points by paran 5 days ago 0 replies      
This lab looks really cool....but the timing of this page being seeded makes me believe its little more than a PR stunt! :) kudos apple fr givin us the iphone 3g/3gs/4...but the antennae problem was just too embarrassing for u guys!
-4 points by Maven911 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow...that is so impressive (not)
I have seen tons of these anechoic chambers used by antenna manufacturers...Apple and their amazing marketing gimmics...
-4 points by thefool 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is so silly. There's a feynman quote where he was talking about how at MIT they had this really fancy test facility, but it never produced any results, because the people running the tests were in another room an never saw anything happen.

Then at Princeton, where they were in the same room, the machine (which was much less fancy) produced much more information because people saw what was going on as it was running.

Seems to me that this could easily be something of the case. Fancy test facility with no grounding in anything.

Furthermore isn't it kinda more embarrassing when, instead of admitting there was a problem, they just say that the phone was tested. It seems to imply that the issue is intentional.

-4 points by keltex 5 days ago 1 reply      
This was a triumph.
I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Apple Computer
We do what we must
because we can.
"Uh-oh. I didn't know conversation had rules." dilbert.com
175 points by cwan 1 day ago   66 comments top 14
42 points by MartinCron 1 day ago 1 reply      
Anyone who is really interested in this concept should pick up "Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships" by Dr. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron.

Dr. Grandin is herself autistic, and asserts that people along the autism-Asperger's spectrum need to learn the rules explicitly, like actors learning their lines in a play.

26 points by ambulatorybird 1 day ago 6 replies      
Other kinds of conversational rules, perhaps of more interest to linguists, programmers, philosophers, etc.:



14 points by johnfn 1 day ago 4 replies      
I realized a few months ago that I was talking too much in conversations, and not listening nearly enough. So for the last few months, I've decided to talk a lot less, and spend a lot more time just listening to people. In one on one conversation, I mostly just ask the other guy about the things he's talking about, to lead him into deeper (perhaps more interesting) areas.

This is a great way to talk about interesting things.

9 points by xenophanes 1 day ago 5 replies      
> Would the alien ever learn to distinguish good dancers from poor dancers?

He could hack the problem like this: instead of figuring out which type of dancing is impressive directly, just watch reactions. People react to what they think is good dancing, so by watching people he can learn what's considered good dancing.

8 points by maukdaddy 1 day ago 2 replies      
I wish that both CS and MBA programs taught students to listen more. One of the few similarities I find between programmers/engineers and MBAs is the need to completely dominate a conversation. A few seminars on active listening would help everyone :)
2 points by culebron 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This article seems too simplistic and an immature viewpoint to me.

1. People do note if you are interested or not. Speaking all the time mostly equals to being self-centered. Making questions all the time can certainly please a self-centered person, but not those who note subtleties: getting a disinterested or a stock question is the same repelling as domineering.

2. People are adaptive and notice patterns. A good way to be boring is to do the same pattern in conversations. Try to seduct a girl by just making questions to her. (Where do you live; Are you stydiyng or working; etc.) That doesn't work.

3. Those who follow such too simple rule can easily be abused: a lot of people complain to others and search for those who'd just listen. They can never get enough, and what's worse they don't value you.

You have to be able to tell some words of support, but also, to not become a moral drainage to someone, you need to LEAD. This is a complicated thing, so I don't extend it here.

5. Making questions takes skill. Questions may be stupid, irritating, insulting or nerdy and boring. There's no boolean choice, to speak or to make questions, as it is presented in the article.

6. A good story teller is better than a good question maker. This also takes skill and the sense of what's a good place to which story.

For talks as an entertainment, which is my primary concern here, the difficulty is in INVOLVING THE interlocutor's PERSONALITY. Consider 2 questions one might ask:

(a) Do you think Paris Hilton's recent behavior is acceptable? (b) What would you do if you were Paris Hilton? (her father, brother, etc)

The second one lets the inerlocutor imagine oneself in an interesting situation and involves the personality. This thing is rare, I do value it high; too many talks happen in the upper atmosphere without involving you, and too many people don't get it and don't try to involve others, thinking that just smiling or being joyful, or flattery is the key. Though, this also takes skill, and I suppose that if you try too hard, people can get bored even of being _tried_ to involve: we all are good at noticing patterns.

9 points by hunterjrj 1 day ago 1 reply      
If you haven't already read How to Win Friends and Influence People, you definitely should.
3 points by zoba 1 day ago 1 reply      
I would agree that there are few people with even minimal conversational skills. It is fantastic though when you run in to someone who really knows how to have a good conversation! I've only run in to one or two of these conversation super stars in my lifetime though.

I'd be really interested in a book that outlines the rules for a relationship... It would be nice to have something authoritative to point to when disagreements crop up.

5 points by jpr 1 day ago 3 replies      
Uh-oh, if 3/4 of people can't conversate, couldn't it just be that people aren't meant to do that?
3 points by Quarrelsome 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't particularly agree with his definition of good dancing. Sounds to me like his pinnacle of dance is just "fitting in".
Good dancing IMO is about enjoying yourself, effectively translating the sound into movement and/or letting yourself go.
3 points by reader5000 1 day ago 1 reply      
Keyword here is active listening: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_listening
2 points by byw 1 day ago 0 replies      
For me, a big part of it isn't so much learning the rules, but unlearning the non-rules. In hindsight, a lot of the rules really aren't that complex, and can be easily picked up through observation.

The problem is that some people have overly sensitive radars, so we tend to pick up the noise along with the signal. On top of that we have a questioning nature, and we don't like to follow a rule based on its face value, we end up lingering in doubts on the universality of the rule, or its moral justifications. Other times we hold a rule in contempt, seeing it as cliche. All these get in the way when a social exchange demands you to apply the rules swiftly without thinking.

1 point by lvecsey 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's interesting to consider that entire societies have been built around these concepts. Usually when I see the Implicature thing that has been mentioned here, I often question whether the exact opposite (or something else all together) should be considered first; from there, you can think about whether everyone might be right.

Similarly, with those maxims about communication it's as if everyone is striving for a genuine meaning. However, if you take things to their limit there is nihilism everywhere.

The aliens, asper people, and 3/4's of everyone could just be unaware but also just rejecting the conventional notions of conversation.

1 point by preavy 14 hours ago 0 replies      
"I HAVE observed few obvious subjects to have been so seldom, or, at least, so slightly handled as this; and, indeed, I know few so difficult to be treated as it ought, nor yet upon which there seemeth so much to be said." - Jonathan Swift, Hints Towards an Essay on Conversation.


Damn Vulnerable Linux - The most vulnerable and exploitable distro damnvulnerablelinux.org
174 points by morazyx 5 days ago   40 comments top 5
9 points by mahmud 5 days ago 3 replies      
Securing this beast should serve as a nice training course for any sysadmin; bonus points if you start handing out shell accounts to anonymous people in certain neighborhoods of EFNet.
11 points by sliverstorm 5 days ago 1 reply      
> Damn Vulnerable Linux - The most vulnerable and exploitable operating system ever!

Wait, they topped Windows 95 and Windows ME?

Is that even possible?

3 points by wwortiz 5 days ago 2 replies      
That actually sounds like a fun concept.
0 points by nhnifong 4 days ago 0 replies      
Whats with all the grammatical errors on that site? Is it a joke?
-3 points by known 4 days ago 0 replies      
Mathematics for Computer Science - Lecture Notes mit.edu
174 points by iamanet 6 days ago   discuss
31 points by SandB0x 6 days ago 4 replies      
This is useful, but pretty standard undergrad material. There are more interesting OCW courses, such as Street Fighting Mathematics:

This course teaches the art of guessing results and solving problems without doing a proof or an exact calculation. Techniques include extreme-cases reasoning, dimensional analysis, successive approximation, discretization, generalization, and pictorial analysis. Applications include mental calculation, solid geometry, musical intervals, logarithms, integration, infinite series, solitaire, and differential equations. (No epsilons or deltas are harmed by taking this course.)


17 points by codewall 6 days ago 3 replies      
I have always been intimidated by college level math and secretly wished I was smarter to not just understand, but to enjoy it as so many people seemingly do. I tried but failed to attain that level of proficiency multiple times.

The mistake I was making was that I was trying to read lectures/blogs/books recommended by random people who knew nothing about me. It doesn't work. The thing is: math is big. It's HUGE, it's a whole world with something for everyone, and not everything in there excites me. I discovered this by accident by picking an easy and fun book about cryptography called (I think it was called The Code) - it was fascinating, it took me to wikipedia and I started to explore this world following my own interests And then it clicked: suddenly even "boring" aspects of math showed me their exciting sides.

4 points by jgg 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is stuff that's usually taught in a course called "Discrete Mathematics". As far as textbooks go for this type of material, which do you all like? I own Rosen's famous book ( https://www.amazon.com/Discrete-Mathematics-Applications-Ken... ), but it's the "James Stewart's Calculus" of Discrete Mathematics books. I purchased some really old books too, but I haven't yet found one that I like a lot (I settled for a Dover text that's mostly passable).

For the specific topic of set theory, though, I haven't found one I like better than Paul Halmos: https://www.amazon.com/Naive-Theory-Undergraduate-Texts-Math...

If I could only find a number theory text that I like as much.

