hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    23 Nov 2010 Best
home   ask   best   7 years ago   
1
How Israel handles airport security thestar.com
539 points by epo 7 days ago   161 comments top 34
1
90 points by SandB0x 7 days ago 3 replies      
I have dual Israeli citizenship and have flown to and from Tel Aviv quite a few times.

* The line interviewers are smart people, and it's seen as a good first job after military service. In other places this might be seen as a dead-end or undesirable job.

* The atmosphere in Ben Gurion is very calm because everyone feels safe (or at least I do).

* The only time I've seen any mild panic was due to my (late) great-aunt. She was a neurosurgeon, but could be alarmingly absent-minded in daily life. She'd taken my sister and I to the airport for our flight back to London, back when we were both in our teens. For some reason, my great aunt had a kind of small suitcase on wheels with her that day, and when my sister and I stood in the queue, she left it next to us and went off to find the bathroom. The line moved forwards and the suitcase didn't. The security guards spotted this fact within about 30 seconds, and started asking whose the bag was. We didn't realise it was my aunt's, and after nobody claimed it they started ushering us all back and making radio calls. When my aunt came back we all got an earful from the security staff.

2
75 points by aresant 7 days ago replies      
Article leaves out the very real and very big catch:

"Israel values its security, and pays for it. According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, Israel spends around 10 times more per passenger than the United States does."

A little more on that:

"[An analyst] estimated El Al's security bill at $100 million a year, which amounts to $76.92 per trip by its 1.3 million passengers. Half is paid by the Israeli government," Peter Robison wrote. The United States, in comparison, spent in 2008 $5.74 billion to monitor and protect 735,297,000 enplanements, or around $7.80 a passenger."

The TSA system is a production line - hire cheap unskilled labor, and train around a process and manuals.

In the USA the Israeli version would be very difficult in addition to very costly.

That doesn't even take into account the question of the uproar the system would cause with the suggestion of racial profiling.

References via:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a...

and

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/01/07/would_you_pay...

3
39 points by idan 7 days ago 1 reply      
I am a dual citizen (IL/USA), have flown in/out of many airports around the world, know my way around a security apparatus.

Every time the TSA pulls another ridiculous stunt in the name of "security", these Israeli airport security consultants get interviewed to death. Here we go again!

As before, every article on the subject stops short of highlighting the uncomfortable truth which precludes the TSA adopting the Israeli model: a lack of brainpower among TSA screeners.

The article correctly points out that the Israeli model is more about evaluating the person and less about evaluating their luggage. Problem is, evaluation implies good judgment -- a quality demonstrably lacking in enough TSA agents as to make a generalization accurate. The TSA does not employ the quality of manpower that it needs to in order to base its operations on subjective character evaluations.

Even if the TSA were able to foot the bill and hire/train such manpower, it would still be unpalatable to enough people in the US that such a system would fail. Evaluation is inherently subjective and discriminatory. There is no impartial way to say "I'm deciding whether or not you represent a threat." Some agents will let their personal views influence their judgment. Some passengers will inevitably feel persecuted for their skin color, rightly or wrongly. Several lawsuits later, the system would be neutered to the point where agents are no longer free to exercise their judgment, and we're back to square one.

Finally, it's worth noting that the security expert in the article is spinning a rose-tinted tale of airport efficiency experienced mainly by Jewish passengers. Ask an Israeli Arab and you'll likely hear a tale of exasperating interrogations and adversarial, dumb agents -- much like the TSA.

I wrote more on the subject a few months ago, in a comment for a similar article: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1025173

Feel free to ask me questions, I'll answer to the best of my knowledge.

4
14 points by coffeemug 6 days ago 4 replies      
I cannot believe people bring up Israeli airport security as an example of a system the U.S. should model. The security agents are neither intelligent, nor well trained, nor polite. The entire system is based on racism and I would take TSA security over the Israeli model any day. People were complaining here about a pat down search in public by a TSA agent equaling sexual harassment. I was actually taken to a public bathroom by an El Al agent and strip searched, purely because my last name "sounds Turkish".

From my anecdotal experience, El Al has security personnel that appears trained to a naked eye, but in reality is extremely ineffective, flawed, and unethical. I had the misfortune to go through El Al security four times. These all occurred in a span of two weeks, roughly in the same circumstances (I had to fly into Israel, fly out, fly back in, and fly back out). I can tell you that the outcome of their screening is heavily inconsistent and highly dependent on the prejudices of the particular agent doing the interview, and not necessarily on advanced training procedures.

I had the same answers for their questions every time. Two of the times the agents were Israeli jews who immigrated from Russia. Since we share a common background, both let me pass after very few questions because my trip details seemed perfectly reasonable to them. The other two times, I was interviewed by jews of clearly middle-eastern descent - both had no understanding of my cultural background, and both thought my trip details were extremely suspicious, subjecting me to a detailed search. So the outcome of the interviews was effectively random, which means they might as well perform random searches.

The interviews were highly unethical, inappropriate, and degrading. Even more importantly, they were completely ineffective, resulting in a random outcome highly dependent on each agent's personal prejudices. I don't know what good security looks like, but I can tell you that this most certainly isn't it.

5
37 points by icegreentea 7 days ago 1 reply      
While many of the Israel procedures might be kinda hard to implement in the States or Canada (or elsewhere), there's really a few that really should be looked at. Like the whole containment thing.

"First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation."

I mean... you gotta admit. That just makes so much sense.

6
18 points by ihodes 7 days ago 0 replies      
You get the feeling, going through Ben Gurion, that these are professionals working the security line. They're efficient, polite but terse, and thorough.

They definitely do behavioral profiling, but racial profiling they do not: Arabs and Americans and Israelis, etc, could go through without minimal questioning, but there were obviously people security paid more attention to than others.

I also didn't feel like a criminal going through their airport, which, in stark contrast, I did as soon as I got back to the US and went through customs and then TSA again.

7
7 points by DanielBMarkham 7 days ago 0 replies      
Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

Or we can take naked pictures of children and grope people, taking hours to board planes, and evacuating the entire terminal at the first indication of trouble.

I really don't like my own tone of voice -- it sounds like I am ranting. But I'm not. At least I don't think I am. This is just common sense. Small, agile decentralized systems with an emphasis on layers and innovation are going to beat treating people like they were F-15s passing down the assembly line at a defense plant. This factory, top-down mentality has got to go.

I guess I'm just still amazed that we gotten this far out of whack. If you had told me we would be doing this, even right after 9-11, I wouldn't have believed you. Body scans? Invasive searches? Sure thing. Not a problem. Sign me up -- as long as its rare and happens on an ad-hoc basis. But what we have now? It's a total travesty. The lunatics are truly running the asylum.

(Ok, maybe I am ranting)

8
25 points by nivertech 7 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, we have the best airport security in Israel ;)

I witnessed a case, when a guy, who joked with the "profiling" girl, was escorted to his jet by security guard.

I second, that profiling is not by race, but behavior (and maybe accent). Their questions can be funny and sometimes even rude.

Still it's better than removing your shoes, posing naked and getting radiation.

9
7 points by jakarta 7 days ago 2 replies      
The biggest problem with adopting the Israeli model IMO is with resources. You would have to spend a lot of money training and hiring people who would be good at behavioral profiling.

The other problem is that Israel is a tiny country, they only have two international airports -- so they can focus all of their resources on those two airports. That's not the case here in the US.

10
13 points by BRadmin 7 days ago 0 replies      
This article is from 2009 and was submitted back to HN then - and had some insightful comments.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1024850

11
8 points by idoh 7 days ago 0 replies      
I had a first hand experience flying out of Israel with the questioning side. For various accidental and benign reasons I got a little extra questioning, which was on the topics of: do I speak Hebrew?, what synagogue do I go to in the US?, and why didn't I have any checked luggage?

In the end I gave the guards the phone number of my relatives, and they talked to them, and that's how I got through the checkpoint.

So anyway, they do seem to focus on the person and their circumstances, and not on what that person is or is not carrying. Also, the guards were not the typical process-following types that you'd see at the TSA. Their job is to engage you in conversation, and make decisions without following a flowchart.

12
10 points by ja27 7 days ago 0 replies      
"Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?"

Because L-3 / Lockheed Martin / Haliburton / etc. don't sell training in behavior tracking / FACS? Isn't it all just a money-grab by the usual suspects?

13
2 points by darklajid 6 days ago 0 replies      
I want to chime in here as well.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I plan to relocate to Tel Aviv soon (from Germany), the company I'm working for has its headquarter there. I like the country, try to learn the language etc.. But:

Every time I do the flight I'm nervous about the problems that _will_ come up. Coworker needed to strip to his underwear. Another one had his bag completely devastated several times. My (german, local branch) boss has probably more stamps from IL in his passport than anything else and does the trip routinely: I've never seen him getting through without problems, taking apart the hand luggage and asking lots of weird questions, sometimes for hours.

There are some procedures in place to make this easier in the future. For a while companies can now announce guests/coworkers etc. in advance and make their life easier by providing names, passport numbers and dates of arrival/departure in written form. But that takes time and sucks if you need to fly over "now".

Regarding the "safe" feeling: Nope, cannot confirm that.
In Frankfurt the normal check-in is like this:

* Check in and get your ticket

* Pass the boarding pass control

* Pass the security (think ~TSA) control

* Move to the gate and board

For El Al it's like this:

* Talk to a "Security officer" about your plans to stay and your luggage. Who packed it? Where? Did you leave it for a second? Did someone ask you to bring something to IL? etc..

* Get a ticket and a token with cryptic (probably: "Search this one, Yes/No") markers

* Pass boarding pass control

* Pass security (~TSA) control

* Go to the gate

* Pass IL security, taking that token (and, every single time I traveled) sit down and wait for an officer.

* Answer lots of questions, let them check your luggage (again)

* Move to the gate, guarded by security officers with submachine guns (remember: We're still in FFM, Germany at this point...)

In Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion, it's the same. The most upvoted post was from someone with an Israeli citizenship. Yeah - right. There are two lanes in Ben Gurion, Israeli and "Other". The latter is crap, takes ages, needs you to be there while they x-ray all your luggage (this is before you get a ticket, so you are present with your check-in luggage as well). Lots of questions. And, from experience, you end up at a desk where someone tells you to open your (check-in) luggage, to search your underwear and private possessions in front of you.

Seriously: This is _not_ better than anything you US guys are currently complaining about. And no, this does _not_ make me feel safe, at all.

Edit: Something I completely missed to mention: The article actually tries to tell you that the process is quick and effective. Maybe (not sure) it is for people with an IL passport. For me it means being at the airport 3 hours in advance, instead of 45-60 minutes. Otherwise I'm just not able to make it. My next trip is schedule to depart at ~3 am, I know that I'll be on the _german_ airport at 0:00 - for the sake of this efficient process. Same on the route back. What an improvement..

14
5 points by srean 6 days ago 2 replies      
Despite the overwhelming possibility of being downvoted it needs mention that the Israeli model as practiced may not be that good an example for US to follow. It has been documented by several respected human rights organizations and UN that Israel's security measures are often used as a proxy for punishment and harassment for disagreeing with the official govt line.

In spite of some erosion of liberties in US in the last decade or so, the American society continues to be orders of magnitude more open and free. I can confidently say that the way I will be treated by the American authorities does not depend on whether I or any of my family members were critical of American policy, neither is it dependent on places in US that are on my itinerary. Mention anything that remotely leans towards the UN view of the occupation to the Israeli security, or that you intend to visit any place in the occupied territories your experience will diverge dramatically (in its defense, personal anecdotal indicates that this may be regardless of whether you are Jewish or not).

It still would have been acceptable had that selective part of the treatment made the airport, the flight or Israel any safer. But it is not clear to me that the specialization based on the views of a traveller does. I am wary of copying a model that has a tendency for abuse unless I see convincing counterweights in place. All depends on the implementation details and the operational processes.

15
3 points by shimonamit 6 days ago 0 replies      
I was once late to the airport (in Israel) where I was scheduled to pick up my mother. I parked the car and ran towards the gate.

A guard was standing at the entrance with her hands crossed doing nothing by observing. When she saw me coming she made a few quick steps towards me and signaled me to stop and stand aside for questioning. I felt a bit uncomfortable, first because it was abrupt and I was being singled out, but also because she was behaving like a shepherd dog trying to seize my eyes (which I later understood why). She was very polite and dismissed me after presenting my ID and answering a few short questions.

This got me thinking about the silent perimeters, and how smart it is they were only engaged when triggered. The take home lesson for me was: smart earns respect. They were a step ahead of me and I was responding, not them.

16
3 points by doron 6 days ago 1 reply      
This solution is all well and good (i will disregard issues of legal liberties afforded in this country for the moment)

But it doesn't scale,Israel has one single main airport, the US has dozens of points for international entry, and many more domestic. It is easy and fairly cost effective when you have one location you have to worry about.

17
4 points by daten 7 days ago 0 replies      
The TSA has already attempted the behavior profiling..

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/06/behavioral_pro...

18
7 points by liad 7 days ago 0 replies      
have flown out of israel dozens of times.

before you get anywhere near the terminal you are stopped and men with uzi submachine guns look in the car and ask a couple of questions.

these guys are razor sharp and know exactly what they're looking for.

you feel safe and nervous at the same time

19
4 points by BlazingFrog 7 days ago 0 replies      
Although it was fairly explicitly pointed in the article (by Rafi Sela), I'm not seeing much of it discussed here. I think a big part of it is cultural.
Americans may object to this but I believe that, by virtue of having been shielded from any major aggression on its territory outside of 9/11, they don't know how to react to threats in a reasonable way. Most of what has been done by the government since then resembles more knee-jerk, fear-tainted overreaction than a sensible response to a grave, but also well documented abroad, problem.
Mr Sela uses the "Americans-take-too-much-shit-from their government" line but I believe this is simply out of inexperience in dealing with these issues.
20
3 points by ck2 7 days ago 2 replies      
Doesn't Israel also destroy the homes of any bomber's family? (seriously, google it)

That is more likely the deterrent. So should the USA do that too for all our domestic terrorists?

21
3 points by stuaxo 6 days ago 0 replies      
Just because it's runs more efficiently doesn't make it more desirable, it is after all - a militarised society, I don't particularly want to go to the US at the moment as it's moving that way.
22
2 points by danielnicollet 7 days ago 3 replies      
"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

Sorry but what do heavy metals have to do with airport security? is this just typo or have I completely lost my understanding of basic explosives chemistry and other terror related topics?

23
2 points by maurits 6 days ago 0 replies      
So, I have been to this airport traveling as a press photographer, which means you have an interesting itinerary and lots of interesting bits of kit in your luggage.I can add a little human aspect to this article. Last time the guy in front of me at the for mentioned first shielded baggage screening was suspected of having an explosive prompting the entire security machine to life and an evacuation. A false alarm and 30 odd minutes later I am again standing in line, pretty wasted at 5 in the morning. During the whole process the staff stayed very polite and very efficient, making the process quite painless.

Every time I get treated rude and unpleasant by security staff/goons in my own home-country airport for really no good reason what so ever, I think about this. I feel that a little manners & humanity would go a long way in getting support for security measures.

24
2 points by thesz 6 days ago 0 replies      
There are two notions of directing people, named after German words: Auftragstaktik and Befehlstaktik.

Auftragstaktik: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission-type_tactics
Befehlstaktik stands for "detailed order control".

It looks like Auftragstaktik is used in Israeli airports and TSA employ Befehlstaktik.

To quote an article about Auftragstaktik: "Ironically, since WW2, only the Israeli Defence Force seem to have come close to matching the Wehrmacht of WW2 in the exercise of command in this style".

So, they just use their military training and applied it to another field. And people from military works as screening officers at airports, for that being very good first job after military. Very clever.

25
1 point by steveplace 6 days ago 0 replies      
This kind of analysis has a major flaw: these two countries are apples and oranges, by sheer size. We've seen this before: when pundits comment on relative outperformance of infrastructure, education, etc., they forget that the US is a really, really, big place-- and things may not scale as well.

Israel has 2 international airports. The US has quite a few more. So the solutions presented here may not scale well as there is no true "funnel."

26
2 points by moo 6 days ago 0 replies      
What I hear is the Israeli border guards have juvenile, petty behavior. What comes to mind is denying Noam Chomsky entry into Israel back in May. Also the border guards who put 3 rifle rounds through Lily Sussman's MacBook. 21 year old Lily had Arab letters stuck on her MacBook's keyboard.
Before anyone tells me I haven't been to an Israel airport, I haven't been to the moon either but I still know it is mostly rock.
Link to shot MacBook incident:
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/12/video-interview-with-...
27
1 point by koevet 6 days ago 1 reply      
The same article was commented by Bruce Scheiner on his blog. http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/01/adopting_the_i...

Very interesting comments, bottom line "Israel model does not scale well".

28
1 point by berntb 6 days ago 0 replies      
After reading this discussion, I'd be sorely disappointed if I ever flew in/out if Israel and wasn't checked out carefully. :-)

But they are probably good at profiling curious tourists too.

Reminds me of when me and a few friends bicycled around Northern Ireland once in the 90s. If I made a querying hand gesture to military at checkpoints if we should get over for questioning, they laughed, without even hearing my non-native English... ("More stupid tourists that just want to get close looks at our bullpups.")

29
1 point by Tomek_ 7 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure if I'd really feel better when surrounded by armed soldiers and being questioned a couple of times on my way to the plane (also inside the bus that takes me to the airport as I understand) than if I would just have to go through a security gate, eventually take off my shoes and get my baggage scanned by x-ray. I mean, I was a couple of times questioned at the airport, with the usual questions ("did anyone other than you have access to your baggage?", etc.) and once they ordered me to open my baggage - and that didn't make me feel more safe or anything like that, rather uncomfortable and a bit pissed of, in a "wtf? do you seriously think I'm gonna explode the plane or what?" way.
Shortly speaking, I prefer to go through all those gates, have my baggage checked by security guys themselves ("go ahead, there's nothing there") than being bothered by some questions and be "under suspicion".
Don't know, maybe it's just that I'm from Europe and we don't care.
30
1 point by SkyMarshal 7 days ago 0 replies      
Published On Wed Dec 30 2009

Wow, this is an old article. Interesting how the idea seemed to get completely ignored by the MSM and government for the past year, while things just get worse at the airports.

31
0 points by harscoat 6 days ago 1 reply      
Flew there with my girl friend. We were very happy to be there 2 days only after sudden invitation to see a prospect. So when we handed our passports to the interviewer to get the Israel (Holy land!) visa Stamp, we were laughing of sheer joy to be there. Interviewer glared at us and asked abruptly: "what makes you laugh?!"
32
1 point by ffffruit 6 days ago 0 replies      
It all sounds absolutely reasonable (and dare I say pleasant) but how well does something like this scale? I am thinking Heathrow with 5 terminals with, I guess, 10 different entrances each where people arrive from.
33
1 point by dmn 6 days ago 0 replies      
34
0 points by amichail 7 days ago 2 replies      
Here's a Facebook approach to airport security:

http://www.google.com/buzz/amichail/TgPjwEJCJup/A-simple-sol...

2
When we got to the scanner, I opted out. Then they opted out. izs.me
419 points by Rickasaurus 6 days ago   184 comments top 27
1
44 points by j79 6 days ago replies      
I opted out during my last flight. After everything I had read, I decided I needed to experience it first hand. I was expecting a huge scene, with the TSA agent screaming, "OPT OUT! We've got an opt out here!", and then being manhandled, groped, and basically demeaned in front of other passengers.

After removing my shoes (the one part of airport security theatre I absolutely hate) and placing my belongings in those gray trays, I walked up to the TSA agent, who asked me multiple times if I had anything in my pockets-had I forgotten my wallet? Did I have my wrist watch on? Etc.

After the person in front of me had completed his scan, the TSA agent directed me to step forward. I asked if I could opt out. He responded with, "sure", and in his walkie-talkie, said, "I have a male-opt out." He then looked at me and said, "One second..."

He got a response back in his walkie talkie, and then directed me to walk through the scanner, pointing out that the scanner was not on.

On the other side, I was greeted by an older gentleman, who also pointed out the scanner was off. He asked if I would prefer being patted down in a private location. I declined. He then explained everything he would do: From the pat down, to using the back of his hand for the more "private" areas. I said, "okay...", honestly expecting the worst at this point.

He proceeded with the pat down at this point. He did my upper body first (arms, chest, back) and then went to my backside and said, "I'll now be using the back of my hand to pat your more private area" (my butt, basically...) I responded, "okay", and then with a brush, he ran his hand down the backside of my leg.

I'll be honest: My immediate thought was, "That's it? I've been grabbed worse in a club/bar..."

Of course, I still hadn't received the crotch check...

He then explained he would be patting down my leg. "Here goes...", I thought.

With the back of his hands, he patted down my upper thighs (no where near the crotch), and then wrapped his hands around my legs and went "up" until "contact" was made, but immediately moved down, patting the rest of my leg. He then moved on to the other.

Again, I've seen and experienced far worse contact made in a club/bar.

After that, he had to get his gloves scanned (similar to the band they use for laptops), and after everything came clear, he thanked me for cooperating. I thanked him in response, and went on my way.

While I realize it's entirely dependent on the TSA agent you're dealing with, as well as personal/emotional experience, my own experience wasn't nearly as bad as I had prepared myself for.

When I pointed this out to a friend of mine (via text), he responded, "Yeah, but you're not a hot chick..."

He probably has a point :)

A few observations:
Two of the four or five passengers who opted-in to get scanned, had to be patted down after - a similar experience I had (I went through the scanner once before, a mistake on my part, and had to be patted down after...)

The TSA agent made a comment during the pat down that surprised me: He wasn't a fan of the scanners himself. He said (paraphrasing here), "I've been reading about the radiation from these machines. You think passengers have it bad? I have to stand in front of this thing all day!"

Edit: Shoot, this is a lot longer than I had anticipated.
A tl;dr: I opted-out of the scanner out of my own curiosity. The airport I flew out of employed TSA agents who made the experience not nearly as bad as I had anticipated... Of course, YMMV.

2
63 points by ck2 6 days ago replies      
How dumb are people to not realize it's radiation one way or another? Do they think it's "magic" they can see through your clothes?

How can there be a class action lawsuit against printer ink, but not against radiating you for no reason with devices that have no track record?

Where are these devices for entering Congress or the Whitehouse if they are so safe?

So would the President choose the radiation naked picture method or the deep groping method for his daughters? I'd seriously like that question asked at some point by the press.

ps. Even if you opt-out, you are probably being exposed to whatever radiation method they use.

Note how in this photo the person in line, not just the person in the scanner is being exposed:

http://i.imgur.com/NycwX.jpg

3
32 points by danilocampos 6 days ago 3 replies      
Never underestimate the potential for convincing an underpaid federal employee to cut corners. If you make this stuff too inconvenient for the guys on the ground, the policy gets eroded from the inside.

Until Napolitano cracks down. But that's several moves ahead.

4
37 points by batasrki 6 days ago 1 reply      
A positive spin on this idiotic story, nicely done. Activism need not be violent nor do people need to be yelled at or talked down to.

I still firmly believe that any TSA employee who doesn't want to be a part of this should refuse to, just as any traveller should refuse to go through the machine. But, there need not be drama. In fact, I'd say that refusal without drama and in public has a more powerful effect than any verbal argument might.

5
14 points by yummyfajitas 6 days ago replies      
Just curious, does anyone have some hard evidence that the MWBS is a cancer risk?

I ask this simply because anti-X activists have pushed junk science claims of the form "X causes CANCER" many times [1], so I'm a little dubious. I don't think fighting civil liberties violations with junk science is a useful tactic, if that is indeed what is happening here.

[1] For example, feminists pushed the "silicone gel implants cause breast cancer", anti-bioscience types push "GMO foods cause cancer". Drug warriors have pushed "pot causes cancer" and anti-abortion crusaders pushed "abortion causes cancer".

6
44 points by rgrove 6 days ago 0 replies      
"No thanks, I've already had cancer, just feel me up or whatever."

Brilliant!

7
11 points by jambo 6 days ago 1 reply      
I agree that having to choose between flying and getting groped/strip-scanned or not flying is ridiculous, and I'm happy that he and others were able to circumvent this.

But he says they were using Millimeter Wave Scanners, which as far as I can tell, and contrary to his argument, do not use x-rays. That letter refers to another type of machine, x-ray backscatter scanners.

8
12 points by wccrawford 6 days ago 0 replies      
And just like that, it's that easy for someone to avoid the whole system. If -anyone- can avoid them, then terrorists can. And that defeats the whole system.

Of course, that assumes the system worked in the first place, which I don't believe.

9
7 points by aaroneous 6 days ago 1 reply      
Two interesting excerpts from the Backscatter X-ray wikipedia page:

The national radiation safety standard (see below) sets a dose per screening limit for the general-use category. To meet the requirements of the general-use category a full-body x-ray security system must deliver less than the dose a person receives during 4 minutes of airline flight. TSA has set their dose limit to ensure a person receives less radiation from one scan with a TSA general-use x-ray security system than from 2 minutes of airline flight.

And

Fathers exposed to medical diagnostic x-rays are more likely to have infants who contract leukemia, especially if exposure is closer to conception or includes two or more X-rays of the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract or lower abdomen.[36] In medical radiography the x-ray beam is adjusted to expose only the area of which an image is required, so that generally shielding is applied to the patient to avoid exposing the gonads,[37] whereas in an airport backscatter scan, the testicles of men and boys will be deliberately subjected to the direct beam, and radiation will also reach the ovaries of female subjects. Whilst the overall dose averaged over the entire body is lower in a backscatter X-ray scan than in a typical medical X-ray examination, because of the shielding of the gonads used in medical radiography this in itself does not mean that the dose to the testicles would be less in an airport scan.

10
3 points by frossie 6 days ago 1 reply      
I flew through three airports with backscatter machines last week. I had a small child with me. Each time i was directed to the regular metal detector - and in one case where my child walked ahead and was about to go through the backscatter machine, she got called back by the TSA person with some agitation and directed through the metal detector instead.

I don't have enough data points to know for sure, but I am wondering if they are purposefully not screening kids in these things and if so, are they doing so due to the radiation exposure concerns.

Like the OP, I never saw anybody opt out.

11
11 points by sliverstorm 6 days ago 0 replies      
Further proof that social engineering is, as always, far more effective than direct hacking at getting through security with a payload, even when that payload may not be bytecode.
12
2 points by rdouble 6 days ago 1 reply      
I recently flew JFK->SFO and back on Virgin. There are no backscatter machines at the Virgin terminal at JFK. They do have them at SFO. About every 10th person was selected to go through the scanner. Nobody opted out. Contrary to most reports, the TSA agents at both airports were pretty nice and helpful. At JFK, they were helping a number non-english speaking travelers speed their way through the line so they wouldn't miss their flight. If anything was off, a couple of the agents at SFO were too chipper at 6am, which made them seem slightly insane. Privacy and health concerns aside, an issue with this machine is that it does nothing to speed up the security line. If anything, it is slightly slower than the metal detector.

I wonder if this is really a cancer risk. For instance, I feel like living in Toxic Williamsburg is probably a worse cancer risk than going through the backscatter machine twice a year.

http://gothamist.com/2007/04/11/toxic_williamsb.php

13
9 points by verdant 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is what I have been thinking. If enough people refuse, its so inconvenient for them that they don't bother to hassle you.
14
5 points by motters 6 days ago 0 replies      
Americans really should start a campaign against this kind of degrading treatment and make sure that it's stopped. It shows a profound lack of respect for human dignity. The video showing a child being molested by an airport security guard is just horrific, and long lasting psychological damage could occur with a child that young after having a traumatic experience of that kind.
15
5 points by jbail 6 days ago 0 replies      
Great moral: "Information, properly delivered, is power."
16
2 points by delackner 5 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone care to do the math on what it would cost in excess fuel to add enough metal shielding to the fuselage to offer passengers "new and improved: no x-rays!" flights? (Only mostly not serious).

