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What does it feel like to be stupid? An anonymous Quora user explains. garrysub.posterous.com
493 points by zhyder 2 days ago   148 comments top 29
160 points by alanh 2 days ago replies      

This, to me, is a fundamental problem with the Posterous culture. Here we have a post on a Posterous blog made by a Posterous co-founder which copies, in its entirety and with no significant commentary, a work published elsewhere.

It's attributed with a link to the source " barely, in lowercased, tiny font, at the bottom. The headline is a link to the Posterous page, not the source (unlike Daring Fireball “linked list” items, for example). How many people will actually follow the link? Why is this Posterous blog entry #1 on HN when a permalink to the original source on Quora is readily available?

Let's be clear. This is not “fair use.” It's not plagiarism, as Garry doesn't claim he wrote the anecdote; but it's a violation of copyright. It's publishing without permission of the copyright holder.†

My first submission to Hacker News was an original item I posted to my own website. It got quite a few reads " but a lot of people were re-tweeting a link to a full copy of it hosted on someone else's Posterous. That user didn't add much (A sentence expressing “me, too”). I was conflicted: Glad people found my writing interesting enough to duplicate and share, but disappointed that they were reading it on someone else's site for no good reason.

I see now that if the company's own bloggers consider copyright a joke, if they believe posting other people's articles verbatim is kosher, well, can we be surprised their users do, too?

(Postscript: This differs from Tumblr's “re-blogging” in one important way: You only re-blog other Tumblr posts. “Re-blogging” is part of the Tumblr system. You expect it there if you post there. You don't “lose” anything by it. I have no problem there.)

† I don't know if Quora's terms of service mean that consent is implied, but honestly, in this case and this case only (the case of a Posterous employee), it doesn't matter, because it's about setting precedent for the community.

97 points by nkurz 2 days ago 6 replies      
I've had a similar experience. I got out of computer programming because I became ill with West Nile Virus and couldn't think well enough to continue. Even after I recovered from most of the physical aspects of the disease (approximately equal to having mono for a year) I was still unable to continue working on the relatively complex recommendations algorithms that I had been doing before. The math just made no sense to me.

I consider myself generally intelligent and capable, and while ill I was definitely neither. I once failed twice in a row at following the directions to make instant mashed potatoes. It wasn't really a joke that a good day was keeping the toilet seat clean and remembering to flush. It's been about 5 years, and my health is mostly back to normal other than no longer being in decent physical shape. I'm currently doing non-computer work (http://screamsorbet.com) but I'm eager to someday get back to the programming problems I abandoned.

Unlike the author of the article, I didn't find it made me happier. Perhaps it's a general personality issue, but it made me even more depressed. Books and movies were mostly beyond me, and there wasn't much I found to take any joy in. I presumed I would eventually recover (and think I have almost completely) but the overall feeling was one of intense mortality --- a dread of the eventual senility that will probably come with aging, and a realization that when it happens again it will likely be once and forever.

21 points by kmfrk 2 days ago 0 replies      
You should read Flowers for Algernon[1]. It's a piece of fiction, but it's a great read and reference in discussions like these.

The sad thing about being "stupid" is being unable to put your predicament into compelling writing.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dap...

27 points by crazydiamond 2 days ago 4 replies      
The title says stupid but the details are about slow and forgetful. Forgetful people can be quick witted and brilliant.

I can tell your from personal experience that being stupid does not feel good especially when you know it. You never "get it" when others talk, you never have anything to say, you are always saying and doing the wrong things, or not doing what should have been done.

I do agree there's a lot more to enjoy. One is not critical and cynical. I like a lot more people, food, music than my smarter siblings. I am very happy walking in parks, looking at trees, or petting animals. Life is simpler.

20 points by jessor 2 days ago 1 reply      
I no longer had the arrogance of being frustrated with slow people [...]
I got on with people much better. I developed much more respect for one of my friends in particular who I always considered slow - it turned out he is much deeper than I thought, I just never had the patience to notice before. You could say I had more time to look around.

Reads like the way to cure narcissism.

35 points by pinchyfingers 2 days ago 8 replies      
I need regular confirmation that some people really are slower. My whole life, I've refused to really believe in intelligence. Although I loved the attention of being the 'smart kid', I've always insisted that I just liked reading and puzzles and things, and if anyone else spent as much time reading and writing as I did, they'd be pretty smart too. Of course, some people really don't like reading the kind of nonsense that I do and all the other stuff that comes with it, and it might be more than just preference.

I might really enjoy slam-dunking basketballs if I just did it more, but there is a really good chance that its never gonna happen, no matter how much I try.

This is a fact of life that I'm often unwilling to admit. I'm sure that contributes to the impatience a lot of people feel, we have very little empathy for people who don't comprehend and analyze the same way that we do. Where would that empathy come from? Analogous experience with slam dunks, maybe.

57 points by endgame 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, sounds like Flowers for Algernon in reverse. That would've been an interesting experience and I'm glad it was shared.
6 points by hugh3 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reading this made me paranoid.

"Wait, I enjoy walking in the park. Is it possible that I'm not as smart as I think I am? omg, maybe the blood supply to my brain is blocked!"

7 points by anthuswilliams 2 days ago 0 replies      
I went through a period like this, and it was awful. Diabetes isn't a particularly rare illness, but I am the only one I know who has it, and I had no idea what symptoms to look for. Since it took a while for me to develop the good sense to check into an emergency room, I spent six months essentially insulin free, shedding muscle mass, water weight, gasping for breath, and exerting every ounce of energy I had to climb flights of stairs.

I was basically incapable of complex reasoning because I couldn't expend the required mental energy. I did not become laid back or socially competent; instead, I was irritable and frustrated at my shortcomings. People could take advantage of me more easily. I generally stopped being interested in esoteric things of any sort. I don't think I derived anything of value from the loss of my mental acuity.

One tangential benefit I did receive, however, from having DKA, was an increase in motivation and willpower. I had taken my health and cleverness for granted, and now it was slipping away, and I didn't know why. All I knew was that I wanted it back. I forced myself to slog through, to finish the CRM I was working on, and I started working out more. It didn't help me health-wise at the time, but now that my condition is being managed, I find I am much more aggressive and resourceful in the way I conduct my life.

5 points by lwhi 2 days ago 1 reply      
What does it feel like to be different.

The world isn't full of 'stupid' people and 'clever' people. The human race doesn't function on a linear spectrum; the full variety of personality types and abilities is far more diverse.

Perhaps some people value their intelligence above all else, when other areas of their lives are lacking?

12 points by rorrr 2 days ago 7 replies      
One thing has been bothering me for years. What if I'm retarded and I don't know that? What if people around me pretend that I'm ok, being polite, or maybe I'm so retarded that I can't notice their reaction to me.

I haven't been able to find an answer.

3 points by petercooper 2 days ago 4 replies      
Most of the traits of "stupidity" raised in that piece (reduced arrogance, less anal retentiveness, enjoying obvious movies, patience, going off of sci-fi, being slower and more laid back) are all things I've recently noticed I've gained gradually over the last 10 years.. Early senile dementia? ;-)
8 points by moconnor 2 days ago 0 replies      
Without wanting to detract from a fascinating read, s/stupid/high on C02/ is another interpretation.
10 points by mkramlich 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'd be curious to know if his political leaning shifted going into and out of his "stupid" period.
4 points by silverlake 2 days ago 0 replies      
Intelligence is the ability to rationalize your stupid opinions. Dumb people just have opinions without the elaborate rationalizations. I prefer dumb people.
1 point by capedape 5 hours ago 0 replies      
“Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating that intelligence. Intelligence has its limits while stupidity has none. To observe a profoundly stupid individual can be very enriching, and that's why we should never feel contempt for them.” Claude Chabrol
4 points by forza 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems to me like these "effects" could have a lot more to do with a change of lifestyle and self image, rather than becoming "stupid".
2 points by stcredzero 2 days ago 0 replies      
This post reminds me of taking some classes with a certain professor of mine. Most of us in the class would regard ourselves as pretty bright, but this prof was a half step ahead of us. He had a habit of blurting out the answers to questions just as a bunch of us had gotten close to formulating the answer or had just opened our mouths to say it. I never thought he was mean spirited about it. He was just faster than us and a little impatient.
2 points by crazydiamond 2 days ago 0 replies      
Another thing i can tell you about how it feels. You'll have to get used to being a loner. It's not hard to make friends since people find you to be open and simple. But then when you have nothing to say, they vanish. It's strange how ultimately friendship can be more about what the other person says rather than what the person is.

However, one learns to accept this as how the world is, and there's no ill-feeling or depression associated with it.