5 points by jlmendezbonini 6 days ago 0 replies      
Good find. Note that the Fall2005 offering includes solutions to the assignments and in-class problems while Spring2005, the one linked, does not.


4 points by justlearning 6 days ago 1 reply      
are there any lecture videos available for this course?
2 points by spektom 3 days ago 0 replies      
Do the page "The ZFC Axioms" contain errors? I can't understand the following proposition:

∃y∀z(∃w(z ∈ w ∧ w ∈ x) ⇒ z ∈ y)

Shouldn't it be:

∃y∀z(∃w(z ∈ w ∧ w ∈ y) ⇒ z ∈ y)

-4 points by amichail 6 days ago 1 reply      
Mathematics gets way more attention than it deserves in computing -- particularly with today's sophisticated libraries/frameworks.

Just because a topic can be challenging doesn't automatically make it worthwhile.

This is a trap that many people fall into.

Openstack: Open source cloud computing software openstack.org
173 points by andyangelos 3 days ago   52 comments top 19
19 points by jacquesm 2 days ago 2 replies      
What a great move by rackspace.

That's very impressive, they're essentially risking enabling their competition by doing this and still they've done it.

This actually will allow the development of 'micro clouds', a thing I wrote about a while back because I don't like the centralization issues of clouds for a number of reasons and use cases.


Getting rid of vendor lock-in is also fantastic.

6 points by mmaunder 2 days ago 3 replies      
It's open, it's cloud, it's new, it's got NASA involved! So how does this help me move 20 terrabytes of data and a range of web services and customer facing applications from my current cloud provider to a new provider?

The theory is that I can take a data snapshot of my 20 terabytes, move it to the new provider's network by driving it across town (still the fastest way to move data), "drop it in", switch over DNS and excluding a few lost transactions during switch-over everything should work fine.

The reality is that this removes the pain of proprietary configuration from a data center migration but it's still a painful process to switch cloud providers that involves a lot of work, some risk and down-time. So while this is a great marketing play from Rackspace there is still a level of lock-in when you commit to using a provider and so the risk to Rackspace to go 'open' is minimal but the benefits of being the leader are huge.

12 points by notmyname 2 days ago 3 replies      
I'm a developer on swift (OpenStack storage == Rackspace Cloud Files). We've been pretty excited about opening this, and I'd love to answer any questions you have.

Swift documentation is at http://swift.openstack.org. Check out the "SAIO - Swift All In One" page to see how to set up a VM to run it. With some very small tweaks, you can also run it on a single slice (mount a loopback device rather than another virtual drive).

Although I don't know as much about it, the compute docs are at http://nova.openstack.org

16 points by bretpiatt 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you have questions come join us at irc.freenode.com / #openstack
4 points by dotBen 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm sad RackSpace chose to market this effort under the term "Open Stack".

A number of us in the open web community have used that term to a great extent to talk about OpenID + OAuth + Portable Contacts + Open Social (http://therealmccrea.com/2008/09/19/joseph-smarr-at-web-20-o...)

Admittedly the initiative has lost momentum (for many reasons and factors) but things are still out there. This just creates confusion and branding collision.

I notice RackSpace is pushing a "TM" on their OpenStack branding, which calls into issue anyone using the term for it's prior and original meaning.

4 points by justinsb 2 days ago 0 replies      
I attended the design summit, and I believe this is going to be a really big deal.

Whether it's a big hosting company running a public cloud, a corporate running a private cloud, or a smaller dev/test cloud, they can now all run the same free software stack, and software can move freely between those environments. It's clear this announcement will have ripple effects throughout the entire cloud ecosystem. I hope the project will also boost adoption of cloud-style infrastructures, now that the fear of supplier lock-in is removed.

5 points by shabda 2 days ago 0 replies      
You should get a canonical URL. openstack.com and openstack.org both resolve now, probably better to redirect from openstack.com to .org.
3 points by alttab 2 days ago 1 reply      
Rackspace had a design summit last week in Austin, TX for Openstack. I was an attendee and learned quite a bit from the folks at Rackspace. They've built and re-built their infrastructure enough times they know what they need to look out for. The drop-and-swap component model is great too.

It was fantastic to see what they've put together and the business model is great. Commoditizing architecture and software really is the next step.

If anyone is interested, I could write up a blog post about my experience, maybe provide a little more insight into the buy-in.

3 points by RK 2 days ago 0 replies      
While I'm running on AWS I strongly support a push for interoperability and freedom from lockin. We'll just have to see what kind of adoption this project gets.
2 points by mark_l_watson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Personally, I find the OpenStack Object Storage component more interesting than OpenStack Compute. I like the idea and implementation of S3 for saving important data. Similarly, the same sort of lazy replication of EBS just makes life easier.

I think that there will be a real sweet spot for smaller organizations who would like an internal system like S3 that offers robust data security with using really cheap disk drives and servers.

Hopefully OpenStack Object Storage will have good support for multi-datacenter replication.

2 points by LiveTheDream 2 days ago 0 replies      
In April, NASA's Nebula project was based on Eucalyptus


Does this mean they are completely moving away Eucalyptus?

3 points by anotherjesse 2 days ago 0 replies      
looking forward to the combined efforts.

we really want to make the cloud that hacker news users would want to deploy on their own infrastructure.

3 points by sushi 2 days ago 2 replies      
Okay I don't know much about Cloud Computing but can anyone tell how is going to help someone like me who has one or two blogs with some web hosting company.

Or should someone like me even care?

3 points by tamarindo 2 days ago 1 reply      
What benefit does Rackspace get from doing this?
1 point by dnsworks 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yay. A marginally competent hosting company just released the code to their mostly unsuccessful cloud! This is like IBM open sourcing OS/2 a year after they admitted defeat to Microsoft in the desktop operating system market.
2 points by wrighty 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know how this compares with Eucalyptus http://open.eucalyptus.com/ that's the core of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud http://www.ubuntu.com/cloud/private ?
1 point by andyangelos 2 days ago 0 replies      
Adding the TC synopsis of the project posted in another thread for continuity.
2 points by junkbit 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems right that NASA use Launchpad to host the Openstack code
1 point by andy 2 days ago 2 replies      
is there a way to add DNS entries via API yet? I don't see where to get the code except for swift-1.0.0, and I'm not sure what that does.
We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits. daringfireball.net
166 points by mickeyben 2 days ago   89 comments top 20
41 points by jrockway 1 day ago 2 replies      
I don't normally like Apple, but I like their attitude here. Why should they wear certain clothes to a meeting with AT&T? Who cares what AT&T thinks of Apple!? If AT&T passes on Apple, Verizon or Sprint or T-Mobile would pick them up in a heartbeat. The only reason AT&T is still in business is because of Apple. Fuck wearing a suit!

I'm shocked to hear that AT&T is not showering Apple's execs with expensive champagne and corporate jets every chance they get!

37 points by chwahoo 2 days ago 5 replies      
It does seem that concessions were made. For example, the Facetime app is currently wifi-only. Also, I believe movie rental is wifi-only. Those are understandable restrictions for now, but this article rings a bit hollow in light of them -- It would seem that AT&T won a few of those battles.
36 points by pinstriped_dude 1 day ago 4 replies      
Why is the DaringFireball article here? and why does it have a 100 votes? The guy has just quoted the Wired article without adding anything on his own?
32 points by alanstorm 2 days ago 2 replies      
Not that I don't ♥ The Gruber™, but the link should probably be pointing at the original article, as all John is doing here is quoting from the Wired piece.
6 points by warfangle 2 days ago 3 replies      
I do believe apple has given some opaque concessions. Note that this is anecdotal; I have not scientifically tested this.

I have the nexus one, running on att 3g - the same similar card I used to use in my iPhone 3g. A co-worker just got the iPhone 4.

We both picked up the FCC bandwidth test app.

Testing each phone in succession - not simultaneously - in the same spot, hands free, flat on the desk.

My N1 consistently benchmarked at 2-2.5 mbps down and 1mbps up with a 200ms ping.

His iPhone consistently benchmarked at 1-1.5 mbps down, .2-.4 mbps up, and a 2000ms ping.

Either there truly are antenna issues unrelated to the hand-holding-bars-dropped issue, or the I/O processor cannot handle high speeds, or Apple is throttling bandwidth usage based on geolocation. I don't know which it is
Another coworker tested his bandwidth in Vancouver and got over 10mbps.

These tests were performed in Soho. Your miles may vary...

7 points by RyanMcGreal 2 days ago 1 reply      
>we always said, ‘Fine, we’ll escalate it to Steve and see who wins.’ I think history has demonstrated how that turned out.”

Really? As far as I understand, the AT&T data network still sucks.

6 points by herrherr 1 day ago 0 replies      
From http://putthison.com/post/833571254/were-apple-we-dont-wear-...:

“We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.”
— Steve Jobs (or a representative thereof, the citation is a little unclear), incredibly rich establishment capitalist businessman, on fighting in 2010 the anti-establishment battles of 1965. Because you know what the problem is? Suits.

16 points by plusbryan 2 days ago 2 replies      
Jobs must not get invited to many weddings.
8 points by megablast 2 days ago 1 reply      
I get the impression that Apple is not run by a bunch of MBAs, unlike a lot of the big companies around the world.
6 points by jarek 2 days ago 0 replies      
That must be why Slingplayer and Facetime are wifi-only.
12 points by hackermom 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Fine, we'll escalate it to Steve and see who wins."
4 points by CaptainMcCrank 1 day ago 0 replies      
Original article reeks of linkbait.