With more widespread awareness of x-ray exposure during a normal flight, I wonder if we will see any people so agitated that they wear stuff like this:
http://www.medvena.com/protection_clothing_maco_en.html

17
2 points by isleyaardvark 6 days ago 0 replies      
"There's a senate oversight meeting tomorrow, so please call these people and tell them how you feel (http://hillwho.com/index.php?option=com_sobi2&sobi2Task=...)."

Buried the lede.

18
2 points by Rickasaurus 6 days ago 0 replies      
Some lines I've been saving up, feel free to contribute.

"Aren't you at least going to buy me dinner first?"
"Woah there buddy, don't skimp on the foreplay."
"I think you might have missed a spot."

19
3 points by gasull 6 days ago 0 replies      
Direct link to the printed letter (PDF):

http://j.mp/cancer-ray

20
3 points by swolchok 6 days ago 1 reply      
I thought it was established on HN that that letter about safety had been properly addressed (it's from April).
21
1 point by albertcardona 6 days ago 0 replies      
The actual letter from Prof. John Sedat and others, UCSF:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ost...

23
2 points by davethewave 6 days ago 0 replies      
Has anyone thought of the impact of tourism. I'm in Australia and there has been a bit of a campaign to spend your holidays in California on the tv. I was deciding to take the family to Europe or the US, after hearing all the travel problems the US has - Europe here we come. I'm not the only one.
24
1 point by shill 6 days ago 0 replies      
Write in big letters at the top of the literature: "Please read this then pass it to the person behind you in line. Thank you."
25
0 points by heimidal 6 days ago 0 replies      
I would upvote this 1000 times if I could.
26
-4 points by Tomek_ 6 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry for being cynical, but for me this story reads more or less like: there's a guy who didn't have enough balls to opt out only by himself and thus decided to find others to join him (he even brought some papers to show), and the others were some family where a woman, "fortunately"(?) had a cancer before - it's rather sad.
27
-3 points by mattmaroon 6 days ago 2 replies      
"They're expendable workers. I own this place. I'm the boss. They work for me. The only reason I don't fire them is that they're cheaper than robots. Etc."

I hate people like that. Why must he build himself up by putting down others? Regardless of what you think of the TSA's procedures, the people in the airport don't make the law. They're just decent people trying to make a living. If you have to insult them, albeit only to yourself, just to opt out of a scan you're probably the one who needs replaced by a robot.

3
The ~200 Line Linux Kernel Patch That Does Wonders phoronix.com
414 points by pietrofmaggi 6 days ago   95 comments top 15
1
34 points by pietrofmaggi 6 days ago 3 replies      
It's not down for me... but here's the text:

In recent weeks and months there has been quite a bit of work towards improving the responsiveness of the Linux desktop with some very significant milestones building up recently and new patches continuing to come. This work is greatly improving the experience of the Linux desktop when the computer is withstanding a great deal of CPU load and memory strain. Fortunately, the exciting improvements are far from over. There is a new patch that has not yet been merged but has undergone a few revisions over the past several weeks and it is quite small -- just over 200 lines of code -- but it does wonders for the Linux desktop.

The patch being talked about is designed to automatically create task groups per TTY in an effort to improve the desktop interactivity under system strain. Mike Galbraith wrote the patch, which is currently in its third version in recent weeks, after Linus Torvalds inspired this idea. In its third form (patch), this patch only adds 224 lines of code to the kernel's scheduler while stripping away nine lines of code, thus only 233 lines of code are in play.

Tests done by Mike show the maximum latency dropping by over ten times and the average latency of the desktop by about 60 times. Linus Torvalds has already heavily praised (in an email) this miracle patch.

Yeah. And I have to say that I'm (very happily) surprised by just how small that patch really ends up being, and how it's not intrusive or ugly either.

I'm also very happy with just what it does to interactive performance. Admittedly, my "testcase" is really trivial (reading email in a web-browser, scrolling around a bit, while doing a "make -j64" on the kernel at the same time), but it's a test-case that is very relevant for me. And it is a _huge_ improvement.

It's an improvement for things like smooth scrolling around, but what I found more interesting was how it seems to really make web pages load a lot faster. Maybe it shouldn't have been surprising, but I always associated that with network performance. But there's clearly enough of a CPU load when loading a new web page that if you have a load average of 50+ at the same time, you _will_ be starved for CPU in the loading process, and probably won't get all the http requests out quickly enough.

So I think this is firmly one of those "real improvement" patches. Good job. Group scheduling goes from "useful for some specific server loads" to "that's a killer feature".

Linus

Initially a Phoronix reader tipped us off this morning of this latest patch. "Please check this out, my desktop will never be the same again, it makes a lot of difference for desktop usage (all things smooth, scrolling etc.)...It feels as good as Con Kolivas's patches."

Not only is this patch producing great results for Linus, Andre Goddard (the Phoronix reader reporting the latest version), and other early testers, but we are finding this patch to be a miracle too. While in the midst of some major OpenBenchmarking.org "Iveland" development work, I took a few minutes to record two videos that demonstrate the benefits solely of the "sched: automated per tty task groups" patch. The results are very dramatic. UPDATE: There's also now a lot more positive feedback pouring in on this patch within our forums with more users now trying it out.

This patch has been working out extremely great on all of the test systems I tried it out on so far from quad-core AMD Phenom CPUs systems to Intel Atom netbooks. For the two videos I recorded them off a system running Ubuntu 10.10 (x86_64) with an Intel Core i7 970 "Gulftown" processor that boasts six physical cores plus Hyper Threading to provide the Linux operating system with twelve total threads.

The Linux kernel was built from source using the Linus 2.6 Git tree as of 15 November, which is nearing a Linux 2.6.37-rc2 state. The only change made from the latest Linux kernel Git code was applying Mike Galbraith's scheduler patch. This patch allows the automated per TTY task grouping to be done dynamically on the kernel in real-time by writing either 0 or 1 to /proc/sys/kernel/sched_autogroup_enabled or passing "noautogroup" as a parameter when booting the kernel. Changing the sched_autogroup_enabled value was the only system difference between the two video recordings.

Both videos show the Core i7 970 system running the GNOME desktop while playing back the Ogg 1080p version of the open Big Buck Bunny movie, glxgears, two Mozilla Firefox browser windows open to Phoronix and the Phoronix Test Suite web-sites, two terminal windows open, the GNOME System Monitor, and the Nautilus file manager. These videos just show how these different applications respond under the load exhibited by compiling the latest Linux kernel using make -j64 so that there are 64 parallel make jobs that are completely utilizing the Intel processor.

2
11 points by jws 6 days ago 2 replies      
I don't think I've managed to piece all this together, perhaps someone can fill in the blanks.

• The patch automatically creates a task group for each TTY.

• The patch automatically assigns each new process to the task group for its controlling TTY.

• In the case where there are large (>cores) numbers of cpu bound jobs, the latency of interactive jobs is vastly improved.

I think the piece I'm missing is the behavior of the scheduler. Does it now make its decisions based on task group cpu consumption instead of process? I saw options to that effect back around 2.6.25.

Why is this an improvement over just nicing the "make -j64" into the basement and letting the interactive jobs have their way as needed? (Likely possibilities are that it is automatic, or maybe there is something about disk IO scheduling happening from the task groups as well.)

3
23 points by bobf 6 days ago 2 replies      
I don't follow kernel development extremely closely, but it fascinates me that people are still actively working on the kernel's scheduler and achieving a "huge improvement" like this.
4
5 points by silentbicycle 6 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the actual patch (http://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=128978361700898&w...), with a bit of a summary of what it does.

I don't have enough context to fully follow it, but it sounds like it sets up a better hueristic for grouping related processes into task groups in the scheduler.

5
6 points by gxti 6 days ago 3 replies      
So what's the downside? You almost never get optimizations like this for free. The post hints that this is also good for server workloads, but what suffers? Realtime would, but realtime usually involves a different scheduler anyway.
6
7 points by ludwigvan 6 days ago 1 reply      
It makes me wonder whether it is a sign that desktop responsiveness has been neglected by the kernel devs which possibly prioritize server issues. I had read a Google engineer suggesting Canonical should hire decent kernel developers : " P.S. Next thing for Ubuntu to learn --- how to pay their engineers
well enough, and how to give them enough time to work on upstream
issues, that once they gain that experience on Ubuntu's dime and
become well known in the open source community, they don't end jumping
ship to companies like Red Hat or Google. :-)"

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1321029

7
3 points by cookiecaper 6 days ago 0 replies      
Anything from Phoronix should be taken with a grain of salt. This looks legit since it has a message from Linus praising the patch, but there have been several similar stories out of Phoronix that turn out to be hoaxes or misunderstandings.

That said, such a patch would be pretty rad.

8
3 points by hippich 6 days ago 3 replies      
I am newbie when it comes to compiling kernel. Is it a pain to do with stock ubuntu 10.10?

Sometimes I run something heavy on my laptop and desktop freezes annoy me. If this patch will allow me to get around it - I would be glad to try it out.

Anyone having url of some niuce tutorial to compile new kernel for ubuntu 10.10?

9
4 points by BoppreH 6 days ago 1 reply      
9 upvotes and it's already down. Anybody has a mirror? This seems pretty useful.
10
5 points by zemanel 6 days ago 2 replies      
i whish something similar could be ported to BSD/Darwin, OSX. I have a MBP 6,2 (i5) with 4GB mem/5400 rpm disk and it's quite easy to hog it down, to almost unbearable sometimes.
11
1 point by yason 6 days ago 3 replies      
Makes me wonder that don't they have kernel APIs for process schedulers and I/O schedulers by now? The scheduler tweaks have been going on for ages.

Instead of compiling a single new kernel module (or downloading it prebuilt from an apt repo or a PPA) and kicking it in with modprobe, we now need to obtain the sources for the whole kernel, apply the patches, configure, build, and deploy. Sure Debian/Ubuntu has that partially automatized but it's still a pain.

At least I'll wait for stock 2.6.38 on Ubuntu and cross my fingers they put this patch in.

12
2 points by teoruiz 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just for the brave ou there: to build a custom kernel for Ubuntu, based on the actual Ubuntu kernel image, you have to follow these instructions:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Kernel/Compile

Apply the patch before compiling and there you go.

13
1 point by sliverstorm 6 days ago 0 replies      
This is funny and cool at the same time- back when I still used Linux regularly, it was because it was way smoother than windows under load. I don't know if it regressed since then and was fixed, or just got better, but either is awesome!
14
1 point by slowpoison 6 days ago 1 reply      
So, is this really going to help, if I don't have tons of busy processes (a'la "make -j64") running?
15
1 point by slaxor 3 days ago 0 replies      
i am impressed, i have never expected such dramatic improvement on my desktop
4
An Awesome Book veryawesomeworld.com
403 points by djshah 5 days ago   100 comments top 22
1
26 points by angrycoder 4 days ago 2 replies      
Here is the author's blog:

http://dallasclayton.com/

Warning: contains awesome poetry.

It makes me happy that people like this exist.

2
11 points by dejb 4 days ago 3 replies      
I can't help but notice this tends to paint 'ordinary' people as somewhat sad and deficient. Imagine the story was written in the same manner, but in praise of physical coordination/agility instead, and you can see what I mean. Perhaps it is an understandable reaction to the historical under-appreciation of imagination in society and educational environments. But I'm not sure how much sense it makes for a child that doesn't face this environment or is more practically minded. It does look pretty cool though.
3
15 points by angrycoder 4 days ago replies      
I'm not a fan of kids, but this makes me want to have kids just so I can make them read it.
4
8 points by shasta 4 days ago 1 reply      
Just to be a contrarian, why are we always encouraging kids to think ridiculous things? Shouldn't we be encouraging our kids to think about interesting things? Beige furniture and giant cars woven out of spaghetti are both pretty boring thoughts from my point of view.
5
10 points by marcamillion 4 days ago 3 replies      
I would love to see his sales history after this stint on HN's front page.

devinfoley, you say this guy is your friend. Tell him to write a post-mortem on sales of the HN effect.

Also tell him, that will likely get him more sales :)

6
4 points by harscoat 4 days ago 0 replies      
and a man who has a Million dreams that Roar is called an artist or an Entrepreneur.
7
10 points by djshah 4 days ago 1 reply      
The simplest message in the most creative manner. I thought it was perfect to post to HN!
8
11 points by devinfoley 4 days ago 1 reply      
Weird to see this on HN. My friend wrote it and published it himself.
9
2 points by auston 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm a skater & love theberrics.com - he's been on there often, heres the backstory: http://theberrics.com/dailyopspost.php?postid=2440

warning: an ad will roll before you see the real content.

10
2 points by callmeed 4 days ago 1 reply      
I will read this to my kids on the iPad tomorrow night (they are already asleep)
11
2 points by RexRollman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Djshah:

Thanks for posting this on Hacker News. Both of Dallas's books are simply wonderful and his blog is amazing.

12
4 points by mtodd 4 days ago 1 reply      
I want my future children to read this.
13
3 points by Raphael 4 days ago 1 reply      
img { display: block; }
14
1 point by zzeroparticle 4 days ago 0 replies      
Obviously a great read for kids and adults alike. The only thing to add is that I love its message of cultivating that sort of mental playfulness, which allows you to explore the fantastic, unknown territory where great ideas can be found.
15
1 point by parbo 4 days ago 0 replies      
I would really like to have this in a Swedish translation, so I can read it to my kid.
16
1 point by seabee 4 days ago 0 replies      
error: aren't (midway through)
17
1 point by danielson 4 days ago 0 replies      
I share a washing machine with this dude; Way to go Dallas!

Y'all [the HN community] have great taste.

18
1 point by kentf 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you Dallas.
19
1 point by snarfel 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just bought it. They nailed the title! It's probably the most awesome book I've ever read. My daughter needs it in her library.
20
0 points by gizmomagico 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, very Quirky. "Do what you want - not what you're told".
21
-4 points by jdale27 4 days ago 2 replies      
CLICK TO PURCHASE
22
6 points by psawaya 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sometimes, I wonder what spammers dreamed of as children.
5
Do you read HackerNews all day and never actually do anything?
369 points by tossit 4 days ago   142 comments top 74
1
36 points by alex_c 4 days ago 8 replies      
I've never been at the stage where I don't do _anything_, but I'm often frustrated that I don't do _enough_.

I went through a stage of spending way too much time on Reddit - on the order of 4-5 hours a day. This has been discussed often, but it can be crippling - as soon as you hit the tiniest mental roadblock, you switch your browser to Reddit, next thing you know it's 20 minutes later and not only is your roadblock not solved, you even forgot what you were doing. So then you read more Reddit while you try to remember.

It's terrible, and a lot of it isn't even conscious, until the day is over and you realize how little you did.

My friend made a good point - you don't NEED more than 15 minutes a day to keep up to date with what's on sites like Reddit or HN. You can spend a lot more time, but beyond a certain point it's just frustration that you've already read all of it.

So I installed LeechBlock:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4476/

I set it to allow 15 minutes of access every 6 hours to my timesinks, and I set it to not allow access to its settings during the blocked times (so I can't easily turn it off).

At first I would hit the blocked page every few minutes, without even realizing that I intended to do so. The frequency was a bit shocking, to be honest - part of it was honestly muscle memory by then (alt-tab to browser, type "re", down, enter). The blocked page made it possible to force myself to focus on work again, every time, but it also made me realize how badly my brain patterns had been disrupted - my brain just craved distractions and did NOT want to focus for more than a few minutes at a time, which is never enough to do anything meaningful.

After about a week, the cravings for distraction were a lot lower. After about two weeks, they were mostly gone. I've now settled into a good rhythm, I complete tasks without interruption and check the time sinks for a few minutes at a time in between tasks - and I always have the safety net of the 15 minutes per 6 hours limit. I usually hit that limit, but not always.

Sure, it's trivial to circumvent LeechBlock (just use a different browser, for example), but that's not the point. The point is that you are making a conscious decision that what your brain is doing is not OK, and you need to re-train it to do what you want. Things like LeechBlock are not magical solutions, but just tools to help you do that.

Edit: I prefer LeechBlock to the hostsfile hacks because it's not as rigid: it lets me settle into a natural rhythm that works for me, which also means I'm a lot less likely to turn it off and "forget" to turn it back on.

2
39 points by edw519 4 days ago 5 replies      
Simple hack: 2 computers, one for work and one for the internet. Different workstations, preferably in different rooms.

It's a lot harder to get up off your ass than to hit alt-tab.

Harness that laziness to your advantage.

3
17 points by klodolph 4 days ago 2 replies      
Well, I'm working on something real right now. It's a web application that works now but it's a total hack. I want to actually make it into something usable by others so a couple days ago I black holed Reddit in /etc/hosts. It worked so well I'm considering the same for Hacker News, too.

There's the comment by "AgentConundrum" who argues that any method of limiting access to an addiction such as HN can be circumvented -- the simple truth is that you can't outsmart yourself. However, I see it differently.

When I open a browser window and click the Reddit bookmark, it gives me an error. While I'm staring at that error message, my higher thought processes have a chance to kick in and argue about what to do next. I think, "Editing my hosts file would be an admission of defeat. I'm better than that."

It's like the "brush your teeth" diet. You know, the one where you brush your teeth after you've had enough to eat. Whenever you want to have a snack, you think, "I can't... I just brushed my teeth. Snacking would undo my progress with dental hygeine."

Both of these tricks are flat-out illogical. A hypothetical rational person would not be affected by these tricks. However, if you were a hypothetical rational person, you wouldn't need to change your behavior in the first place.

4
67 points by melling 4 days ago 6 replies      
HN should put a little entrepreneur badge next to your name for having shipped a product. That would motivate some people.
5
11 points by todayiamme 4 days ago 1 reply      
Most people like edw519 have talked about practical solutions to it, but have you ever considered why you do it?

Maybe you just need excitement and intellectual company? Maybe you just want to have someone in your life that inspires you to do something? Maybe you just need to find the right people?

The point is that physical hacks for behavioral problems are ineffective until emotional hacks are taken into account. Just take a deep breath and try to understand yourself.

I'm saying this because I used to be addicted to HN, but now it just doesn't matter. After a series of realizations I'm simply indifferent to that high, and that's something far more long lasting than a firefox extension.

Take care.

6
9 points by bluishgreen 4 days ago 1 reply      
The /etc/hosts hack actually works. I don't use noprocrast since I need to visit news.yc for other good reasons during my work.

But the trick that really made the difference is this. I run a cron job which will over write the /etc/hosts with a file which has yc/reddit blocked. This way, when ever I open access for good reasons or even to have my 30 minutes per day of YC reading, the file gets overwritten in the next 30 min window and I get fed up with editing it again and again. So I give up and go back to work, sort of like nagging myself very effectively.

7
6 points by kacy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I have a huge problem with this. My problem is getting started. Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed by what I have to do that I either don't want to start or I don't know where to start. However, when I begin, I can code/study for hours on end. Maybe some of you are in the same boat.

Here are some tools I'm using to keep myself focused. Concentrate (http://getconcentrating.com/) blocks websites that distract me, opens/closes apps, blocks distracting apps (RSS reader, Twitter), and reminds me every ten minutes of my goals via Growl. I'm also using it with Vitamin-R (http://www.publicspace.net/Vitamin-R/index.html) to help me work in pomodoro cycles. Hope you get some use out of those apps! :-)

8
24 points by gregschlom 4 days ago 3 replies      
There was a story recently on HN about a guy who splits his work hours into 30 minutes of work and 30 minutes of distraction. It turned out to work quite well for him. I guess I'm almost doing the same, spending most of my "distraction" time on HN.

There's a good trick however if you want to stop doing that: work with someone else, with each one being able to look at the other's monitor. Even better: do that with people you actually hired. I can guarantee you won't be spending any minute of your time procrastinating.

9
8 points by jgrahamc 4 days ago 0 replies      
No, but for me Hacker News is like having the radio on in the background. It's always open in a tab and I'll read it frequently. If I wasn't doing that I'd probably be day dreaming listening to Radio 4.
10
8 points by vaksel 4 days ago 0 replies      
realizing that you have a problem is the first step.

you just need to get started doing something, once you are actually doing instead of dreaming, you won't have the free time to waste on distractions

11
21 points by pierrefar 4 days ago 3 replies      
Yes, which is why there is a useful noprocrast setting in your profile.
12
5 points by rosariom 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi,

I have faced (maybe still facing) the same issue and have started to employee 3 techniques, first two of which Tim Ferris mentioned.
1- Cultivate selective ignorance
2- Batching tasks up
3- Create a schedule

How would this help? HN, Reddit, and the other news and information sites out there are awesome but can become time-thieves
if you let them. We come to these sites to see what is the latest and greatest in the news, for inspiration, and also to learn so that we can
do things better. The question is: how much information do we need to be adequately informed and how much do we need to learn in
order to get to work on something we are passionate about? Not as much as we would think in my opinion. Cultivating selective ignorance is necessary to ward off
the feelings of "I need to read more in order to get this thing going", or "I am falling behind, need to catch up with the news".
We will never be able to get it all and thus just need to focus and specialize to some extent. Well rounded-ness is great, but in excess it will give
you no depth in anything. Do not try to consume all data from all sources; we cannot keep up with the data deluge and will drown in it if we foolishly attempt
to do so. Use what you already know, get started and focus on your ideas. If you do not you will just build up all kinds of anxieties and will feel down on yourself
for not doing anything. In addition, this data deluge is also overwhelming and you may feel like you are not smart enough or the product will not be good enough
for launch. It feels good to even do the simplest of tasks you set out to do and makes you want to do more. I blog about something similar to this here:
http://techjobsspace.blogspot.com/2010/11/and-furthermore-my...

Batching and scheduling are awesome concepts to start using immediately. Information addict? I know I am and love to consume much data. My information-rich diet includes
all the stuff you guys are reading but what I do slightly differently than some is set dates and times during the week on my phone calendar to read this data. Instead of reading everyday
I pick some days of the week to get it all in and limit myself to that. If you have a calendar on your phone or pc or the web, use that to control the addiction. You do not need to deprive yourself
completely (unless it is a severe problem) just schedule when it is ok to read. I use this for errands and other things as well. We all need breaks from work to unwind; use this time to catch
up with friends and family, errands, and reading. Stick to your schedule and it will all fall into place eventually. Paul Graham definitely does not want this site to be a time-sink.

Hope this helps!

13
3 points by jseifer 4 days ago 1 reply      
The best thing I've found for distractions is a program called "Concentrate" on OS X. You can set time to block certain classifications of sites, such as social networks. I do the pomodoro technique which is 25 minutes code, 5 minute break alternations. You'd be surprised that you get just about the same amount of HN time in your 5 minute allotments.

I did a blog post about it here: http://jasonseifer.com/2010/02/08/using-concentrate-for-pomo....

14
7 points by klbarry 4 days ago 1 reply      
Keep in mind sites like Reddit and HN are pretty addictive in a chemical way (so can your email be). When you see something interesting or that agrees with your identity your brain gives you a hit of dopamine. You browse and look for the funny or fascinating because you remember finding somehting great earlier.

It's funny because Reddit hates advertising/mass manipulation etc but are being manipulated by the group all the time in many ways.

15
2 points by warmfuzzykitten 22 hours ago 0 replies      
HackerNews is an example of a larger problem: addiction to intellectual stimulation. Reality is, human brains move very slowly and most often in predictable paths. Therefore, the odds of you hearing of a breakthrough in your chosen discipline on any given day are approximately the same as winning a national lottery. But the probability of hearing on any given day about inventive false starts that will eventually lead nowhere or something some intelligent person said somewhere that might have a glimmer of promise approaches one. These constant bursts of stimulation are sufficiently pleasurable, if you can't clamp down on them, to occupy your entire day. Here's a litmus test: If you read HackerNews from start to dregs and are let down because you didn't find anything really new, you're reading too frequently. Don't read it or anything like it for a month. If you have the same experience after a month, extend the wait to two months, and so on. Genuine novelty comes along once in a blue moon. False novelty is an addiction.
16
9 points by rms 4 days ago 0 replies      
And Less Wrong, and reddit... and my day generally starts in the afternoon, so the day itself isn't very long.
17
4 points by duck 4 days ago 2 replies      
I would recommend Rescue Time (http://www.rescuetime.com/ - YC08). You can try to block HN (and other time wasting sites) multiple ways, but they are easy to get around. However if you see the total time spent it might make you change your ways. Plus you can see how much time you are in programming mode and have a couple weeks can really see some trends and work on them.
18
3 points by Apreche 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, I do this. However, the reason is not because I am unproductive or distracted. It's because I'm at work. If I have work to do at work, I do it. Then I have no work to do. I would work on my own personal projects, but then they would be works for hire. I have to work on them at home in order to own them. Even if I get them to agree to let me work from home, I have to work on the things outside of work hours to get them to be my own property.

I would be glad to quit and just work on my own personal projects. Will you pay my rent? Didn't think so.

19
4 points by adambyrtek 4 days ago 0 replies      
You're in a good company, Paul Graham himself wrote about this problem several times.

http://www.paulgraham.com/addiction.html

http://www.paulgraham.com/distraction.html

20
4 points by tfh 4 days ago 0 replies      
May be you need a coding buddy. Sharing the ideas and working together on a project always gives me strong motivational boosts. Plus having to explain ideas to others helps in finding flaws.
21
4 points by LordLandon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Two ideas:

A large part of the reason HN is so distracting, is that usually, when you read it, you look at the front page and open everything that looks interesting in new tabs. So when you're using your browser for something productive, you see a tab open that you haven't had a chance to read, and you want to go read it. Solution? Firefox profiles. Start firefox with firefox -P work --no-remote, and use that for all your work related things, while your should-read-later-eventually-maybe tabs stay happily open in another profile.

Second idea,

  echo "127.0.0.1" `sqlite3 ~/.mozilla/firefox/*default/places.sqlite "select url from moz_places order by -visit_count limit 100" | cut -d/ -f 3|sort -u| tr "\n" " "` | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts

Maybe HN isn't your only distraction, and this saves you having to figure it out.

22
1 point by sfphotoarts 4 days ago 0 replies      
Since this community is largely made up of smart people, and since it seems pretty common to spend 'too much time' doing things like HN, and since we are currently the product of a lot of evolution I wonder if focus is actually all that's its cracked up to be. Possibly our overall productivity when viewed on a larger scale is better because we get distracted, possibly idea generation, possibly just the social aspect, or learning of a new technology etc. I just wonder if this is so bad really.

The Web2.0 Summit said that the tech sector is innovating at an unprecedented rate. One of the changes in the software industry in recent years is the rise of the social network and sites like HN. Maybe 'time wasting' isn't so bad after all - viewed at a higher altitude that personal productivity.

23
8 points by viraptor 4 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, but it's ok - my code is compiling...
24
2 points by jorangreef 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ben Franklin has a saying "experience keeps a dear school but a fool will learn at no other". In other words, seek wisdom and experience vicariously, and as Isaac Newton said, "stand on the shoulders of giants". The word vicarious means "experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person".

But there's a cost to vicarious experience when we start to derive feelings of fulfillment ("being in the game") from success stories at the neglect of reaching for our own. A telltale sign is when people start calling Steve Jobs "Jobs" or Bob Dylan "Dylan", as if they know them. Don't live in the movies. The real world is a better movie.

There's a Biblical saying that goes something like this "the Kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of talk, but of power". The earthly realm is certainly no different. Use vicarious experience to gain wisdom, not to trigger endorphins. Keep your head down, your mouth shut, and get on with your own business.

25
3 points by dominostars 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you're easily distracted, it doesn't matter what you're wasting time with. If it's not HN, then it's Reddit. If it's not Reddit, then it's Facebook. If it's not Facebook.. and on and on.

I keep myself going by setting personal deadlines: I don't browse the internet if I 'need' to finish something before, say, going to lunch.

EDIT: Also, before stopping work, I always try to have a good idea of what to do next. It's much easier to dive back into work because I know what to do, and my subconscious has had time to think about how to do it. This was inspired by Hemingway's 'hack':

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don't think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start."

26
10 points by newt 4 days ago 0 replies      
No, I read reddit all day, and when I want to actually do something, I read HackerNews. It's (almost) work-related.
27
2 points by SkyMarshal 3 days ago 0 replies      
Part of the problem is Variable Ratio Rewards, or random rewards. MMOs use them intentionally to get people addicted, but they're also inherent in social news sites.