1 point by mcantor 2 days ago 0 replies      
What this man did was find compassion for less intelligent people by becoming one. It is the habit of humans to condescend to less intelligent people, and to envy or undermine those who are smarter. Reaching across the boundaries of what is familiar to us and nurturing compassion there is difficult; this is a case where someone was forced to take a new perspective, and couldn't help but grow that compassion, because people who were previously so unfamiliar became uncannily like himself.

I'm not trying to trivialize his journey; he just as easily could have spiraled into a feedback loop of self-hate and self-pity. It's admirable that he accepted the change within himself, and I enjoyed reading about how awestruck he was as he observed the emotional change within.

6 points by srbloom 2 days ago 3 replies      
Can anyone with a medical background chime in on whether or not this is even possible?
3 points by grav1tas 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad the author could take away the story of what it feels like to be slow vs quick. I'd probably be overly caught up on the "almost dying" aspect of the story to hover over much else, to be honest. It's great to see this level of introspection from people.
1 point by Supermighty 2 days ago 0 replies      
> I just never had the patience to notice before.

I think with a little patience and humility we can notice the deepness of our stupid friends, and relax enough to enjoy what we are doing without worrying.

2 points by CallMeV 2 days ago 1 reply      
It often breaks my heart when some of my best friends and family reach the limits of their cognitive abilities and display all the intelligence of a Labrador. I love them all unconditionally nonetheless, even if they don't get half of my jokes or most of what I say in the course of the day.
1 point by takameyer 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had a similar experience after recieving a concussion this summer. My memory was shot, I had to write everything down constantly. Basically it forced me to become more organized and really simplify my lifestyle. I was really close to getting burned out. It's been a rough trip, but I'm starting to get a good foundation built again. Learning to cut down my projects and not working like a dog has helped out immensely. I would not like to experience that handicap again, as I'm still often struggling with the effects.
1 point by jaekwon 2 days ago 2 replies      
compare with smoking pot daily for X years.

also, can you train yourself to be smarter by forcing yourself into such a state, much like weight training or high altitude training?

2 points by TechNewb 2 days ago 4 replies      
There are many definitions of stupid, but I would not classify speed as one of them. As a dyslexic I'm very slow at reading, but I can use technology to augment that slowness.
2 points by jalfrezzo 2 days ago 2 replies      
>I had an arterial problem for a couple of years [..] this made me forgetful, slow, and easily overwhelmed

Zoom out a bit. Everyone middle aged and above in our society is expected to have some degree of arterial plaque. Nowadays it is considered normal. Obesity and diabetes are on the rise.

Doesn't this mean that many supposedly healthy people are already more slow and forgetful than need be?

How I Screwed Up My Google Acquisition codusoperandi.com
456 points by jayro 4 days ago   103 comments top 27
54 points by grellas 4 days ago 3 replies      
Prospective acquirers will often pursue potential targets simultaneously and, if they go silent on you, this may have little or nothing to do with whether you followed up diligently or not. In my experience, when an acquiring company wants to move, they know how to do so quickly, at least to engage in sufficient due diligence to see whether they might want to do the deal. Thus, when you do get in a situation where you are getting slow or evasive responses after an initial expression of interest, or where things go silent after an initial set of exchanges, I am not sure there is much you can practically do about it unless you have options to sell to others and use this as a lever to speed the process. You can be as aggressive as you like in such cases but, if the acquirer is simply trying to keep options open, you won't be able to force things absent a credible threat of going elsewhere.

That said, this one may have simply fallen through the cracks owing to the early failures to follow up more aggressively. Only the Google people can know for sure.

15 points by patio11 3 days ago 0 replies      
There was a no-holds-barred discussion of the realities of being acquired by s soulless megacorp at Business of Software 2010, by Eric Sink, who sold a product to MS. He had a similar hot cold hot cold reception, and the deal was totally dead twice, prior to it working out. It appears to be the nature of the beast.

If BOS publishes the video of that, I'll post it -- it was one of the most eyeopening talks at the conference for me (and that is saying something, since they were virtually without exception outstanding).

P.S. Google is a soulless megacorp with above average PR.

86 points by joshu 4 days ago 3 replies      
Another one I learned that pops up in this tale: get on the plane if the meeting is important.
39 points by jlees 4 days ago 2 replies      
One thing I have learnt since joining Google: everyone inside Google is always infernally busy.

I'm British, so my concepts of bothering people, being a nuisance, and being impolite are already vastly out of skew with the American work culture -- I've had to relearn a lot of that behaviour since coming to the USA and Google.

IMO it's not really specifically a Google thing. I think the lesson to be learned from this post (and as a founder, I'm wincing along with you jayro) is simple: when dealing with a big company, keep yourself in the radar or you'll vanish altogether.

But please don't be too crazy or in your face. I administered Summer of Code for our open source project this year, and one very keen applicant kept IMing me for status updates. Unfortunately, he was based in India, and so this meant my phone buzzing at 3am. Suffice it to say (and for mostly unrelated reasons), he didn't get accepted.

Be sensitive, be fresh, be relevant, be interesting.

16 points by trickjarrett 4 days ago 5 replies      
A great read about politeness (though it had some negotiating impacts) causing a missed opportunity. I too err on the side of politeness when it comes to business interactions and I've learned that more often than not, when I'm dealing with someone remotely whether it be a colleague or a point of contact, that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

I think it was a mistake to let it ride for so long. A few weeks, maybe two months, and I would have called them up and followed up. Even a short email positioning myself as asking more out of curiosity than need for an acquisition, etc.

Anyone else agree? Would you have followed up?

16 points by johnrob 4 days ago 0 replies      
Definitely a frustrating story to read. That said, two things stand out:

1) Deals fall through. PG et all write about this all the time. It's probably easy to figure why they fail in hindsight, but that doesn't make them any easier to manage in the future.

2) It seems like the main premise of the idea was to get bought by google/yahoo/microsoft. That is a dangerous strategy to employ out of the gates (although back in 2005 there was no hacker news and a whole let less general knowledge about the black art of startups).

18 points by jordanmessina 4 days ago 2 replies      
Preezo sounds like it was built to be acquired from day one. I think that mindset makes it a lot more difficult to deal with missed opportunities and can really make the entire experience of building a product unenjoyable. This is probably why so many people suggest building something you want instead of what you think others will want; at least you can enjoy the fruits of your labor in the process.
10 points by robk 4 days ago 0 replies      
The "get on a plane" advice is crucial. Product managers lead acquisitions at Google and are the hardest to reach. If you get any interest expressed from them, try to get in person w/ them within a couple weeks max, even if just for coffee. From there, it's helpful to send them a monthly or bi-monthly ping just to keep them abreast of any developments. They might not be ready to acquire now, but it's very helpful to remind them of you when they're ready or thinking of an acquisition

*disclaimer - ex-Google PM

4 points by noonespecial 4 days ago 0 replies      
It also says something about the randomness of the startup scene. You can have just the right product at just the right time and still lose.
5 points by Maro 4 days ago 1 reply      
I don't have any relevant experience, but this sounds odd. If the product was good (better than Zenter), than why didn't they acquire Preezo at that later point in time?
4 points by bherms 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think the moral here applies to more than just dealing with big companies, but anything in general. Persistence can pay off big time.

Quick example: I interviewed with a company back in August and was told I'd hear from them in a week. I didn't so I began emailing the CEO (who I'd interviewed with) at least once a week for almost three months (never got a yes/no, so I kept "checking in"). Because I kept myself on the radar and kept pursuing it, when something finally opened up, I got the job and was told that they admired my persistence. Don't be afraid of annoying people -- if the answer isn't final yet, keep trying.

3 points by kenjackson 4 days ago 2 replies      
Jonathan Rochelle repeated wryly and with a smile, "Yes, time to go. Google is here,"

WTF? Is Google the mob or something? Almost seems like the next line should have been, "And I was never seen or heard from again."

3 points by zandorg 4 days ago 3 replies      
I (a UK developer) just dealt with a company who were interested in my Pretext software, which finds text in images. I rang at 2PM their time when I rang, and when his development committee finally rejected me after a month of waiting, he said "You have written very capable and useful software - however, we want to develop in-house", I was polite and said goodbye, etc.

Everything to gain. Nothing lost but a couple transatlantic phone calls.

2 points by deyan 4 days ago 1 reply      
Seems to me that your analysis suffers from a fundamental attribution error (blaming you rather than circumstances). While it is possible that you could have done a few things better (with the help of the ever so omni-potent captain hindsight), my experience is that such deals are complicated and involve a lot of people. So I think it is much more likely that the final outcome was more out of your control than your essay implies.
2 points by harshaw 3 days ago 1 reply      
A somewhat similar story: around the same time I was working on Numbler, a collaborative spreadsheet that I launched (unluckily) a couple of months before google spreadsheet went live. Numbler had some cool features that would enable you to see real time changes from other collaborators, see dynamic updates when someone else changed cell formulas, integration with internet data sources, etc.