Counterculture versus The Man.
Flippant startup versus entrenched corporation.
Think different versus rethink possible.

And a bunch of hacker newsers get all excited about a quote about dressing nice.

I love the irony of counterculture groupthink. "we are apple, we don't even own suits." They should finish that with a "we are legion" reference.

2 points by ams6110 2 days ago 2 replies      
If Apple are so concerned with user experience that they are unwilling to throttle the iPhone to meet ATT's network limitations, then why did they partner with ATT to begin with? ATT are pretty generally perceived as having the worst wireless phone service in the USA, and that certainly dovetails with my personal experience.
2 points by statictype 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why did Apple decide to tie themselves to a single carrier instead of keeping the phone unlocked? Is it because AT&T would subsidize the R&D cost that went into making the iPhone?

And purely in hindsight, was that a good decision?

3 points by joubert 2 days ago 3 replies      
4 points by famousactress 2 days ago 1 reply      
I originally misread the quote as "We don't wear suits. We don't even wear suits." I like my misread better. Seems more Apple, even.
1 point by natch 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's not just Apple. It's Silicon Valley. Yet another reason to love living here.
1 point by stefs 1 day ago 0 replies      
They have even fought about wardrobe: When an Apple representative suggested to one of AT&T’s deputies that the AT&Ts CEO wear a turtleneck to meet with Apples board of directors, he was told, “We’re AT&T. We don’t wear turtlenecks. We don’t even own turtlenecks.”
0 points by sriram_sun 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ha ha ha! Nice! And in our company, only the suits get reimbursed for an iPhone. iRony!
-1 point by aaron111 2 days ago 2 replies      
Of course Gruber will quote the parts where AT&T is asking Apple to tweak the iphone (trying to shift more blame on AT&T for their network) and now all the parts about how Apple is extremely hard to work with or where the iphone's baseband radio is incredibly buggy and is arguably one of the main reasons for the constant dropped calls.

Gruber is nothing but a hack who's trying to glorify Apple in every way.

Reddit reveals their traffic numbers, compares to Alexa/Compete etc reddit.com
163 points by vaksel 6 days ago   discuss
11 points by jorgeortiz85 6 days ago 4 replies      
I thought the whole point of Quantcast is that they can directly measure traffic instead of trying to guess. They don't even charge for it: http://www.quantcast.com/info/publisher-overview
12 points by nirav 6 days ago 1 reply      

  prefer to rate sites by their "percentage of total Internet traffic"

I can't help but wonder how ridiculous business model like Alexa's works in reality, their source of data is not even scientifically relevant to measure total internet traffic, and yet they manage to get attention from everyone?

I almost feel that I would be laughed at if I had this start up idea and went to raise funding.

3 points by gyardley 6 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like Reddit's trying to sell brand advertising based off of their comScore numbers, since they're running comScore's direct-measurement JavaScript on their site and they didn't bother to mention comScore in this post.

The point of this blog post is probably to lump the Nielsen figures the agencies are using in with a bunch of services the agencies know are jokes (Alexa? get serious...) That way they can discredit Nielsen when they send this post to the agencies, along with their much-better comScore numbers.

10 points by jbeda 6 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW, they don't include Google/DoubleClick AdPlanner numbers, but the appear to be closer than the examples in the linked article.


3 points by alextingle 6 days ago 5 replies      
I suspect that the vast majority of Redditors use Ad-block or equivalent. Reddit might get millions of page views, but if that doesn;t translate into ad-impressions then they are effectively invisible to the money-people.
1 point by robk 6 days ago 1 reply      
Google Trends for Websites seems to have the most directionally relevant graphs: http://trends.google.com/websites?q=reddit.com&sa=N

It isn't a direct comparison since Google tracks daily actives and their Analytics data posted is monthly, but you can roughly estimate 375,000 uniques/day * 30 days to get roughly 11.2M visitors, which is within reason for the monthly data they present via Analytics.

Note too that though both these sources are from Google, they are from completely separate, ring-fenced portions of Google's corpus of site data. Analytics data isn't used in Trends and vice versa.

1 point by earl 6 days ago 0 replies      
If you quantify, your raw pv numbers are free to you and to everyone else. I believe, but am not sure, that the privacy controls are granular enough to allow you to display eg visitors but not pageviews to the world at large.

visit, eg, http://quantcast.com/gawker.com . Click the dropdown under "Daily Traffic" and select people.

1 point by aditya 6 days ago 1 reply      
So, is Digg still 8x bigger as compete predicts?


That would make Digg have 64MM uniques...

1 point by goatforce5 6 days ago 2 replies      
Quantcast will tell everyone a lot more info if the reddit guys go here: http://www.quantcast.com/info/publisher-overview
2 points by joshfraser 6 days ago 0 replies      
these numbers are easily gamed. the trick is to add some invisible iframes that load up an empty page on your domain. you can fire them after the page has loaded so it doesn't slow your site down. I know it works for compete and i assume it works on other services too.
1 point by vaksel 6 days ago 2 replies      
for those too lazy to click the link:

36.6mm Visits

8.1mm uniques

429mm pageviews

11.72 average pageviews

14.16 minutes on site

25.15% bounce rate

19.27% new visitors

1 point by Kilimanjaro 6 days ago 2 replies      
Somebody please explain ad cpm and stuff like that (complete noob)

For what I understand 400M pageviews = $400K a month just in ads (at just 1ct per pageview)

1 point by cjlars 5 days ago 0 replies      
The Alexa data implies 1.4 trillion global page views last month (430 million reddit views / .03% global share). Or about 1k monthly pageviews per user for 1.47 bn global users. If Alexa is off by a factor of ten, like some of the other companies are, that number would have to be 10k (too high) or 100 (too low?). Maybe Alexa's the most accurate of the bunch.
-1 point by naturalized 6 days ago 1 reply      
I call bullshit re: Alexa complaint! We have the same number of uniques (although 2x less pageviews), and Alexa shows much lower rank for our site - about 3,000. Their Alexa numbers are overly favorable (Alexa rank 147).
The absolute bare minimum every programmer should know about regular expressions immike.net
150 points by rayvega 2 days ago   50 comments top 18
13 points by lbrandy 2 days ago 1 reply      
Considering he listed just about everything I can remember about regexes without google, and nothing more, I believe I'm duty bound to upvote.

My only quibble: I'd promote the character classes (especially \s and maybe \S) into this list from the "expert" category. Here's part2 (or what I call: stuff I can google later, if I need it), if anyone wants to keep reading: http://immike.net/blog/2007/06/21/extreme-regex-foo-what-you...

16 points by philwelch 2 days ago 4 replies      
Slight terminological quibble:

Regular expressions are strings formatted using a special pattern notation that allow you to describe and parse text.

"Parse" is a questionable word choice. A proper Regular Expression can only describe patterns found in "regular languages", though modern backtracking regex engines have a bit more power. Parsing implies a parser, which means matching a grammar somewhat more sophisticated than a regex engine can handle.

8 points by cousin_it 1 day ago 1 reply      
The title makes me wonder... I was an okay programmer before I learned about regexes. When the need arose, I learned how to use them easily. Should I have learned them before that?

Many programmers seem to think that they possess just the right amount of knowledge. Someone who knows Unix utilities but not algorithm design will argue that Unix utilities are vital, but algorithm design is a random obscure topic; someone with the opposite skillset will defend it just as eloquently. I think programmers have no obligation to know anything. If you can do the job, I don't care how much you use Google.

I'm spoiled enough to think that boring things shouldn't be deliberately memorized. It's enough for me to know the mathematical concept of a regular language, which lets me recognize situations where regexes would help. For concrete syntax we always have cheatsheets. This attitude has its advantages: for example, I never needed to be explained why parsing XML with regexes is a bad idea.

6 points by snitko 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's very disappointing to find the author didn't mention greedy matchers. Consider the difference:

  >> s = "hello world, I love you world"
>> s.sub(/(.*?)world/, '\1universe')
=> "hello universe, I love you world"
>> s.sub(/(.*)world/, '\1universe')
=> "hello world, I love you universe"
4 points by brehaut 2 days ago 2 replies      
I prefer fishbowl's law

   Every regexp that you apply to a particular block of text reduces 
the applicability of regular expressions by an order of magnitude.

- http://fishbowl.pastiche.org/2003/08/18/beware_regular_expre...

The minimum any programmer needs to know about regexps is when they are applicable, and more importantly, when they are not.

2 points by klochner 2 days ago 0 replies      
I learned something new - disjunction is sometimes called "alternation":


1 point by JoelSutherland 2 days ago 1 reply      
Here's a cool online tool my friend (HN user KrisJordan) made:


It's super handy when learning Regular Expressions because it shows results as you type.