Sometimes you find real gems, either in the articles or the discussions (on HN often the latter as much or more than the former), and sometimes just noise. But you never know which will turn up on the front page and when, so you keep checking back over and over.

28
1 point by bendotc 4 days ago 0 replies      
If your problem is spending too much time on HN, do you really think the solution involves posting on HN?

If this is really a problem, close your browser and never come back here and you'll have a much more productive life. If you find yourself coming up with substitutes, do the same with them. Think of this as your alcoholism, and realize that moderation, while it works for some people, is not an option for you.

29
3 points by klaut 4 days ago 0 replies      
Since i've handed in my resignation letter it is very hard to actually do any work at all. I spend almost all my time at work reading HN and other similar sites. I do feel very bad for this but can't help it.
30
3 points by phalien 4 days ago 0 replies      
Same here. I just started to get out of it, this is how I'm trying:

1. I made a list with all my (good!) projects ideas
2. I tried to estimate how long each would take to have a Minimum Viable Product ready for launch
3. I chose the one with the shortest time estimate
4. I split the whole project in tiny todo items (things you can do in a few hours: like "create the sitemap", "create the db structure", "outline the homepage", "make that script" etc)
5. I put the list on my desktop in a long Stickie
6. I commit to myself to mark as done at least one todo each day

And it seems to work, I'm halfway through my project now.

31
1 point by abyssknight 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, a little. I have a day job, and unfortunately am unable to break away from that to join the entrepreneurial pool. Like you, I have a background littered with technical acumen and actually helped with a few start ups. I enjoyed it, but the instability just isn't for me right now.

I still do things and make things, but they aren't start ups. Some are school projects, others are for my day job, and some are just for fun. I read HN because there are great people with interesting opinions on stories I want to read.

That said, I feel the same way. I want to break out and do things. I get that feeling sometimes, and it hurts to feel trapped, but then my paycheck goes through and I log my 40 hours and go home.

32
2 points by momotomo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Solution I found (globally, in a lot of scenarios, not just related to HN) is: Don't do anything unless it's specific.

I try to only sit at the PC if I'm "doing" something on it. Even in micro bursts. Shortlist of examples:

- If I'm thinking, I'll stand up away from the station

- If I need to code, I'll sit down with the purpose of coding to a goal / time window

- If I'm stuck, then again, I'll get off the station / away from the keyboard and think

- If I fire up HN, its specific - I'm checking HN for 20 mins to see whats happening, browsing some articles, then stopping.

- I try to avoid randomly tabbing back into mail clients and etc, I'd rather tackle it as a distinct thing as well

It applies pretty much everywhere though. If I want to game, I don't just sit down and play, I'll decide - take a break, 20 mins, gaming, do it. Done is done, get back on task.

The higher level thing is to hit your day / hour / afternoon period etc with a clear idea of what you actually want to get done. I find when you're carrying a bigger idea (eg, shit, i need to get this document out today!), it automagically structures your time a bit more.

33
1 point by joe_the_user 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hacker news has wasted a lot of my time.

But it has also provided a lot of information that constitutes authentic "professional development" - links to important algorithms, debate over software process and similar things.

I don't know have any idea how the equation balances but if I didn't read Hacker News I'd have to find some more active way to make sure I read enough papers.

What seems like an opportunity would be to build a discussion forum where the posts and discussion was at a high enough level that the time essentially wasn't wasted. HN isn't there yet but it's a hint about what might be...

34
2 points by andreas_bak 4 days ago 0 replies      
As long as you making plans and analyze why to do something or not, you are losing your time on over-analysis. Instead of reading super-analytical and pseudo philosophical 'less wrong' or marketing crap from 'techcrunch', that have little to do with reality, start to do something REAL. When you do something REAL, ideas will pop-up on the course and some believes will be challenged, but this is the only way.

HN is great community but there are some stereotypes that need to be chalenged on personal level:

1. The "SWEAT CAPITAL" is better than Venture Capital, and you have access to it already.

2. If you want to make money, do not think in the box. Here people tend to analyze what already been done. This is not a way - you need to innovate.

3. People will laugh with your ideas and failures. You need to be firm believer in what you do. Respect is gained and not granted.

4. Start doing something "stupid", without prospects of economical gain. you will see that you will end up with something completely different than when you started thinking about it.

5. Stop dreaming -- Start Doing. It is much more rewarding and interesting.

Let It Be.

35
3 points by GrayRoark 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm working on something real. The trick for the overload:

1) http://jeffmiller.github.com/2010/07/23/a-cure-for-hacker-ne...
2) Never read it immediatly, use instapaper first, and only read at the end of the day.

- sometimes I just go take a peak, just like this story =)

36
4 points by spacecadet 4 days ago 0 replies      
I usually read HN once in the morning, once at lunch, and maybe before falling asleep. I find it doesn't really change enough for me to read it "all day". But I never leave the first page ;p
37
2 points by ThomPete 4 days ago 0 replies      
What I would do if I where you would be to start writing a blog and then feed that into the HN community. That way you are forcing yourself to do something while still being able to read HN.

After a while someone will probably tell you that some of your ideas are great enough that you will build the necessary will power to get started.

Remember ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is king.

38
2 points by tzury 4 days ago 0 replies      
on your profile page fill in these fields

    noprocrast: yes
maxvisit: 15
minaway: 180

That will allow you spend no more than 15 minutes every 3 hours

39
3 points by ithkuil 4 days ago 0 replies      
same here, ehm I don't whether to feel ashamed or happy to see somebody else in the same situation
40
2 points by godawful 4 days ago 0 replies      
Try Leech Block:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4476/

It blocks selected websites during hours / days you select, or allows you to say "No more than 30 minutes of Hacker News every 4 hours." It's highly configurable.

Of course, you're smart enough to find a way round its blocking if you want to. But really, deep down, you want to be productive and when Leech block pops up with its "Site blocked" screen, it will be a helpful reminder of this.

41
1 point by transmit101 4 days ago 0 replies      
May I suggest my noprocrast gem? Designed to solve exactly this problem.

http://github.com/rfwatson/noprocrast

42
1 point by gtani 4 days ago 0 replies      
43
1 point by piramida 4 days ago 0 replies      
Click on your username, set "noprocrast" to yes, then you will find yourself often staring at the "Sorry you can't view this site" text but you will get more productive. You can even select how long you want to work between reading HN there. It really helps and I can't thank PG enough for this :)
44
3 points by ungerik 4 days ago 0 replies      
A mentor of mine always says: Do you want to be the one who reads the news, or the one who makes the news?

Also: Learn more just in time instead of just in case.

45
3 points by StudyAnimal 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, but only at work.
It works out quite well actually, when work is over, I am pretty sick of HN, so it isn't quite as appealing a distraction at home as it is at work.
46
1 point by kristiandupont 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you are on Windows, you can download CherryTomato which is designed to help you with procrastination even though it sounds like your condition might be severe :-)

http://www.beatpoints.com/cherrytomato

47
2 points by dragons 4 days ago 0 replies      
No, I work at my 9-5 job all day. I usually peruse HN over breakfast or dinner. After dinner, and on weekends, I work on coding a little application of my own.

I find that it helps to read HN to keep me motivated. I doubt I'll ever make much money off of the applications I create. But it's encouraging to read about people who do.

48
2 points by emilepetrone 4 days ago 1 reply      
Download Selfcontrol, set it for 8 hours, and block HN, Fb, news sites, etc.

It blocks those sites you waste time on, and you cannot change the settings by quitting the app or even restarting your computer. It's great.

49
1 point by iuguy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not so much (mind you I was on HN a lot by my standards yesterday, but I was off sick), although lately I've been going through my morning browsing and submitting the tabs I found interesting, which I've noticed tends to result in a minor surge in posts by me on the new page.
50
3 points by racerrick 4 days ago 0 replies      
Underwear. Never get out of bed.

Just me and Hacker News.

Big picture of Paul Graham on the wall.

51
1 point by ammmir 4 days ago 0 replies      
i find that small distractions of 10 minutes at a time are fine, but often we get stuck on a site because we haven't finished reading it fully before we tell ourselves to get back to work. long pages (like these comment threads on HN and other sites) don't seem to help the matter.

someone should make a browser extension that visually blocks out parts of a page while you're supposed to be working. it would slowly reveal (say from top to bottom) parts of it the more time you're away from it and actually working. this way, your "reward" would be a fully rendered page every 10 minutes or so.

52
1 point by forgottenpaswrd 4 days ago 0 replies      
No, I divide my time on two fronts: quality time, when I'm fresh and full with energy, and rest time.

Hacker news is always part of the rest time, when I'm tired and lazy so no problem quitting.

On quality time focus and only interrupt it for resting.

53
3 points by seejay 4 days ago 0 replies      
well... all my work is scripted... so its ok to spend a little time on HN B-)
54
1 point by Omnipresent 4 days ago 0 replies      
This happens to me all the time. For a while I stopped visiting HN to make myself feel better. Reading all the comments on this page, I feel people are just proposing hacks that stop you from visiting sites like HN or reddit. I think best hack is to start your own project. Do anything, it could even be reading a book and typing code from the book into your computer. Doing _anything_ will make you feel better about yourself. Remember, it does NOT have to be a product that magically changes the world and brings unicorns to life
55
1 point by vilius 4 days ago 0 replies      
How many hours does HN distraction cost you? For me it was like 2 hours per day, until I reached a point where I felt that I knew just enough to actually go and start doing something. Building something was the way to test my knowledge. Now I'm in progress with my first startup and HN browsing takes 15 minutes, I mainly bookmark stories that might benefit the project I am working with, it keeps me going.

So my advice would be, go and test how well you know "THE GAME", build something!

56
1 point by J3L2404 4 days ago 0 replies      
There are addictions in this world far worse than HN.

I may have a monkey on my back but at least he is fairly civil and always has something interesting to say.

57
1 point by frazerb 4 days ago 0 replies      
As a self confessed HN addict, I want to share a new technique I found that massively improved my productivity in an instant.

Too good to be true ? Read on....

The technique is slightly different, depending in which operating system you have, but in general the instructions are:

(i) switch to your browser
(ii) select "Exit" from the "File" menu.

Voila! Productivity improves. [[ assuming your not using the browser for work, of course ]]

Try it.

58
1 point by d3x 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am glad I have never had this problem. I really dont care about HN @ all and just use it as a resource to learn from the same as TC and a plethora of other websites. I enjoy making things so thats what I do and the same goes for my friends. If you enjoy studying startups more than launching products etc... then perhaps you should shift your career in that direction.
59
1 point by paufernandez 4 days ago 0 replies      
I do. But I've come to accept it like that, for me it's not that terrible anymore. After all, I am not "in the game", really, even if it would be nice. It's a shame you cannot get the entrepreneurial gene after being born. But it's nice to be able to watch things unfold from a close distance.
60
1 point by codefisher 4 days ago 0 replies      
Do similar things only when there is nothing else really interesting ready to hand. So if I have an assignment due and have a total dislike for it, yes I will waste a lot of time reading various site like HN. But if I have something fun available, maybe only a few moments when I am taking a break.
61
1 point by willheim 3 days ago 0 replies      
Was this posted by Ryan of The Office while he was supposed to be selling WUPHF.com?
62
1 point by nayanshah 4 days ago 0 replies      
I read it through feeds and keep checking every 3-4 hours. This gives me time to do others things as well. As of now, not very active in discussions, but trying to hop in.
63
0 points by scrrr 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't see a reason to up-vote that post.

I guess you don't feel the incredible urge to make things. Perhaps making things is not for you then. I don't think its laziness, it's simply that you don't NEED to do anything.

64
1 point by IAforyears 4 days ago 0 replies      
You seem to be doing something, since you are reflecting about your own problems and making this little post about doing nothing.
65
7 points by kinnth0 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes.
66
1 point by plehoux 4 days ago 0 replies      
For the past month etc/host block on my macbook. Access with my ipad at night and in the morning. I gained a lot of productivity!
67
1 point by SkuldOMG 4 days ago 0 replies      
My problem is that my time is occupied by other things at the moment. I read Hacker News (and Hackers Monthly) every day before heading to University and during my afternoon cup(s) of coffee and feel really inspired to get something done, but work for University and for an upcoming language exam keep me so busy that I don't have the time to actually get some coding done.

I hope that changes sometime soon..

68
1 point by xgMz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Me weekend, full of plans, ended in only reading HN (except when I went out)...
69
1 point by jyf1987 4 days ago 1 reply      
nope , mine is Google Reader
i want to make a filter to help me do reading quickly
70
1 point by sacv 4 days ago 0 replies      
on mon-fri - yes..it helps me to run....on weekends - no, cause - HN walks on weekends
71
1 point by itsnotvalid 3 days ago 0 replies      
Count me in.
72
1 point by iepaul 4 days ago 0 replies      
yes every day!
73
1 point by JohnDeHope 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes.
74
1 point by timme 4 days ago 0 replies      
No.
6
Goodbye, Google App Engine carlosble.com
353 points by vrruiz 1 day ago   94 comments top 33
1
103 points by nl 1 day ago 5 replies      
Does no one read the documentation before deciding to use a platform anymore?

App Engine supports Python 2.5. The Python interpreter runs in a secured "sandbox" environment to isolate your application for service and security. The interpreter can run any Python code, including Python modules you include with your application, as well as the Python standard library. The interpreter cannot load Python modules with C code; it is a "pure" Python environment.

At the top of the FIRST page of documentation: http://code.google.com/appengine/docs/python/overview.html

Google Apps domains do not currently support HTTPS. HTTPS support is limited to apps accessed via .appspot.com domains. Accessing an HTTPS URL on a Google Apps domain will return a "host not found" error, and accessing a URL whose handler only accepts HTTPS (see below) using HTTP will return an HTTP 403 "Forbidden" error. You can link to an HTTPS URL with the .appspot.com domain for secure features, and use the Apps domain and HTTP for the rest of the site.

HIGHLIGHTED on http://code.google.com/appengine/docs/python/config/appconfi...

A request handler has a limited amount of time to generate and return a response to a request, typically around 30 seconds. Once the deadline has been reached, the request handler is interrupted.

and

While a request can take as long as 30 seconds to respond, App Engine is optimized for applications with short-lived requests, typically those that take a few hundred milliseconds. An efficient app responds quickly for the majority of requests. An app that doesn't will not scale well with App Engine's infrastructure.

http://code.google.com/appengine/docs/python/runtime.html#Th...

I could go on and on.. reading this I see "I wasted 15000€ by not reading the documentation"

I usually think the title technical architect is a bit stupid (my business card says I'm one, so I can say that) but this guy needs a good technical architect to make platform decisions prior to wasting that much money

2
52 points by st3fan 1 day ago 3 replies      
"developing on GAE introduced such a design complexity that working around it pushes us 5 months behind schedule"

This is the core of all their problems. It is a mindset incompatibility between these app designers and GAE.

The GAE APIs and rules are actually pretty simple and well defined. It works really well, but only if you work WITH those rules. You have to adopt the GAE application design philosophy.

If you don't, and if you work AGAINST the rules and best practices set by GAE then you are in trouble. Big trouble. This is what happened here.

I understand this is easy to say afterwards. And you can't really blame them for finding out the hard way.

Note that the same applies to for example all the great services that Amazon Web Services provides; they only work if you build your apps with the Amazon specific design approach in mind. Things like eventual consistency, expect things to fail, don't do large amounts of work in single jobs. Etc. Etc.

These appoaches suck more or less if you come from a 'total control over a bunch of machines' background. But they are so needed to scale.

3
24 points by krosaen 1 day ago 3 replies      
This hasn't been my experience.

Yes, existing techniques for full text search works or things like geolocation queries won't work but there are other[1] techniques[2] that work just as well; it's just not the sql way. Basically, support for multiple set membership queries against a list of tags stored with entities is extremely powerful and if you index properly, you can do a lot of cool things [3]. Plus, you can do datastore queries in parallel [4], which means you don't have to denormalize as much as you think; just parallelize and memcache results; e.g for a complicated front page, you can fetch different types of content in parallel.

The local server behaves remarkably the same as the deployed server, it's quite rare I find a situation where something behaves differently in production. the entire datastore can be tested locally, including complicated schemas / indices / queries in fast running unit tests. This means when I do need to do something fancy with the datastore, I can fully test it with unit tests and be confident it will work when deployed.

Long running tasks can always be broken up using the task queue. the limit will soon be 10 minutes for individual tasks and cron jobs [5]

I agree that cold start is a huge issue, but looks like it is being addressed in the 1.4 release [5] where you can pay for 3 reserve instances at all ties. Lack of support for https on your domain definitely sucks too, but I don't see how he wouldn't have been aware of that before going with GAE.

Finally, there are a number of things that are a huge time / money savers:
- really easy deployment process including support for multiple versions. This let's you have staging instances and quickly roll back to a previous version if there are any problems
- a nice admin console with a number of tools, including comprehensive access to logs that are coherent across all instances
- some really nice libraries for examining performance of datastore queries and other api calls [6] and getting daily email reports of any exceptions [7]. these are built using hooks available to you in case you want to build something similar (for instance I used hooks to have regression tests on the number of datastore queries each page requires).
- the services and apis made available are really nice. for instance, the image hosting infrastructure that provides fast access to different sizes for a stored picture based on a url is pretty slick; they basically opened up the same infrastructure that is used by picasaweb to app engine users
- virtually no hosting costs until you get a lot of traffic. thousands of daily visitors is still in the free range

That said, my biggest outstanding gripes:

- cold start problem (until 1.4 is out)

- datastore latency spikes sometimes. this has gotten a lot better in the past few weeks, but I'll still have this gripe until I see it more consistent for a couple months

- no support for incoming emails with attachments > 1mb (makes incoming photos from smart phones impossible since they are usually > 3Mp these days)

- no support for long polling (upcoming channel API seems to be more for chat rooms than for general purpose server push) [8]

[1] http://www.billkatz.com/2009/6/Simple-Full-Text-Search-for-A...

[2] http://fluffybunnysoftware.com/node/8

[3] http://code.google.com/events/io/sessions/BuildingScalableCo...

[4] http://code.google.com/p/asynctools

[5] http://groups.google.com/group/google-appengine/browse_threa...

[6] http://googleappengine.blogspot.com/2010/03/easy-performance...

[7]http://code.google.com/appengine/articles/python/recording_e...

[8] http://bitshaq.com/2010/09/01/sneak-peak-gae-channel-api

4
21 points by csytan 1 day ago 2 replies      
It sounds like a lot of his problems stem from the use of Django. I've tried it before, and believe me, Django absolutely sucks on Appengine.

First off, you have a full featured framework which was designed for SQL relational databases. Many of Django's features either have to be given up, or are monkey-patched beyond belief to get partial functionality. Not to mention quite a few Django apps use database features which are simply not supported by BigTable.

Secondly, Django is not exactly the smallest framework, so loading time can be quite expensive and will be tacked on to every cold start.

All that being said, I've had good success with the tornado framework. It's fast, well written, and thoughtfully designed. Check out my profile if you want to see some examples of apps written with tornado + GAE.

5
24 points by ivanzhao 1 day ago 3 replies      
I just launched my app 4 days ago (threewiki.com) and its backend is using GAE (Python + Tornado).
On the second day, it was featured on TheNextWeb front page and the server got TONS of traffic. It scared me a bit, and I quickly change the daily max quota to $10.
Anyways, GAE handles everything very gracefully. Over 70% of our users use either Facebook or Twitter to login and it hasn't been a problem at all.

I always think if your site can't be host by GAE, then it's probably not very scalable at the first place. I agree it might be better to host the data-processing end on EC2 or elsewhere if it's intense. Else in terms of the "View" part of your project, I wouldn't give it another thought for using GAE again.

6
13 points by nir 1 day ago 0 replies      
The article mostly describes obvious, well documented limitations of GAE. It's really the story of a team that needed a saw, picked a hammer, and spent months trying to get it to cut wood.

This is a pretty common pattern in software, so it might be more interesting to write an article about why they chose the wrong technology and how they stuck with it even with it was clear it wasn't built to do what they needed.

7
5 points by jasonkester 1 day ago 0 replies      
I feel your pain, brother. I went through all of this a few years back. AppEngine was still pretty new back then, so it all seemed like things that they would fix before long. But it sure didn't feel ready for production.

I'm actually quite surprised that all those same limitations are still in place after all this time. I guess if I took a minute I could come up with an issue or two I had back then that has been fixed since, but his list of show stoppers are all things that people were complaining about, and that Google gave the impression of being on top of.

8
11 points by mark_l_watson 1 day ago 1 reply      
A useful article for people to read before using AppEngine. I only use AppEngine for my own projects, so far no jobs for customers.

I was aware of most of the limitations of AppEngine that the author of the article mentions after just a few hours of experimenting with AppEngine. Now, AppEngine now no longer gives me many problems.

I think the lesson is to do a lot of experiments before committing to technologies.

I don't use the Python SDK. Most of what I have done has been using Java (but with small Clojure and JRuby experiments). One thing that helped was to start using Objectify instead of JDO (as an example).

9
10 points by jimrandomh 22 hours ago 3 replies      
There are a lot of apologists here, and they're all missing the point. Google App Engine has a large number of random issues and limitations which, while they each individually seem like they ought not to matter, add up to a substantial risk for a project running on it. I'm currently working on a project with a web component, and considered GAE. I chose not to use it, because some of the stuff I encountered in the documentation is absolutely terrifying. You're supposed to handle exceptions from the datastore? Really? The best you can possibly do is retry, but if that was going to work the library would be doing it automatically... so I guess it's saying that your app might just randomly fail sometimes. No https with a domain? I guess ever taking credit card numbers is off the table. Thirty second limit per request? Sounds reasonable, except for all the complaints about the app engine taking thirty seconds just to load the Python interpreter and compile their code. That sort of shit will sink a project; until App Engine has had a lot more time to sort out its issues and mature, I want no part of it.
10
5 points by zephyrfalcon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I agree that GAE has its share of problems. However, many of the complaints listed are about limits and limitations, and can be found in the documentation; at least points #1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11 and 11.

I developed an app with GAE about 2 years ago, and ran into many of the same problems (although some of the limits were probably lower then). Fortunately I could work around them, and the app wasn't used by tons of users anyway. I can see how it would be a serious problem otherwise, though.

11
6 points by kroo 1 day ago 0 replies      
While I feel the OP's pain in terms of difficulty working with the limitations of AppEngine, what he's not mentioning is the collection of benefits you get from AppEngine over other services. We've found that once you work out a solution to the datastore and request timeout issues, you have a remarkably robust and scalable system for free (or at least out-of-the-box).

With AppEngine, I've never had to migrate a database schema, build a load-balancer, hire a fulltime sysadmin, or even pay for servers that arn't receiving traffic. I don't have to set up a large-scale deployment system, nor spin up a new database server when traffic gets too heavy. AppEngine so far has been remarkably cheap (we're starting to bring in more customers however, so we'll see how long this lasts).

Many of the challenges he mentions come down to thinking about writing a webapp with a longer-term vision in mind. Datastore limitations crop up when you outgrow your first datastore in a standard system; in AppEngine they're properly enumerated and dealt with from day 1. Likewise long-running connections become very tricky to deal with with lots of traffic... this point is a little harder to argue with the recent popularity of asynchronous-io servers, but I think Google is working hard on these limitations. SSL is just annoying; we've had to deal with this by adding an SSL proxy until Google adds SSL support -- but it sounds like Google is pretty close to solving this one (it's been promised by end of year).

Also, AppEngine is written in a very high-level way; should you reach a point where AppEngine no longer makes sense, it is amazingly easy to transition over to another system (as the OP apparently found out; I would give more credit to the design patterns inherent in the AppEngine APIs than 'TDD driven development'). Tornado, webpy, etc have virtually the same interface as AppEngine's webapp framework.

There are definitely tradeoffs when choosing AppEngine as a production backend right now, and its certainly not the right solution for every problem... but for many people, us included, its been a pretty large net benefit for our startup. Google is actively improving the system, and I expect many of these problems will go away in the next 6 months or so.

12
8 points by ajessup 1 day ago 0 replies      
All the points he makes are valid - and stem from the fact that GAE is designed to be 'infinitely scalable'. Because of this, it forces you into a number of design patterns that facilitate distributed, scalable software.

This can be a good thing, if you know scalability is going to be a killer feature in the near future. It can also a real pain in the ass if it's more important to simply get something off the ground quickly and see if it has market traction, and you don't want abandon the convenient but difficult to scale practices like long running processes and JOINs. In my experience, most startups fall squarely into this latter camp. Scalability is a nice problem to have for most of us.

AppEngine for Business now has a hosted SQL mode, which presumably uses a less scalable but ACID compliant alternative to the standard GAE data store (disclaimer - I haven't used it). Since he's already throwing down some serious coin on his app on GAE it might be worth investigating that before abandoning the platform completely.

13
4 points by smoody 1 day ago 1 reply      
the next version will allow you to pay to keep three copies of your app loaded and ready to go at all times. that should eliminate the insanely slow load times for apps that don't get constant traffic (at a price yet to be determined).

google is also adding sql database capabilities to the platform soon.

and google apps for business will eventually let you talk https on your own domain (at a price yet to be determined).

i suspect they're about 6 or 8 months from becoming a solid solution to many problems.

14
5 points by endlessvoid94 1 day ago 1 reply      
if you're using Django, check out http://www.djangy.com -- it's heroku for django (and eventually other wsgi frameworks)

:-)

15
7 points by powera 1 day ago 1 reply      
A few of these points are just ridiculous:

1) If you want "SQL and Joins", use SQL. This is like complaining that you can't play Halo on Linux.

1A) There isn't full text search. If you need full text search, use a system with full text search as a feature.

2) Some of the points are out of date (or will be out of date soon). The 30 second limit for cron jobs will be 10 minutes after the next release. As noted, the 1000 results per query limit is gone already.

3) Anything can fail. If you assume your own system won't fail, you're going to be in worse shape later.

4) What objects would you cache that are >1MB anyhow? In almost any case, you'd be better off caching it as multiple, smaller objects.

16
4 points by ceperley 1 day ago 0 replies      
We have a product built on app engine, sure we've had our share of challenges but the benefits far outweigh them. To name a few benefits: A developer staff of 1 can focus on the application code and not the infrastructure details. Fast image serving auto-scales all your images to any size, and serves them off the fast servers used by Picasa. Versions can be used for testing multiple branches of code on production servers seamlessly.

#1 Has never been an issue for us
#3 Is incorrect with the new task queue upgrades
#6 We have a full-text system working just fine
#7 Is a benefit when working with a distributed datastore
#8 DB performance after the recent updates has been stunning
#10 So they badly designed their queries and blame app engine?
#11 Is flat out incorrect
#12 What database is immune to failure? Would love to know

App Engine doesn't do everything, and no one is claiming it does. We have a secondary VPS we offload certain image processing tasks for example. But what it does do is extremely powerful from a develop perspective, and the application-centric model, like heroku or engine yard, is where things are headed. I would much rather leave the server and scaling issues to the experts so I can spend time improving my application.

17
3 points by wrath 1 day ago 1 reply      
We love AppEngine for many of the reasons which he gives. Because of its limitations, the platform makes you think and write code with proper design patterns in mind. If you just start to write code without thinking about it beforehand, yes you won't like AppEngine and it's not for you. It'll cost you LOTS of money and won't perform very well. On the other hand, by writing code designed for AppEngine we've been able to reduce our costs by several thousand $$ a month. Also a side benefit is that we migrated one of our IT roles to a development role, which means that we're able to iterate faster.

Granted we don't have a need for SSL and not being able to use C libraries in python has caused us many hours "pain", but compared to the alternative for a small company like we have, it's well worth it.

My biggest issue with AppEngine is that there's no full-text index functionality, and there's no way to create your own. We've tried everything, and nothing works if you have millions of documents like we have. Our search is still external to AppEngine but we're hoping that Google will do something about it sooner or later.

18
6 points by mike_esspe 1 day ago 2 replies      
The biggest problem for me with GAE is cost. Currently I'm paying around $150 per week for around 50k daily active users (~6 million requests per day).

I'm almost sure, that i can run the same amount of traffic from $100/month dedicated server.