I got the attention of Google and was flown into NYC for an interview / talk with the spreadsheet team. Similarly, I was also a one man shop since my founder had bailed on me and left for Google 3 months prior! Things went pear shaped when I failed to get through the algorithm gristmill. I had one poor interview with a beaver/rat ringed kid who was eager to demonstrate his intellectual superiority (or so it felt at the time).

The frustrating part is that as an entrepreneur your thoughts are ranging from how to make money/business model to UI design to backend engineering. I was expecting that the googlers would at least show some interest in Numbler - but that wasn't how the meetings were structured. The google PM (Fuzzy was his name) was interested, but seemed hamstrung by the google process. Google never asked me about any of the tricks I used work to build the UI, COMET style networking for responsiveness, etc.

In retrospect, Numbler was an acquisition play and needed a much better strategy and larger vision to succeed. I did end up with a google NYC t-shirt...

1 point by melvinram 3 days ago 1 reply      
Man, that royally sucks. I can't add too much to the conversation except to say that I hope your AppIgnite system works out to be a nice hit. I heard you on some podcast recently and it sounds pretty neat.
3 points by waterside81 4 days ago 0 replies      
I gotta say hearing about things not going one's way is more informative and educational than hearing about when things all go peachy and a founder walks out with $X million. If you only read TC you'd think every startup in the world is cashing in.
5 points by splatcollision 4 days ago 1 reply      
This has inspired me to send some follow up emails on some leads I've been chasing, thanks!
2 points by TotlolRon 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think you "screwed" anything. You can't force a relationship, and it is a waste of time to think about the email you didn't send. Had you sent it and got no reply, would you feel better? How about the email they didn't send? Maybe they are the ones who "screwed"?

"Still what could've been. Is better than what could never be at all" -- Tiffany

2 points by sportsTAKES 4 days ago 1 reply      
I know I've had experiences in life where I look back and say 'what was I thinking?!?'

As difficult as it is, nicely done on recognizing the situation, holding yourself accountable and chalking it up as a lesson learned. No doubt about it, this experience will help you somewhere down the line...

I'm really impressed with your articulate re-cap of the story.

2 points by newobj 4 days ago 0 replies      

I know one of the Zenter guys. He is definitely a closer.

1 point by seltzered 4 days ago 1 reply      
I would say the problem is that you divulged technical details before getting a written "intent to acquire" from google.

While keeping the line of communication is important, it's also important to ensure it's worth your time.

1 point by elvirs 4 days ago 0 replies      
considering that Google's acquisitions are about about technology as much as about talent, and the fact that you hired another guy to help you with coding it is possible that they expected a team behind the technology to join them, but were disappointed when learned that you hired outsiders to help with building that technology.
1 point by oogali 3 days ago 0 replies      
Comment from my friend, Jason Snell (@syn3):

"Ouch. That really sucks. Lesson learned. Sometimes you have to take off your engineer hat and stop pretending human communication works like TCP."

1 point by rickdangerous1 3 days ago 0 replies      
It would be rather interesting if the google folks involved in this could provide their side of the story. Just wishful thinking of course...but maybe someone from HN could try asking the question...
1 point by psnj 4 days ago 1 reply      
I used to work at OT when Glazer was there, and I attended a workshop once where he gave a talk. Very impressive guy -- I remember thinking "I want to work for the company that guy's working for!"
0 points by cavilling_elite 4 days ago 1 reply      
This should also be a lesson about using engineering notebooks and other such legal documents in programming a new product, especially with new ideas such as the DOM manipulation indicated in this blog.
I solved the embedded Chrome OS ad equation and won a Cr-48 sylvainzimmer.com
307 points by tonyskn 2 days ago   85 comments top 12
31 points by pavs 2 days ago 1 reply      
Now its time to figure out how to set up a server that can handle few thousand viewers.

Cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://...

11 points by jacquesm 2 days ago replies      
From the article:

> most people I know including myself couldn't live without Chromium/V8 anymore.

Is this a common sentiment ?

11 points by codeglomeration 2 days ago 1 reply      
From the screenshot of the secret page: "Also, we can only give you a Chrome notebook if you live in the United States and ... "

I find it such a shame that these types of conditions are so popular for most contests / easter eggs, etc.

Are the legal issue regarding this that complex?

I'm assuming Google is not really that cheap regarding postage costs, since we're also only talking about 1 notebook here.

Also interested how it all worked out for Jamendo, since (from what I see) they're based in Luxembourg.

14 points by sylvinus 2 days ago 1 reply      
hi guys. I'm Sylvain who solved the thing, thanks for relaying the info here! :)

The blog indeed crashed, it's on a very small VM with a remote filesystem and even with a WP cache plugin.. not so much luck, even with apache stopped.

However our company blog has a proper sysadmin ;-) So after I setup a redirect there no more issues... until we get on slashdot maybe ? :)


4 points by mcav 2 days ago 0 replies      
Kudos. Too bad that special page didn't also include a job interview offer.
9 points by Soupy 2 days ago 2 replies      
5 points by daok 2 days ago 3 replies      
I dont get that : "we realized “900.91″ did actually reference the goo.gl url shortener"

I do not see how he did that?

9 points by kilovoltaire 2 days ago 0 replies      
24 occurrences of ";-)" " true happiness!
4 points by flawawa2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Well, now please make Jamendo a joy to use...
3 points by duck 2 days ago 0 replies      
If I figured that out and won a Cr-48 I would be all smiles too.
1 point by xaverius 1 day ago 0 replies      
Google Chrome blog has a post about this. Congrats to the Jamendo guys.
2 points by johnrdavisjr 2 days ago 1 reply      
I can only view the cached version. Looks like he needs a mirror.
The answer to "Will you mentor me?" is...No. pindancing.blogspot.com
302 points by nochiel 1 day ago   42 comments top 17
37 points by patio11 1 day ago 3 replies      
I generally default to "Yes", but the alternative is "Put this off for later" and folks who are not elementary school English teachers very rarely receive another look to their email if I can't address it immediately. I don't keep track of it but I think this means about 60% of people get yes these days.

Things which induce me to drop what I am doing and immediately get to work on someone's behalf:

1) Demonstrating that you know me well, either through familiarity with what I've done, what I've written, myself personally, or someone close to me.

2) Demonstrating that you have put a lot of work into something and can benefit from specific application of my expertise.

3) A precise request which I can satisfy. ("Can you teach me about running a business?" is not a precise request -- well, OK, it is, but only if you accept "I could." as a complete answer. "I have built an application which does X. I want to increase its organic search rankings for X, and having done my homework about SEO, I understand this means I need to get links to my website. Can you give me an idea for an X-related piece of linkbait?" is a precise question.)

Things which people frequently try that are not as successful as they probably hope:

1) "Help me, Obi Wan, you're my only hope." I enjoy backing underdogs, not losers. There is a difference. Pluck and vim and tales of what you've managed to do make you sound like an underdog. Apologies and lack of confidence and telling me who you've already asked who ignored you totally make you sound like a loser. (By the way, it very rarely improves any negotiation to tell the other party that they were the first person you thought of after the first four people you thought of said no.)

2) "This will only take..." Asking me to drop what I'm doing is much more disruptive than many people would assume it is. Also, folks have a tendency to underestimate how much work is required or how thoroughly I tend to answer requests which I answer.

3) Napkin stage ideas. Most of them will be culled before shipping. Why should I dedicate my limited time on a project which will probably be shelved, when I could instead work on something which will, with certainty, help people?

20 points by SandB0x 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Not for one moment did I doubt that you were the Buddha, that you have reached the highest goal which so many thousands of Brahmins and Brahmins' sons are striving to reach. You have done so by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge, through enlightenment. You have learned nothing through teachings, and so I think, O Illustrious One, that nobody finds salvation through teachings. To nobody, O Illustrious One, can you communicate in words and teachings what happened to you in the hour of your enlightenment."

- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

42 points by plinkplonk 1 day ago 4 replies      
D'oh I am somewhat embarrassed that my rants land up on HN.

On HN I try to have a measured tone. On my personal blog,I just write(rant!) without regard to "voice" and so on. It doesn't help that, while I enjoy meeting people and parties and such, I am equally content to stay in the shadows and don't care about "personal brand" or building a group to bring change and so on.

I just got frustrated at receiving the nth "please mentor me and send me some code so I can do a cool AI project for my bachelor's degree requirements. I need this next week." email.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=670453 is the original thread , with many nice comments.

15 points by lenni 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can only agree. Recently I wanted to get better at C and started to poke around in wget's bug tracker. I found an appropriate bug and asked twice on the mailing list if my suggested implementation would be okay. No answer in both cases.

Then I just went and wrote the code, put up a repo on Launchpad. I was soon getting many helpful comments.

9 points by ekidd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Mentoring other programmers can be a lot of fun.