1 point by mbateman 2 days ago 3 replies      
For some reason, I've never been able to get the knack of regular expressions. This is the best introduction to them that I've seen, though I wish I'd read it years ago. However, if you've tinkered with regex at all ever, which I suspect virtually everyone here has, you'll know this. (I know it, and I hate and avoid regular expressions and am not even a programmer.)
2 points by joubert 1 day ago 0 replies      
In Python, you can get the regex parse tree to help you debug your regex expressions: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/101268/hidden-features-of...
1 point by pmiller2 1 day ago 0 replies      
One thing everyone should know about regular expressions is that the things called "regular expressions" provided by libpcre (which, of course, stands for "Perl compatible regular expressions") aren't regular expressions at all. Since they support backtracking, they provide a more powerful parsing framework than regular expressions alone (which don't support backtracking). That's how the (in)famous regular expression that recognizes prime numbers can work, even though the language of prime numbers is not regular.
2 points by SteveC 1 day ago 0 replies      
When writing regular expressions I always use this website to test them out.


3 points by meric 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's quite a good guide but I had thought it was going to contain warnings like "Don't use regular expressions to parse XML" and then explain why.
1 point by raffi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I learned regular expressions when writing the documentation for my Sleep programming language. They never made sense to me until I had to organize my thoughts on them in a logical way. I'm still quite happy with how that chapter turned out:


1 point by lanstein 2 days ago 1 reply      

kind of disappointed that there's 13 comments and no mention of jwz's quote.

in terms of actual thoughts, this is certainly an aptly named article.

1 point by pmccool 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was surprised to find no mention of the issues with nesting. Every programmer should know about this limiation, even if they don't get into the pumping lemma and whatnot.
1 point by ez77 1 day ago 1 reply      
While we’re at it, could someone please explain why \[[^\[\]]*\] does not match things like [X], where X is a string of non-square-bracket characters? How would you fix it? Thanks!
-4 points by d0m 1 day ago 0 replies      
Did someone learn something on this site? Why it's on hacker news instead of newbies news.
-3 points by dbz 2 days ago 0 replies      
Meh, no one here wants to here my spoiled brat opinion, so I apologize in advance:

It should also be included in the bare minimum:

Regex will drive you crazy. Not just writing the expression, but installing a library (especially if there is no handy installer) ect. Regex likes to punch you in the balls whenever possible. (I can say this because I've written many line of Regex and I do love it.)



Some people, when confronted with a problem, think "I know, I'll use regular expressions." Now they have two problems.
-Jamie Zawinski

Google acquires Metaweb (Freebase) googleblog.blogspot.com
150 points by aschobel 5 days ago   discuss
22 points by izendejas 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is huge for many reasons, but namely, this could finally lead to the "semantic web." Metaweb's video, which is linked to in the article, explains part of the "how".

The problem with the semantic web is that many need to embrace it. Many people need to tag text with these "bar codes" (uniquely identified entities). That can take a big effort and there has to be a ROI for this big undertaking. The other is that there is no standard. Well, Google just solved those. With a dominant market share, you don't need someone to agree on a standard, you just force them to--or else they lose out to competition. And as far as the ROI in tagging web pages? Well, what's the ROI on SEO? This will bring about a new form of SEO, except that Google can now undercut many of the search results and answer many of the queries directly--so that'll get interesting... and I'm sure Wolphram Alpha certainly agrees.

Google was also smart to buy Metaweb in order to give web app developers a good reason to use their entities and just FB's open graph entities.

Congrats to the Metaweb team! Freebase + Wikipedia are two of the best gifts to humanity.

8 points by zach 5 days ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Metaweb and Applied Minds. Those guys are uniformly brilliant and it's great to see Google sharing the deep interest Metaweb has in curating a great, accessible repository of semantic data.
6 points by carbocation 5 days ago 1 reply      
The name didn't immediately ring a bell until I Googled it: Metaweb == Freebase.
1 point by KirinDave 2 days ago 0 replies      
For those of us who have worked closely with Metaweb's products and had a professional relationship with them (Powerset, my previous employer pre-acquisition, was fairly close to them back when we started out) over the past few years, this is great to see. Metaweb has been providing several invaluable services to everyone interested in NLP, Search, and smarter software in general.

Glad you got your payout, guys. Hopefully now the full power of Google's infrastructure can make Freebase fast and enormous.

3 points by mark_l_watson 5 days ago 0 replies      
That is so cool (I think). I have been waste deep in Freebase for a few weeks for a work task.

There is a lot of cruft in Freebase, but with some manual effort and some automation, it is a good source of a wide variety of information. Depending on application, DBpedia and GeoNames are other good resources for structured data.

2 points by sachinag 5 days ago 0 replies      
If they unlock the Freebase data and associate UPCs/EANs/other bar codes and structured data around it (which Freebase has done in a hap-hazard fashion), they could really do some pretty awesome stuff.
2 points by fauigerzigerk 5 days ago 0 replies      
This seems very significant to me. So far, there has always been this opposition between algorithmic extraction of meaning and modeled structed data. It never made sense to me, because using both leads to so much better query results. I've been doing it for years and I was starting to wonder why the idea isn't catching on. It's been a really tough sell. I hope this is going to be a real breakthrough. Managing spam will be difficult though.
4 points by espadagroup 5 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine if we could do this with all of Google's data (A very cool search engine built on top of Freebase):


9 points by epi0Bauqu 5 days ago 0 replies      
How much?
5 points by Zakuzaa 5 days ago 0 replies      
So we are going to see a lot of zero click info on Google. Like DuckDuckGo. Good.
2 points by _pius 5 days ago 0 replies      
Definitely a big congratulations to these folks. They've done great work and it's definitely a great day for the promise of the Semantic Web.
5 points by SeriousGuy 5 days ago 0 replies      
err interesting note Freebase powers some part of Bing Search
1 point by samratjp 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is great news - Metaweb always had pretty good APIs that made a friendly kid in the block. I can see this being immediately useful everywhere for google's offerings. Man, YouTube would be friggin awesome metadata for say music videos or a few hundred more layers for google earth. Sweet!
2 points by rootis0 5 days ago 0 replies      
When I saw Metaweb in the headline what immediately sprang to mind was the excellent wikipedia they maintained for Neal Stephensons's "The Baroque Cycle". It was called Quicksilver wiki.

I myself learned about it from Stephenson himself during a presentation he did for the book in the now defunct Cody's Books in Berkeley. After 2-3 years of active growth the Quicksilver wiki disappeared from metaweb's site. I was wondering if Google will restore the wiki too?

Metaweb briefly mentioned at the end of this article in Wikipedia:

2 points by c1sc0 5 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe a smart pre-emptive strike against twitters annotations?
1 point by est 4 days ago 0 replies      
3 points by SeriousGuy 5 days ago 0 replies      
wow I was interested in joining Freebase, now I need to join google!
1 point by cybernytrix 5 days ago 3 replies      
Are there anyone here that downloaded and played with their data set (PG dump). I have fiddled with one of their table to process their Wikipedia data. I think Google bought it for their supposedly wicked-fast GraphDB.
1 point by c00p3r 5 days ago 0 replies      
Another try to compete with wikipedia? This time it might be successful. Wikipedia lacks structure and API to fetch different content types.
-4 points by startuprules 5 days ago 0 replies      
Search. Monopoly.
Makani Power, a Google funded wind energy startup, comes out of stealth makanipower.com
151 points by miratrix 3 days ago   78 comments top 26
8 points by jacquesm 2 days ago 2 replies      
Wow, where to begin. First off, I'm really happy that Google continues to fund energy related start-ups, their solar and wind efforts are commendable.

Also, I'm fairly sure that the engineers behind this project are top notch and giving this project all they've got, it sure looks like they have picked some interesting challenges.

That said, I don't think this will ever 'fly' (pun intended) on any appreciable scale.

Wind is a fickle thing, and if you look at the design parameters of even the smallest windmills you realize that it takes bullet proof engineering to get a windmill to operate at all for any stretch of time without catastrophe, tying one to a kite seems to compound those problems to the point where even if the power generated were substantially higher than that on the ground you'd still be left with a higher per KW bill. Being able to operate in places where windmills are otherwise not viable is nice, but at 600 meters above the ground there will be substantial risk from getting kits entangled so the closest spacing will probably be such that a 'farm' of these will generate relatively little power for a given area of the planet over which the kites fly.

1 MW seems to be a pretty ambitious goal for a first setup, think about it, a 1 MW turbine sitting on the other side of a line will pull on the tether with a very impressive force, the kite will have to pull aloft a tether strong enough to withstand that force and up to 600 meters of power transmission cabling. These are not simple challenges. What I don't understand is why they don't build a 10 KW or so scale model and gain experience from that before going for a full MW, even a 10KW system flown for a year or two would give them plenty of experimental data to help design a larger one.

Then there are the liability issues, windmill towers are pretty solid and yet they've been known to fail. I figure the failure rate of kite lines+power lines would be substantially higher than that of a tower and so you'd have to contend with the occasional free flying kite+windmill combination.

All that said I wish these folks best of luck with what they're doing, but unlike the cheap solar panel revolution I highly doubt that this will ever be deployed at a scale large enough to be notable. Neat project though!

12 points by troygoode 3 days ago 4 replies      
"Makani AWTs will produce energy at an unsubsidized real cost competitive with coal-fired power plants, the current benchmark of the lowest cost source of power."

If this is true, it could be huge. Would these be deployable basically anywhere that is reasonably open?

12 points by dalton 3 days ago 1 reply      
I used to live in a co-op with Corwin (the CEO/CTO). The main thing I remember about him was that he was really into kite surfing.

He was also scary smart and about as good of a mechanical engineer PhD as I have ever met.

Him being the CEO/CTO of makani makes a whole lot of sense.