19
2 points by mootothemax 1 day ago 0 replies      
I recently developed my first GAE site, and whilst I didn't run into the problems the author of this article did, I spent a lot of time hunting down best practises.

It's now been ages since I last looked at Amazon's offerings; does anything have any links to best practises / development strategies for either AWS or GAE?

20
5 points by checker659 1 day ago 2 replies      
#11 isn't true. Since a recent update, you can now retrieve more than 1000 results in a single call.
21
1 point by preek 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Incredible how many points this article gathers considering the valid arguments made in the comments[1]. There must be a lot of bad experience (or fear) with this platform.

Personally, I recently had my fair share of problems with the DownloadError, but I knew it would come up (because I read the documentation - and I concur with the limit for scaling reasons). So I built myself a failover decorator relaying the failing requests to a VPS.

Otherwise, I love GAE!

1. For example the top commenter nl with 83 points: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1928148

22
2 points by crizCraig 22 hours ago 0 replies      
One thing not mentioned is the development server slowness and need to constantly restart it. The live website actually ends up being much faster than the development site on your machine. Apparently, this is due to the fact that the development server is single threaded. TyphoonAE is one work around but then you're depending on a third-party to catch up with the latest API changes.
23
1 point by arfrank 1 day ago 2 replies      
#3 isn't true for taskqueue tasks or cron jobs anymore, the deadline is now 10 minutes ( actually will be once 1.4.0 SDK is released in about a week or so )

Also at first glance there is no indication of how the author got to a value of 15k€. My best guess, and a guess at that, is that they put the value of a line of code at 1€ and had to migrate 15k lines, but I hope there is more scientific than than.

24
2 points by bigwally 1 day ago 0 replies      
It is not even in Beta yet, as it states in the documentation from Google;

"This is a preview release of Google App Engine."

My biggest gripe about GAE (and Google in general) is that when a change is made on Google's infrastructure that causes large problems, no acknowledgement (or answer) is made until enough people complain.

25
1 point by epynonymous 23 hours ago 0 replies      
i think in general what we should take from this article is one user's experience with gae and use it as just another data point. many comments on here seem to suggest that they're upset about the bashing, but this is just feedback, a grain of salt, i find it helpful, although noted that you could probably find most of these in the documentation.

i originally also considered gae for my project, but decided against it, my impetus was that i wanted to use a homegrown best of breed stack: tornado, mysql, nginx, memcached, python2.7 and have more control over the environment.

26
1 point by thebootstrapper 17 hours ago 0 replies      
IMO, i feel this is a design flaw. Without understanding
what's a NOSQL used for you can't except joins to work.

Shouldn't there be a checklist to show "What applications can be moved to cloud (appengine here)? including the myths, expectations, assertions?"

27
0 points by jscore 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm a little bit confused about the number of arguments against the OP's post, here and especially on his own site.

As someone who's considering whether going w/GAE or custom, the points he makes are totally valid and applicable.

28
1 point by iwr 1 day ago 0 replies      
Did someone document their progress, or overview the development of a medium-sized app (~10K LoC) on GAE?
29
0 points by vbsredlofb 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This is the worst critic I've ever read about App engine.
30
0 points by vanni 1 day ago 0 replies      
Really, REALLY I can't understand how this can be #1 on HN now. Ah, Carlos, please go RTFM! Powerful tools... they are not for everyone.
31
-2 points by lappet 1 day ago 1 reply      
For all I know, GAE is really easy to develop on. I made this using Django in a couple of hours' time: http://bhoogolvidya.appspot.com/
32
-4 points by tybris 1 day ago 0 replies      
GAE is web scale!
33
-1 point by sahaj 17 hours ago 1 reply      
i'd curious to hear what you switch to and, in about a year, how well it is working out.

my buddies and i are working on a time manager for college students and we are having a hard time deciding between RoR and GAE. any insight would be helpful.

we are looking for:
login manager
database capable of up to 50 fields for each user
sorting and search capability
must cost less than $10/year/user.

ps. if you are someone interested in solving this problem, please contact me directly at hn@sahajsingh.com

7
Rails for Zombies - Learn Rails from the comfort of your browser railsforzombies.org
327 points by trevorturk 4 days ago   57 comments top 23
1
15 points by trevorturk 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is a wonderful idea. Every time I try to get someone started with Rails, I sent them to the Rails Guides and warn them that "getting Rails up and running in the hardest part." Being able to have someone jump straight into videos and interactive prompts from their browser is going to be so much better...
2
8 points by bphogan 4 days ago 2 replies      
Love it, but I can't shake the feeling that the people who I want to show this to would not dig the zombies vibe. Maybe I just hang around too many people who do Real Serious Business (TM) programming. :)

It's neat as hell though.

3
5 points by patrickk 4 days ago 2 replies      
Kinda makes you wonder why all your development can't be 100% web-based. No messy installs, version control built in (autosave like gmail?)...if your deployed app is web-based, why not your entire development environment?
4
6 points by catshirt 4 days ago 0 replies      
The whole package here is a great idea, but the "labs" have insane potential.

I would jump on the opportunity to build labs for other languages if they offered an sdk of some sort.

5
7 points by LiveTheDream 4 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me a bit of Heroku's initial offering, which was an online IDE combined with the insta-deployment.
6
7 points by peteysd 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. Just wow. This is incredibly well done. The videos (well, the ones I've been through so far) are informative and entertaining, and the site is well thought-out.

I think that if you can re-skin this and retool it for other themes/languages, you've got an excellent educational tool on your hands.

Good job!

7
6 points by evanrmurphy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just when I was thinking that there couldn't be an easier introduction than railstutorial.org + heroku.com.
8
3 points by judofyr 4 days ago 0 replies      
Oops: http://d.pr/Chjg I'm working with EnvyLabs right now to fix the hole).
9
9 points by Adam503 4 days ago 0 replies      
We're getting really, really close to the "one zombie thing too many" threshold as a culture.

But this is pretty sweet :)

10
3 points by mrchess 4 days ago 1 reply      
Good idea to simplify things but just side-stepping around the issue and delaying the reality that it really isn't this easy. You're eventually going to have to get dirty if you really want to do anything -- configure ruby, install gems, learn git, deal with gem versions... ah, good times.
11
2 points by reedlaw 4 days ago 1 reply      
While I love the concept and polish on this and would love to be able to recommend something like this to friends, I'm sorry but I have no room in my heart for zombies.
12
1 point by mcantor 3 days ago 0 replies      

  If you've never touched the Ruby Language before, we
recommend playing through TryRuby.org first.

Recommend?!

This is why we can't have nice things.

13
3 points by danishkhan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Man, I thought ruby koans and hacketyhack were amazing interactive tools. This is amazing and a lot of fun too.
14
1 point by obiefernandez 4 days ago 1 reply      
This feels like an important development for Windows users that want to try Rails. (Assuming it works on IE
15
1 point by JoelMcCracken 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is really similar to something I have been working on. Awesome.
16
1 point by jhubert 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty fantastic. I travel around to universities with the Yahoo! HackU program and have had a heck of a time teaching students ruby and the rails framework from scratch. This is going to make it SOO much easier. :D

As far as the labs thing goes, this feels like the future of interactive learning.

17
1 point by thenayr 4 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't a huge part of learning a new language being able to install and configure it in the first place?

Also the went WAYYYYYYY overboard with the whole zombies thing. We get it, zombies are trendy these days, please just keep them away from anything learning based.

18
1 point by sudonim 4 days ago 0 replies      
Glancing at Why's poignant guide is probably a good step too.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whys_(poignant)_Guide_to_Ruby
19
2 points by onlythestrong 3 days ago 0 replies      
Can somebody explain on how insecure code is detected? I tried system('ls') and received:
#<InsecureCode: Bad Code Zombie>
20
1 point by abrudtkuhl 4 days ago 0 replies      
Was looking for something just like this last night. Awesome.
21
1 point by danielhodgins 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is one of the most enjoyable ways to learn Ruby/Rails I have found so far. Great idea!
22
1 point by tectonic 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why do I have to signup first?
23
1 point by prafulla 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just finished the 5-lab course. Amazing stuff.
8
Open ID Is A Nightmare wekeroad.com
300 points by chanks 5 days ago   109 comments top 18
1
53 points by patio11 5 days ago 0 replies      
Having implemented it for a day job, there is no power on earth or under it which can force me to ever put it in one of my products. OpenID doesn't really have a handle on the problem it is solving and almost certainly pessimizes for the metrics I most care about, like conversion rates, success with signup/signin, customer support costs, and mental wellbeing among the engineering team (i.e. me).
2
29 points by Groxx 5 days ago replies      
So... the problem is that it's too easy to forget your OpenID / its login.

I propose that the main reason for this is because browsers (and password-storing applications in general) have practically zero support for OpenID. It's all handled by hand. It's all in your head, and nowhere else.

Sorta reminds me of, oh... browsers before password managers. Far far more people used only a couple username/password combinations, or stored their ones in a text file somewhere. Now that managers are integrated, and secure external ones exist, it's viable to actually be safer with your logins, and many more people do so. And now I rely so heavily on my password manager, I only know a couple key points-of-entry where its data is stored - the rest of my passwords are all randomly generated.

OpenID is essentially the next step, and it's precisely the same end-user problem. Imagine if browsers supported it natively via a profile-like system; pick a profile, and every site you've associated with it is immediately logged in for you. You'd be able to handle multiple people using your computer easily - just enter a password to use that profile, and everything can be switched for you. No need to launch that password manager for every site, you sign in once and everything is automatically connected from that point.

OpenID can be significantly more user-friendly than username + password. It just isn't there yet.

3
14 points by michaelchisari 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is one of the reasons your Open ID should have been formed like an email address, ie, username@domain.ext

That way, sites can immediately tell the domain name of the provider, and the user to verify, without having the extra selection step for the user. It's also more familiar to users.

This is one of the reasons I decided to not go with OpenID as primary identity authentication for Appleseed.

4
21 points by jrockway 5 days ago 1 reply      
The problem with OpenID is that everyone wants to be a provider, but nobody wants to let me use it to log in. This means everyone has 10 different OpenIDs, but only one place to log into. Very stupid.
5
9 points by sams99 5 days ago 0 replies      
I agree, open id sucks. Or more specifically the billion different evolving implementations of open id suck. Making your users feels stupid sucks and having your business totally dependent on a third party sucks.

There is a lot of suck.

However, to balance things out, remembering 100 different passwords sucks. Getting an email to 100 different users on 100 different MXs, without being flagged as spam, sucks. Recovering an account when a primary email address stops working, cause a user switched jobs, sucks. Having to change your password every time you visit a site (cause you visit it twice a year), sucks. I know: keypass, self hosted clipperz, passpack. They are all at best awkward.

So, at the end of the day, you are stuck making a decision that is sucky, no matter what you choose.

When I built community tracker, I decided unique logins and valid emails are a valid requirement, openid is a nice add-on. A year later hacks have been added to the open-id code.. It is code I hate touching, with conditional edge cases, and is super hard to test. I decided against RPX cause I dislike the idea of adding one more business dependency. It just felt wrong. Honestly, I am not convinced the headache was worth it. Users love to be able to click on the google button and get access to the site.

When I am working on Stack Overflow, occasionally, I wish we had the "unique valid email" and "unique login" requirements. The whole cookie based account thing we have scares me (Jeff says it is what makes us better than all those sites that use slimy tricks to get your email).

However, it is far from our biggest problem. It is very easy to create an account, you can even answer a question without logging on using open id. The amount of customer service emails we get with regards to merging accounts is manageable. The majority of users, use the google button, and the google button works. The merging / recovery process and overhead is annoying but, not out-of-control annoying.

There are tweaks, we probably should not be rendering that scary URL Google gives us. We should look at ways to cut down on support calls.

Overall, I agree, for a business that is selling stuff to its users, making openid the only way for your customers to buy stuff may not a good idea.

However, for a business, that is trying to make the Internet a better place, the dependency on openid and all the hacks that come with it, is tolerable. And doing a little bit to stop users from adding, yet another password, to the never ending pool of passwords has its appeal.

6
7 points by mechanical_fish 5 days ago 0 replies      
Seems like as good a time as any to ask, yet again:

Will I ever be able to use a simple username and password to log into a Stack Exchange site?

Please?

7
7 points by mike463 5 days ago 0 replies      
As a user, I HATE openid.

I use one unique username/password for each site I visit. My browser will maintain this for the sites I'd like it to, and sites where security is important, I type it in manually.

In my opinion, developers are being selfish. They want one of their coding problems to go away (authentication and all it entails), at the expense of their users.

With openid, I have to open two accounts. One on the site, and another separate openid account to provide authentication. Problems? Well, it could be one, or the other. Does the brower help me? NO. Does it make me feel more secure? NO.

I used to contribute to stackoverflow, and then after having to deal with openid all those times, I STOPPED USING THE SITE.

8
3 points by terra_t 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is why I'm likely to use Facebook Connect. Sure, some people hate Facebook (maybe I lose 20% of sign-ups) but giving people 30 million choices causes them to freeze up (lose 80% of sign-ups)
9
2 points by mcantor 5 days ago 2 replies      
I'm really surprised that this hasn't been solved by browser vendors yet.

You should be able to tell your browser about your OpenID account(s), so it can keep you logged in constantly. "Hey! Your OpenID login has expired. Please login again now, or hit 'Later' to see this prompt the next time you try to access an account."

Then, when you go to a website that supports OpenID, your browser can tell it, "Hey. Don't bother presenting us with a login prompt. Just check to see if you have any accounts associated with these OpenIDs."

Of course, it can't be that simplistic, because the site needs to verify authentication with your provider, not your potentially devious browser. But I feel like that is not a difficult problem to solve.

It's one-and-a-half steps. The first "half" step is "Logging in," because you only have to do it once per browser session. The first real step is: "Go to the site." Done.

10
1 point by djacobs 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is the problem i-names are intended to solve.

An i-name is a short name that looks something like =name. So instead of your OpenId URL, you can type in =name in any OpenId form and it will log you in as usual.

So instead of name.myopenid.com, I'm =name.

There are registrars who sell an i-names for relatively cheap. (There are also free ones.) The i-name points to the broker's lookup service. In their database, your i-name is associated with a unique number that you keep even if you let your name expire.

That entry points to an XRDS document, and that document tells the login form a number of things. Most importantly, it tells it your OpenId URL. It also provides a series of forwarding addresses that look like this:

  =djacobs/(+blog)
=djacobs/(+contact)
=djacobs/(+twitter)

Et cetera.

My favorite is =djacobs/(+contact). It points to a page on my broker's site with a contact form. This contact form knows my e-mail address, and people can use it to e-mail me without finding that address out--like any other contact form. More importantly, the form comes with useful spam-fighting settings, options like "don't let anyone e-mail me without an i-name of their own".

I happen to think i-names are pretty cool and will tend to make everyone settle on one ID. Maybe a good vocabulary will come out of the forwarding syntax, and we can approach a loose Semantic Web using i-names instead of URLs and triples.

Caveat: As of now this is painfully tedious to set up for the average user. Eventually, though, people will see the merit in this approach, and more competition in this market will drive a user-friendly setup.

For now, it's just for hackers.

11
3 points by xiongchiamiov 5 days ago 1 reply      
Of course, if people didn't have accounts with 10 different OpenID providers in the first place, they wouldn't have to remember which one they used. It seems like many big sites opted to become a provider rather than start accepting logins from existing providers, for which I suppose I can't blame them.
12
3 points by mivok 5 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that the problem of multiple OpenID providers and people not knowing which one they're using would be a lot less serious if all of these companies that are OpenID providers actually accepted logins via OpenID themselves instead of everyone paying lip service to the idea while trying to be the one source of identity for everyone else. That way you could be using the same ID for twitter/google/facebook etc. and when it says 'use your google/twitter credentials to log in' then there is only one set of credentials to use.
13
2 points by steven_h 5 days ago 0 replies      
I think that this isn't really a problem if you remember that your users will forget which Open ID they used and if you allow them to use all their Open IDs, bad things will happen.

When I implemented Open ID the last time I used their OpenID identifier and then had their e-mail tied to that account, you had to have an e-mail so if your OpenID didn't supply an e-mail then the web app asked for one. If you tried to log in with a different OpenID and used the same e-mail, it would tell you that you already have an account.

This doesn't solve the problem 100% but it helps, you just have to design your applications assuming that you wil be the smartest person to use your application.

14
1 point by indiejade 4 days ago 0 replies      
The spirit of the OpenID concept is a good one, though. I'm one of the people who attended the first OpenID dev camp (before OpenID was adopted on a wide scale) http://openid.net/2008/01/14/the-first-openiddevcamp-was-a-s... and there was (and arguably still is) a need for something like it.

The main problem is that it complicated things when it originally set out to simplify them. Power users are hesitant to consolidate all their user names and passwords into the ultimate master key; from a security standpoint, better to use separation of control when users are also smart enough to use different names/passwords across a variety of sites.

15
1 point by nikcub 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great post - but yet another example of a blog without a sidebar or header. When I got to the point where you started talking about your own company I scrolled up and down to find a blurb about it. You introduced your company name assuming we know who they are and what they do.

This happens far too often, help us out by adding a box in the sidebar something simple like:

Hi my name is name. I am the position of company, a what we do service that was launched whenever. To find out more about us, visit our homepage or signup here

Even better, include a mugshot so we know who is talking to us. People like faces, it's comforting :)

16
1 point by gibsonf1 5 days ago 0 replies      
We've set up openid+oauth with Google Apps Marketplace, and the solution there is very elegant. Users from their google apps gmail interface can select an app from "more" and get automatically logged in to our web app. (using extended cl-openid for google app domains and cl-oauth)
17
2 points by joedaltonwallas 5 days ago 2 replies      
Why people are so frightend of storing the salt & hash of the user password? May be I am mistaken but if the salt is unique for each hash it is almost imposible to recover the original password. Of course you must use a well proven encription library but it is trivial. Am I missing something?
18
-2 points by ancymon 5 days ago 1 reply      
In my opinion author should first read OpenID specifications and implement some "best practices" (http://wiki.openid.net/w/page/12995223/Relying-Party-Best-Pr...). Doing so might have solve his "problems". I think to make user "NOT to feel stupid" it's better to implement OpenID properly than quit it.

1. The OpenID specification suggests that user should be able to associate multiple identifiers with one account. That way if you store user's email address, he can easily add new OpenID account even after he lost/forgot his identifier.

2. You can't expect that OpenID provider has enabled extensions which give away user email. User can also decide not to provide his e-mail. If that's not provided you can ask user to fill a registration form "manually".

And by the way, I think that remembering who is your OpenID provider is still easier than remembering login and password.

9
The 19 Senators Who Voted To Censor The Internet techdirt.com
294 points by yanw 4 days ago   84 comments top 20
1
32 points by jws 4 days ago 3 replies      
The bill in question is COICA " "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act"

EFF has this to say: The main mechanism of the bill is to interfere with the Internet's domain name system (DNS), which translates names like "www.eff.org" or "www.nytimes.com" into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. The bill creates a blacklist of censored domains; the Attorney General can ask a court to place any website on the blacklist if infringement is "central" to the purpose of the site.

They go on to list sites which might be affected, including HN's own little darling, Dropbox.

2
25 points by marcusbooster 4 days ago 0 replies      
Keep in mind a committee vote is just that, a vote in committee to move the bill along.

Sometimes a legislator will like the overall bill but see some problems and be assured by the patron that they can come to an agreement. Sometimes they absolutely hate the bill and know it will die, but they'll move it along just to get the opposing party on record so they can embarrass them in commercials. Sometimes they just move it along in because they have a deal with the patron. It's all politics as they say.

3
26 points by stevejohnson 4 days ago 6 replies      
I'm extremely surprised to see Franken on this list. Wasn't he outspoken against this sort of thing?
4
5 points by DanielBMarkham 4 days ago 1 reply      
Very interesting.

Wonder what all of these senators have in common? It doesn't look like party, section of the country, or left-right leanings.

Usually when you get a wide dispersed group like this, the next thing to do is look for businesses and organizations (either inside the senator's state or not) that use money and votes to heavily lobby. Wonder who would lobby for this?

Just thinking aloud. I don't mean this to be a slam of the senators -- they're incompetent enough without my slamming them -- just trying to figure out if there is a commonality.

5
24 points by MBlume 4 days ago 3 replies      
California senator Dianne Feinstein, who appears on this list, also sponsored Consume But Don't Try Programming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Broadband_and_Digital_...) back in the day.

As long as she's on the ballot, I'll be voting for her Republican opponent, however loathsome.

6
7 points by sdh 4 days ago 2 replies      
It would be easy enough to get around a DNS ban. Especially since they can't stop people from using whatever name server they choose or mapping IPs locally themselves.
7
5 points by pasbesoin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Several disappointments, including in my state. I guess it's time to break out the letter writing.

Of course, Democrats (of whom I note several prominent figures) have long been whores to big media.

8
1 point by Osiris 3 days ago 0 replies      
Why couldn't a website just advertise their IP address? If it's just blocking DNS, there's nothing stopping people from going to the website directly via IP. If this does pass, it seems to me that sites like thepiratebay.org would just advertise their public IP so you could easily google it and find an alternate link to it. The only issue would be if they had to move servers, of course.

As someone else posted in another article, there are plenty of ways around this law that it will have very little impact.

9
3 points by natmaster 4 days ago 1 reply      
I honestly do not understand people who cite the first amendment to the constitution as reasoning, but think the second amendment is antiquated.

(Note: They don't mention the second amendment in this article, I'm merely referring to the fact that I don't hear uproars like this when it is violated.)

10
20 points by phlux 4 days ago 3 replies      
AL FUCKING FRANKIN SIGNED THAT??????
11
10 points by kinghajj 4 days ago 0 replies      
If this does pass, couldn't we just set up alternate DNS servers which include the blacklisted domains?
12
4 points by Towle_ 4 days ago 1 reply      
Extra Credit: Why aren't the senators' party affiliations listed?
13
3 points by lhnn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Would a website dedicated to providing IP addresses to websites whose domains were seized be seized?

Just have a directory on an IP-address-accessed server and you've circumscribed the law.

Nevertheless, this law is farking redonkulous. Aren't there already processes for removing illegal content from websites? Surely shutting down domains isn't the most effective way.

There must be some alternative, nefarious motive for this legislation, and I will tell all my friends who in my state voted for this joke of a bill.

14
2 points by thethimble 4 days ago 1 reply      
The linked article is a bit biased.

Although I'm still vehemently against the item in question, the real bill in question is the "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-20023238-38.html?tag=cnetR...) which involves with maintaining a blacklist for domains associated with piracy. Although this is still clearly censorship, it isn't what the title led me to believe (across the board censorship like China).

Still, Dianne Feinstein just lost my vote for the coming election :(.

15
3 points by joshes 4 days ago 0 replies      
The fact that numerous law professors were rebuffed speaks to the growing anti-intellectual sentiment at the highest reaches of this nation.
16
1 point by jdavid 3 days ago 0 replies      
Bills like this allow for the technology to be put in place for broader censorship. Even though in theory protecting copywrite is good, it's also very scary to think the government has a big large red button to block any website they want, maybe even without oversite.
17
3 points by pintojohn2134 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm gonna start doing stuff to prevent these 19 people from being elected. For a start, I'm gonna make a website, I'm a coder, any designers here who'd be interested in making a site dissing these 19?
18
1 point by davidj 4 days ago 0 replies      
maybe its about time to start boycotting the businesses that resides in the states where these senators are elected to represent. After all, all these senators are doing is representing the will of their constituents. Their constituents want to censor the internet and we should boycott them.
I can't vote against any of these senators because my state wasn't a supporter of censoring the internet, but I can vote with my wallet.
19
1 point by iwr 3 days ago 0 replies      
Would this system block websites at the IP level or at the DNS level?

Doing it at the DNS level would mean you could roll your own DNS or use a non-US DNS provider.

Doing it at the IP level would mean the ISP reverse-lookups IP addresses back into domain names and checking against a list of banned addresses. This one could only be bypassed through proxies.

20
1 point by ashedryden 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd like to take this space to apologize on behalf of my state, Wisconsin. Can't believe my beloved Feingold voted for this :(
10
SR-71 Blackbird Communication to Tower econrates.com
301 points by da5e 9 hours ago   52 comments top 12
1
48 points by cstross 8 hours ago 5 replies      
Same pilot, different anecdote, "how slow can it go?"

http://tailspinstales.blogspot.com/2010/01/slowest-blackbird...

2
5 points by rudyfink 5 hours ago 1 reply      
In reference to the uniform voice of center controllers--the "Houston Center" voice, Tom Wolfe tells a related story about pilots in "The Right Stuff." He asserts that all of the test pilots of the era copied the slow, calm, and always subtly positive delivery of Chuck Yeager as the pre-eminent pilot of the day. Other pilots in turn copied the test pilots and so Yeager's voice floated down and became the mold for all American aviation radio communication.

I'd guess that the author is correct in that the controllers copied the delivery of the voice of the space program from Houston, but those controllers were usually former test pilots or members of the military flight programs themselves, so we're probably still thinking of the same unflappable voice.

3
18 points by naz 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Comic Sans MS, maroon on a beige background, this is what Readability was made for.
4
6 points by alanh 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Submitted 7 months ago on a more readable, seemingly more original site.

http://www.vfp62.com/SR-71.html

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1247709 good amount of discussion)

5
41 points by rbanffy 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I know this has been posted many times before, but I love it every time.
6
27 points by mdaniel 8 hours ago 6 replies      
Thank you again, http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/ , for making my web browsing experience safe from the onslaught of backgrounds and fonts.
7
14 points by da5e 8 hours ago 3 replies      
I like the metaphor of being "ahead of the jet." as a term for mastery. I know that feeling exactly sometimes.
8
2 points by matwood 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Great story! Those SR-71s were amazing machines in the air. On the ground was a different story. I remember reading about how they leaked all sorts of fluids on the ground because the body was designed to expand at the higher altitudes and speeds. Amazing engineering.
9
2 points by joe_bleau 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The SR-71 flight manual is (mostly) online, if anyone is interested: http://www.sr-71.org/blackbird/manual/
10
1 point by dfghjkhgbfd 3 hours ago 0 replies      
There is a similar one of an SR71 tooling around over Cuba at god-knows-what 1000s of feet being asked to move to make way for another airplane.
A Concorde goes past, with people in shirt sleeves happily sipping their champagne.
11
-4 points by findm 7 hours ago 1 reply      
man thats so bad ass
12
-2 points by 16s 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Walter spoke: "Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?" There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request.

"Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground."

11
Reporting a bug on a fragile analysis mozilla.com
283 points by lordgilman 5 days ago   76 comments top 13
1
21 points by runjake 5 days ago 2 replies      
This submission demonstrates why you should just stick to the original article title you're linking, instead of coming up with your own flamebait/trolly title.

The issue appears to be a SunSpider bug, not an IE9 bug or "cheat". See http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1913368 for more information.

lordgilman, I hope you now realize it would've been wise to wait before passing judgment (especially in a public forum).

Edit: I don't know what's with the downvotes. I'm just going by the HN Guidelines, posted at http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html? If you have a problem, don't downvote me, take it up with pg.

2
20 points by julian37 5 days ago replies      
In case you don't have IE9 installed, the benchmark results (quoted in the previous blog post) are:

  cordic: 1ms +/- 0.0%
cordic-with-return: 22.6ms +/- 2.7%
cordic-with-true: 22.5ms +/- 2.7%

(Taken from http://blog.mozilla.com/rob-sayre/2010/09/09/js-benchmarks-c... )

3
6 points by kenjackson 5 days ago 1 reply      
A better test to see if IE9 is cheating is to remove/rearrange code and rename variables. I'd avoid changing operators. Adding a 'true;' or 'return;' may seem harmless, but if their analysis is fragile they may just throw as "may have side-effects" on those statements or (in the case of the 'return;') it may not do liveness analysis on the other side of the block.

This code (taken from this thread) seems like a good test:

function numNumNum() {
var I;
var num = 10;
for (I = 0; I < 10; I++) {
num = num * num * num * num * num % num;
}
}

Except it uses two new operators: '*' and '%'. Test the same code using '+' and '-'.