I knew a student once who was messing around with Java, and I pointed him at Lisp and some code for a metacircular evaluator. He figured it out in no time flat. It's fun to blow people's minds, and to watch them learn.

But as the article says, you can't help people who aren't willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work.

18 points by dannyb 1 day ago 2 replies      
Excellent post. Take responsibility for your own intellectual development and you will do much better than if someone were to show you the exact solution to a problem you're working on.

I see this a lot with students in introductory physics. If they come to me and say "I don't get it" or "I can't get started" I actually invest less time than if I get a good student who has hit a wall and can't get through. The student who won't/can't start will get sent to the tutoring center and I will spend the time with the kid who works hard. There's only so much of me to go around and I want to make it count.

2 points by jseliger 1 day ago 0 replies      
In other words, when you asks for a busy person's time for "mentorship" or "advice" or whatever, show (a) you are serious and have gone as far as you can by yourself (b) have taken concrete steps to address whatever your needs are and (optionally. but especially with code related efforts)(c) how helping you could benefit them/their project.*

Funny -- this is almost exactly the advice I wrote in "How to get your professors' attention -- and coaching and mentoring": http://jseliger.com/2010/10/02/how-to-get-your-professors%E2... . The big thing you need to do if you're trying to get someone's attention is show that you're worth the investment.

Most people either don't do this or don't know how to.

5 points by kmfrk 1 day ago 0 replies      
The same applies to job applications. Some companies don't know that they could use your service - so prove it to them!
3 points by ig1 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is true even outside of programming, I occasionally get emails from students at my alma matter asking for advice on getting into investment banking, and in general I'm much more likely to respond if they show they've already put some effort in.
4 points by lwhi 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think this is good advice; maybe it could be paraphrased - don't ask to ask (dive in).

I think people are often quite hung up on being courteous, and are keen to gain permission to have that initial conversation.

While I think that's understandable, this is a nice example of why it's useful to a) be persistent, and b) get to the point of the conversation efficiently and effectively.

4 points by gwern 1 day ago 1 reply      
I am struck by how much of that seems to echo http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html
2 points by sizzla 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think what the author is saying is that having done projects on your own helps your credibility.

I disagree that ML is something that can be picked up through just an OCW site and such. "Real" ML involves way too much mathematics and does not overlap much with programming. ..unless your idea of Software Engineering is writing stuff in MATLAB.

There are so many books and the path to knowledge can be daunting.

In the spirit of the blog-post's advice I was trying to gauge whether to take the author's advice seriously, but after some short searching I could not come up with publications in ML. I definitely found several moderately complex projects with an ML "flavor." And that's already way better than most people who try to get into this by themselves and shows Ravi picked up on a bunch of stuff.

Ravi mentioned 5 years ago that reading the literature felt like banging your head against the wall and I think most of people who attempt the self-taught route are going to feel the same.

You're looking at a year or two of full-time college-like preparation during which you will learn lots of math but little to no ML. Only then can you begin to really learn ML. The books by themselves are simply not enough to learn this stuff. One needs to literally go through as many lectures as possible in the relevant coursework online, and do the labs. Various CS departments that actually have some traction in ML spend a large chunk of time designing the course and labs are incredibly illuminating.

If you just want to learn how to apply an ML algorithm taught in an undergraduate-level course, disregard my post.

Truly understanding anything written by Bishop or even going through ESL completely is something that is going to take an enormous amount of time (on your own easily a year, if you have the background) and mathematical skills that are typically way outside of what a Software Engineer deals with in any of the projects. I mean Bishop introduces hyperpriors in Chapter 1 or 2 for chrissake.

I can see how getting into patricle-filtering based probabilistic robotics can be easier, but try some EKF-based methods and feel the pain, that is, feel the amount of math that you don't know yet.

Extra hint for HN readers: take a look at the CVs of hot-shots in ML. Lots of Math and Physics undergrads, and a PhD in Theoretical Physics or Mathematics is not a rare occurrence by any means.

I'd also take a risk and say that traditional mentor/student relationships in India are quite different from the less formal ones in the West. My experience with colleagues from India is that they are much more likely to observe the authority ladder. Just look up Anil K Bera's interview with C.R.Rao (of Rao-Blackwell theorem) especially w/regards to how things were going at ISI.

2 points by wyclif 1 day ago 0 replies      
My experience has been that anyone I would want to mentor me is too busy running their own company to have time to mentor.
2 points by anthonycerra 1 day ago 0 replies      
We need to define a time associated with the word "mentor" or "mentorship". I'm sure most people that ask someone to mentor them don't expect a Mr. Miyagi style time investment. You'd be surprised how far the occasional IM chat or email will go.
3 points by jawartak 1 day ago 0 replies      
So your answer isn't 'no'. It's 'If you've shown significant effort on your own, then yes; otherwise, no.'
1 point by jwu711 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I like the comparison of the arts industry to the technology industry. The same can be said for finance and consulting industries. I feel there has been a complete loss of the apprenticeship and mentoring model because of the growth of information. When you discover that the majority of people are selfish, it really turns you away from mentoring. I want to help people that are willing to give back to the next generation and 'pay it forward', but most people take the help and just leave it at that.
-1 point by known 20 hours ago 0 replies      
If you compete with me I'll not mentor you.
The Day MAME Saved My Ass ppl-pilot.com
291 points by jeff18 16 hours ago   35 comments top 12
33 points by Sukotto 11 hours ago 3 replies      
Tip for next time: Make deliverables relative to the time you get the initial assets you were promised.

BigCo promises you the original source code + game assets.

Instead of promising Alpha/Beta/Release from the signing of the contract, promise X/Y/Z business days from delivery of those critical assets.

(Make sure you have a timeout clause in there too, "Assets will be delivered by BigCo within 60 days of the signing of this contract or we will not develop that title and BigCo will pay a penalty of $X")

[edit to add] Be careful to define what "assets" mean to you. Assume what you write will be read by a lowest-bidder consultant, with active disincentives against showing initiative, and who can barely read. (Not stupid though)

41 points by joezydeco 12 hours ago 0 replies      
MAME saved my ass too.

I was working on a coin-op game for a mid-level manufacturer in Chicago. Let's just say they were the last dinosaur in the tar pit and they didn't have a stellar hardware engineering team. They tended to copy other people's designs and not really understand the architectures, so things like in-circuit emulators and IDEs were scarce or non-existant. You debugged via trial-and-error and, if you were lucky, printf().

So I was working on this title and started working from home a couple of days a week to take care of a family member. That made things hard, and even harder since you tend to have the physical machine next to you while coding. It was frustrating to code for a day, get to work, then find half of it wasn't working.

Then I discovered that the MAME kids had already supported the platform. With a small amount of work I could develop on the emulated platform. I could work remotely and I had access to things the in-house guys didn't even have: hardware breakpoints, live RAM viewing, scripted testing for example.

Without MAME I would have seriously been suffering on this project.

49 points by julian37 15 hours ago 5 replies      
"Fortunately, [...] a SpyHunter fan [...] had extracted the sound effects himself and put up WAV files on his web page."

"I wanted to give the guy a game credit [...]. The publisher refused....their legal team were already writing up a cease-and-desist letter ordering him to remove the assets from his fan page."

Guy saves the day and instead of a cookie he gets a CnD letter. Do things really have to work this way?

"But you have to defend your trademarks or they become worthless!" Right, because the publisher would have been so much better off if those WAVs wouldn't have been out on the Internet in the first place.

22 points by iuguy 15 hours ago 0 replies      
This is an incredible example of the 'zombie code' problem. You lose the source to something and are somehow expected to maintain it anyway.

Years ago at a previous employer, we had an old xenix system that ran a library book lending system. The company that maintained it had gone bust long ago and noone knew how to migrate the data, in fact noone really knew xenix either. I ended up (as the Linux and y2k guy) working with one of the smartest guys I've ever met to hunt the data down. In the process I learnt xenix and Geoff learnt xenix x86 assembly. Geoff patched the library system to start dumping out csvs. Then he patched an import function, then an extra field to indicate the year starting with 19 or 20 (to solve the y2k problem all we had to do was shutdown for Christmas, bring the box up in January, set the date to 1900 and we'd be fine. It didn't quite turn out that way but that was another story) and after a significant post y2k problem Geoff took over maintaining a defunct piece of software on a defunct platform, for 3 years. The library didn't migrate because they didn't need to, as long as they had Geoff. After I left, Geoff took over xenix admin (to be fair, not a lot to do) and a few years later fell very ill. While the library thought they'd saved money, ultimately they trapped themselves in an expert system that could only prolong the inevitable disaster on the horizon.

14 points by joeyh 12 hours ago 2 replies      
I especially like the bit where someone else had embedded Mame with a pirated ROM as a "port" to a major console. Especially amusing if you read Mame's license, which includes:

> MAME is free. The source code is free. If you paid for it, you've been
ripped off. If you sell it, you are a thief.