Good luck, makani!

4 points by tsally 3 days ago 0 replies      
The anser to the FAQ "Will this harm birds or bats?" was obviously crafted with the careful help of a PR and Legal team. :-p


4 points by tlack 3 days ago 3 replies      
It's an interesting idea (more wind higher up, without the expensive tall shaft required for a regular wind turbine), but how does it get relaunched when it falls to the ground? Wouldn't a balloon or regular kite be simpler and just as effective?
2 points by hop 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks way better than than the giant fixed turbines they are putting in Eastern Oregon which cost $2.4 million a pop, interrupt the view, and can't pay for themselves.

It's also funny Oregon has abundant hydroelectric power, but subsidizes these wind projects with rate hikes and taxes - while selling billions of dollars of these electrons to California at market rates.

2 points by aufreak3 2 days ago 2 replies      
The contrarian in me has always been curious about how tapping "eco friendly" energy sources impact the environment. (Any here have some serious pointers?)

For example, if the energy of the wind at high altitudes is tapped, the wind will (duh) lose its force. How will that impact weather systems?

Same for solar power - we'll be trapping radiation that will otherwise be reflected back into space. How does this affect thermodynamic equilibrium?

Same for geothermal energy - how does it affect deep-earth physics?

Maybe the effects in these cases are indeed linear in the small - like taking a drink from a river, but it is hard to be sure about whether they can be scaled with continued linear behaviour. Just as with fossil fuels ... one car probably didn't do much damage. 8 orders of magnitude later, its a different story altogether.

4 points by cmurphycode 3 days ago 0 replies      
This looks pretty interesting. They have some nice explanations of their concept- particularly the fundamentals link: http://www.makanipower.com/concept/fundamentals/

It looks pretty complex, but if the numbers work out right, this is probably the cheapest way to tap into the great winds available high in the sky.

2 points by extension 3 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by jamie 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought this was Saul Griffith's startup, but I see no mention of him on the about page. At his Long Now talk last year, I recall him talking about Makani as being his new effort.


Saul seems totally awesome; his Long Now talk "Climate Change Revisited" was a fantastic survey of alternative energy solutions, and how no one was the answer, but that a cocktail of solutions is. His ability to put big numbers in context was stunning, especially his equating of industrial output in the US pre-WWII to the effort required to build wind turbines to cover half the usage of the current US electricity grid.

Here's the video of the talk:

3 points by keeptrying 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is an incredible idea and an amazing feat of engineering. I'm sure they'll face huge challenges in deploying this thing but it just shows that real engineering is still alive.
Damn, makes me wanna break out my fluid mechanics textbook :).
2 points by aheilbut 3 days ago 1 reply      
What happens when the wind stops blowing or changes direction?
1 point by wooster 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, uh, a bunch of my friends are working on this:


Which is pretty awesome.

2 points by hartror 2 days ago 0 replies      
This idea has been batted around for a while and in fact the biggest risk to getting a project like this aloft will be regulators like the FAA.
1 point by mdolon 2 days ago 0 replies      
The only question I have is: how does it deal with harsh weather? Especially with offshore setups where storms are frequent, can it handle high winds and strong waves?

Overall it's an incredible step towards innovation in energy, kudos to the entire team.

1 point by smhinsey 3 days ago 0 replies      
They are mentioned on Discovery Channel's Powering the Future. I believe it was Saturday's episode. It has interviews and demos. No mention of Google but they do say they feel their problem is control systems for the kites, not the actual energy generation.
1 point by thibaut_barrere 3 days ago 1 reply      
The concept looks amazing!

I'm a bit concerned about how to protect human lives around - will it be required to forbid access to a large area ?

The FAQ states that the peak altitude is 600 meter. Does that mean a circle with a radius of 600m must be protected ?

Pretty sure they thought of it already, it looks like a well thought out project, I'm just wondering.

1 point by borism 3 days ago 1 reply      
Rotors are tiny compared to conventional wind turbines. Even with six of them, just no comparison. Sure they harvest the wind much higher and it flys in circles quite fast, but I'm not quite sure how they'll be able to generate 1MW with on of those production things. It has the wingspan of B737!

It's a neat idea, but do benefits outweigh problems?

1 point by tjlynn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Since this is a hacker site, any control theorists in the house? From observation and experience, controlling a tethered airplane is the most pressing technical challenge facing the team right now. Anyone ever modeled the dynamics of a glider or a turboprop?
1 point by noverloop 2 days ago 1 reply      
my nephew got recruited by a similar wind startup.


1 point by ph0rque 3 days ago 1 reply      
So, does the M1 produce 1 MW on average, or peak?
2 points by goooooaaaalll 3 days ago 0 replies      
Joby Energy is another company in the area working on this problem. http://www.jobyenergy.com/
1 point by known 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hope Google also invests in solar powered http://www.bogolight.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=BOGO...
1 point by yuan 2 days ago 0 replies      
If they can make it work, this could be perfect for powering ships, too.
1 point by daychilde 2 days ago 0 replies      
So... do they makani power?
-3 points by CptMauli 2 days ago 0 replies      
This will not work. It uses too much space and It looks like it will need repairs or at least maintenance all the time.
A re-introduction to JavaScript mozilla.org
146 points by rajesht 4 days ago   31 comments top 10
12 points by csallen 4 days ago 3 replies      
Just a heads up, article was last significantly edited in March '06.
6 points by ams6110 4 days ago 0 replies      
Glad to see they linked Crockford's site. I discovered his site probably four years ago or so and it really opened my eyes to the capabilities of the language. I think anyone who wants to learn more about JavaScript should definitely include Crockford in his studies.
7 points by aborovoy 4 days ago 4 replies      
Question to JavaScript gurus: how would i know if my code works in various browserless environments like Reeno and V8? Is there a compatibility table of various JS features is isn't browser-centric?


4 points by AlexMuir 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using Javascript for years and never really 'learned it'. It's just something I've dipped into to solve a particular problem - largely through just grabbing other code/dissecting existing stuff. Then I got hold of jQuery and never learned about the underlying language. This was great to catch up on the basics.
6 points by andrew-bor 4 days ago 1 reply      
Despite hundreds of thousands of search results in Google when you're looking for "Javascript tutorial" this one is by far the best one for a beginner.
1 point by limist 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you like this article, you'll love the book "Javascript: The Good Parts":


3 points by jckarter 4 days ago 3 replies      
An introduction really shouldn't encourage things like "for (var i = 0, item; item = a[i]; i++)". Someone's going to cut-and-paste that because it looks cute, and their code will break when their array suddenly needs to contain null values. Fuzzy boolean semantics are bad enough without spreading stuff like this around (speaking from experience with || abuse in Perl).
2 points by llaxsll 4 days ago 1 reply      
This article has a good description of closures, which is very important to brush up on if one is developing a heavy dhtml site. Thanks.
1 point by jasonjohnson 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not a bad guide, old as it may be. Chuckled a bit when I read, "JavaScript has a tertiary operator for one-line conditional statements..." - been in there since the original version.


1 point by michaeltwofish 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article provided my "aha!" moment for prototypes.
Plain english explanation of Big O stackoverflow.com
145 points by alrex021 5 days ago   24 comments top 9
9 points by jacquesm 5 days ago 3 replies      
That's a very clear and accessible explanation of what big O complexity is all about.

But (and that's a pretty big but), 'Big O' is not all there is, and once you've picked your algorithm based on the one that has the best expected runtime based on 'Big O', you really have to try to make sure that:

  - your algorithm is executed with the lowest possible frequency

- you concentrate on those pesky n's that you eliminated during analysis to
make sure that you don't end up wasting all your CPU time on some
little detail somewhere

- you take in to account the effects of your code on caches and virtual memory

- you profile your code afterwards to make sure that all your assumptions regarding
the above are correct

It is very easy to pick the 'right' algorithm and still get crappy runtime if you skip those steps.
12 points by steamboiler 5 days ago 1 reply      
Interestingly the top rated answer was given by the gentleman who got turned down by Google


4 points by aj 5 days ago 0 replies      
Really good and simple explanation. Elegant examples to illustrate his points as well.
1 point by beza1e1 5 days ago 0 replies      
Understand the effect of the constant factor hidden within the Big O. Often a O(n) algorithm is faster than a O(1) algorithm, because n is too small. E.g. arrays vs hashmaps.

Make sure what n is in each case. For example a graph algorithm with O(n^2) and n being the number of nodes may actually be O(n) for n being the graph size (number of edges).

0 points by erikpukinskis 4 days ago 0 replies      
Apparently computational complexity is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when I read "Big O".
-2 points by d0m 5 days ago 1 reply      
It starts with: "The simplest explanation" - and it goes on and on for 5 pages.
-3 points by zandorg 5 days ago 0 replies      
A friend of mine at University said the only true 'Big O' is Roy Orbison.
-3 points by autarch 5 days ago 0 replies      
That anime was really confusing. I'm not sure I could come up with a simple plain English explanation.

Was it a dream? A computer simulation? An alternate reality? I mean, really, wtf?

Shell scripts to improve your writing, or "My advisor rewrote himself in bash." might.net
138 points by mbrubeck 2 days ago   31 comments top 5
15 points by blahedo 2 days ago 5 replies      
There's no problem with having a house style, of course, but it's obnoxious to claim that following one particular stylebook makes one a "better writer". Particularly obnoxious in the linked article are the claims that "the removal of all adverbs from any technical writing will be a net positive," and likewise for "the removal of the passive voice".