This will give a much better idea of it the analysis is just fragile or if this code was being targeted.

4
32 points by lordgilman 5 days ago 4 replies      
I know that my submission's title is not the same as the blog post's title and that I will get some hate for it. However, the two diffs linked in the post give pretty convincing evidence that IE is picking up on the exact SunSpider test. Furthermore, if you read the last sentence of the blog post the author is more or less beating around the "You're cheating, we've caught you red-handed" bush.
5
30 points by paulirish 5 days ago 5 replies      
Pretty much all browser vendors agree SunSpider is a bad benchmark, but yet it keeps getting used and abused. All vendors have tweaked their JS engine for SunSpider itself.

Dromaeo is a much better benchmark suite in that it tests actual DOM things rather than pure language stuff. Kraken (also by Moz) also attempts to focus on webapp usecases rather than doing billions of regexes per second.

6
6 points by nkurz 5 days ago 1 reply      
It certainly seems like Microsoft is 'cheating', but it also seems like an excellent but warped example of Test Driven Development: they solved the failing test by the simplest and most direct means available. If time and budget hold out they will refactor later to generalize.

How do the TDD proponents feel about Microsoft's approach? How is it different than the supposedly correct behaviour demonstrated here: http://thecleancoder.blogspot.com/2010/10/craftsman-62-dark-...

7
5 points by niyazpk 5 days ago 1 reply      
IIRC there was this Microsoft website which listed a few HTML demos in which ie9 was way faster than even google chrome. I wonder whether they used the same 'technique' there too.
8
15 points by chollida1 5 days ago 1 reply      
The actual blog post title is:

> Reporting a bug on a fragile analysis

9
3 points by pohl 5 days ago 0 replies      
This was revealed 68 days ago, but nobody seemed to be interested in it at the time:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1676827

10
1 point by scottdw2 5 days ago 1 reply      
That's a pretty big conclusion to jump to (they are cheating the test) based on a small amount of evidence. If they were "precompiling" the java script for the test, and had functionality to "preconpile" java script code in the cache, would the fact that they precompiled the benchmark mean they were cheating? No. It wouldn't.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of code, such as Jquery, that is identical but distributed from many sources. It could benefit from similar matching and pre-compilation.

If dead code analysis (and other optimizations) was part of an "offline" compilation step (that's not efficient enough to do online), then changing the code would result in a slower execution path. Once the method body changes, the compiler wouldn't know it was dead without re-running the analysis (the changes could introduce side effects).

Now, this doesn't mean they are not cheating, because there is no evidence either way. But, what you are observing in this case doesn't imply cheating either.

11
3 points by itissid 5 days ago 2 replies      
They have a paradigm in machine learning called over fitting.
Trying to do well on a test dataset by cheating and seeing it first...
I think teh benchmark should choose tests randomly from a large set of tests and calculate the expected performance over a number of such random runs. not allowing any one to cheat...
12
1 point by olalonde 5 days ago 6 replies      
Could anyone explain what is "dead code analysis"?

Update: I still don't get why "the SunSpider math-cordic benchmark is very fast, presumably due to some sort of dead code analysis.". Didn't the author prove exactly the opposite by showing SunSpider is slower when adding dead code to the benchmark? Sorry for the noob question.

13
1 point by pers3us 4 days ago 0 replies      
12
Brave New World banned from High School curriculum seattleweekly.com
274 points by mfukar 4 days ago   160 comments top 28
1
70 points by grellas 4 days ago 5 replies      
The Enlightenment was premised on the broad idea that people were rational and that, once education became widespread, reason would eventually stamp out superstition and other evils and would cause humanity to want to promote and defend liberty. This thinking broadly underlies the idea that we are continuing to progress as a species and will ultimately learn to solve the problems that historically have beset us.

This sort of episode should serve to remind us that passion and prejudice are ever at-the-ready to spring up and override reason.

On the side of reason:

1. You have a classic work of literature that is widely recognized as an important indictment of totalitarian societies, something that young people in a free society should presumably regard as a staple of their learning.

2. You have a significant historical work that is a product of its times, which sound learning should suggest ought to be taken on its own terms, notwithstanding that society has changed since then in what it regards as acceptable cultural references. Again, even if regressive, one would think those raised in a free society would encourage its study, if nothing else than to understand why the older cultural references existed and why people accepted and later rejected them (if that is indeed what happened).

3. You have reasonable arguments that the references to "savages," taken in context, were not intended to be demeaning at all but were essentially a literary device used to promote the themes of the work. Again, in a free society, one would think these would be topics that ought to be debated as part of coming to grips with a classic work.

On the side of passion and prejudice:

1. You have public school systems that are charged with developing strong young minds and yet willingly succumb to the premise that some forms of expression ought to be censored or circumscribed at the whims of pressure groups in the community.

2. You have serious subjects being resolved by supposedly responsible public officials at the level of pure emotion.

3. You have what amounts to open demagoguery holding sway over that which scholars would widely if not unanimously oppose.

The stunning thing here is how one-sided this all was, with cravenly officials scarcely even putting up resistance. The next thing you know, they will be banning books that use the word "niggardly." Based on the logic on display here, that is surely next in line.

2
63 points by alanh 4 days ago 4 replies      
> What Sense-Wilson and her daughter seem to be having trouble grasping is that the "savages" in the book are only called "savages" because the mainstream society which they aren't a part of is so perverted. In reality, Huxley's savages are indeed the heroes…

Indeed. The “savage” reads Shakespeare, which no one else in the book does anymore, for example.

It's just like people wanting to ban Huck Finn because it uses the word “nigger,” without realizing the friendship between Huck and Jim shows just how silly racism actually is, or how the novel basically satirizes slave ownership by making Huck explicitly contemplate the “immorality” of helping a slave escape.

3
25 points by kenjackson 4 days ago 4 replies      
It is a bit more nuanced. As pointed out by the appeal record (http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/10-11agendas/111710...) there were three required non-fiction books for the 10th grade list: BNW, Othello, and Lord of the Flies. Apparently all three make reference to native or indigenous people as "savages".

And then apparently in one lecture they promoted an inaccurate view as to why we have reservations.

It's kind of like the Huck Finn example. If you read that book and it says the n-word -- that's one thing. But if the other two required books also say it, then it begins to get a little odd. I think people would reasonably begin to ask, "you couldn't find one book that didn't say nigger/savage in it?"

Although her attacks on the text itself were misplaced and uncalled for.

4
54 points by BigZaphod 4 days ago 2 replies      
It's not exactly banned, but just removed from their curriculum. It will still be found in the school's library.
5
35 points by rbanffy 4 days ago 6 replies      
"the text lacks literary value"

Oh boy... Why not ban Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 while we are at it. And let's burn all copies too.

What kind of spineless school principal is this?

6
6 points by roel_v 3 days ago 4 replies      
I realize the 'ban' is because of the Native American/savages angle, but now that the book comes up I'd like to ask: I read Brave New World expecting a dystopic society, but failed to understand why the world that is described is dystopic. Huxley seems to go out of his way to ascribe all sorts of pejorative attributes to the society in the book, to the point where the promiscuous sex lives of the inhabitants are presented so prominently that I got the feeling he did this mostly to instigate the (presumably morally much more strict) early 20th century reader against it. Still, he described a world where the vast majority of people were happy, actually happy and content with their lives, and managed to live those lives without much hardship or grief.

Now maybe if one takes the position that hardship and grief are somehow morally virtuous (a position that is surprisingly common and that I as, I think, a rational person have a very hard time understanding, especially since the reasons for it are very seldom given in coherent theories) there is merit to this argument. But even then I still fail to see why the 'savages' in the book, or the protagonist, are somehow morally better than the other people.

So if anyone has read the book and wants to explain why they feel the world described in there is bad, I'd be very interested to hear why they think so.

(I'm leaving aside some what I think are minor issues, like the apparent destructive qualities of soma addictions - that was one of those other points I felt Huxley just put in there to get his point across, the technical deficiencies of the drug are irrelevant to the moral position he's (presumably) arguing).

7
15 points by daeken 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why do I feel like I'm being indirectly trolled? I mean, this woman can't be serious about this, right? Sad. Seriously, seriously sad...
8
6 points by tokenadult 4 days ago 0 replies      
I was assigned to read Brave New World in high school. I had already read it at home, as it was in the collection of books my parents had in our house when I was growing up. The term "savages" occurs in the book to make a comment about the persons speaking the term, not to make a comment about the persons described as savages.

The best book I was assigned to read in high school was The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I later read most of Potok's other books on my own. A few years ago I reread The Chosen--that is a very fine book for a reader of any age.

9
8 points by ivanzhao 3 days ago 0 replies      
My family moved from China to Canada during my high school years. It was Brave New World (along with Animal Farm) that really opened up my eyes what a Communist world I was raised in.

Yes, Huxley could be cruel on his depicting of the native stereotypes (like most elitists during his days). But besides stereotypes, I think it's equally important to educate kids about ideologies -- and the big social and political systems we live in -- with that in mind few literature titles could come even close to Brave New World.

10
5 points by sdh 4 days ago 1 reply      
The book is about sterile, future society. "Savages" is completely relative. We'd all be considered savages by BNW standards.

If that school focused more on educating and less on banning it, the student might have understood the context of the book.

11
4 points by araneae 4 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of the case in a University of Michigan museum where a Native American woman and her son got those little dioramas of native people removed. Apparently after seeing them, her son asked how he could be Native American if Native Americans were dead (because only dead cultures are depicted in the museum).

So this woman, a graduate student, bullied the museum into removing the dioramas.

12
6 points by sp4rki 4 days ago 0 replies      
If test tube people that the deserving ones and natural born people are the savages, what does that make the poorly educated self righteous kid and the retarded mother?

At least it had nothing to do with the fact that natural born people need to have sex to do so, but I'm sure it'll happen eventually.

13
9 points by makmanalp 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why do people think they have a right not to be offended? They don't.
14
10 points by Evgeny 4 days ago 1 reply      
Ironically, I'm reading the book now ...

"You can't consume much if you sit still and read books."

15
4 points by jdavid 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I read "Brave New World" just last year again. The terms "savage" and "reservation" never once conjured an image of American Indians. Instead I more or less saw the sort of savages one might see in "sanctuary" in the film "logan's run."

Of course in this world it's much easier to be offended than to tolerate. #legalism and #liability is the death of us.

16
5 points by forgotAgain 4 days ago 1 reply      
>The school eventually agreed, promising to remove the book from students' required reading list and releasing a statement apologizing that the "cultural insensitivity embedded in this book makes it an inappropriate choice as a central text in our 10th grade curriculum."

Anyone who played a part in releasing the statement should be fired for failure to understand the concept of a free society.

The rational for government supported education is that a democracy needs educated citizens to survive. The people involved obviously don't grasp that.

17
4 points by mathgladiator 4 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else find the best books are usually banned? I've heard of this book, and meant to buy it; now I've bought it. This is great PR for the book.
18
1 point by seldo 4 days ago 0 replies      
If I buy Brave New World as a result of reading this article, is that ironic? What if it's the Kindle edition? Meta-ironic?
19
1 point by auxbuss 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think that removing it from the curriculum is a bad thing. But not for the reasons suggested by the article.

BNW isn't a great piece of literature, imo. I understand it's place in literary history, but it's aged badly, and pretty clunky because of that. The themes are certainly important, and will continue to be retold, I'm sure.

There's great modern literature and contemporary YA fiction that is far more entertaining and tackles equally difficult moral issues.

20
3 points by malandrew 3 days ago 1 reply      
best comment on the article:

"Brave New World takes place in London... I'm left wondering how many Native American reservations are near London, England."

21
5 points by Overmind 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is ridiculous. They also shouldn't teach history because you know someone might be offended the same way.
22
4 points by wiredfool 4 days ago 0 replies      
Brave New World was banned from my 6th grade class. (or, at least, the teacher was told in no uncertain terms to not continue reading it out loud to the class
23
1 point by yock 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ironic too is the fact that the book was banned at "Nathan Hale High School." Leave it to literary fools to name a high school for a man who, while depicted as a hero, was uncovered as a spy after confiding that very fact in the people on which he was spying. Nathan Hale was a fool, and so are this school's administrators.
24
1 point by CallMeV 3 days ago 0 replies      
A supreme irony, since on the same HN page this link appears concerning a letter written about Aldous Huxley's "most beautiful death" on November 22, 1963:- http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/03/most-beautiful-death.ht...
25
2 points by konad 3 days ago 0 replies      
hehe savages, what will they do next
26
2 points by rodericksilva 4 days ago 0 replies      
I guess this makes us HN readers savages!
27
1 point by chopsueyar 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yet they are all still watching "South Park"?
28
0 points by theoden 3 days ago 0 replies      
"the text lacks literary value"

No, but the mother lacks human value.

13
PG on the cover of Forbes forbes.com
261 points by GDH 3 days ago   64 comments top 13
1
41 points by chaosmachine 3 days ago 2 replies      
Here is the actual cover:

http://imgur.com/gOyI9.jpg

2
21 points by j_baker 3 days ago replies      
"Y Combinator--a computer term for a program that runs other programs"

Heh... completely wrong, but I suppose it's the best you can expect a non-techie/math nerd readership to get. Heck, it's probably close to the most you can expect the average programmer to get.

EDIT: And another one...

"Graham met Morris, an authority on the Unix computer language"

3
9 points by patio11 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've got to imagine any photographer trying for a YC photo would look at the Inc cover which reprised The Last Supper and just despair.
4
21 points by evanrmurphy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Slipping a link into the headline to (presumably) your startup, even if it is inside a "// not related" comment, is pretty tacky. You might even call it spam.

Update: Thanks for removing the link.

5
18 points by evanrmurphy 3 days ago 1 reply      
6
5 points by scorpion032 3 days ago 0 replies      
7
6 points by PostOnce 3 days ago 1 reply      
♫ I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and Paul Graham. ♫ Heh.

Congratulations, pg. If nothing else, being on the cover of Forbes must put a smile on your face.

8
4 points by nivertech 3 days ago 2 replies      
Y-Combinator has something in common with the Moore Law: self-fulfilling prophecy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore_Law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-fulfilling_prophecy

9
7 points by yycom 3 days ago 1 reply      
And here was I expecting a typically insightful commentary by PG regarding the front page of a business journal.
10
2 points by jdp23 3 days ago 3 replies      
i thought the virtual absence of women was interesting. Jessica Mah got two paragraphs near the end, Demi Moore a passing mention, and Jessica Livingston merited two sentences. she co-founded YC and is married to Paul, and they couldn't even ask her for a quote?

other than that it was guys, guys, guys. http://bit.ly/ycturgor2 has more.

11
3 points by danielha 3 days ago 0 replies      
That cover is awesome. Congrats pg!
12
1 point by RiderOfGiraffes 3 days ago 0 replies      
13
1 point by kashif 3 days ago 0 replies      
This brought a smile to my face :)
14
Why I feel like a fraud asmartbear.com
258 points by gthank 7 days ago   74 comments top 31
1
58 points by danilocampos 7 days ago 4 replies      
Holy shit.

I thought this was just me. I spend a lot of time churning on this.

I'm a little shell-shocked at the revelation that others feel this way too. I wish I had something more compelling to contribute than catharsis, but... wow, thanks for (re-)submitting this.

2
16 points by edw519 7 days ago 1 reply      
hn rerun. Orignal thread with comments:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1059985

3
10 points by daeken 7 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, I had no idea such feelings were so common. I've largely felt like this for the last couple years, as I've gone from "that weird kid that does something with computers" to "startup founder" (and now back in a real job again, which has been an odd (and refreshing) adjustment, but that's a subject for a post of its own). While I can recognize that I'm doing cool things, I just don't feel like it's that big a deal; when someone acts like something is actually a big deal, I feel like I'm overselling it. Hard to explain, but it's nice to see that I'm not the only one in the community that feels this way.
4
31 points by sushi 7 days ago 1 reply      
I think a particular quote from Sh#t my dad says will resonate here.

“That woman was sexy… Out of your league? Son. Let women
figure out why they won't screw you, don't do it for them.”

Let customers find out if your product is shitty. They won't buy it if it is.

5
20 points by araneae 7 days ago 2 replies      
Just because there's a name for feeling like a fraud even if you aren't one, doesn't meant you aren't one! I felt like a fraud in graduate school and it turned out I was one.
6
7 points by terra_t 7 days ago 1 reply      
There is no "typical entrepreneur".

If you look at wall street traders, Fortune 500 CEO's and other populations that have been through intense selection processes you'll find very homogeneous populations.

If you look at entrepreneurs, you'll find confident people, anxious people, short people, tall people, thin people, fat people -- all kinds of people. That's because entrepreneurs select themselves rather than being selected by a bunch of people who want to select other people like themselves.

7
5 points by nadam 7 days ago 1 reply      
I sometimes feel that I wasted all my years because I was developing quite diverse applications, so I am not an expert of anything. For example I am writing a Java to Scala translator now. I hate that I was dealing with completely other topics when I could have done Phd in programming languages and could have worked on compilers all the time. There is a company founded in 1995 working on source code analysis, translation, etc... I felt the same way when I developed a 3D game, when I developed Java web apps at my workplace, etc... I feel that I am not an expert of anything. That if I gave a lot of time to one topic (years) then I would be much much better than I am now. I feel like a fraud because I have to pretend that I am a specialized expert of one topic, but in reality I am a jack-of-all-trades programmer.
8
4 points by dholowiski 7 days ago 1 reply      
I struggle with this often:
I KNOW I'm not as smart/talented/capable as other people think I am, especially at programming. I haven't been programming for that long, and it takes me an hour to write something that should take me 10 minutes to write.

However, my skills continue to amaze my peers (who are all non-technical) and they think I'm a genius because I can build a web site with a login form, or register a domain name.

It's really hard to reconcile the two things, especially since, eventually I will be a 'real' programmer, but I still won't think I'm any good.

That being said, it drives me crazy when people call themselves an 'expert' in everything. Just because you read a book, and wrote a few blog posts doesn't make you an expert!

9
3 points by run4yourlives 7 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a little secret:

Nobody really knows what they are doing; they're just winging it, more or less.

That's not to mean extremely talented people aren't doing some amazing things, it means that there is no documented pattern to follow that once completed equals success. It also means that you can in fact be as good or better at every "expert" in your chosen field, and that many of the people reading this probably already are.

Everyone is using a blank piece of paper, and everyone is painting their own portrait their own way. Knowing how to both create demand and deliver a perceived value is much more valuable than whatever it is you are actually doing to deliver the product. There is nothing fraudulent about it. Every mechanic is a genius to a person that has never seen a car.

10
16 points by Alex3917 7 days ago 0 replies      
I often feel like other people are frauds. I call this Taleb syndrome.
11
6 points by mcantor 7 days ago 1 reply      
"First you get your Bachelor's degree, and you think you know everything."

"Then, you get your Master's, and you realize you don't know anything."

"Then you get your Doctorate, and you find out that nobody knows anything."

12
3 points by Rickasaurus 7 days ago 1 reply      
I often feel this way too. The hardest is when you are up in front of a room of people who are there to see you because you are an "expert".

Every misstatement or generalization feels like a punch in the face as soon as it leaves the lips. Even worse, sometimes there's a person in the crowd who takes pleasure in calling out the "expert". Even after days of research and practice for a single hour long talk this person is what I fear the most.

13
3 points by iuguy 7 days ago 0 replies      
I definitely feel like a fraud all the time. In meetings someone will introduce me as an information security expert and it makes my blood run cold. I keep thinking to myself, "This isn't rocket science, it's just common sense surely?" but bizarrely there are still developers out there who haven't heard of input validation, bounds checking or even how to do authorisation properly.

I worked out the other day that I've been doing this job for about 12 years. There's that whole 10,000 hours thing when it comes to being an expert, and I think I've put in several times that but I certainly don't feel like an expert in anything. If anything I keep expecting someone to turn up and point out blatant flaws in everything I say, but somehow it doesn't happen.

14
12 points by known 7 days ago 0 replies      
"All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it." --H. L. Mencken
15
2 points by JangoSteve 7 days ago 1 reply      
It's funny, even writing an essay about this very topic hasn't made the occasional feeling cease. Though, since then, I feel much better equipped to deal with it and get on with my day.

http://jangosteve.com/post/380926251/no-one-knows-what-theyr...

16
3 points by joshrule 7 days ago 0 replies      
I like this idea that if you don't feel like an imposter, you're probably not challenging yourself enough. It rings true with my experience starting a blog without much design or web experience (http://wayofthescholar.com) and diving into neuroscience research without any neuroscience background. The most I feel like a fraud, the more I'm forced to find smart ways to figure out where I'm at and where I need to head next.
17
4 points by othello 7 days ago 0 replies      
Actually the Impostor syndrome has another positive side: it prevents over-confidence and preserves a degree of humility.

Self-doubt can also make you a more likable person, especially if you are successful.

18
2 points by cvg 7 days ago 0 replies      
I often feel that I lack the delusion to build a premier company. I try to build a great product, but I can usually point out to other companies that do an element of what I do better. Perhaps no more SWOT analyses.

Such a weird balance that a startup founder must create.

19
2 points by zoomzoom 7 days ago 0 replies      
Ignorance is very scary. I went to TEDxBrooklyn this weekend, and heard Richard Saul Wurman say that he lives by embracing his ignorance, because it is the only unlimited resource he has. I think that the only way to overcome this self-doubt is to accept that you will never overcome it, and make it part of your confidence to be doubtful.
20
1 point by steveklabnik 7 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1902892 , in a way.

I wonder if it's the obsession with metrics that makes engineers act in such a self-deprecating manner? I know I certainly do this, too...

21
2 points by igrekel 7 days ago 0 replies      
Ok great article, also read the wikipedia entry...

Now, anyone has resources on overcoming this beyond just a few bullet points?

22
2 points by shuaib 7 days ago 0 replies      
What scares me most is, when I find someone sharing the same feelings on these lines as me, and yet being far more productive then I am. This is when it gets really scary, and the little voice inside your head screams, "dude, you ARE a fraud".

But, at whatever level, we all have to fight it for the rest of our lives. :)

23
4 points by candre717 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think experts are people who know they don't know much.
Humility.
24
1 point by ulf 6 days ago 0 replies      
Just get an SSL certificate for your site, you will instantly feel a lot more legit!
25
1 point by pmichaud 7 days ago 1 reply      
I think anyone who experiences some success sort of feel like a fraud. I know I do. I think it's a common thing.
26
2 points by double122 7 days ago 0 replies      
I sympathise entirely with this post. I too didn't realise that it was a common way of thinking until I saw this a while back:

http://xkcd.com/616/

One day they'll expose me!

27
1 point by guglanisam 7 days ago 0 replies      
I used to feel this way for first 6 years of my career when I was working for other people and doing pretty well. But to myself I used to think - am I really good.

But ever since I became an entrpr I feel totally natural & confident in doing what I m doing. I guess its also about are you really you are totally passionate about. If yes - you are to absorbed in it that you dont have time for these things

28
2 points by maguay 6 days ago 0 replies      
HN is teaching me that I'm not so abnormal. Amazing.
29
1 point by jordanlev 7 days ago 0 replies      
There was a really good episode of "This Week in Startups" a while back with a psychologist who talked about this phenomenon:
http://thisweekin.com/thisweekin-startups/twist-episode-21-w...
30
1 point by whimsy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't this the Dunning-Kruger effect in action? Illusory inferiority, etc...
31
0 points by realitydose 7 days ago 0 replies      
> I would explain how my tool cuts code review time in half, but was that actually true or had I just repeated the argument so many times that I stopped questioning it?

Am I missing something here? He says he feels like a fraud but if he's telling people something that he doesn't know to be true.. that's not 'imposter syndrome', it really is more like fraud.

15
Whoa, Google, That's A Pretty Big Security Hole techcrunch.com
257 points by bdb 2 days ago   33 comments top 12
1
55 points by randomwalker 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've been tracking security holes that leak your identity for a while.

Via a bug in Firefox's Error object: http://33bits.org/2010/06/01/yet-another-identity-stealing-b...

Via a bug in Google spreadsheets: http://33bits.org/2010/02/22/google-docs-leaks-identity/ I found this one :-)

Via history stealing: http://33bits.org/2010/02/18/cookies-supercookies-and-uberco...

More sophisticated, but hypothetical version of previous: http://33bits.org/2010/02/19/ubercookies-history-stealing-so...

XSS bugs and other problems with Instant personalization partner sites: http://33bits.org/2010/09/28/instant-personalization-privacy...

I've also been predicting that this will eventually become the new normal -- both because the bugs are coming too fast to fix (and exploits in the wild will become more common) and because Facebook is pushing to change people's expectations with Instant Personalization.

The other day I attended a talk about one-click frauds. I realized that that's the perfect black-hat use-case for this class of attacks (although current 1-click fraudsters are apparently rather low tech). Stay tuned.

2
10 points by mlinsey 2 days ago 2 replies      
Didn't something similar happen with Wattvision when they launched? It was a bug in GAE authentication-the site didn't even intend to do that.
3
6 points by drivebyacct2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Why has not a single person mentioned that TC is just wrong? The problem is not that it gets your email address... it looks like it's likely that the website isn't even getting the gmail address.

It's much worse. The blog author is able to send emails through an API that appear to be from "noreply@gmail.com" with the proper headers. So instead of getting a funny little email, you get a phising email that even gmail isn't smart enough to block.

But, I mean, sure, let's act scared that some website can get my gmail. You want it? I'd be happy to give it to anyone, spam or otherwise.

4
3 points by subbu 1 day ago 1 reply      
Its funny that Google says "We encourage responsible disclosure of potential application security issues to security@google.com" yet they didn't reply back to this hacker who exploited the hole.
5
4 points by hokkos 2 days ago 1 reply      
The non automatic version of this (with a appspot domain, not considered a bug, the guy logged in) has been used to discover the true identity of a guy who claimed to reveal insider info on Twitter about the French Socialist party (left - Partie Socialiste), he is a member of the opposite party UMP (right).

http://www.rue89.com/2010/09/30/comment-le-faux-twitter-du-p...

6
7 points by eitland 2 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't google giving away money for documented security breaches?
7
1 point by Natsu 1 day ago 0 replies      
One way to mitigate most of these holes is to separate email from web browsing. Some people actually use two different computers or browsers, but I just make sure to log out (not just close the tab with) my email before I browse any other sites. Even sites I trust (because they could have been hit by XSS or something).
8
1 point by corin_ 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's clear this issue will be resolved shortly by Google (the site's already dead).

I just hope that, once fixed, the exploit is released for inspection.

9
1 point by mike-cardwell 2 days ago 1 reply      
Stuff like this is why I use an IMAP client instead of webmail.
10
2 points by mp6877 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just don't feel safe with Facebook connect. Seems like someone can get information from that as well. Don't like the whole logged in while on Facebook, to the whole internet.
11
0 points by acex 2 days ago 1 reply      
i also think of it as feature. or near to it. hate signing up for sites as a user and as a developer hate that chicken egg issue with users who hate to sign up. i visit the site i click send me password and site looks me up sends me new password or remainder and i log in by just typing password. this as an example.
12
0 points by spoiledtechie 2 days ago 0 replies      
If I was google, I would probably offer him a job...
16
Antimatter atoms produced and trapped at CERN cern.ch
248 points by jcsalterego 5 days ago   89 comments top 12
1
66 points by jat850 5 days ago replies      
Next, suspend it in a mercury-like globule between two battery-powered magnetic plates, and place it beneath the Vatican...
2
5 points by alex_c 5 days ago 2 replies      
The article doesn't spell it out, and I know practically nothing about the subject, but... what happens at the end of the 0.2s? Do the antimatter atoms drift out of the magnetic fields used to contain them? Do matter atoms drift in? Or is it some property of the atoms or magnetic fields? Basically, what needs to change to increase the 0.2s?
3
18 points by lpgauth 5 days ago 3 replies      
"Geneva, 17 November 2011"

A message from the future...

4
9 points by m_eiman 5 days ago 5 replies      
So far they have 38 atoms. I wonder what the price per kilo or pound of antimatter is... :
5
5 points by ars 5 days ago 2 replies      
I hope they will finally definitely answer if anti-matter also has anti-gravity.