> You are not allowed to distribute X-Mame ( source or binary) and
ROM's image in the same package or physical medium.

> If you distribute the executable, you should also distribute the
source code.

> The source code cannot be used in a commercial product without a
written authorization of the authors.

8 points by mgkimsal 13 hours ago 1 reply      
"but the publisher insisted that we had signed a contract, and that with-or-without assets we were expected to deliver the alpha version on time....which at this point was a week later."

Crazy, yet all too common. We didn't hold up our end of an agreement, but YOU have to. Does this happen in all industries, or just software?

"We didn't provide the plants or mulch or dirt for the garden (which we were supposed to do last week), but you still have to provide a flower bed tomorrow."

I'm assuming there was something in the contract that the original party was required to provide assets for the port. Perhaps it wasn't.

"No... no need to contractually obligate us to deliver - just believe us, we'll get you the files!"

16 points by Clarity1992 14 hours ago 1 reply      
I love the bit where he gets the best guy in the office to play through the game with cheats and grabs the image data from the sessions in order to reconstruct the maps.

Perhaps because I've always been an, er, "dedicated" gamer, there's something about a solution involving playing the game which is really satisfying.

4 points by praptak 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Stories like this make me thing that we should have some legal basis for telling the suits to fuck off. Professions like aircraft pilots and medicine doctors do this.
2 points by JeffL 6 hours ago 0 replies      
So why is someone who sounds as awesome as the guy who wrote this article having to deal this sort of nonsense?
1 point by gilgad13 6 hours ago 0 replies      
So moral of the story: Making unreasonable demands and threatening to completely cut off funding for related projects works as a way to force a contractor to deliver despite "setbacks" on your end?

Looks like the suits won this one.

1 point by mdaniel 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Sigh: I say we have a new rule that unless the linkee is a major webserving force, that we systemically use Corel Cache.

OB cached link: http://www.ppl-pilot.com.nyud.net/mame.aspx

1 point by andyv 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Although it was more like "The Week MAME Save My Ass"...
How to detect a toxic customer softwarebyrob.com
280 points by swombat 3 days ago   113 comments top 13
170 points by spolsky 3 days ago 15 replies      
This detection process doesn't detect toxic customers, it detects corporate customers at large companies.

It's fine for a small startup to cater to small startups, but the big companies have big budgets, and eventually, you'll be making 80% of your money off of them, so learning how to deal with them can be helpful.

1. Big companies often have purchasing departments actually do the purchase. They are trained to expect discounts and the people in the purchasing department know a lot more about asking for discounts than they know about software, because that is their specialized role in the organization. If you politely tell them that you have one price for everyone, they'll still purchase, because the purchasing department ususally doesn't have the power to stop the purchase.

2. Those 80-question checklists usually come out of the following, typical corporate process:

* A team of people identifies a need for software

* The team meets to agree on everything they need

* The junior person on the team is tasked with evaluating 12 possible products to see which one is best

* That person makes up a spreadsheet and sends it to each of the vendors hoping that they will do his homework for him

* The vendors who have decent presales support or sales teams fill out the spreadsheets by marking everything as "Yes" or "Yes with a footnote" and get the deal.

This also explains the "multiple questions that can be answered from a website" -- it's a sign of a person who has been put in charge of evaluating multiple products, not a sign of a toxic customer.

3. Multiple contacts through multiple channels are usually the sign of multiple interested parties at the client site. You can't sell to big companies without touching multiple people. One of a salesperson's most important jobs is helping the customer themselves get organized and make a purchase. A good salesperson helps the person who wants your software navigate their own corporate purchasing politics.

Summary: while it's fine to turn away truly toxic customers, and you are welcome to decide that you'd rather sell to the starving startup founders on Y-combinator who would rather spend 2 hours scouring your website than deal with a salesperson, the corporate customers turn out to be remarkably price-insensitive, once they make a purchase they will keep paying you maintenance for years long after the product is not even in use, and they're just as likely to leave you alone as the small guys, but they do have "multiple stakeholders" and if you want to sell to them you need a process that matches their reality.

32 points by patio11 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am convinced there exists a breed of customer who needs to feel a human is in the loop to buy something. I mean, "Yes ma'am, it does make bingo cards." has made me three sales. They're not noticeably pathological customers.

(Those certainly exist, though. Charge more, and they'll mostly inflict themselves on your competitors instead.)

20 points by jacquesm 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hey, funny, I think I've had that customer too!

I ended up referring him and his company to my worst sworn enemy competitor, haven't heard from him since.

6 points by wccrawford 3 days ago 2 replies      
I totally agree with this. I'm a very customer-oriented person, but there are a few customers that just aren't worth supporting. If you can reject them gracefully, it's in your best interest to do so.

One of the problems with that is that even jerks have friends. If you reject them, they'll tell those friends and you could lose even more customers.

In this case, when they were going to have to write a custom solution for this customer, it was definitely the way to go.

As a side note, my father asks for 'discounts' all the time. He almost never gets them, and doesn't act entitled when he doesn't, but it sometimes works. So he keeps doing it. I really have to start doing it myself to see what I get.

3 points by mark_l_watson 3 days ago 1 reply      
I pass on consulting work if I have any strong feelings that the customer and I are not a good fit. Many years ago, I had a potential new customer spend a lot of time telling me about the problems he had with developers, mostly that they wanted to walk from his projects. I ended up accepting work from him anyway because he was a nice guy and interesting to talk with. It took me a few months to finish promised tasks and extricate myself from his project, becoming another "walker."

I have had experience of clearly being at fault also: twice I have let myself be talked into projects in tech areas where my experience was really thin, and within a short period of time, had to notify the two customers that I was not a good fit to their needs. I was very apologetic both times and obviously did not bill them, but they were out the time documenting the tasks for me.

4 points by protomyth 3 days ago 0 replies      
I went through this process with a large company, and one of the interesting things that was done was a check with Dunn and Bradstreet (www.dnb.com). It seems they would not buy from someone without a D&B number and "sufficient" history.
5 points by shay 3 days ago 0 replies      
/Warning Sign #1: Disrespectful or Abrupt/

I've found that people who email with no explanation or "sell" of their own but just immediate, terse requests like "What are your rates?" or "I need a copywriter. You available?" are typically NOT interested in finding the right person for themselves or their product; instead, they're looking to just outsource what they think they COULD do themselves, if only they had time/energy/desire.

People who know they're considering (hopefully carefully) how to add value to their product/life are the ones who will take the time to build trust from the beginning, will be honest about expectations, and are more likely to give the freedom and flexibility necessary to maintain a healthy working relationship over time.

3 points by waterside81 3 days ago 0 replies      
The timing of this is uncanny, we were just having a discussion about this internally. I've found that a great technique to dealing with difficult customers is to show them that you don't mind them taking their business elsewhere, as the OP mentions. It always amazes me at how quickly this disarms people and completely changes their attitude and approach.

And another example of toxic customers: people paying with Groupons.

1 point by kls 3 days ago replies      
Warning Sign #2: Asks for a Discount (With No Reason)

The funny part about this one, is I always ask for a discount for no real reason. Even if I am only buying a single piece of software. Why, because it lets me know up front if a vendor is going to be flexible with large volume purchases and OEM arrangements.

Funny story, I was evaluating some screen capture software for OSX not too long ago for a client of mine. I was building a web app for them and part of the work flow for their content was screen capture. Anyway, I emailed a company that had a reputable product and basically told them that I had no need for the pro version, would not be using the pro version for any commercial work but that I would like to use the pro version to teach my daughter about video editing. I then asked if they would consider selling me the pro version at the basic software packages rate. I framed the story in this fashion for several reasons. I had just told the developer/owner that I would be using it for non-commercial and educational purposes both of which usually get some form of pricing plan that is below the commercial mark-up lack of having a plan to deal with either tells me that they do not have a competent pricing structure, and quite possibly that they lack a formal sales organization and negotiating deals later on would be difficult due to lack of attention to pricing structure for the various fringe purchasing needs. Dealing with companies that do not have flexible pricing policies can be difficult when you are dropping large purchases in which no one realistically pays full price per seat.

Anyways, point is be careful of putting earmarks on customers, this small developer lost a $75,000 purchase (what we set aside for a site license) for seats on his product due to the fact that he showed that he was not flexible in his pricing structure. Allowing me to purchase the pro version at the basic version price would have cost him nothing and given the purpose it was purchased under "non-commercial and educational" there was a need to reduce price to be competitive. Instead, I got a dismissive response that the basic version was good enough for my needs and that if I wanted the pro version I would have to pay full price. Needless to say, his competitor was very happy with the $75,000 purchase order.

I guess, long story short, bargain shoppers are not always bad, some people negotiate over what seem to be inconsequential amounts because rather than haggling over dollars they are finding out up front whether a relationship with your company will be tenable.