Adverbs are indispensable to good writing, technical or otherwise. Notwithstanding the claims of a variety of self-proclaimed experts, no good writer will omit adverbs, and no writer can successfully omit all adverbs without at the very least sounding incredibly choppy and awkward. The author of the linked article included quite a few; even just counting those adverbs that end in "-ly", I found ten (fortunately
technically), and there was even an adverb ("so") right there in the sentence where he was condemning adverbs!

As for the passive, the author acknowledges the difficulty of avoiding them, but claims that their removal is still an improvement, though without explaining why. In fact, it makes the writing seem rather choppy (as if the author had to spend too much time paralysed by a set of rules to follow to actually be able to make the text flow). And despite apparently putting in a great deal of effort to avoid them, the author still included at least two that I found in a quick reread: "drawn for them" in the "beholder words" section, and "accepted for publication" right at the bottom. In both cases, the result is perfectly readable, not at all fuzzy, and entirely unremarkable---which shoots a rather gaping hole in the argument that there is anything wrong with a passive voice.

I feel sorry for his grad students, and only hope that when they come out the other end, they will sensibly discard the silly mandates of their advisor, rather than perpetuating the myths....

24 points by dododo 2 days ago 0 replies      
there are two gnu utilites that are useful for writing: gnu style and gnu diction.

diction finds common mistakes.
style gives some metrics (may or may not be useful, YMMV).

they have a similar theme as this article.

16 points by raffi 2 days ago 3 replies      
My style checker finds weasel words, passive voice, and repeated words (a lexical illusion). It also finds confused words as well (another lexical illusion). It's not integrated with LaTeX but it is available for Firefox, Google Chrome, and OpenOffice.org.


4 points by jgrahamc 2 days ago 2 replies      
My doctoral supervisor also taught me to write and it was very, very valuable. It enabled me to write for newspapers later and write my book. Learning to write is important because it helps you to see the subject you are writing about clearly.

In ReWork, the 37 Signals' guys mention that if they have the choice between two potential hires of equal ability, they'll choose the one who's a better writer.

10 points by andolanra 2 days ago 0 replies      
The passive gets a bad rap a lot of the time, but getting rid of passives isn't always the best way to go about things. An approach which forbids all passive verbs often results in less readable or less appropriate prose, because there are honestly places where the passive is the correct thing to use. Broadly speaking, it's better to educate yourself about those situations than to treat it as wholly bad and eliminate it entirely.

I'd go into more detail, but Language Log has discussed it in great depth: http://www.google.com/search?q=site:http://languagelog.ldc.u...

The worst visualization I've ever seen (CNBC on the oil spill) cnbc.com
131 points by viggity 2 days ago   47 comments top 25
41 points by viggity 2 days ago 1 reply      
This shows you exactly what not to do with your info-viz. They show about 100 milk jugs of gray gradient and say, imagine if there were 184 million of them?

Whoa Whoa Whoa. HOLD THE BOAT. You (CNBC) are telling me that the oil spill is 184 million gallons is also equivalent to 184 MILLION ONE-GALLON MILK JUGS?!?!? That is just crazy - consider my mind BLOWN! Perhaps you could show a pyramid of 184 million gallon jugs and put a small outline of a 6' tall man next to it?

Then there is this one: http://www.cnbc.com/id/38294088/?slide=7 At least there is some useful information on this slide "674K Homes for one year". But why the hell show a picture of the entire electrical grid? It doesn't make any sense.

The rest of them are pretty bad as well, they either don't show scale, or they show a very misleading scale.

13 points by lwhi 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think the progression is interesting.

It starts by visualising what 1 gallon equals using something that people recognise in everyday life ... then shows a lot of 'wow, it really is vast' slides, then moves to 'well, it's pretty small compared to the size of the gulf / how much oil we have in reserve'.

It's not a good example of info-graphics - it's a slide-show with illustrations.

13 points by judofyr 2 days ago 1 reply      
And it uses Flash for static images. Can't they get anything right?
12 points by sspencer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Somewhere Edward Tufte is crying.
6 points by jcromartie 2 days ago 0 replies      
On The Bugle (a genuinely funny podcast) they were amused by these ridiculous types of comparisons, so they calculated how far cricket bats made of frozen oil would stretch, placed end-to-end.
3 points by hugh3 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's another visualization for you:

The flow rate of Niagara Falls is about 1833 m^3 per second. So if Niagara Falls suddenly started gushing oil instead of water, it would be about six minutes' worth.

2 points by apinstein 2 days ago 2 replies      
The graphic is kind of bad, but their idea is quite sound. If you read the caption, it includes:

> Set side by side, the 184 million oil-filled jugs would cover an area of approximately 1.36 square miles. This amount of 1-gallon containers would be enough for every resident of the 12 most populous US states (2/3 the population of the country) to carry one in their hand simultaneously.

To me, that's powerful imagery. Too bad their infographic doesn't reflect that idea.

2 points by ars 2 days ago 1 reply      
> However, Phelps likely wouldn't be able to swim as quickly through thick crude oil as he could through clear, fresh water.

Actually this is not true: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1418001

And: "clear, fresh water". As if "non-fresh" water would make any difference.

2 points by jcl 2 days ago 0 replies      
That visualization is unhelpful, but at least it isn't grossly misleading, like the graphic corrected in this post:


3 points by Elite 2 days ago 1 reply      
As absurd as these visualizations are, it does raise the bigger point that it is very difficult for our brains to understand large numbers.

It is difficult for most people to really grasp how much 184 million gallons is, or to tell the difference between $1 Trillion in bailout vs $2 trillion in bailout money. After some point, we just give up and call it "a lot". I think this has very real public policy consequences.

But I'd bet, we'd very much understand if your boss said he was cutting your $100k salary to $50k.

3 points by nkassis 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wait one milk jug is == to one gallon of oil? Wow, that makes it that much easier to see.
1 point by hugh3 2 days ago 1 reply      
Oh, it's not that bad. Some of them are reasonable, some of them not so much. The fact that it was enough to coat San Francisco Bay to a depth of 1/64th of an inch sorta put it into perspective for me. (This did not, I admit, need to be illustrated with a line-art drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge).
1 point by Confusion 2 days ago 1 reply      
Even '279 olympic-size swimming pools' does not really appeal to the imagination. You'd probably be best of comparing it to the volume of a reasonably sized lake in the vicinity of the reader.
1 point by Groxx 2 days ago 0 replies      
That whole set is surprisingly bad... it goes from "OMG that's a LOT" to "oh, that's not so bad then, is it?" to "1/64th of an inch...? How thick is that?"

Aimless, perspectiveless, and confusing.

1 point by aheilbut 2 days ago 0 replies      
However, a pool that is 1.36 square miles, 1 milk-jug deep does actually does put it into perspective quite well, especially compared to the volume of the ocean.
2 points by nsfmc 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is sorta halfway there, maybe a better analogy would be "the amount of milk america drinks in two weeks"? Although it doesn't sound particularly severe.

avg american drinks 25 gallons of milk a year, an avg household of 2.59 people, 184 million gallons oil, and ~population of 307 million. (307,006,550 people) / (184 million gallons / ((25 gallons / (52 weeks)) * 2.59 people)) = ~2 weeks

1 point by jedbrown 2 days ago 0 replies      
This one is worse, the 76% isn't volume, area, height, or length weighted.


2 points by bad_alloc 2 days ago 0 replies      
On slide 12 you can read that the spill is supposed to be equivalent to "1,9301.5 mW wind turbines"; i.e. for the money spent on everything you could buy as many wind turbines as required to achieve the specified energy output.
Sadly mW means milliwatts and not Megawatts, which they probably intended to say.
2 points by c1sc0 2 days ago 0 replies      
Best clicktrap ever: keep moving through the visualizations ... it gets better and better.
2 points by vgurgov 2 days ago 1 reply      
Are they dumb?? Is it a joke? I am not getting it -can someone explain plz?

What Does 184 Million Gallons of Oil Look Like? - Like 184 Milk Jugs..

2 points by andrewingram 2 days ago 1 reply      
Unless my maths is very much off, if you made the oil into one long cuboid 1 atom across, the length would be 88 light years. I was kind of disappointed by this, I was hoping it would be longer than the known universe.
1 point by tibbon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Additionally, it is one of those web page that hitting 'back' once doesn't take you back and tries to get you stuck. At least in Chrome on the Mac.
1 point by davidedicillo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Now we know that even CNBC uses odesk for their illustrations
1 point by Marticus 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think the yacht one was worse.

But the beer can in the stadium I'm afraid takes the cake. Completely absurd.

1 point by biggulp 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps showing something like one of the old World Trade center towers as a container with a thermometer-style guage on the side would work better. Show more than one building if it is more than that.

Looks like the buildings were 87x135 feet, if I got the math right, a pair could be filled to just over 1000 feet

Do I really want to be using a language where memoize is a PhD-level topic? google.com
128 points by signa11 1 day ago   75 comments top 10
31 points by klodolph 1 day ago 1 reply      
A couple years back I read a blog post with someone complaining about how hard it was to implement the traditional Lisp "map" / "mapcar" function. Specifically, one that took N lists and a single function with N arguments. The author was totally right, too. I could implement this generalized "map" function in Haskell, but it required defining an extra type class which is a little extreme.