Not a single scientist thinks it does, but it's one of those things you just want confirmed.

6
2 points by RK 5 days ago 0 replies      
Also at the same facility is the experiment to investigate using beams of antiprotons to treat cancer.

http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/Research/ACE-en.html

7
2 points by mirkules 5 days ago 1 reply      
"The collaboration reports success in producing antihydrogen in a so-called Cusp trap, an essential precursor to making a beam."

The article doesn't really say, but why are beams needed? Is it because these (anti-)particles are always moving or have such a short lifespan, or is there some other reason beams are so important?

(The sci-fi nerd in me first thought of weaponizing it, but I hope that never happens)

8
5 points by rdzah 5 days ago 1 reply      
Gosh, it sure would be nice if the actual scientific results weren't locked behind a paywall...if I paid taxes in the EU I'd be pissed.
9
6 points by flippyhead 5 days ago 2 replies      
I think they got it backwards. Our world is made of antimatter, it's the matter that's disappeared
10
4 points by charlesdm 5 days ago 1 reply      
Geneva, 17 November 2011 -- Seems like the date is wrong
11
1 point by sswam 5 days ago 1 reply      
"antimatter seems to have disappeared" This is not very mysterious. If there was lots of antimatter lying about nearby, we could not be alive to see it. So, any antimatter must be a long way away or otherwise separated from us.
12
0 points by akharris 5 days ago 1 reply      
I, for one, am just glad that CERN didn't create a black hole or otherwise destroy spacetime before they managed to do the kind of thing we normally have to turn to science fiction to read about.
17
Chance of Dying From Backscatter Radiation Same as Chance of Terrorism daringfireball.net
249 points by mcantelon 4 days ago   127 comments top 25
1
123 points by aphyr 4 days ago 4 replies      
Actual web page: http://www.public.asu.edu/~atppr/bodyscan.html

Actual article: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.public.asu.edu...

The first thing you'll learn in radiation safety is that the nature of the dose matters a lot. Sometimes you're A-OK if you can survive the initial dose. Other doses are accumulative. It depends on the energy of the radiation, the tissue's scattering cross-section, the time, and the flux, among other things.

This means that the Sievert (a unit of biological impact due to radiation) is only meaningful in the context of the dose geometry. It's great for talking about a chest X-ray, where the dose is spread out over a big volume of tissue. Where it's unclear is in the case of rapidly-thermalizing or compton-scattered particles: like backscatter. Look at the graph in that article. Something like half of the energy is deposited in the first couple centimeters of tissue.

We haven't done this before, and don't have a good model for the long-term effects. My guess? This kind of exposure is a hell of a lot worse for melanomas than a chest X-ray delivering the same energy. Claiming compliance to a metric like the ANSI limits is meaningless.

Edit: Oh, and the concern raised over the beam stopping and delivering a couple Sv to a quarter-sized patch of skin is definitely scary. We did exactly that to several people with medical cyclotrons.

Edit: I should also mention that tissues have varying tolerance to radiation. Rapidly-dividing cells tend to be hit the hardest, which is why your stomach lining, skin, and hair slough off after acute ionizing rad exposure. Your skin, stomach, lungs, breast and thyroid are also the most frequent to undergo cancer in radiation-linked longitudinal studies. See, for example,

http://pats.atsjournals.org/cgi/content/full/5/9/934

2
36 points by grellas 4 days ago 6 replies      
I don't think I know anyone who isn't spitting mad about this TSA thing.

Quite an accomplishment, really, for the feds to manage to unite the entire country - left, right, center, and from every strata of society - on a given issue. I didn't think such a thing was possible.

3
48 points by jerf 4 days ago 5 replies      
So, the risk from a backscatter radiation machine is roughly equal to the risk from terrorism.

The Federal Government, via the FDA, tells us that the risk of the backscatter machine is "minuscule".

Therefore, in the Federal government's own risk terminology, the risk from terrorism is "miniscule".

Why are we spending all this money on a "miniscule" threat? Why are sexually molesting the population over a "miniscule" threat? (Rhetorical.)

(I say "sexually molesting" on the grounds that if I personally performed those same actions on a stranger, that is what it would be called. It would continue to be called that if I tricked this person into giving "consent" for false reasons. A doctor has a compelling reason. I do not grant that excuse to the TSA. I also do not think I am being unduly inflammatory, I think it's just plain fair.)

4
76 points by noonespecial 4 days ago 3 replies      
I'm going to go ahead and take this to mean that the TSA just doubled my chances of death. Seems appropriate in the current climate of hysteria, and makes an excellent sound bite.
5
7 points by marze 4 days ago 1 reply      
This discussion is properly focused at the core of the matter, the cost benefit analysis.

Some of the costs are easy to see, like the acute embarrassment some experience from an intimate "pat down" if they elect to avoid any risk from x-ray radiation.

Others are much more difficult, such as potential health consequences of the x-ray radiation exposure. Since the TSA has refused to disclose the x-ray flux, it is hard to even get started. The comparisons the TSA makes with other radiation sources are flawed because they assume the dose is uniform throughout your body when it is actually highest at the surface.

But even if an outside evaluator did have good numbers to start with, in the end the best you can expect are extrapolations using data from dramatically different radiation exposure, which is the nature of calculating radiation risks. The only way to have a non-extrapolated number is to expose half of a sample population to the scanner radiation and measure outcomes for 50 years.

Avoided consequences are easier to calculate. Of the 8,000,000,000 or so US domestic air travelers of the past ten years, zero have smuggled a bomb on board, and zero have attempted to. Zero out of billions of passengers.

The worst consequences are the loss of an aircraft. A terrorist cannot take control of an aircraft using a bomb, only destroy it. An X-ray scanner will not stop someone from bringing a knife onboard (even if it could, it is probably not possible to take control of an aircraft with a knife due to cockpit doors, passenger awareness, etc.)

So, cost benefit sum-up: zero attempts to smuggle bomb onto domestic flight over past 10 years, unknown but likely low health risk, consequences limited to loss of one aircraft due to screening failure.

6
1 point by billybob 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm just thankful that the TSA makes people mail home their keychain Swiss Army knives with 1-inch, non-locking blades. Goodness knows what sort of carnage someone could inflict with that. Almost as much as with a ballpoint pen, which I notice they are still allowing. For shame.

I will not feel truly safe until each of us is forced to change into a hospital gown, be cavity-searched, and be duct-taped inside of a cargo container for the duration of the flight.

7
12 points by cedsav 4 days ago 2 replies      
1 in 30M? so, with over 600M passengers per year, that's roughly 20 people a year who would get cancer (and die?) because of those machines. I'm not sure how credible are those stats, but I wouldn't want to be making decisions at the TSA right now...
8
6 points by zbanks 4 days ago 2 replies      
More tellingly, on an average two-hour flight, you'd receive about 100 times the radiation from a single scan.

But, by using the transitive property, you're more likely to die from radiation at flying altitudes than from a terrorist attack on said airplane.

EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to include the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backscatter_X-ray#Health_effect...

Which comes from:

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/radexp.htm...

Which explicitly states its references.

9
11 points by wnoise 4 days ago 5 replies      
Oh, well if they're equal, then that means this is a perfectly proportional and appropriate response.
10
2 points by butterfi 4 days ago 2 replies      
With all due respect to Dr. Reiz, and the Dept. of Physics at ASU, I think I'll be taking my advice from the group of doctors from UCSF (a school well known and respected for its medical research) who wrote a formal letter to the president's science advisor. The letter is worth reading.

"Agard and several of his UCSF colleagues recently wrote a letter to John Holdren the president's science adviser, asking for a more thorough look at the risks of exposing all those airline passengers to X-rays. The other signers are John Sedat, a molecular biologist and the group's leader; Marc Shuman, a cancer specialist; and Robert Stroud, a biochemist and biophysicist."

Story here:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1268330...

Letter here:
http://www.npr.org/assets/news/2010/05/17/concern.pdf

11
5 points by marze 4 days ago 1 reply      
Airport in Orlando opts out of using TSA to screen their passengers:

http://www.examiner.com/libertarian-in-national/florida-airp...

12
5 points by zipdog 4 days ago 1 reply      
> Peter Rez ... calculated the risk of getting cancer from a single scan at about 1 in 30 million

His odds were for a single flight, but I wonder if the scanner radiation has a cumulative effect?

Surviving a plane flight has no impact on the likelihood of the next one, so taking a lot of flights would edge the odds in favour of dying from the scanner cancer.

But then there`s the wide difference in the type of death.

13
3 points by jdp23 4 days ago 0 replies      
This article from NPR a few days ago has a lot more details, and gives context for the estimates: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/11/12/131275949/protest...
14
2 points by muldrake 1 day ago 0 replies      
America is a nation of goose-stepping cowards willing to give up their most fundamental freedoms based on an incredibly unlikely event. They'll shove cheeseburgers down their gaping maws and virtually guarantee they get diabetes and heart disease, which is vastly more likely to kill them, while cowering and whimpering about terrorism.

I live in Newark. I'd be about 100 times more likely to get killed walking to the bus to get to the airport than I would be in the plane, even if we had no security at all.

Anyone willing to tolerate this shit is a drooling fascist who also doesn't understand security if they think this bullshit will stop even one determined and competent terrorist.

We should do security like El-Al, modifying it of course for the practical differences between the threats we face, and for our own constitutional protections. People say that would be "expensive" but then, these are the same morons who think we should piss away fundamental rights millions of Americans have fought and died for for hundreds of years. And these morons want to talk of "expensive?" Please.

15
2 points by gills 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sigh.

While interesting, arguing about the methods used to violate your basic civil rights only distracts from the real discussion about YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED BY THE VERY GOVERNMENT FORMED TO PROTECT THEM.

Keep your eye on the ball people.

16
2 points by cj 4 days ago 0 replies      
17
1 point by aneth 4 days ago 0 replies      
The effect of you dying from terrorism is not the same as the effect of you dying from backscatter radiation.

From a utilitarian standpoint, the chance of dying from something is not the most important factor in deciding where to put resources.

I'd also say, the neither of these numbers can be known in any accuracy right now, and there would be fast disagreement on any guess at what they might be.

18
4 points by goldenthunder 4 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe I suck at basic prob/stats but if you remove the scanners, I bet the chance of a plane getting blown up by a terrorist is significantly increased. ;)
19
1 point by stretchwithme 4 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, but the peace of mind one experiences while being groped or ionized makes it all worth while.

Regarding how much radiation you receive on the plane itself, I always try to sit away from the window and on the north side of the plane if possible.

20
2 points by davidj 4 days ago 0 replies      
If the argument that the risk of backscatter radiation damage is acceptable, and it is the same risk as the chance of terrorism, then by extension the risk of terrorism is acceptable as well. So basically this isn't about terrorism, it is about taking away our liberty.
21
1 point by bittermang 4 days ago 0 replies      
Do you know who else was told that the product they were dealing with was completely safe?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium_Girls

The group who would come to be known as the Radium Girls. They were told that Radium was safe if ingested, and many of them would lick the tips of their paint brushes, or paint their teeth and nails with the substance. Soon after they began suffering radiation poisoning, but were discredited of their claims by the company publicly defaming them as contracting syphilis.

22
1 point by sequoia 4 days ago 0 replies      
My takeaway:
-I don't like the privacy ramifications of these scans.
-I don't like being bombarded with additional radiation for no good reason, regardless of whether people think it will harm you.

Just as I will get an x-ray for a good reason, but decline getting one for a silly reason, I would decline this if able. Maybe taking an aspirin a day is bad for you, maybe it's not, but I'm not going to start doing it for no reason.

So one more reason I don't like the scan.

23
1 point by VladRussian 4 days ago 0 replies      
After reading about the backscatter, i'm wondering why i was so much against the gropping. Nobody got cancer from being gropped, and after 10th or 20th time i may even start to enjoy it. Some hands would become familiar...
:)
24
0 points by zoomzoom 4 days ago 1 reply      
I can't believe that even on HN there are so many posts about something so dumb. Our country is up in arms about some new X-ray machines that a corrupt defense contractor sold to an overzealous department of homeland security in a panic after 9/11, and yet we are hardly this angry about the 2 wars we are fighting or the fact that the New Start treaty is about to be ran over with a bulldozer.

Please, let's get over the stupid X-rays machines. Let Fox News and CNN cover this one.

25
1 point by robwgibbons 4 days ago 0 replies      
So my chances of dying have been doubled?
18
My Y Combinator interview. korokithakis.net
249 points by StavrosK 22 hours ago   103 comments top 27
1
17 points by lionhearted 16 hours ago 4 replies      
> I got an email from Paul Graham saying basically that being a single founder put me at a disadvantage, because two founders can talk each other out of bad ideas, but I appeared too stubborn. I'm not entirely sure what this means, as I was under the impression, from reading his essays, that Paul was against single founders because they might give up too easily, so a founder who sticks to his idea would be desirable.

Having worked both solo and with partners, I will never again run a business solo for an extended period of time. If the business is already profitable, I'll hire a competent GM-level person to help run it. If it isn't profitable enough to do that, then I'm going to spend a majority of my time recruiting someone for whom the company will be greater than the sum of its parts.

Having someone to talk to is huge. If they pick out a single one of your blindspots or bad points, that could make the business 20% more successful. Really, there's a long list of things that can go wrong in business. Tweaking and refining at any stage could easily give a 1%, 2%, 5% edge. Those stack up really fast.

Solo isn't so good. Partners are good. If profitable, you can hire some talented to take that role. If not profitable, I'd strongly encourage you to get over your... well, I was about to call it delusions of grandeur, but that isn't fair to say. For me, in the past I've fallen in love with my ideas, thought they were worth more than they were, and thought the execution would come fairly easily. I was delusional. Maybe you're not, but if you don't have money coming in and an obvious winner on your hands, you might rethink what the business is worth and go recruit someone. Have some sort of vesting or buyout provisions if it doesn't work and go get a cofounder.

I was the biggest pro-solo guy in the world previously, but I was mistaken. You got a high fever? Tough shit, it's just you running the business, make it work anyways. You ripped the cartilage in your knee and can't walk? Tough shit, hobble over the taxi stand, get a taxi to the bank, and limp/drag yourself in to do your business.

Having a team is good. If profitable, hire a GM-type, that'd work. If not strongly think about recruiting a cofounder.

2
12 points by endlessvoid94 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Djangy got an interview and then after several days, a rejection letter. We're too similar to Heroku.

You know what? I'm not really that upset. They made a good decision from their point of view. But we have 200+ beta users, lots of positive feedback, and have a good product.

We don't need YC to tell us that. So just keep on truckin. Get users, iterate, and make YC regret rejecting you :-)

3
61 points by endlessvoid94 21 hours ago 2 replies      
I hope you continue your startup. YC is NOT the end of the line.
4
7 points by davidw 17 hours ago 0 replies      
It's not clear from the article, but I hope you had the chance to spend a bit of time in California, looking around, seeing some of the sites, and so on. It'd be a pity to go all that way and not have a look around!

Also: it looks like you live in a part of the world that is particularly nice and beautiful in its own way. You ought to do something to encourage visiting hackers to stop by so as to have some people to chat with once in a while.

5
28 points by logop 19 hours ago 2 replies      
"I got an email from Paul Graham saying basically that being a single founder put me at a disadvantage, because two founders can talk each other out of bad ideas, but I appeared too stubborn."

Fortune 500's biggest company is a single-founder company. Most Fortune 500 companies were founded by a single person. Don't let detractors tell you single-founder companies don't work.

6
10 points by StavrosK 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I would like to post here to thank you all for your amazing support, you are a fantastic group of people. I hope everyone who didn't get accepted to this batch can see this, I know it will help their morale, as it has greatly helped me.

Thanks again!

7
6 points by mcxx 18 hours ago 3 replies      
Have you considered applying to The Openfund (http://theopenfund.com/) or HackFWD (http://hackfwd.com/)?
8
4 points by hackoder 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I would see this as a win for you :)

Being invited is a strong sign that you/your idea have merit. But instead of having to deal with funding/investors/other crap, you get to work on your idea, in a "remote area of Greece", be your own boss and grow the company how you want. I can very easily see this idea being modestly successful and giving you a lot of freedom to work on other ideas.

9
4 points by akkartik 21 hours ago 1 reply      
"I was under the impression, from reading his essays, that Paul was against single founders because they might give up too easily, so a founder who sticks to his idea would be desirable."

Discussion of determination vs flexibility:
http://paulgraham.com/founders.html
http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1820561

10
4 points by jdp23 20 hours ago 0 replies      
excellent writeup, great perspectives -- thanks for sharing!

> They did seem to be a bit dismissive about the product (as in “why would I use this, I already have bookmarks in my browser”), but I'm sure that's just standard procedure in this sort of interviews.

i'm curious what others' experiences are on this front?

11
5 points by gspyrou 19 hours ago 2 replies      
Καλημέρα ,
Κατ΄αρχάς σ...γχαρητήρια πο... έφτασες μέχρι την σ...νεντε...ξη! - γνώμη μο... ειναι οτι δεν θα πρέπει να απογοητε...τείς αλλά να το δεις σαν ε...καιρία για ένα νέο ξεκίνημα.
http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/the-power-of-no-1.746628
George.
12
1 point by UXMovement 1 hour ago 1 reply      
The reason why I think they rejected you is because you are a single founder. That means if you get hit by a bus they're fucked. Whereas, if you had a team or a co-founder the company can still go on without you.
13
3 points by PStamatiou 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Ah darn, would have loved to meetup with you Stavros, as a fellow Greek startupper. :) I'll let you know next time I'm in Greece.
14
1 point by JofArnold 10 hours ago 1 reply      
I can't speak for your specific case, but I would guess that stubborness would indeed work against you. The rules for single cofounders work the same as for teams: call out YC when they incorrectly correct something you know to be valid (and back it up) but if the criticism/idea they inject is good then roll with it and riff on it with them. You'd do the same, presumably, if you were chatting with your entrepreneur friends... I'm not sure it's really that different; it's basically a panel of hackers :)
15
1 point by inovica 20 hours ago 2 replies      
A very well-thought out site and a good implementation (I've just tried it). I'm going to use it.

I'm a single founder and whilst I've never reached a point with stratospheric income, the businesses that I have built in the 15 years I've been an entrepreneur have been great. I've enjoyed life. For me, being a single founder has always meant quick decisions and I employ people to compliment me. I'm not a 'finisher' - I'm an ideas person - and so I needed to employ people who would keep me on track and help me finish. There is no right or wrong way in terms of the number of founders, my opinion, and indeed I have both seen and experienced that having more than one founder can lead to disagreements. Good luck with Historious. I really like it

16
2 points by _grrr 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Just an aside on histori.us, it's a useful feature, we wanted to do the same but never got round to it. I noticed today however that when you're logged in to Google, and search, there is the option to just search "Visited pages". Although a super-set of your bookmarks, it's still useful, and free... I'm not sure how long the option has been there.
17
3 points by necrodome 20 hours ago 1 reply      
what did you tell them when they said 'i have already bookmarks in my browser'?

i started hacking on a similar idea (a chrome extension that monitors every url I visit and logs them with a web service that performs snapshots and full text searches), but then realized chrome's history already performs full text searching.

18
3 points by paradox95 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Your site and idea look great. I would probably move away from the paid accounts and try to monetize another way. I am sure you probably do have some paid users but I wouldn't pay for a service like this even though I like the idea. You'd probably be better off with an advertising model.
19
1 point by archon810 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I have to ask what benefits your idea offers over something like diigo.com or even delicious.com. You present the idea slightly differently from diigo, but in the end diigo does exactly the same things, and then some (a lot more actually). I don't mean to discourage you at all, I'm just wondering what I may be missing here.
20
3 points by atirip 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Nevertheless, you kick ass. You are from Europe (me too), from "secondary" country (me too), one founder (me too), you did make it to the interview (I didn't).
21
3 points by Dramatize 20 hours ago 3 replies      
I really like the design of your site.
22
2 points by citizenkeys 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I really admire you for posting your details about this.

Are there other blog posts by other people that have been through this experience?

23
2 points by davidmurphy 17 hours ago 0 replies      
don't give up!
24
1 point by drdo 17 hours ago 1 reply      
It's great that you are going forward with your idea.

From a user point of view of your application, my main concern would be privacy, how do you address this?

25
1 point by epynonymous 19 hours ago 1 reply      
it's good feedback, find more people to join your cause, keep up the good work!
26
1 point by andrewcamel 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Please continue your startup. I use it constantly.
27
1 point by thomaspun 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Glad the ride was enjoyable :)
19
Hacking the Kinect - How to hack USB device drivers ladyada.net
242 points by there 5 days ago   33 comments top 6
1
37 points by daeken 5 days ago 4 replies      
This is seriously awesome. While I've spent a lot of time reversing network protocols (and thus had a good foundation on which to pick up USB hacking (which I documented at http://daeken.com/hacking-the-belkin-network-usb-hub and, to a lesser extent, at http://daeken.com/emokit-hacking-the-emotiv-epoc-brain-compu... )), most people have never dropped to this level. We need more articles like this. Good work.

Edit: So, I have an idea, and I think this may be the community to ask about it. I'm considering going to a company (specifically, one that produces some network software or a USB device) and asking them to get a copy/unit of their product, which I will then reverse-engineer in full public view, with the intention of making it fully transparent, and hopefully getting other people into this stuff. It could be something that's already open (either intentionally or by someone reversing it and publishing a driver or other code), or something that's currently closed. But the whole goal is to end up with a set of data that people can work through, along the lines of my Belkin post (but better organized, and published as things go on).

Anyone have any suggestions for who I should approach about this? Or hell, any startups want me to reverse their stuff for the greater good?

2
16 points by kanwisher 5 days ago 2 replies      
This is the most detailed explanation on howto explore a USB device I've seen. Need more articles like this!
3
12 points by gte910h 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've written USB drivers before (linux, but USB is the same for everything) and this is exactly how you do it even if you know all the command you're writing into the device. Spot on.
4
3 points by joshu 5 days ago 2 replies      
wait - the kinect has a motor?
5
1 point by lwhi 5 days ago 4 replies      
A straightforward, in-depth guide which is easy to understand. It's absolutely superb ... but am I alone in being put off by the high cost of a USB analyser?
6
2 points by iantimothy 5 days ago 1 reply      
I asked about this a few days ago. This appearing now is just awesome. Would like to say a big thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.
20
Who is living off their startup fulltime?
231 points by webbruce 2 days ago   172 comments top 58
1
52 points by jasonkester 2 days ago 6 replies      
S3stat (http://www.s3stat.com) brings in enough to live on, and funded me while I was traveling last year and bootstrapping the next thing. It also has the advantage of pretty much running itself on autopilot, so I can sometimes go entire months without opening the IDE or doing anything beyond responding to the odd customer email.

I'd highly recommend building something like that (a low-maintenance income generating business) as opposed to the sort of zero income "shorten urls then tweet them from your location on your camera phone" thing that requires 14 billion users and a Google buyout before you see your first dime.

2
18 points by patio11 2 days ago 1 reply      
http://www.bingocardcreator.com/stats/sales-by-month

I quit my job in March, and could survive on my fairly modest revenues indefinitely. (I have done some consulting on the side in the interim, which is nice, because it means I don't have to make any hard choices like "Proceed at maximum speed on the business or go home for Christmas?")

The next product comes out at the end of November or thereabouts. I am cautiously optimistic. I haven't accepted any investment yet.

3
38 points by cabinguy 2 days ago 1 reply      
When I started out in 1999 my business partner and I took $1,200 and turned it into $1M (revenue) in 12 months...100% online sales. We started out buying 3 beat up laptops, fixing them and selling them. Within 6 months we were buying containers (semi-truck loads) of off-lease laptops and shipping up to 150 a day. 60-70% profit margins. We grew for a couple of years and then we ran into our first wall.

By 2003, our product commoditized and margins started shrinking fast. All of a sudden the used laptop business turned into the used VCR business. New laptops were cheap and our margins went from 60-70% to 5-10%. Our world was changing and we needed to pivot fast. We had to lay off our entire staff, sell our office building (yea, we bought our own office building) and start over...but not from scratch.

During the good times, we would always throw new ideas around. If we agreed that an idea was solid, we would build it out and let it sit on the back burner. When the time came, we were able to jump into a new project that was already setup and ready to go. We just needed to start executing.

Fast forward to today. Our website (services, subscriptions, advertising) currently does about $400k annually (up from $250k last year) with a substantial profit margin, zero debt and miles of growth in front of it. It has been WAY harder this time around, but we are building something much more substantial.

While my business partner and I whole-heartily believe we are about to enter a hockey stick phase of growth, we do have a couple of ideas built out and simmering on the back burner...just in case.

tl;dr I have been bootstrapping and making my living online since 1999.

4
27 points by bearwithclaws 2 days ago 5 replies      
Hacker Monthly (http://hackermonthly.com), self-sustaining so far and doing everything to keep cost really low:

- Only 1 fulltime employee (um...me) + 3 remote freelancers.

- Works from home.

- Based in Penang island (somewhere between Bangkok and Singapore with its living cost much lower than both of them).

5
9 points by g0atbutt 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am with my startup Codesketch (http://www.codesketch.com). We've been designing and coding apps (mostly iPhone, but some web apps too) for various companies. We are also working on some apps that we will sell directly to consumers on the App Store.

- 2 partners (one of them is me)

- 3 board member who contribute several hours a week gratis

I took some funding at the beginning, but we are now completely self-sustainable. We did this by being hungry. Our burn rate is incredibly low. Our downtown office we rent we got for next to nothing (thank God for karma). The only thing we splurged on is we bought the best tools for our employees. Getting married in 230 days also helps you to keep your foot on the gas.

It's been a lot of fun.

6
16 points by dangrossman 2 days ago 2 replies      
I created/run a couple web apps (http://w3counter.com http://w3roi.com and a few more). Everything is profitable and I've lived off it for the past 6 years. All bootstrapped, no outside funding.
7
11 points by paraschopra 1 day ago 1 reply      
http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/

I have been living full time on this since I launched paid plans in May this year. My annual revenue goal was surpassed in first two months. But to be honest, I was very scared the week paid plans were launched. Thoughts of what if I don't even make equivalent to my previous salary haunted me (I had left my full time job 2 months before launching paid plans -- so my family and friends thought I was doing nothing for 2 full months). But, it has been profitable (touch wood!) and I am very happy about it. Been approached by investors a couple of times, but the revenue generated is good enough to expand the team by itself so I don't see a reason to take any outside investment.

But before getting to this point, I had toyed with numerous ideas and coded a bulky conversion optimization platform for more than a year. http://www.wingify.com/product/tour.php Showed it to patio11 and others who all said: "you know what it has to be simple". So, redone the whole thing and that's how Visual Website Optimizer came about to be.

I have been lucky to have learnt many great lessons: what to make, how to make and how to get covered in TechCrunch even if you are bootstrapped :)

8
4 points by WillyF 1 day ago 0 replies      
One Day, One Job (http://www.onedayonejob.com/) is my startup, and it's just reached the point where it's covering all of my business and personal costs. The site, along with its sister site One Day, One Internship, help college students learn about interesting career opportunities.

Nearly 45% of this year's revenue has come from direct advertising.

Another 40% of the revenue comes from contextual job advertising which directs users to a private label job search engine.

About 10% comes from product sales (an online job search course), and the rest comes from various affiliate programs.

I've also been able to get some significant referral credits with a few online clothing retailers. That's enabled me to be well dressed, despite just scraping by for most of the year.

9
16 points by nkohari 2 days ago 2 replies      
My wife and I were living on AgileZen (http://agilezen.com) before the company was acquired earlier this year.
10
12 points by javery 2 days ago 2 replies      
11
6 points by compumike 2 days ago 1 reply      
NerdKits (http://www.nerdkits.com/). Started with roommate co-founder in senior year of college with $200 of parts, continued part-time while I still in school / doing Masters degree, and now full-time since graduation (almost a year and a half now). Profitable and a lot of fun.
12
10 points by endlessvoid94 2 days ago 5 replies      
ThatHigh.com pays my rent in SF.