1 point by kenjackson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Don't you have forums for your product? If you're doing invoicing software this would make sense. I've had that for multiple products and almost all of these issues get hashed out in the forums, often by existing customers.

And in particular, if you're seeing people asking multiple questions that could answered from the website then there's probably something wrong with the site.

3 points by brewski 3 days ago 1 reply      
After poking around his site, I laughed a little after he described Emacs as a "stripped down, no frills text editor".


1 point by icey 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a faster way of telling if you're dealing with a toxic (corporate) customer: See how they react when you say "no" to something. This is them on their best behavior too; if the reaction is nasty then you have your answer.
2 points by hammock 3 days ago 0 replies      
The moral of this story is not to detect toxic customers.

The moral is that he almost lost a sale, were it not for the other guy stepping in. The moral is that he should have asked to speak with someone else at the company to continue the selling process.

This guy almost blew it.

The ASF Resigns From the JCP Executive Committee apache.org
258 points by davidw 3 days ago   57 comments top 19
57 points by kqr2 3 days ago 2 replies      
For people who are unfamiliar with all the acronyms:

ASF : Apache Software Foundation

EC : Executive Committee

EE : Enterprise Edition

JCP : Java Community Process

JSR : Java Specification Request

JSPA : Java Specification Participation Agreement

SE : Standard Edition

TCK : Test Compatibility Kit

13 points by nl 3 days ago 1 reply      
For people confused about the impact of this:

Having Apache on the EC (Executive Committee) strengthened Java by giving an official voice to the (large) open source Java community. This was useful for Java because Apache often agitated to make sure specifications were licensed under terms that are compatible with open source implementations. Open Source implementations have kept Java competitive with .NET in terms of price, and many specifications have grown out of open source Java projects.

The Eclipse organisation remains on the EC, so Oracle can point to them as a voice for open source. However, Eclipse is different to Apache in that it is primarily a pay-to-play organisation, whilst Apache is a meritocracy.

In terms of specifications themselves (JSRs), Apache will no longer automatically have a representative. Individual experts can still be invited, but Apache's withdrawal (as well as that of people like Doug Lea & Bob Lee) makes it less likely experts will want to serve on a JSR committee.

15 points by abp 3 days ago 3 replies      
Further, the project communities of the ASF, home to Apache Tomcat, Ant, Xerces, Geronimo,
Velocity and nearly a 100 mainstay java components have implemented countless JSRs and serve
on and contribute to many of the JCPs technical expert groups.

And then:

To that end, our representative has informed the JCP's Program Management Office of our resignation,
effective immediately. As such, the ASF is removing all official representatives from any
and all JSRs. In addition, we will refuse any renewal of our JCP membership and, of course,
our EC position.

Holy crap!
That just sounds like Java is really bleeding now. Anyone knows how significant the real impact of leaving representatives on the JSRs is?

1 point by ChristianMarks 45 minutes ago 0 replies      
The acquisition of Java by the intellectual monopolist Oracle is good for programming, because Oracle's rent seeking will discourage programmers from using Java. There are far better languages that have more versatile typing operations than mere subclassing.
14 points by bad_user 3 days ago 0 replies      

     The Apache Software Foundation concludes that that JCP is not an open
specification process - that Java specifications are proprietary technology
that must be licensed directly from the spec lead under whatever terms the
spec lead chooses

So much for Java being an open standard.

5 points by bobbyi 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is Google going to follow suit? They were the other ones to vote against Java SE 7 on the same grounds and seem to share Apache's concerns.
6 points by adamc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Given the conclusion (that JCP is not an open specification process), I wonder whether they will move away from implementing JCP specs, and towards other technologies.

Huge loss for the JCP either way.

5 points by timtadh 3 days ago 1 reply      
My, perhaps naive, question is: will there now be a bifurcation of the Java community? Specifically, will there be an open community with its own standards and implementations, and the Oracle community with theirs.
4 points by mark_l_watson 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am firmly supportive of ASF. I was unhappy with Sun for witholding the TCK, and I am now unhappy with Oracle. Major languages should have multiple high quality implementations. I understand the business issues but something like Java needs to have at least one foot firmly in the 'commons.'
8 points by abhikshah 3 days ago 0 replies      
I always thought it was odd that ASF, one of the early open-source successes, was so heavily Java which has always been semi-open at best. Stuff like this lends more credence to the ideological purity of the GNU guys..
3 points by mbyrne 3 days ago 2 replies      
As pro-FOSS CTO with a JIT-compiling VM userbase, the ASF exit from JCP EC makes it CYA time for us with the FOU restrictions in the TCK and JDK 7/8. Agreed?
3 points by tlrobinson 3 days ago 0 replies      
So what does this actually mean for Java and ASF?
2 points by roman-m 2 days ago 0 replies      
Oracle shooting them selfs in the head. The open unrestricted competition in Java world moved that
comunity since the begining and everybody got profit from that. The tools were improved and preselected
by the user experience only. It was a win win. If your product was not good enough you got the valuable
information: that you should to improve yourself. That is the basic foundation of capitalism: don't concentrate
on your competitors but on your own products. Now Oracle is trying to block that open market of ideas.
They will be the first to get hurt.

“The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.” (Ayn Rand)

5 points by ebtalley 3 days ago 0 replies      
Uninformed question: How does this affect Apache projects and their further development?
1 point by yewweitan 3 days ago 1 reply      
As commentors have mentioned, you can't simply roll-your-own-Java without being at risk of a legal battle.

Zooming out. What are the biggest technologies being affected by this, and what are the alternatives available to the creators and developers of those technologies?

Would we end up in a situation where someone like Google would have to revamp their entire Android runtime?

1 point by russellperry 3 days ago 1 reply      
Java by itself as a commercial entity is not extremely valuable. Not really having any clue how to get an ROI out of Java, Oracle like Sun before them is simply hedging their bets that owning/controlling Java IP (of any stripe) may in the future provide commercial returns or business leverage when a Java-based app or framework succeeds (see: the Android lawsuit, the MSVM lawsuit 10 years ago). I guess it's the only logical approach for a company that otherwise has no clue how to monetize a technology as widespread as Java.

Seriously, what did we actually think Oracle was going to do with Java? Get all open and community-minded and crap?

1 point by DjDarkman 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think this was wise of Oracle. They only seem to view Java as an asset they can make money of. But I don't think it's wise to turn the tide against them for a few cents.
1 point by tamersalama 2 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe Oracle's doing the right thing for Java afterall. Assuming Ownership.
1 point by xentronium 3 days ago 3 replies      
Is their blog down?
I always forget the argument order of the `ln -s` command reddit.com
245 points by pepsi_can 4 days ago   123 comments top 49
44 points by terra_t 4 days ago 9 replies      
I used to have this problem. Then I realized that if I want to really copy a file, I type

$cp file_from file_to

and that

$ln -s link_from link_to

has a very similar effect to the cp command above. I haven't messed this up ever since.

11 points by dboyd 4 days ago replies      
Does anyone know why C calls like 'strcpy' and 'strcat' are the opposite of this?

  strcat(target, source)
strcpy(target, source)

But, in SH...

  cp source target

I feel like these things were developed around the same time, by the same community. I've always wondered if there was a reason for the different perspective.

13 points by frossie 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've always used complex numbers as a mnemonic: real + imaginary, a + bi (obviously the file is real and the softlink is "imaginary").


7 points by muhfuhkuh 4 days ago 1 reply      
For me, it's always the recursive options in (s)cp and chown/chmod and which one is capital -R which one is lower case -r. Simply vexing.
5 points by hasenj 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's the same argument order for mv and cp, also the same for rsync and scp

Hell, it's even the same argument order for git-clone.

Pretty much all command lines use "source destination" order.

Why is 'ln' confusing? Because people think of "linking" in a backwards way, it seems that if you're creating a link from A -> B, A is the source and B is the destination. But that's not the meaning of "source destination" that command lines expect

  mv B A

A is the new B

  cp B A

A is the new B, but B is still there

  ln -s B A

A is the new B, except it's just a link, and yes, B is still there.

B is the source, A is the destination. B is the source of the data, A is the destination for that data; the command will create 'A' (or modify it), that's why it's the destination.

For the link itself, B is the destination, but for the operation of creating the link, B is the source, and that's the meaning that's consistent with all other commands.

4 points by daten 4 days ago 0 replies      
You can create multiple links with the original names at once with commands like:

  ln -s path1/files* path2/


  ln -s path1/* .

Doing that helped me remember the order because I knew my command could end with a directory as the destination and links would be created there.

Sometimes hardlinks are useful too. You don't always need -s

Edit: Why was this downvoted? I didn't see anyone else mention it until after my post and to me this was an easier way to remember the order than comparing it to "cp".