Of course, the real problem is that people who are new to Haskell expect to sit down and solve problems in the same way they've been solving problems all along. This author was used to the "map" function from Lisp, and wasn't thinking about whether it was necessary, or whether Haskell had a different way of doing things.

Here's what the "mapN" function does:

    > mapN (+1) [1,2]
> mapN (+) [1,2] [5,8]

The reason that we don't want to use "mapN" in Haskell is because of the following problem:

    > mapN (+) [1,2]

The result is either "[Int] -> [Int]" or "[Int -> Int]", with no clue as to which is correct. This is why Haskell has "zipWith", "zipWith3", ... Not as pedantry, but because the alternative is ambiguous. (You can use Control.Applicative + ZipList, but that's a tad verbose).

My conclusion is that Haskell's differences are what throw people off -- programmers have to relearn how to do things they thought they had figured out for good years ago. (In this case, "everything is curried" means "varargs requires type classes"). It's FINE if you don't want to learn to do things differently and I won't think less of you, I respect your choices for what you do with your precious free time, and I understand that you might want stuff just to work now without learning anything, just please stop stereotyping the Haskellers as a bunch of ivory tower PhDs. I'm not even done with my Bachelor's.

16 points by dons 1 day ago 1 reply      
Long and detailed discussion, including original participants, on Reddit, http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/crgxs/do_i_real...

My take away:

* The Haskell culture is to take questions seriously
* In doing so, the literature will be cited where appropriate
* Some people get turned off by research papers

In this case, the guy asked a fairly profound question, and received a long, friendly answer, which included references to the literature.

Also, it plays on a stereotype, hence all the upvotes.

39 points by ekidd 1 day ago 1 reply      
Not as my _only_ programming language, no. But in general, why not? I value programming languages for what they can teach me. Haskell does make state slightly difficult. (If you need it, just use the IO monad, already. It doesn't bite.) But Haskell makes certain other things easy, things which are extraordinarily difficult in almost any other programming language.

For most of my professional life, I've been paid to program in Common Lisp, Scheme, Dylan, etc. Macros, to me, are an ordinary and natural part of programming. But after a while, macros become boring: 99% of them are just a thin syntactic wrapper over something I already know.

In Haskell, you don't build higher-order abstractions using macros. Instead, you build your higher-order abstractions using math. And math is almost entirely stateless, lazy and functional. You are forced to think in terms of combinators, abstract algebras, algebraic optimizations, and, yes, category theory. Category theory is the closest link between the lambda calculus and mathematical logic, for example, allowing you to transform some very exotic programming paradigms into actual code.

So, yes, Haskell is hard, and it's an ongoing research project. You will spend a lot of time reading papers. (And frankly, you don't want to maintain somebody else's code if you haven't read the same papers.) But some of those papers and theses have blown my mind more in a single weekend than some entire years of hacking in Lisp.

Haskell is not the most practical language I know. (State is not the biggest problem for me, but rather the lack of subtyping.) But Haskell is the language I'd be saddest to forget, and the language which has stretched my mind the most.

15 points by fogus 1 day ago 1 reply      
There is (has always been?) an interesting formula for writing academic C.S. papers: define the most constrained environment imaginable and then do mundane things in it. Haskell is a very beautiful language in a very pure sense and it is the perfect garden for C.S. papers. Likewise, it's an incredibly fertile garden for language features and programming techniques. Is it hard? In some ways perhaps, but to me Javascript's notion of logical truthiness is extremely difficult to hold in my head. It's all relative I suppose.
8 points by jacquesm 1 day ago 0 replies      
It may that Haskell will never be a mainstream language, but concepts from Haskell will find their way in to other languages, and that's good enough.

Not every language has to be a mainstream web-centric enterprise level application oriented (buzzwords enough like that ?) success in order to be successful by some other measure. Haskell has always been research oriented (avoid success at all cost), and if that's the goal then that's fine.

14 points by skm 1 day ago 1 reply      
Actually, arrays in Haskell are automatically memoized and lazily evaluated. So in most practical situations you get memoization for free.

For example, imagine you need to calculate a function f(n) for various values of n (let's say for n ranging from 0 to N). You simply define an array memo_f such that memo_f!n = f(n). ('!' is the array selection operator in Haskell).

Because Haskell evaluates lazily (i.e. not until it absolutely has to), it simply stores a link to the definition of the function for each array element. But once a particular array element is used, that link is replaced by the calculated answer.

I'll post some actual code to demonstrate this in a minute, just in case anyone's interested.

13 points by loup-vaillant 1 day ago 0 replies      
"PhD" may be a scary, Haskell's theses are not. Most academic paper I've read about it are quite readable (I don't have a PhD). The only serious prerequisite for a competent programmer is an introductory course on ML or Haskell.
4 points by greenlblue 1 day ago replies      
This argument comes up against haskell over and over again and I think it is because it has some merit. Type level hackery and monad wizardry are great but it just feels like a whole bunch of smart people showing off about how clever they can be with avoiding state and pushing it all into some high level categorical constructs.
1 point by bpyne 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'd like to look at a different facet of the issue. My employer mostly implements COTS; our vendors drive our technology choices. The vendors of our two most critical systems decided on JVM based languages - Java and Groovy - so we're moving in their direction.

Java is new to most of my department. Currently people use C, SQL, and PL/SQL. I started with Java in 1998: it's not very exciting for me anymore. I'd like to use languages with greater abstraction capabilities. Despite being a really attractive language, Clojure is a tough sell because of its Lisp-like syntax: being a JVM-based language I can probably still get it in house for small apps.

Haskell, however, is non-JVM and has unique features by comparison with Java. This combination make it impossible to make an argument for despite all the goodness that it has. Unfortunately for me, it's relegated to the category of a language I'll play with periodically and someday hopefully use in industry.

2 points by WorkerBee 1 day ago 1 reply      
topic is a dud link - it takes me to a login page.
You’ve Either Shipped or You Haven’t scraplab.net
130 points by tswicegood 4 days ago   37 comments top 14
32 points by mechanical_fish 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is a big reason why it's important to promote tinkering at many levels of society, whether it's by holding those Maker Faires, or producing TV shows about modding your motorcycle, or giving seed money to lots of first-time startup founders, or whatever.

If you do any amount of engineering or building, you will learn a lot about how the process works. On the flip side, if you have never tried to engineer anything you'll be prone to magical thinking. Too many people's mental model of engineering seems to be drawn from Green Lantern comics: If a gadget cannot do a certain thing, it must be because its builders don't have enough will to succeed. They need to want it more!

The extreme example of this problem is in science. Just about nobody in society has actually done any experimental science. Being a fan of science, reading lots of books about science, visiting science museums, or conducting demonstrations of basic procedures doesn't count. It doesn't teach you what it's actually like to explore a problem where the "right answer" is not known in advance, and every data point costs money or time, and there are more knobs than you can afford to turn, and it's hard to resist cherry-picking the data, and your first N hours of work have to be thrown away after you find the boneheaded systematic error.

19 points by sharksandwich 4 days ago 1 reply      
Brings to mind a great Teddy Roosevelt quote

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

15 points by andrewljohnson 4 days ago 5 replies      
I like the sentiment that people who have built something are sympathetic to other builders.

Other than that, there is no substance to this article. It's first place on HN because it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling. It's pandering, pure and simple.

12 points by atiw 4 days ago 0 replies      
Right on point.
Yesterday, we went to Romano's Macaroni Grill.
My dinner was delayed by an hour, and the manager apologized.
And I was not angry.
I understood.
I got it.
How tough it could be to make things run perfectly.

I think we learn a lot of humility and patience, doing our startups.

(We did get a free dinner, but somewhere deep inside I wanted to do something nice to him.
And although I usually never have dessert, I ordered a Tiramisu, and paid 34% tip on it, to show them indirectly that we understood.

Before when I was a student, I would have just taken the dinner free as if I was entitled to it.

3 points by guelo 4 days ago 1 reply      
The critic's work is valuable. As a maker it might rankle but as a consumer ready to dish out hard earned cash it is extremely useful. Unfortunately your blood, sweat and tears does not entitle you to success.
3 points by Tichy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry, but the reason that Apple tends to get so much flak is their arrogance, not the ignorance of the common people. In fact that article portrays a certain kind of arrogance, too (even though it does not come from Apple).
2 points by johngalt 4 days ago 0 replies      
The list of things an individual hasn't done is always quite a list. This doesn't preclude them of having a valid opinion, as this article implies.

You've never been a soldier so you can't comment about war?
You've never been in jail so you can't comment about incarceration?

1 point by pvg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is this a motivational message for the Diaspora folks? There are probably equally meaningful binary decomposition criteria for most everyone else, like "you've either put on clean socks this morning, or you haven't"
1 point by sdsantos 3 days ago 1 reply      
It remembers me of another article, about producers and consumers: "The Single Most Important Career Question You Can Ask Yourself" http://www.softwarebyrob.com/2008/05/18/the-single-most-impo...

If you’ve been reading startup blogs for years and never started anything, it’s time to accept that your tendency is to be a consumer. It’s not to say you can’t break out of that classification by starting something, but if you haven’t done it thus far you’re not likely to do it soon without some external motivation (maybe this post?).