Currently working on Djangy.com, hopefully that will "supplement" thathigh :-)

13
2 points by crystalarchives 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm currently floating on a pretty ridiculous niche website:
http://www.snowboardsforwomen.com

I actually started it for my then girlfriend whom I wanted to go snowboarding with me by buying a board to guilt trip her into coming along. We couldn't find a place with a lot of women's snowboards so I pulled up some datafeeds and scraped them just for the women's boards, some friends asked for the list, I got lazy emailing everybody so I made a site, threw up the affiliate links for funsies, and actually started making some money.

It's a seasonal earner which I don't recommend to anyone because my winter makes or breaks my year. It helps a lot that I don't live in the Western world anymore which reduces my cost of living, but Shanghai is getting more expensive by the day so I'm working on other revenue streams.

14
5 points by acabal 2 days ago 0 replies      
scribophile.com is paying my salary right now. Not as much as working as a developer at a big company, but enough to live, and I'm much happier :)

Completely bootstrapped. The only cash I put down was $100 for some small graphic design work, $500 for an initial Adwords campaign, and $20 for a server.

15
3 points by inovica 1 day ago 0 replies      
All my outgoings (including staff wages) are paid for by a number of small sites that I have run. They are quite diverse, but I love creating different things. Here's some of what we do:

www.sourceguardian.com - encryption software for PHP. Have been running this for around 10 years. This alone would be a very good 'wage' for someone

www.europeantenders.com. This provides leads for european government contracts

www.ukscrap.com. This is a referral site that we created for people who's car is 'end of life'.

www.rubyencoder.com. Similar to SourceGuardian. It's for encrypting Ruby source code. We had a need for this ourselves so created it

I run a few more also. I love the freedom that this has given me and the regular income allows me to play with what I'm interested in

Feel free to message me privately if you want any details or just some advice

16
10 points by zackattack 2 days ago 3 replies      
I am living off http://www.AwesomenessReminders.com and http://www.CustomerFind.com. For AwesomenessReminders, you can use the referral code HACKERNEWS to save money.
17
13 points by kylebragger 2 days ago 2 replies      
Forrst (http://forrst.com/) makes more than enough to cover all costs, including some of my salary. The rest comes from a seed round I took in March.
18
42 points by vty0 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is probably the most motivating thread I've read on hn.
19
3 points by toast76 2 days ago 1 reply      
http://usabilityhub.com including http://fivesecondtest.com) was originally a free app. We introduced subscriptions in August. It's now getting close to being able to support two of us full-time. At the moment, we're both still doing consultant work to fill the gaps. I would certainly think in the next 6-12 months it'll be covering both of us. We're entirely self-funded from 3 years of contracting/consulting.

If I have a tip for anyone, the consulting/startup pairing works wonderfully well....especially if you're in demand. I can turn paid work on and off as needed depending on what we're working on.

20
3 points by apike 2 days ago 2 replies      
We are with Steam Clock Software (http://www.steamclocksw.com/). We're self-funded from day one and were profitable within three months.

We're doing iOS apps and consulting. Finding enough consulting to pay both the bills and the cost of developing our products has been straightforward. I've been working on product #2 this morning and having a lot of fun.

21
13 points by heyjonboy 2 days ago 2 replies      
ParkWhiz (http://www.parkwhiz.com) is fully bootstrapped and paying full-time salaries to both founders. It took us 3 years of being ramen-profitable to get to that point, though.
22
4 points by cullenking 2 days ago 0 replies      
http://ridewithgps.com/ is paying my "full-time" salary, which is barely ramen level. But, it's doing that right now in the off-season, off donations and a small licensing deal. Releasing premium features within the month, and negotiating a larger licensing deal right now. Then, I'll be up to spaghetti profitable :
23
4 points by braindead_in 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been working on CallGraph.Biz (http://callgraph.biz) and living off it for around two years now. The work's pretty hectic though and recently I hired two contractors in Phillipines to take the load off me. Work from home, live in Bangalore, India.
24
4 points by mkramlich 2 days ago 0 replies      
living off your startup: it has revenue, it's being used to cover all it's own costs, including paying you some money which you are then using for food, shelter, utilities, etc.

startup living off you: it's costs are being paid out of an account that you personally funded. it is not in the black yet.

you/startup living off investors: it's costs (including possibly paying you a "salary" of some kind) come out of an account which was funded by investors -- other people's money, not from you and not from customers

25
10 points by Julianhearn 2 days ago 3 replies      
Left full time employment two years, was profitable within three months, now employ three full time staff and profits into seven figures. The best move I ever made.
26
2 points by DJN 1 day ago 0 replies      
Bootstrapped from day 1, I'm pleased to say Trafficspaces (http://www.trafficspaces.com) is now profitable enough to sustain operations without requiring additional capital.

I've learned five lessons.

1. Charge from day 1

2. Focus on business customers (the Average Selling Price is much higher)

3. Pump all your profits back into marketing.

4. Never stop innovating.

5. Put a phone number on your site (it does wonders for trust)

27
2 points by cloudkj 1 day ago 0 replies      
I haven't really been living off of my apps, but since I've been unemployed for the past 6 months with no other streams of income, I'll count them.

http://www.facebook.com/amznwishlist was pretty profitable up until about mid-October when Amazon decided to disable some of its Product Advertising API calls for getting Wish List data. If the app still worked and ran through the holidays, it probably would've paid for rent (and then some).

http://www.fatearthmedia.com/ - My browser extension for shopping sites is also profitable. If the Mozilla add-on policy was less strict about affiliates earnings, then it'd probably be paying for rent as well.

28
4 points by justinchen 2 days ago 1 reply      
Menuism (http://www.menuism.com/) - bootstrapped in 2006 and profitable for a few years now. 2 FT founders.
29
2 points by ajdecon 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's not my startup (I'm an employee, not a founder), but I'll put in a shout out for R Systems, a bootstrapped startup providing high-performance computing resources. (http://www.rsystemsinc.com/)
30
3 points by bemmu 2 days ago 0 replies      
http://www.coolestfriends.com until about a week ago when the "New MySpace" launched.
31
2 points by davidw 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'd be interesting to look at these by category and/or business model.

* Sells advertising.

* Sells physical goods.

* Sells a software product.

* Sells a subscription to software.

... and so on and so forth.

32
2 points by kaib 2 days ago 4 replies      
TinkerCAD (http://tinkercad.com). Self funded and in soon-alpha mode, 3 FT founders. Quit Google a few months ago after five great years at the place.
33
4 points by treitnauer 2 days ago 0 replies      
Living off iWantMyName (http://iwantmyname.com) " completely bootstrapped, enough to support 3 co-founders (including me) and we'll most likely start hiring next year. Fun times... :)
34
5 points by dpcan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes. Android app sales.
35
3 points by quinniep 1 day ago 1 reply      
Reachoo (http://reachoo.com) is a video classifieds website (a craigslist and youtube's baby). It also aggregates ads and distribute ads. I'm a single female founder that started and self-funded the site since early 2009 . Reachoo went from being ramen-profitable to replacing my corporate income in the past 6 months. My site is reaching 1M unique pageviews/month
36
2 points by wslh 2 days ago 0 replies      
I cofounded Nektra Advanced Computing (http://www.nektra.com) in 2003. It was self-sustaining after some months (we started while we were working on different organizations, and we quit our jobs after reducing the financial risk).
We grew to 12 full time employees and found a niche that progressed to other lines of business. Our company was able to have some Fortune 500 customers and sell windows internals services to them. It was everything accomplished without a previous business network, just selling solutions via our web page.
37
2 points by spoiledtechie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ramen Profitable off my several Websites. The big one that makes the most is http://utopiapimp.com freemium), but several other websites I created are also helping out with the costs.

Others included:
http://demotivatedposters.com
http://itfeelslike.com
http://drinkingfor.com

38
4 points by jwu711 2 days ago 2 replies      
I am, but that's because our costs are incredibly low. I have a team of 3 with a monthly burn total of $1,000. We have our seed funding from i/o ventures. Company is called Skyara if you want to check it out.
39
1 point by nir 1 day ago 0 replies      
http://prixfeed.com/ just makes some beer money - but it's ok for a single short PHP script..
40
3 points by jjudge 2 days ago 1 reply      
Signal (http://www.signalhq.com) supports 13 including myself, co-founded in 2006. First few years as a founder we're incredibly tough (paid others but not ourselves), but we're doing great now.
41
2 points by nischalshetty 1 day ago 1 reply      
My part time app http://justunfollow.com rakes in wayyy more than my day job. I'll be doing the "obvious" in a few months time. The reason it's taking me long is the people I currently work with. They are all talented and something gives me a feeling I'll find a "co-founder" in one of my colleagues ;
42
1 point by dejb 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think a 14 year old web business counts as a startup... but it's paying the bills. I only returned to it 4 years ago after an long um 'sabbatical'.
43
1 point by vijaymv_in 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I own staffing/ consulting firm names http://www.Sohosquaresolutions.com. We are profitable from 1st years and mostly focused on financial firms in Tristate. We have solid revenues and many people working @ client sites. The business is totally self sustainable. Only time I spend is to grow the business in recruiting new people and identifying new clients.
44
1 point by enjo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am, but I'm taking my bare-minimum salary at this point (thank god for my lovely wife). We're actually doing quite well money-wise, but I just keep reinvesting everything we make.
45
2 points by phishphood 2 days ago 0 replies      
I make enough with MTH Software (http://www.mthbuilt.com) to not have a full time job. My sales are seasonal in nature, so I either need to scale down living expenses or to supplement with some consulting in the summer.
46
2 points by msacks 2 days ago 0 replies      
Making more than I did as a full-time system engineer. http://www.glasscodeinc.com based off IT services alone. Soon to invest the profits into some software for managing enterprise infrastructure and hopefully grow from there.
47
1 point by callmeed 2 days ago 1 reply      
Living full time off 2 startups, but they are 6 and 2 years old so I'm not sure if they still qualify as "startups".
48
1 point by strooltz 2 days ago 0 replies      
While were not a "traditional" SaaS type of startup we've managed to turn bandsonabudget.com into a full time gig for myself, my partner, a full time employee, and a number of part timers. I supplement income w client development work and consulting but have been gradually phasing that out of the equation as we've grown... We have yet to take any funding and completely bootstrapped the company ourselves...
49
1 point by whouweling 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's enormously motivating to read about all these startup stories, really gives me energy to start coding :-)

Also I find it a lot of fun to check out the different startup websites mentioned, because you know a bit of background info.

Thanks all for sharing!

50
1 point by HackrNwsDesignr 1 day ago 0 replies      
Do any of the operators of the sites mentioned here need design or logo work? I'm revamping my portfolio page and wanted to offer it to hacker news entrepreneurs. My about section has my old portfolio page, I've also done some work for hacker news entrepreneurs already, so you can email me if you want to see the absolute latest.
51
3 points by haarts 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am, sort of. But it was a huge step back money-wise.
52
1 point by zingo 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think there are differences between an "aspiring startup" i.e. self-employment, small business, cooperative etc. and a startup. To me you are running a startup when you are ready to take funding that will mainly be used for growth. People can of course call their businesses whatever they want, but using a term like "seed stage startup" would be helpful for clarity.
53
1 point by michokest 2 days ago 0 replies      
Teambox maintains a small team of us fairly well (5 programmers, 2 people on sales and marketing). We're now relying on some more freelancers and looking at ways to handle the increasing workload.

It's been close to one year since the first people jumped in full-time besides myself, and we've been funded to get the product and early revenues on track.

54
1 point by speleding 1 day ago 0 replies      
http://www.supersaas.com
Doing exceedingly well, thank you, and growing like mad still. (no funding needed, cash positive from day one)
55
2 points by Skroob 2 days ago 2 replies      
I am. I don't know if I'm technically a startup; right now it's just me doing freelance iOS development, but it's paying the bills.
56
1 point by ditojim 1 day ago 0 replies      
ditoweb.com has been paying my bills for the last couple years. we are a google apps partner/service provider with a growing staff of 16.
57
1 point by MoreMoschops 1 day ago 0 replies      
What doesn't count as a startup? Bill Gates is still living off his.
58
1 point by haploid 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am, along with my cofounder and a dozen employees.

It's been 5 years though, so I'm not sure one could easily qualify us as a startup any longer.

21
Obvious to you. Amazing to others. sivers.org
230 points by sahillavingia 1 day ago   52 comments top 20
1
58 points by AndrewDucker 1 day ago 4 replies      
This is why it annoys me when someone posts a link to some advice on HN, a bunch of commenters are talking about how they had never thought of it before and how useful it is, and then someone has to leap in saying "This stuff is old hat. Everyone has heard of this before. I thought of it myself back in 1843."

Because everyone has to learn some time, and what is obvious to one person isn't obvious to the next one. And anything which helps people realise something true is worth repeating from time to time.

2
24 points by philwelch 1 day ago 1 reply      
Hit songwriters, in interviews, often admit that their most successful hit song was one they thought was just stupid, even not worth recording.

A lot of times, hit songs don't have much depth to them, even if they're catchy on the surface. A musician is probably perceiving the lack of depth more than the catchiness, whereas the listeners who make it a hit song perceive the catchiness long before the lack of depth catches up to them.

3
14 points by xenophanes 1 day ago 2 replies      
> I'll bet even John Coltrane or Richard Feynman felt that everything they were playing or saying was pretty obvious.

No, Feynman specifically said it takes a lot of effort and top quality understanding to explain stuff well enough for it to seem obvious to others. He didn't think it was automatic.

He further thought, for example, that being a good physicist takes a lot of imagination to come up with new and different ideas. In other words, physicists have to think of non-obvious stuff.

It's weird to assume someone who had lots of new and important ideas, and who put tons of effort into being a clear explainer of ideas, would be someone to just assume their ideas are obvious.

A sibling comment discusses people who don't do their homework before writing. I think people should not talk about public figures without doing their homework -- if you don't know what someone is about just stick to the topic instead of invoking his name.

4
6 points by jamesjyu 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Tangentially related: when you stop yourself from creating a product because, after hours of research, you find "something out there already that does it". But, if that existing site/product is so obscure that it took you hours of research to find it, then they've failed.

It may be obvious to you, because you're doing market research, but it may be totally obscure to an actual consumer looking for the solution.

5
2 points by seiji 1 day ago 1 reply      
Recent example: Try explaining web app session stealing (to other web developers or management) two months ago versus now. Two months ago you get blank stares or outright disbelief, but now you get "oh, to protect against firesheep? yeah, let's use SSL everywhere."

It was just as obvious two months ago as today, but now people have a one word conceptual model to use without needing to understand cookies, browser requests, proxies, broadcast domains, or cross site issues.

Obvious to us. Amazing to the normals.

6
4 points by rlpb 1 day ago 0 replies      
The catch is that while this might apply to some specific brilliant ideas, most ideas you might come up with are probably not new and not amazing. The risk is in your own bias of your assessment in the other direction.

Although as startups go, we know that it is all in the execution.

7
3 points by bobf 1 day ago 0 replies      
Additionally, things you or I may find easy are often difficult for large quantities of people who would be willing to pay for it. I've recently become more self-aware of this, after seeing lots of examples of successful companies created to solve problems I thought were easy to solve. I'm a sysadmin, so things like Git repository hosting seem easy to me, but are certainly seen as genius by GitHub's thousands of users.
8
3 points by jasonwilk 1 day ago 0 replies      
We thought WhiteyBoard.com was pretty obvious, but now it's killing it! It's true, you are your own hardest critic. Let your users decide for themselves whether your idea is awesome or not. Then listen to your users, because they will help you make your idea go from obvious to amazing.
9
4 points by xal 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is so obvious to me that I'm amazed that anyone finds this idea amazing. Pretty meta.
10
2 points by ntoshev 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think his advice is correct but doesn't matter in practice. People post stuff online when they learn something and when they are excited about it (some people try to keep blogs just for marketing purposes and usually it doesn't work). If you are a good writer and happen to be slightly ahead of the mainstream, your stuff gets popular. If you are far ahead or with the mainstream, or behind - then it doesn't.
11
2 points by Mz 1 day ago 2 replies      
Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share?

Well, yes and no. My problem is that other people find it so "amazing" it moves it into "incredulous"/incredible...ie "I don't believe you and think you are lying" territory. :-/ Still working on figuring out how to talk about my ideas without going down in flames, being called names, yadda yadda. Phooey.

(And, yes, I still think some of it is terribly obvious and is based in part on things that are "common knowledge", so I remain somewhat baffled by the strong reactions.)

12
3 points by bliss 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a fair (well trodden) point, but of course, let's not forget that often things that seem obvious to me seem that way because quite frankly they are obvious. I mean this anti-gravity machine I've got sitting here, who would want that...?
13
1 point by alexyoung 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I like trying to see where things that are obvious to me aren't to my clients.

I was recently working on building a mobile app for a web service, and I suggested to my client that he could open the API and give out the documentation. He didn't understand why, so I said developers might build more apps on their platform, or make little things like widgets.

It blew his mind, but it seemed totally obvious to me, so obvious that I almost didn't suggest it.

14
3 points by hkon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been thinking about this a lot after I began working as a programmer. I think my ideas are pretty obvious and simplistic.

But after reading a bunch of books and blogs over the course of a couple of years. I have come to realize that stating the obvious is pretty hard. And only a few, will think of the obvious for the many.

15
2 points by stuartk 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is encouraging to those looking for ideas for startups, it basically means that someone will find your idea 'amazing' or 'genius'.

The trick is, not just finding 1 person, but many people who think it. And not only that it's amazing, but so amazing that they'll pay you for it.

On the plus side, this should mean that for any reasonable idea, given the size of the internet, you should be able to find at least a small bunch of people that will pay for your 'genius'.

16
1 point by deskamess 1 day ago 0 replies      
I suffered from this. I have a couple of ideas that I did not think much of, only to have it (or a facsimile) go IPO/public about a year later to much fanfare. I still remember my "private payments between friends" idea which came along before PayPal. The concept came about after lunches where someone would pick up the tab for someone else due to "forgot my wallet" syndrome. For me the trust barrier seemed too high - but ventures like PayPal prove that people sometimes part with information easier than I assumed. And I never imagined the size/transaction volume that PayPal would grow to - props to them.

In the end, execution is the key and it does not have to be perfect on day one. Half baked can be made 3/4 baked and so on...

17
2 points by malnourish 1 day ago 0 replies      
Quite a true piece, this is.
Often we feel like this, but what I find more awe-inspiring is when I feel an idea that I have come up with is great, I meet someone with a rather similar idea.
18
2 points by Spreadsheet 1 day ago 1 reply      
I have the exact opposite. I take a long time and much effort to come up with an idea, and then find out that it has already been found a long time ago, and it seems obvious.
19
0 points by rguzman 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'll bet even John Coltrane or Richard Feynman felt that everything they were playing or saying was pretty obvious.

This is probably true, yet largely irrelevant. Whether someone's ideas are obvious to them or not matters little compared to how much impact those ideas have.

20
1 point by marv_in 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a great article but I do wonder if it isn't merely trying to produce more wantrepreneurs (a term I learned while lurking on HN)

I think almost everyone would feel enlightened by the title but the way the article is written, it seems it's tailored to inspire those who cannot build but would want to dream rather than those who can build but feel like the implementation of a concept is obvious enough and requires no extra polishing.

22
For 18 minutes, China hijacked 15 percent of the world's Internet traffic googleusercontent.com
222 points by pc 6 days ago   57 comments top 10
1
36 points by johnthedebs 6 days ago 3 replies      
Disclaimer: I am not a security expert, but I did study networking and network security for a few years.

This article seems a bit over the top. It's pure speculation, and it seems much more likely that an engineer configured a router incorrectly, panicked for 15 minutes, then fixed it.

"What set this incident apart from other such mishaps was the fact that China Telecom could manage to absorb this large amount of data and send it back out again without anyone noticing a disruption in service."

We've got a technically inclined community here: When your Internet access is slow for a while, what do you attribute it to? I doubt anyone's first instinct is "must be a man-in-the-middle attack." Again, it seems much more likely that they simply had the capacity to handle most of that traffic (biggest country in the world, modernization, etc.) and no one noticed because the Internet is often flaky.

2
14 points by swombat 6 days ago 5 replies      
Internet encryption depends on two keys. One key is private and not shared, and the other is public, and is embedded in most computer operating systems. Unknown to most computer users, Microsoft, Apple and other software makers embed the public certificates in their operating systems. They also trust that this system won't be abused.

Umm, yeah, right. Basic fail at understanding public/private key cryptography.

If crypto systems relied on trusting that everyone does the right thing, they would be useless.

After such a fundamental failure, it's hard to take the rest of the article seriously.

3
8 points by jwr 6 days ago 2 replies      
I'm a little bit surprised that peers did not have filters on inbound BGP advertisements. As an operator you typically don't trust most of your peers and only accept advertisements for ASs and network blocks previously agreed upon. Filters are modified manually.

The largest operators have peering links with no filters ("everyone is equal"), but that implies a lot of trust. And "trust" should not be a word placed next to a communist country name.

4
8 points by smutticus 6 days ago 0 replies      
RIPE stores every BGP update message sent through the AMSIX in an Oracle DB. I know this because I know the guy that does it. I don't know specifically about ARIN but we can safely assume they do the same.

Unless someone actually goes and looks at what was being sent by Chinese BGP routers at the time of this supposed outage they should STFU. I'm not saying this is definitely BS. But the article is seriously short on details.

5
7 points by pc 6 days ago 2 replies      
Can anyone with more knowledge comment on plausibility of this?

Google Cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:4lR05JZ...

6
4 points by guelo 6 days ago 0 replies      
BGP could stand to get a security update but as with most fundamental internet protocols it will probably never happen. Most people seem to believe this incident was accidental. More info,

http://bgpmon.net/blog/?p=282

http://www.nytimes.com/external/idg/2010/04/08/08idg-a-chine...

7
10 points by danio 6 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that data going over a publicly accessible network that is designed to let that data go by whatever route is necessary has been routed over a part of that network.

How is that a problem? You cannot expect your internet data to be private: the nature of the beast is that it will be public. Anything sensitive must be encrypted in such a way that by the time the encryption is broken by your enemy (considering the likely resources they have) the data is no longer useful.

Did I miss something?

8
4 points by TallGuyShort 6 days ago 2 replies      
Interesting note about public keys that are automatically trusted by proprietary operating systems, and the potential for abuse by foreign powers. Reminded me of the discussion a while back about how it's relatively easy to become a root certificate authority in Firefox. Everyday cryptography needs some serious revamping.
9
2 points by kevindication 6 days ago 0 replies      
If you want more technical internet routing information, always look to NANOG. These two threads are discussing what happened, as it happened, by the people who are likely to fix/deal with it:

http://mailman.nanog.org/pipermail/nanog/2010-April/020789.h...

http://mailman.nanog.org/pipermail/nanog/2010-April/020865.h...

10
1 point by da5e 6 days ago 4 replies      
I got a message alert in Gmail two days ago saying that my email had been accessed from China. I wonder if that was related.
23
Prof Gives Lecture to Prove He Knows Students Cheated; Over 200 Students Confess thoughtcatalog.com
216 points by nano81 1 day ago   139 comments top 32
1
98 points by gojomo 1 day ago replies      
But was it really cheating? Some students have pointed out that the professor said repeatedly that he composed the tests himself. Given that, then plausibly, using example tests from other sources would be a legitimate preparation method. (For example, the SAT doesn't penalize people for reviewing lots of practice tests, because it's assumed the actual questions during a real test will be novel.)

See:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20101118/21485811928/200-st...

Now, it was probably common knowledge from prior semesters that this professor's exams were from the standard test bank. So those reviewing test bank questions may not have had pure motives in their study strategy. But it makes it less cut-and-dried, especially given that the students may have memorized (for example) 5 answers to potential questions for every 1 that happened to appear on the test. At some point, knowing all the answers to all potential questions is knowing the material... or else the whole idea of formulaic tests is bankrupt.

2
31 points by holdenc 1 day ago 2 replies      
What the professor knows:

- Some students had an advance copy of the test

- The grade distribution indicates cheating

What the professor doesn't know:

- Who cheated

Unless the university has access to a students network traffic proving they had access to the test, there's no way to be sure who cheated. The fact that the professor trudges through threats and vagaries for a full 15 minutes only seems to underscore this.

3
26 points by RiderOfGiraffes 1 day ago 0 replies      
Previous submissions of the same story from various sources. They all have some discussion:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1919562

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1922049

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1922243 <- This has the most comments

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1923931

4
34 points by jsolson 1 day ago 6 replies      
So, at least where I went to school (Georgia Tech) it is well known and accepted that students have word of basically every question that's ever been asked for any given course. Professors also commonly post previous exams as study guides for courses.

Is this not common elsewhere?

5
20 points by dschobel 1 day ago 3 replies      
You have to think that if the professor really could identify the culprits he'd be limiting the retakes to them.

Maybe the real test here is for the students to realize that there is no "forensic analysis" in the world which could identify a cheater with 100% confidence except for the confession he is trying to bully out of them.

6
10 points by ltjohnson 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm a 5th year PhD student who is teaching a large (80 student) section of a course, this is the 4th course I've taught. I've also taken plenty of exams as a student, and they are still fresh in mind.

I would want to know more information before I decided the students were cheating or not. The instructor refereed to an "exam room", and gave an hour range that the new exam could be taken. So the students are not all taking the exam at the same time, this makes it seem possible that the exam is online. If the exam is online, and the students can take it at home vs take it in a proctored room, that would change what would be cheating. If it were online at home (I don't think so from the video) then reviewing the test bank while taking the exam would be cheating. If not, then having seen a question before the exam may or may not be cheating, depending on HOW you saw the question.

If you did not acquire questions in an unethical way, then it's not cheating, it's just studying. As an instructor, I will sometimes put problems from the book onto my exam. If the students worked the problems before because they were studying hard, then good for them! I want my students to study, because it will help them learn. I also provide a sample exam with previous exam questions on it; I write most of my own questions and it's important for students to get used to my style. As a student, I had to take a written exam for my PhD. When I was studying for the exam I asked Professors for help, one of my Professors gave me some of his questions. I worked out every single question. He also submitted one of his existing questions to the exam and I recognized it when I was taking the exam. Cheating? No. I just got lucky (and worked my ass off).

If test questions are acquired by malicious means, or knowing that they are going to be on the exam, or are the test bank that is going to be used to make the exam. Then it is cheating. So if students knew that the questions came from a test bank, and downloaded the test bank (I'm sure it's on the web somewhere) to gain an advantage they cheated.

Finally, as an instructor. Writing a decent exam is surprisingly hard. My goal with an exam is two-fold, figure out how well the class as a whole is doing, and separate the students into their grade groups. The ideal exam has some problems that even the D students can answer (to separate them from the F's) and some problems (usually just 1 problem) that are a stretch for the A students. And a mix of medium problems for everyone. If you have too many easy problems, the grades will creep up and you won't separate students. If you have too many hard problems, the grades will creep down and you won't separate students. Writing an exam from scratch is very time consuming. I use my private test bank, and try to add 1 or 2 new questions to the bank when I'm writing each exam. I can understand (but don't agree with) an instructor pulling entirely from an existing bank to write an exam.

7
4 points by Hoff 1 day ago 1 reply      
Your job as a teacher or as a presenter is to extend the available materials, and to provide me with insights that I might not gain from Googling existing materials.

Not to prevent me from accessing the available materials.

Not to control access to information.

If what I am learning from your teachings and from your tests and from other students can be entirely replaced by Googling through test banks, then you're not helping me advance.

If a presenter is reading off the slides?

If you're not utilizing what is available, whether Google or Khan Academy or iTunes classes or otherwise, you're not helping me make connections. To think. To research.

We see similar transitions arising in many human pursuits. In journalism. Booking travel. Financial markets. Programming. Music. And education. And in an earlier era of teaching, simply bringing calculators to a test.

Don't make me memorize. Make me think. Make me research.

It appears the professor has unwittingly also proved his teaching approach has failed.

8
8 points by ajays 1 day ago 2 replies      
The solution, of course, is to have open-book, open-notes tests. Let the students bring any notes, books, etc.; anything but a communication device.
The questions need to be novel and challenging enough so that the students who understand the material can walk out in no time; the students who don't, can sit around flipping through their notes.