7 points by jvdh 4 days ago 3 replies      
My god, this thing always keeps biting me. It seems so obvious now with that cp-mnemonic. But it makes me wonder, why does everyone do it wrong in the first place?
4 points by enneff 4 days ago 1 reply      
The way I remember it is "ln -s target [filename]", where filename is an optional argument to override the default, where the default is a link created in the CWD pointing to target. Easy.
4 points by shimon 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just read the -s as "source" even though it really means symbolic.

ln -s source fakename

9 points by newobj 4 days ago 1 reply      
That's funny, I do too. I always thought it was just me...
2 points by Timothee 4 days ago 0 replies      
The worst part with that kind of mistakes is that you end up never knowing for sure. :)

You start with "ln -s A B" and realize you always make the mistake, so you force yourself to do the opposite of your natural instinct: "ln -s B A". It works until this becomes natural but you still think you always get it wrong, so start doing the opposite of your new natural: "ln -s A B". You'll now be very confused until you force yourself to learn it for good.

This happens to me all the time for various binary things.

2 points by pbhjpbhj 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why don't we have better shells that give hints on these things?

I'm thinking like an IDE will pop up some help text when you begin typing a function name or a recognised special word. Why doesn't the standard sh (bash for me) give me similar help, as I type "ln" it could give me a pop-up with the possible completions and then as I get to "ln -s" it could remind me with "TARGET [NAME] // will create a file named NAME that is a soft link to TARGET, or use TARGET's name if NAME isn't specified". You get the picture.

In a pure text env the help could appear on the next line highlighted appropriately or could be to the right of the cursor or somesuch.

I'm hoping someone will say $CONSOLE does that already ...? Anyone?

2 points by phaedrus 3 days ago 0 replies      
In CP/M the order really was "cp to from". So chosen to match the assignment operator in programming.
2 points by rythie 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just remind myself that second argument is optional (and it couldn't be the other way around for that to work)
2 points by stretchwithme 4 days ago 0 replies      
a copy points to the original (for an instant anyway) the same way that a link points to the original:

  cp original copy

ln -s original link

3 points by tedunangst 4 days ago 1 reply      
If you leave off the second argument, you don't need to remember it. Much easier.
4 points by cdonnellytx 4 days ago 0 replies      
The annoying thing is that the mklink command in Windows uses the opposite order, so you have to do

mklink link_to link_from

EDIT: formatting.

1 point by ollysb 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the source of confusion is that linking is closely associated with chains. When you add a link to a chain you always add the new link to the existing chain or

ln -s new_link (onto) existing(chain)

Obviously the target isn't a chain but the association between links and chains is a strong one.

In other words I don't think of creating a link as creating something new _from_ something that already exists, I think of it as adding something new _to_ something that already exists.

2 points by nene 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, the UNIX ln command is full of trouble.

* The arguments order is just the opposite of common sense. It has taken me years to really remember it, and I still have to think a little every time I use it.

* The default is to create hard link, which you almost never want. And if you do want them, you are probably doing it wrong. Making hard links is just asking for trouble.

I've read that Plan9 has somewhat corrected this whole problem. At least there is no ln command at all. Instead one uses bind, mount, and unmount. Of which bind is most similar to ln -s, but with arguments in reversed order.

1 point by manvsmachine 4 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who always had that problem, I think it's because I always mentally picture a command as saying "do <action> from <arg0> to <arg1>", ie, "copy this file to that file". But this construct doesn't hold up for linking, so I just have to remember it arbitrarily by remembering cp. function(src, dest) just generally seems to be the unofficial "right way" of ordering things.
3 points by streeter 4 days ago 1 reply      
I stopped remembering what the order was and just use the `lns` script found here: http://interglacial.com/~sburke/pub/lns.html
2 points by seles 3 days ago 0 replies      
Every comment except this one is just a repeat of the stuff said in the original reddit discussion
2 points by frankus 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think up to the 100th time reading the man page I would forget, until I memorized the following mantra:

    ln -s target link_name

1 point by stevefink 4 days ago 1 reply      
Ruby's alias_method(new_name, old_name) always gets me also because I'm so used to ln [-s] (src, tgt).
1 point by orangecat 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ditto. I just remember that it's the reverse of tar, but the cp trick is better.
1 point by sibsibsib 4 days ago 0 replies      
I used to get this wrong all the time too. Mentally, I'd be thinking "ln -s source destination", where source was the link and destination was what it pointed to. Of course, that's completely backwards. 'man ln' on OSX didn't help either, since they use the terminology 'source_file [target_file]' which just re-inforced my incorrect thinking (target sounds like something that is pointed to, does it not?).

As other people have mentioned, thinking of it in terms of the files created (ala cp) has helped to learn the correct behavior. I think this is a case where some minor change in the documentation might help to avoid the whole problem.

3 points by austintaylor 4 days ago 0 replies      
Someone told me 'fact before fiction' a long time ago, and I've never forgotten it.
1 point by endtime 4 days ago 0 replies      
My mneumonic is "lentil", since it's ln (-s) <T-for-target> <L-for-link>.
2 points by sidawson 3 days ago 0 replies      
Think about boobs.

Everyone prefers real to fake*

  ln -s real fake

Now you will never forget.

* Yes, I realise this isn't strictly true

1 point by dminor 4 days ago 1 reply      
I also occasionally forget the -s, and really wish it was the default since I'm almost always creating a symbolic link.
1 point by jpr 3 days ago 0 replies      
I use emacs and dired as a condom that shields me from the stupidity that is remembering this kind of trivia.
2 points by inanedrivel 4 days ago 0 replies      
Its like a black hole in my mind. Every single time I screw this up. I've.... just had to learn to live with deleting my first crappy link. :)
1 point by tpinto 4 days ago 0 replies      
when I noticed that I was messing up when using ln, I started thinking this way:
"write what you already know first, so you have time to think about what you'll write next

"what you already know" being the existing file and the second part being the name of the link to the existing file.

I never got it wrong again.

1 point by joubert 4 days ago 0 replies      
think like so: ln -s {source} {target}

(not "from"/"to", which is ambiguous)

1 point by its2010already 4 days ago 0 replies      
My mnemonic for this is to remember that the link name is optional. When you specify only one argument the link name is the base name of the target (in the current working directory). Therefore the link name must be the second argument.
1 point by Florin_Andrei 4 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine there's an arrow pointing left between the arguments. You know - "the symlink is pointing to this file".

ln -s file <== symlink

Always remember that. Pointing left. The symlink is pointing at the file.

1 point by fleitz 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah it seems backwards to me as well. I always thought it was the only one.
1 point by kaens 4 days ago 0 replies      
"ln -s something somewhere"
1 point by funksta 4 days ago 0 replies      
The way I think of it is that the path that exists first (the target file), comes first.

It's kind of a dumb way to think of it, but it seems to work for me.

1 point by cgs1019 4 days ago 0 replies      
My mneumonic is that in "ln" the "n" comes second, and n is for "name" so the name of the symlink comes second. But I still have to think about it every time...
1 point by mattwdelong 4 days ago 0 replies      
Funny, I have a similar problem with scp.
1 point by joe24pack 4 days ago 0 replies      
remember real first fake second ...
1 point by duncanj 4 days ago 0 replies      
Keepin' it real fake...

ln -s real fake

1 point by grourk 4 days ago 0 replies      
A co-worker once told me to remember it like: "I have a (src) that I'd like to call (dst)"
1 point by dools 4 days ago 0 replies      
I just think of the "-s" as "source".
1 point by dclane 3 days ago 0 replies      
$ ln -s javac javac

Not like that.

1 point by PeterWhittaker 4 days ago 0 replies      
exist want

from to

source target

1 point by known 3 days ago 0 replies      
ln -s source destination
1 point by aeurielesn 4 days ago 0 replies      
I always forget the argument order of the `ln -s` command...

...because I met the `man` command.

Web Programming Is Hard shubharamani.com
243 points by grayhairmomma 2 days ago   152 comments top 32
111 points by patio11 2 days ago replies      
I periodically think "Man, I really shouldn't be getting paid for this. Any idiot could stick these two APIs together."

In my more sensible moments, I remember that that idiot only needed to know HTML, CSS, the DOM model, Javascript, jQuery, HTTP (mostly headers and status codes), Ruby, Rails, basic MVC design, Oauth, SQL, SQL performance, five-ish APIs to support the two that needed integration, how to configure and maintain a server, system architecture, a bit of security, etc.

[There's also object oriented programming, class inheritance, polymorphism, algorithms, time complexity, discrete math, data structures, imperative programming, and a few other things I forgot the first time around. Lest we forget, we might take these for granted because we've been programming since we were $ARBITRARILY_YOUNG, but to most people these are just black magic. My girlfriend, a smart cookie, asked to see "how I made the phone ring" and, after I showed her the code that did that, told me it had never even occurred to her that every program she's ever seen was once a collection of special words placed in a particular order.]