If you have 50 software product ideas and your hard drive is littered with folders containing 30 lines of code from each, you tend towards being a consumer (or at least a producer who has trouble finishing things).

And if you figure out that you are a producer, stop daydreaming about the day you’ll make things happen. Start making it happen in the next 30 days, or forever hold your peace.

Once again, is the ability to ship something the major distinction.

3 points by keeptrying 4 days ago 0 replies      
This was a swift kick in the pants that I need to ship! Thanks :)
1 point by code_duck 3 days ago 0 replies      
I do know what it's like.

I became a lot less harsh in my attitude towards companies I deal with after I started working on a software dev. team.

However, I'm still seething with hatred for management. Maybe if I'm an exec someday, I'll learn to empathize.

1 point by switch 4 days ago 0 replies      
great point. It's worth mentioning this applies to pretty much every field and especially to things that have had a lot of effort put into them.

Cooking, acting, coding, shipping, public speaking, being a doctor, pretty much everything.

Perhaps the better statement would be -

You've either produced something of quality and stood behind it or you haven't.

-3 points by code_duck 4 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't.
-2 points by J3L2404 4 days ago 0 replies      
There are 10 types of people, those who've shipped and those who haven't.
This is how you pitch a new piece of technology. youtube.com
128 points by wherespaul 3 days ago   54 comments top 16
48 points by clemesha 3 days ago 2 replies      
Google's "Parisian Love" ad is an extremely potent, real world example of using similar emotions to sell a product:


24 points by pvg 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is more about how to make a good TV show. He's not really pitching a new piece of technology at all. He's pitching an ad campaign, which in turn is about introducing consumers to a new piece of technology. The scene is so good that you fall for the campaign too.

It's a great way to learn something about pitching if you look like Don Draper, have a product that good (the carousel campaign) and you're an actor in a well-written, hit TV show.

6 points by dasht 3 days ago 2 replies      
One thing to keep in mind is that it's "just a TV show" and that it has the benefit of hindsight. They can look back at history and find the great (or the disastrous) ad campaigns and riff on those. They make it look like Draper (the pitchman in that clip) just knocks out those hits with just a few hours of brooding between sessions of drinking and screwing and being bad towards his wife. In real life, its a lot more random and not so easy.
8 points by drewcrawford 3 days ago 1 reply      
This reminded me a lot of the iPhone 4 ad, just fifty years old. It's not about the 1ghz processor or the 512mb of ram, it's about the value of the experiences you have using it.
5 points by wherespaul 3 days ago 2 replies      
Here is another motivational thread on HN:
Ask HN: Movies that motivate you?

I just watched the first episode of Mad Men and I'm hooked.

4 points by Scott_MacGregor 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you guys are fans of Don Draper, here is the real life Don Draper, a guy named Steve Frankfurt:
3 points by hackermom 3 days ago 0 replies      
I believe the first rule for pitching a piece of "technology" is to repeatedly refer to it as "new" "technology", despite it being neither new nor technology. It's the new buzz.

In other news, blacksmith creates horseshoe with hammer and anvil "technology".

9 points by shahin 3 days ago 1 reply      
you mean having dramatic background music played while pitching?
1 point by watmough 3 days ago 0 replies      
That's an incredible scene, and you can clearly see that the FaceTime ads for the iPhone 4 are in the same 'genre'.

FaceTime allows people who are separated, perhaps on different continents, or across generations to re-connect, and share important moments, like the birth of a child, or the slings and arrows of adolescence.

Just like Draper says in the scene, the technology just has to work and get out of the way. The human experience is the important part.

2 points by akkartik 3 days ago 0 replies      
Recently I found apple's facetime ads to be super effective. I'm never buying the iPhone 4 (or perhaps any successor) but man I want that app.
2 points by ek 3 days ago 1 reply      
I was going to try to find a YouTube clip of it, but I couldn't, so let me just recommend The IT Crowd episode 2.5, in which Moss invents the best bra ever known, except for a few fatal flaws which cause their pitch at the end of the episode to fail miserably.
1 point by sjtgraham 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't be surprised if this clip was circulated internally at Apple and within the creative agency responsible for FaceTime during that campaign's concept stage. This approach is classic Apple, i.e. highlight and focus on the benefits instead of the features.
1 point by chewyrunt 3 days ago 0 replies      
This reminded me of the Philips ad 'Carousel' (related only by its name, and that it also happens to be an excellent ad):


2 points by tzm 3 days ago 0 replies      
Watch "Art and Copy". A poignant reflection and reminder of why advertising is important.
1 point by messel 3 days ago 0 replies      
So remembering who that's important, not what or how.
-4 points by latch 3 days ago 2 replies      
Probably obvious from the clip, but for those who don't watch the show, he's fairly recently "lost" his family due to being a jerk (with respect to being a father/husband).
Useful things you can make SSH do derwiki.tumblr.com
125 points by derwiki 9 hours ago   48 comments top 12
3 points by jerf 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Check 'man ssh' for escape characters, including for how to terminate an SSH session when the remote is not responding. Check 'man sshd' for the AUTHORIZED_KEYS FILE FORMAT section. I call particular attention to the "command='command'" option, which allows you to set up an SSH key in such a way that it can only be used to run a particular command. Of course the key is only as secure as the command, but that's a great start. I use it for when I want to cron a job where one server has to talk to another to do something as some privileged user, and of course can't enter a password then, but I don't want the key to grant full login privs as that user.
16 points by herrherr 7 hours ago 3 replies      
My personal favourite:

- Get a cheap development box (Linode, Slicehost, etc.)

- Set Firefox to use Socks Host

- Open up your terminal and enter this: ssh -C2qTnN -D 8080 your-user@example.com

Et voilà, you're tunneling all your browser traffic through the development box.

9 points by p3ll0n 9 hours ago 3 replies      
Two more that come to my mind ...

1. Comparing local and remote files

$ ssh user@ "cat /tmp/remotefile" | diff - /tmp/localfile

2. Outputting your microphone to a remote computer's speaker

dd if=/dev/dsp | ssh -c arcfour -C username@host dd of=/dev/dsp

7 points by novas0x2a 6 hours ago 2 replies      
My favorite trick (in .ssh/config):

  Host *.internal.workdomain.com
ProxyCommand ssh gateway.workdomain.com nc %h 22
ForwardAgent yes
User <username>

Then you can type

  ssh bender.internal.workdomain.com

and ssh will automatically connect through the gateway to the (normally inaccessible) internal node. ForwardAgent will pass the credentials through. (If you copy this blindly, note that this requires netcat). This configuration lets you pretend (to tools like scp, rsync-over-ssh, etc) that you have direct access to the machine in question, even when it goes through a gateway machine:

  scp config bender.internal.workdomain.com:
scp bender.internal.workdomain.com:logfile .
7 points by mjschultz 8 hours ago 1 reply      
One of the biggest 'ah-ha' moments I had with SSH was that I could create my own hosts with certain properties. For example, if I wanted a backup server with a special user and key I could add it to my ~/.ssh/config file

  Host backup-server
HostName backup.example.com
User backup
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/backup_dsa

Then just have a shell script run

  $ ssh backup-server

It ended up working really well.

Also, control sockets.

3 points by dododo 9 hours ago 1 reply      
want to log in without appearing in lastlog(8)/w(1)/who(1)?

ssh -T host

(of course syslog still sees you).

if available, ssh-copy-id(1) is an easier way of setting up passwordless ssh(1).

note also that openssh supports on-demand proxying via SOCKS4/5: check out ssh -D. this makes it easy to pipe all web traffic (for example) over ssh.

2 points by ww520 5 hours ago 1 reply      
My favorite trick with SSH is running Tramp mode in Emacs to do editing on remote servers, invaluable when accessing isolated servers in data center via a jump-box server from my local machine. The fun part is the multi-host jump to editing files on a server that is couple hops away, like jumping through multiple data centers.

I usually bookmarks the Tramp sessions of the frequently visited servers to avoid retyping the host url and logon setting.

3 points by cypherdog 8 hours ago 1 reply      
This one is simple, but I like it. Use -X command to launch a local x11 session for a given remote application. Works for Linux and OSX machines with x11 installed.

>ssh -X user@remoteserver.com will connect you.
>gedit file.txt

will launch a remote instance (viewable locally) of gedit with the remote file.txt loaded and ready for editing. Especially good for those who don't like command line editors (note: gedit must be installed on the remote machine for the example to work.)

2 points by sabat 8 hours ago 0 replies      
He left off the use of proxytunnel, which lets you tunnel SSH through an HTTP/S proxy, even if it requires authentication:


Also, as others have mentioned, -D is pretty useful (SOCKS proxy).

1 point by Groxx 7 hours ago 1 reply      
This could really use an explanation of what the arguments are doing. It's just a list of ingredients, not a recipe; very little can be learned from this list (though it may inspire learning).
1 point by bacarter 3 hours ago 0 replies      
It's important to encrypt your private key with a passphrase. Use ssh-agent to store the un-encrypted key in memory on login. On OSX 10.5 or greater, this is really easy: http://bit.ly/alDMhp. Make sure to add 'ForwardAgent Yes' to your ssh config, and then never have to type your ssh password again.
2 points by afhof 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Making a VPN over ssh using a address:


       cached 22 July 2010 04:11:01 GMT