Of course, this approach requires the _professor_ to do a lot more work. (The few times I taught, I used this approach and always got rave or begrudging reviews).

So really, I have no sympathy for this professor if he adopted the "security through obscurity" approach (as in, the problem set wouldn't be accessible to students). I don't blame the students for doing what they did; in real life, don't we expect employees to use whatever resources they can to solve problems?

9
6 points by kleinmatic 1 day ago 1 reply      
I might have missed something in the video, but if I were an innocent student, the benefit for me in falsely claiming I cheated far outweighs the risk in defending my innocence.

The choices as I see them are these, whether you're innocent or not: 1) say that you cheated, and you get to retake the test as though you never took it the first time -- you don't even fail the test! -- but you never get to ask this professor of a lecture with 600 students for a favor. 2) don't admit that you cheated, get caught in some dragnet based on pretty flawed statistical reasoning (or better yet, a witch-hunt), and "not graduate." 3) Best case scenario: You say nothing, don't get accused of anything, and you get the undying loyalty of the professor, though that loyalty fails at the first try, because it doesn't extend to you getting out of a test you by definition shouldn't have to take in the first place.

I'm a bit stunned that only 200 students "confessed."

10
4 points by pmorici 1 day ago 0 replies      
This guy seems like a crappy prof to me. He essentially got caught taking the lazy way out and is now acting surprised and trying to blame the students.
11
7 points by xentronium 1 day ago 0 replies      
Scaring shit out of you since 1981.

While it is generally true that good students should not cheat, but using questions from standard question bank was somewhat asking for it :)

Nice and simple trick with distribution and disturbances, though.

12
4 points by srean 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't think it is really possible to keep a question bank secret. Some students tend to follow up with those who had taken the course last time, at least in my university. So if the question bank is voluminous enough, why not just make it open ?

Whats the worst that can happen, people might go through it and learn all the solutions. Well, let them, that's the purpose of the course anyways. But the question bank cant so small that it does not explore the full diversity of problems. And no one is claiming that all questions will be from the question-bank, throw in a few off question-bank odd-balls each year.

But how could they analyze the submissions to figure out (even approximately) who cheated who did not ? Apart from trawling their email and phone calls and wire taps that is....:-) I suspect part of the "forensics" was a bluff.

I can only guess that there are a few problems in the set that historically have a low probability of being solved correctly. So whoever solved those can be marked suspicious.
But a test will have only a few of those.

But it sure sucks to be in a course where the instructor is unaware of the problem that QB is available and you are unwilling to look up the QB. Particularly where the QB was particularly designed for the top percentile.

13
14 points by gsivil 1 day ago 1 reply      
14
5 points by rsobers 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is definitely cheating, but there's an important lesson for the professor: if you care about cheating, don't be lazy. Write your own exam questions and change them often.

You can tell that this is the most exciting event in this professor's life in the past 20 years. Maybe he should try varying his material.

15
2 points by brisance 1 day ago 0 replies      
Outside of the United States, there are test standards called the GC(S)E "A" and "O" levels which are roughly equivalent to entrance exams for college/senior high respectively. Because these exams have been going on for DECADES, the examining body has basically given up on guarding these questions i.e. they are regarded to be in the "public domain". Enterprising publishers have called these collections of questions the "10 year series", which are exam questions from the previous decade. There is not a single person in this part of the world who does not own a copy when preparing for those exams.
16
5 points by kapitalx 1 day ago 0 replies      
The students actually were asked to confess if they had seen the sample test before the example or not. They weren't confessing to actual cheating.
17
2 points by julius_geezer 1 day ago 0 replies      
A close relative teaches in a continuing-ed masters program. The first two or three times she taught the class, the grades on the midterm were OK, but reasonably distributed. This fall, they were uniformly excellent. She concluded that the students had copies of her exams from previous semesters, and rewrote the final.

As far as I know, it never occurred to her to tell the students off. Of course, these are twenty-somethings and probably a lot less susceptible to brow-beating.

18
1 point by matthodan 16 hours ago 0 replies      
The prof's home page states: "Important Note: I have chosen not to participate in any social networking environments." http://www.bus.ucf.edu/rquinn/
19
1 point by johnglasgow 1 day ago 0 replies      
After being so upset with his cheating class, why does the professor offer a large time period to re-take the test? It seems like he is baiting the students to cheat again. Can't he set it during a normal class period where everyone takes it at once?
20
1 point by matthodan 16 hours ago 0 replies      
It was probably more work to memorize the test bank than to study the material as normal... It's ironic that those who memorized the test bank probably know the material best.
21
2 points by jtchang 1 day ago 0 replies      
I use to have a professor that actively encouraged us to review old tests, question banks, friends, anything we could get our hands on. Hell his tests were even open book/notes.

The tests were genuinely difficult. You could pass by looking at the material because some of the questions were just lecture examples with numbers changed. But to really ace the test you needed understanding of the material.

22
2 points by delinquentme 1 day ago 0 replies      
Im sorry but this is the education system FAILING its students.
1. fear mongering by the prof " FORENSICE ANALYSIS" and "LEGAL ACTION"
2. the SAME test for the last FIVE years?
3. some crap sob story about "what were the last 20 years about" ... how about you being a lazy ass professor?
23
1 point by icco 1 day ago 0 replies      
This disgusts me, but I totally believe it, as a college student seeing these kinds of numbers do not surprise me at all.

Where I go to school though, the test is given at one hour on one day. The whole you have 52 hours to take the test thing. It seems like whoever takes it first could still help others study.

24
1 point by moo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Students repeat courses, audit courses. Students can be exposed to these canned test questions in this way. Universities push the general learning experience in selling their education product. Those who want to make the student the commodity and control how they learn for better quality control strike me as dyed in the wool bureaucrats.
25
0 points by runningdogx 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's the video of a part of the first lecture in which he claims he writes the test questions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJG7aCQtI8E

Based on that, I think a reasonable student would conclude that even if a publisher's test bank is not supposed to be accessible to students, using that test bank would not constitute cheating. Since the prof wasn't forthright in stating that he would use the publisher's test bank, he has no right to complain that students used it to study.

26
5 points by cool-RR 1 day ago 1 reply      
What a petty man.
27
1 point by ccomputinggeek 1 day ago 0 replies      
For most courses the exams don't stray far from what's already been asked before. Competition between universities has made this problem a lot worse. Students choose courses with high pass rates and favorable grade ratios.
28
1 point by reason 1 day ago 0 replies      
The entire education system is essentially one big game, from the obscure admissions process to professors sticking to predetermined grading distributions; and these students are simply playing along.
29
1 point by sequoia 16 hours ago 0 replies      
"The consequences will never be the same!" ;)
30
2 points by CallMeV 1 day ago 0 replies      
I just wish I could plusvote this one twice.
31
1 point by miurajose 22 hours ago 1 reply      
Those who cheated because they did not know the material will not do as well on the makeup. That is one way of finding out who cheated.
32
-3 points by ghshephard 1 day ago 2 replies      
Dupe.
24
Google Voice for iPhone Released googlevoiceblog.blogspot.com
208 points by johns 6 days ago   76 comments top 15
1
8 points by irons 6 days ago 4 replies      
I'm struck that it appears to do very little local caching. In that sense it feels like a highly polished web app, always at the mercy of an available network.

Also, it's iPhone-only. Following the direct download link from an iPod or iPad yields an error. Guess I'm sticking with Boxcar for iPad push notifications.

2
4 points by waxman 6 days ago 4 replies      
This long-awaited arrival throws quite the wrench into the Android v. iOS platform wars.

Google was obviously already on the iPhone (with search, its popular native app, gmail, etc.), but Google Voice is clearly different in that in competes with the core functions of the phone.

What do you guys think the impact of this will be? Could Google use this as a Trojan horse to hook people on GV then try to upsell them to an Android device with better GV integration? Or will it not matter?

3
3 points by keltex 6 days ago 3 replies      
It's ironic that Apple might have changed their app store rules to allow a Google product (GV) into the app store in order to counter another Google product (Android)
4
6 points by ja27 6 days ago 5 replies      
Doesn't seem to be available for iPod Touch even though many of the features would work fine on it.
5
3 points by tdfx 6 days ago 0 replies      
Overall the polish of the app seems a little lacking but the fact that push notifications are finally available makes it the service itself actually usable on an iPhone. I'm not amazed but certainly a happier person than I was yesterday.
6
3 points by nikster 5 days ago 1 reply      
Google Voice is kind of the wrong product for the wrong time. It improves voice telephone calls exactly at a time when that's no longer very interesting.

The only semi-interesting thing would be cheap international calls - but I have Skype for this already.

Voice mail, I don't use. If it was improved like with GV - I'd still not use it. SMS, I have plenty of free texts, never exceed my limit - though I wonder how they get away with making them free, given that carriers make lots of money with that.

One number to rule them all - that would be cool - except if it's controlled by one company which will eventually seek to monetize. Those chefs and massage services cost money... I don't, by the way, see how being available on the phone to anyone at any time, no matter what number they call and no matter where I am - as a feature. More like a bug. I am already easily reachable on my phone, via SMS, via emails. I don't need to be any more available.

Anything that I'm missing? Why would I want GV?

7
11 points by dotpavan 6 days ago 2 replies      
If searching in the appstore, "google voice" didnt bring up anything but "googlevoice" worked
8
3 points by igravious 6 days ago 1 reply      
Europe is such a tiny market, why would they even consider trying something like this out here :)

sniff sniff

Do I have to make a sacrifice to some modern deity or something to see this on our side of the pond? Oh pretty please Goog? :)

9
2 points by j_b_f 6 days ago 0 replies      
There are some rough edges (like the SMS sending screen, yuck) but what I'm impressed by is how performant the app is on my old-ass 3G. It seems to open faster than the SMS or Dialer apps do. Probably 'cause it was developed back when the 3G was cutting-edge!
10
3 points by davemabe 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is great - but you still have to be in the app to make a phone call (doesn't integrate with the native iPhone phone app well). Does anyone know if the Android version has tighter integration?

I'd like to not have to remember to launch the app to return a call and use the native SMS app to send from my GV number. Is this possible with the Android version?

11
2 points by AndrewWarner 6 days ago 2 replies      
GV Mobile+ still has a lot of features that this official google app doesn't match, like the ability to paste phone numbers into the dial pad and ability to rout numbers via Skype.
12
1 point by p0ppe 6 days ago 2 replies      
According to John Gruber it still uses your AT&T minutes for domestic calls. That should be a turnoff for most. http://twitter.com/#!/gruber/status/4619690240376832
13
5 points by BlazingFrog 6 days ago 0 replies      
Finally... Sweet GV push notifications... :D
14
1 point by rbxbx 6 days ago 1 reply      
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-voice/id318698524 <-- Direct link, gogogo, before it's gone ;)
15
1 point by gustaf 6 days ago 1 reply      
Is this all native? Parts of it feels like javascript.
25
Ron Paul: Airport Scanners: Enough is Enough c-spanvideo.org
242 points by DanielBMarkham 4 days ago   88 comments top 12
1
36 points by DanielBMarkham 4 days ago replies      
I hated to post this, because it's a political speech, but I think it's important historically because I think it shows the tables starting to turn on this issue. Lord knows I don't want to see a dozen political speeches on HN a day, but I believe this is unique, it's very tech-related, and its a topic the community has shown a great amount of interest in.

I imagine once the rest of the professional political class really understands what a total disaster TSA has created there will be speeches like this everyday. The bandwagon will be full and more will be clamoring to get on-board. (and yes, I know they've already started, but this seems to be the first higher-profile example of a politician just really letting loose on the issue).

I still remain skeptical that the politicians can fix it, but perhaps we'll enter a period where lots of speeches are made and fingers pointed. For those of you who are political junkies, it will be very interesting to see how the national parties respond to this over the next two years.

2
9 points by jeromec 4 days ago 1 reply      
"The argument from the executive branch is when you buy a ticket you have sacrificed your rights; that isn't the case;you never have to sacrifice your rights." - Ron Paul
3
7 points by shelly 4 days ago 4 replies      
Here's an overview of the bill - called the "American Traveler Dignity Act"

http://paul.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=...

And re: Ron Paul's credibility, I continue to meet a lot of people who admit (in hushed tones) that they would have voted for him in 2008 if he had made it through the primaries...

I, too, am doubtful our political system is capable of solving the problem unless enough of us as individuals are willing to stand up (and be groped) rather than meekly letting them strip us of our rights.

The duty of the government is to PROTECT our rights, not VIOLATE them!

4
0 points by seldo 4 days ago 3 replies      
I was with him until he started talking about how the "greatest boon" to airline security had been "a lock on the door and a gun in the cockpit".

Firstly, to my knowledge, nobody has attempted to storm the cockpit since 9/11, so the locks, though a good idea, haven't actually done anything. And the guns -- projectile weapons not being the best idea when travelling in a pressurized metal capsule anyway -- have certainly never been fired.

The actual improvement in airline security has been greater vigilance on the part of passengers, who stopped both the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber, and better intelligence operations in the middle east, which got us the tip-off about the toner cartridge bomb.

5
2 points by jdavid 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ok, did you listen to the bill?

Paul is not just trying to revert airport security, he is trying to introduce legislation that removes immunity from the government for anything that a citizen would not have.

The problem with Paul is he is an idealist. We need a pragmatic libertarian.

6
1 point by JangoSteve 4 days ago 0 replies      
That video link isn't working for me anymore, now all I get is a clip with Rep. Keith Ellison talking about stimulus.

Googled and found the Ron Paul clip on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwsdq69AHnw

7
1 point by johnbender 4 days ago 2 replies      
Was anyone else unimpressed with his delivery? From the transcript:

THE PILOT HAS A GUN IN THE COCKPIT AND HE'S MANAGING THIS AIRCRAFT WHICH IS A MISSILE AND WE MAKE HIM GO THROUGH THIS GROPING X-RAY EXERCISE, HAVING PEOPLE FEEL IN THEIR UNDERWEAR.

It just gives the impression that he's more excited than thoughtful. Then again maybe thats more important on the floor of the house.

8
1 point by callahad 4 days ago 0 replies      
Here's the actual text of the bill, H.R.6416http://thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111%3aH.R.6416%3a
9
2 points by barnaby 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love Dr. Ron Paul!
I'm going to call my representative (Mrs. Pelosi) and encourage her support for this bill!
10
1 point by davidw 4 days ago 0 replies      
From the TSA to Ron Paul in one easy step.

This is what you get when you start with the politics articles.

11
2 points by emilepetrone 4 days ago 0 replies      
Who wants to go flying? http://twitpic.com/37y876
12
1 point by empika 4 days ago 0 replies      
Only thing that could have made this better would have been: "I'm as mad as hell..."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_qgVn-Op7Q
26
Demo: Pure CSS GUI icons, no images (experimental). nicolasgallagher.com
201 points by bjonathan 3 days ago   65 comments top 15
1
29 points by marknutter 3 days ago 7 replies      
Anyone else getting sick of seeing "you should follow me on Twitter" everywhere?
2
28 points by mynameisraj 3 days ago 3 replies      
Now, I realize this is a demo, but aside from that, I really don't think things like this should be used in a final product.

Why? CSS wasn't made for this. We have SVG for graphics like this. This is a demo, yes, and it's great to demonstrate the capabilities of CSS for making small graphics, but in practicality, I don't see the point. The key problem is graceful degrading- there simply is none here.

Regardless, I love seeing things like this, and he's done a good job. Good work.

3
3 points by pak 3 days ago 2 replies      
Ugh, too clever for my taste. I would hate to edit icons that are a mish-mash of CSS backgrounds, rotated boxes, and border-radius'ed edges, and to boot, based entirely on pseudo-elements. (Current web dev tools like Web Inspector in Chrome/Safari, etc. aren't well built for examining pseudo-elements.) This CSS uses ~3-4 pseudo-elements per icon. It's clever for doing that to preserve the markup and avoiding JS, but it's hard to understand. Maybe it would help to comment the CSS so designers can see that "this is the handle of the trash can, this is the left side of the heart," etc., since :after and :before are hacked far beyond having any semantic meaning.
4
6 points by equark 3 days ago 0 replies      
For monochrome icons, using font-face seems like a better idea than CSS. You get a ton of icons in one cacheable packet and can easily change the color, drop-shadow, opacity, etc using standard css.

http://somerandomdude.com/articles/design-technology/font-em...

5
4 points by Sephr 3 days ago 1 reply      
The ideal solution (neither SVG or CSS) should be to use appropriate Unicode characters, of which there are very useful ones added in Unicode 6.0. The very first icon, "search", can be done with U+1F50D LEFT-POINTING MAGNIFYING GLASS. Of course most users will not have appropriate fonts installed for comprehensive Unicode 6.0 coverage, so you should deploy a custom font using @font-face that suits your site. For example, the search box on my personal website uses LEFT-POINTING MAGNIFYING GLASS and a custom font I made that defines a simple magnifying glass much like the one in this demo.
6
5 points by Maro 3 days ago 3 replies      
What are the pros/cons of using CSS instead of images?
7
2 points by bryanh 3 days ago 1 reply      
Reminds me of: http://somerandomdude.com/projects/iconic/, a set of icons done in @fontface.
8
4 points by chrisbroadfoot 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, a really nice experiment. I'm surprised you created so many.
9
2 points by samratjp 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's cool. If you're a Raphael js fan, this is even cooler - http://raphaeljs.com/icons/
10
2 points by kellysutton 3 days ago 1 reply      
We use a pretty nifty technique that isn't CSS for rendering icons on the blip.tv HTML5 player. Depending on the context, we use a <canvas> tag to display either the vectorized or rasterized version of the icon. For the player itself, not a single image request is required for the thing to draw. And we don't run into the nasty anti-aliasing stuff you see with small icons and <canvas>.
11
1 point by mxavier 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting to see these icons and actually recognize what sites already use them. For example, I believe OKCupid uses several of these icons in their GUI such as the report flag, edit, views, etc.
12
1 point by slowpoison 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great! This is a fun visual test for verifying browser's CSS transform functions.
13
1 point by lovamova 3 days ago 0 replies      
14
1 point by kang 2 days ago 0 replies      
This has no practical use. This is geeky. I love it!
15
1 point by eiji 3 days ago 0 replies      
Nice!
However, "Help" and "Warning" need another iteration ...
27
A Google Interviewing Story paultyma.blogspot.com
197 points by ramanujam 3 days ago   116 comments top 23
1
43 points by akeefer 3 days ago 4 replies      
I enjoy clever ways of approaching problems as much as the next guy, but I would never ding someone in an interview for not coming up with a clever-enough solution. Good software engineering is maybe 99.7% failure-avoidance and 0.3% cleverness. On very rare occasions you need a clever solution, but most of the time you need to solve the problem in a way that you're 100% sure will work, has no nasty failure conditions, and that other competent engineers will understand. If there's no other good solution, or if every bit/cycle matters, then you get to try to be clever, but that happens pretty rarely. I've seen way, way too many problems caused by people using clever solutions for problems that had straightforward-but-less-fun solutions. (And as has been pointed out plenty of times already here, the clever solution in this case is less optimal than a more straightforward one would be). If an interviewer seemed intent on proving they were more clever than me, or on trying to get me to throw out unnecessarily-clever solutions to straightforward problems, it would be a pretty big turnoff.
2
13 points by antirez 2 days ago 0 replies      
In my life I never got interviewed, even if it is 15 years I work as a programmer. Now I work at VMware thanks to Redis, and VMware did not requested an interview, and my only previous not-self-employed position 10 years ago was likewise triggered by my work on hping.

But, I'm sure, I would suck so much at this kind of interviews. If you are anything like me you'll understand what I mean, in topics where I work day by day I've pretty much the control of what the good solution can be in a few minutes, but for many things to find the best solution requires, at least for me, days of thinking, sleeping, possibly waking up with the solution in mind, to find it's wrong and you need to reiterate the process.

My design abilities are all there, in this days. I'm sure that in the five minutes race I would say many times something of super stupid. Now my question is, are the five-minutes performances really linked to the three days thinking about your problem solution?

Isn't it possible that at least a subset of guys that will get the few-days answer well, will instead provide a poor answer in little time, and sometimes the other way around?

If this can be somewhat true, there is a huge industry selecting runners for 100 meters, in order to run, most of the times, a maraton.

3
47 points by lacker 3 days ago 5 replies      
The prime multiplication is a pretty bad solution. It's actually O(n log n) rather than O(n), since you have to use some form of big integer, and multiplying a size-n number by a constant is O(log n). It is also needlessly complicated.
4
6 points by mrshoe 3 days ago 10 replies      
If you are ever asked an interview question which you've already answered in a previous interview, you should tell the interviewer immediately.

I know some coworkers who will intentionally ask a question they know you were asked in a previous interview to test your integrity. (Edit: Not that I would condone this practice either.)

These types of interview questions are about evaluating how you think far more than what you know. So, more importantly than the risk of getting caught, if you recite an answer from memory and pretend that you're deriving the solution on the fly, you're lying to your future coworker.

5
36 points by jamesaguilar 3 days ago replies      
Angry because neither the hash table or the prime multiplication would be as fast as a boolean array indexed by the char value. As an added bonus, the boolean array actually makes the most intuitive sense.
6
15 points by aaronbrethorst 3 days ago 1 reply      
My last internship in college involved working on thermostat systems for Honeywell with a bunch of people who had been there their entire professional careers. I didn't have much interest in becoming a lifer and ended up interviewing with a couple other companies, including Microsoft.

I interviewed for a Program Management position in the Visual Studio group. My first interview was with the Design Manager for the VS product line. Her final question for me was about building an effective temperature control system for a new house. I launched into a 5 minute analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a wide range of HVAC systems, obvious ramifications from open floor plans, and so on.

A month later, we sat down for lunch as co-employees for the first time, and I told her the whole story. She got a big laugh out of it. I guess she didn't realize that's what I'd spent the last few months working on.

7
13 points by rapind 3 days ago 1 reply      
Stories like this and the comments that follow just reinforces my belief that I am no where near smart enough to work with most of you guys.

Plus I'll never wear leather pants. That can't be comfortable.

8
10 points by kabdib 3 days ago 0 replies      
Multiplication and division are o(log n) operations.
9
3 points by ronnier 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was asked that exact same question over a phone interview.

One of the most interesting questions given to me was, write an algorithm such that given four colors and a rectangle, fill the rectangle with a gradient using a color in each corner. After the fact it wasn't very hard, but having never thought about such a problem, it was pretty difficult white boarding it out. It was a pretty good question because I think that most people aren't thinking or preparing for such a problem, instead opting to study arrays, linked lists, trees, sorting algorithms and running time. You really get to see how a person thinks with it.

10
7 points by Charuru 2 days ago 0 replies      
I kind of wish that he didn't emphasize the 'women engineer', would've kinda gotten the picture when he starts using she.

Maybe we'll get there someday...

11
5 points by nhashem 3 days ago 1 reply      
I feel like most engineers rarely have to try too hard to get a decent job, but I wonder if it's because of stories like this. I've been on the interview circuit a handful of times so far in my life, and aside from the first time when I was mostly clueless ("So where do you want to be in 5 years?"; "Man, I never think that far ahead."), I feel like interviews have become a very routine process of answering a similar subset of questions over and over again. Am I being hired because they've made a true evaluation of my technical skills, or was I just serendipitously lucky to have heard the answer to how those 5 pirates are going to split those 100 gold pieces?
12
5 points by ajays 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have been in a similar situation, where one interview's curveball ended up being asked in a subsequent interview.
I went through the same emotions as the author (including resisting the urge to grin from ear to ear). But like an idiot, I answered with the trick answer right away (though I was calm about it). I then told the interviewer that I had learnt it in a previous interview.
It turned out he was looking for the clever answer too; and he was disappointed that I knew it. Maybe he felt I wasn't sufficiently "excited" about the clever answer, but I never got the job. Which is not too bad, since that outfit wasn't my first choice anyways.
13
3 points by ibagrak 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've had something similar happen to me at a Microsoft interview. The interviewer asked me a question I explicitly knew the answer to, and it too wasn't "my" answer to the problem but the one I've heard in another interview. So I just told him: "I know this one. Can you ask me something else?" He told me he appreciated my honesty, and didn't have any other questions.

I got the job.

14
2 points by wazoox 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hum, Guy's solution is really terrible, division, multiplication and modulo are very expensive operations, and completely unnecessary here. This is basically a case of "I'm clever and you must think like me to be in my team". Uh no thanks.
15
2 points by random42 2 days ago 0 replies      
The point of the story is not the actual problem that author had to solve, which we have been discussing (but again, its _hacker_ news, after all :-)), but basically to tell how interviewing experience, even at which you fail, prepare you for better.
16
1 point by skybrian 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm guessing that the guy in the leather pants probably got the idea from reading about Godel numbering. If you're interested in this, you might like this book: http://www.amazon.com/Godels-Proof-Ernest-Nagel/dp/081475816...
17
1 point by lwhi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I paused a bit before reading about the possible solutions, and actually thought of the (prime number) solution the interviewer came up with.

I realise that this is a bit of redundant post .. but, as a person who isn't a brilliant coder I surprised myself. But then again, after reading the comments here - I think maybe I just have an obtuse way of thinking about things.

18
2 points by zeraholladay 3 days ago 0 replies      
Personally, I would be more inclined to hire a person picking the "throw it in a hash and look it up" solution over any more complex solution. My reasoning is that bad programmers tend to get lost in nuance, or don't understand a problem. Good programmers tend to reason through the proportionate value of a problem. I'm not saying nuance is always a bad thing, but it's probably not what your company is developing unless you work for a math department.
19
2 points by exit 3 days ago 1 reply      
> "Given that our range of characters is limited."

i think what matters is that characters are enumerable, not finite?

20
2 points by TARMAP 3 days ago 1 reply      
I hate such stupid tricks, frankly a hash table or an array for a restricted domain is way faster, since the whole data structure gets cached on the L1.

I can solve the same problem by using statistical thermodynamics, and show its only o(1), since each string is a configuration of the system and finding common alphabets is like finding degenerate states.

21
1 point by lwhi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Leather pants in an academic setting always makes me think of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.
22
1 point by Aleran 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is strange how every time someone interviews at Google they feel compelled to write "their" story and share it with the internet.

How many stories like this are out there now? Hundreds?

23
1 point by wingo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Leather pants turn a good story into a great story.
28
Pragmatic Programmers Magazines (Free) pragprog.com
188 points by clyfe 7 days ago   16 comments top 8
1
16 points by thibaut_barrere 7 days ago 1 reply      
For some reason and although I'm a regular customer of them, I never came across this magazine; so thanks for posting!
2
12 points by ludwigvan 7 days ago 2 replies      
You can even subscribe to the magazine in Stanze ebook reader for iPod/iPad by adding this address as a repo:

http://pragprog.com/magazines.opds

(from http://forums.pragprog.com/forums/134/topics/2905)

Edit: I just noticed that this address can be used in an RSS newsreader like a normal feed.

3
2 points by sigzero 7 days ago 0 replies      
I had no idea they were even doing this. Thanks.
4
1 point by Roboprog 7 days ago 2 replies      
The landing page link also shows that the editor is Michael Swaine. I believe he was one of the main contributors (editor?) of Byte magazine. Alas, I remember the monthly "Swaine's Flames" column (and others from Byte, as hinted at). I'll have to check out this e-zine. (I have several of the PP's books, usually pretty good)
5
1 point by krolley 6 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, this is fantastic. Issue 8 caught my eye because of 'Better CSS with Sass' and I found a section titled 'Working Geek' about how to give good tech presentations, when I am currently preparing one on RIA Services for work! Couldn't be happier.
6
1 point by mprny 7 days ago 0 replies      
Nice. I've only read one article for far: http://pragprog.com/magazines/2009-08/writing-an-iphone-app and it was excellent.
7
2 points by joakin 7 days ago 1 reply      
Cant see the issues in mobile safari,it throws a 'Bad address, cant open' error.
8
1 point by candre717 7 days ago 0 replies      
Good Content - and free!
       cached 23 November 2010 03:04:01 GMT