After that, it was pretty much done, except for the marketing.

On the plus side: you can learn one or a few of these things at a time, and get more comfortable with how deep the rabbit hole goes as you go along. I coded my website in static HTML written in Notepad with no JS or CSS, crikey, only four years ago. (And my brain still recoils at how much better I'd have to get to do e.g. web scale work.)

18 points by edw519 2 days ago 0 replies      
But upon studying CSS, HTML and Javascript over the last month, I can honestly say I'm humbled.

About half the time, I feel humbled whenever I encounter some new technology.

The other half, I wonder why anyone bothered.

The trick is knowing which half is which.

23 points by dasil003 2 days ago 1 reply      
As a web developer I appreciate the concession from an embedded systems programmer that I am in fact not simply a monkey, but the quoted section probably goes a bit too far.

For instance, terrible UIs on the web are just as common as terrible UIs in GUI applications. And making a cross-platform GUI application that looks good on all platforms requires familiarity with tools specific to each platform, which is much more involved than learning browser quirks.

The hardest thing about the web is probably how fast it moves, but that's also what makes it exciting.

16 points by ibagrak 1 day ago 3 replies      
I am not sure which particular flavor of "embedded" the author is referring to, but the argument, in my view, is completely off the mark, and here is why:

The main challenge of embedded is that you are in charge of controlling and managing everything. The developer is closer to the hardware and the cost of things breaking is far higher because you cannot for one second forget about some part of the technology stack that's below you. Everything is suspect, and nothing can be ignored.

On the web, you get used to your automatic garbage collection, your GUI toolkits, your nice browser sandbox with infinite memory that gets automagically replenished, your in-browser JavaScript debugger and all that jazz. You get to enjoy none of it in the embedded systems I've worked with.

Fixing embedded systems in the field is freaking hard, so the quality of code matters is in a completely different dimension from what's on the web today. Now, I am not talking about Linksys router or your iPhone. That's just a fraction of "embedded" devices. I am talking about things that don't have a TCP/IP stack (or any connection to the outside world), don't have a GUI, and are installed at the contractor rate of $1,000/hr and must exist in the field for 10-20 years. There are millions of these devices shipping every month, and they are all around us.

Are you telling me these systems are easier to design than a webpage that can be twiddled with at your whim a million times a day?

Don't downvote just yet! Just so you know where I am coming from:

I am a product manager for a 100K LOC embedded stack that runs in 128K of flash and 8K of RAM. It's all C code, no OS, no toolkits, no MMUs, no garbage collection and no dynamic memory allocation. These devices get 15 years on a single battery and go inside your house. I've also had good exposure (not an expert) to the online technologies the author mentions. Yes, things may be tough to learn (I don't actually believe they are), but the web is a lot more forgiving of mistakes too.

22 points by jemfinch 2 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, it's hard. Unnecessarily hard, which is why I hate when I have to do it.

The complexity of web development is not intrinsic to the problem, but an extrinsic reality imposed by widely differing implementations of a number of overengineered technologies.

9 points by groaner 2 days ago 1 reply      
As someone who has only dabbled in web programming and done webdev-ish work at a company that doesn't "get" the web, I was in shock to see how much I didn't know that was really the bare minimum:


14 points by verysimple 2 days ago 2 replies      
One common mistake when one tries to tackle the web is to do it all at once. What you need:

- get familiar with HTML and css. That is, learn the basics, their purpose and how they interact.

- get familiar with some basic JavaScript and how you use it on the browser.

- learn one of the prominent web languages for the server-side. Python, Ruby, PHP, etc. I used to recommend PHP as a first language because compared to other languages, it was ubiquitous amongst hosting providers. Nowadays, I recommend against, especially if you already have some programming experience. Python and Ruby also have a decent offering and they have the added benefit of a community that generally promotes better programming practices than PHP.

Having an overview of the entire development process, you should now be able to pick one area where you'd like to expand. Being a programmer I suspect you might pick either server-side or browser scripting (JavaScript). Stick to one at first and learn it well. When I started the web I rarely did any front-end at all. I concentrated on the server-side and was aided by some CSS and JavaScript coders. Likewise, I often worked with JS programmers who didn't want to know anything beyond the realm of what they were doing. It's a symbiotic relationship.
- It may be tempting to do everything vanilla at first, but quickly switch to using a framework, they're often packed with lots of best practices. They're like training wheels, you can always take them off later when you feel confident.

As you get comfortable with one field you can expand on others. After years playing in the server, I'm only now expanding my client side skills. Also, beyond technologies, other areas of interest that can expand your overall understanding and web expertise, are interface architecture, usability and various other optimizations. As you go, you'll stumble upon many.

23 points by newobj 2 days ago replies      
First, she thought implementing a linked list during an interview was hard. Then, she says that web programming is hard. And I'm not saying it's "easy", but talk about blogging yourself into a professional grave?
6 points by rbranson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Working for any primarily software driven company is going to be challenging. Working in an expensed IT department is what most developers do, and the work is pretty pedestrian. This seems to provide the most clear line of delineation in software development.
4 points by PhrosTT 2 days ago 1 reply      
Web Programming is nigh impossible for 1 person any more.

To build a legit website:

1. Mockup a pretty design in photoshop. Use color theory, design principles, UX theory, typography skills, etc.
2. Convert the design into HTML/CSS. Make it degrade gracefully, it should be cross-browser compatible, validate, be lightweight, meet accessibility standards.
3. Add unobstrusive javascript if you want, site should work without it.
4. Run YSlow, convert all images into sprites where possible, condense/minify your JS/CSS.
5. Do SEO tweaks and best practices.
6. Oh wait, does the site display well on iPads? build a mobile version and a tablet version.


We haven't even gotten past the front end. Learn good db design, code your middle tier. Choose or roll your own framework. TONS of work.

Once it works, go back and secure everything for the OWASP10 and other potential holes. Also make sure it will scale gracefully.

Maybe you should optimize your cacheing scheme? Maybe tweak your php config so it runs faster.

AGhghghsdhdshf%@!$^#$ it never ends!

3 points by iamwil 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's not the sort of thing we should have pride in--that web programming is hard. For me, it goes to show that web front-end programming has a long way to go to make it better for developers.

We're still looking for X to do to front end web programming that Rails did for back end web programming.

3 points by MarkPNeyer 2 days ago 0 replies      
They're hard for different reasons. In my experience, games, scientific computing, trading, and 'real' web backend work (i.e. not 'move this shit into the database' but 'make the database scale to a million users') are hard because they challenge you to solve difficult problems. Web frontend and simple backend work are hard because of the pain in the ass of managing all the different languages and paradigms involved.
3 points by arohner 2 days ago 1 reply      
Yes, Web Programming can be hard, but it's probably harder than it needs to be. The whole ecosystem of HTML + CSS + JS + IE6 is a mess.

Something along the lines of Cappuccino will help a lot. Then you're "only" left with the problems of UI/UX, scaling, security, A/B testing, big data and marketing.

3 points by pocoloco 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm currently working on a set of SOAP web services using tomcat, cxf, mysql, and hibernate among others.

I decided to do a switch from embedded to web development about a year and a half ago after being laid off. My paycheck is smaller but I now work on a whole new set of problems. After working about 10 years in embedded and everything around it, I felt that I needed a change. It was as if I was solving the same problems over and over. And don't get me started in the state of the tools. I remember thanking the heavens when we switched platforms to PowerPC and ELDK.

At first I did not know were to start in web development. But I did decide to concentrate on the back end quite early. At first I approached each technology separately, mostly because of my ignorance. For example, I saw that tomcat was very popular, so I decided to take a look into it. But I quickly realized that I needed a birds eye view of the whole web service stack and not its individual components. At least not yet.

I started to look into frameworks. After realizing that there are lots of those and that I learn about a new one almost every week, I had to narrow my search. I've been working and learning Groovy on Grails which is all based on the JVM since then. What sold it to me was the fact that Groovy is a language very similar to Python, which I know, and that Grails is a web framework that integrates all the necessary technologies to get a decent site up and running thanks in big part to the amount of plugins available for it.

Like grayhairmomma says, it's a humbling experience.

1 point by jacquesm 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, web programming is hard. The amount of techniques and the haphazard way in which they interact (jsonp??) are terrible compared to 'real' software development in a controlled environment.

But you really should be grateful for that. If it were easy a large number of us would not be earning what we do because things that are easy tend to devalue quickly.

Remember when being able to write HTML would net you $80 / hour?

Ten or fifteen years from now, when web programming is 'easy' you just might long for the times when web programming was hard but you could basically name your price if you were competent at it.

2 points by curiousyogurt 1 day ago 0 replies      
I made the jump from Objective-C/Cocoa development to web app development after Startup School this year. Two things surprised me when I really got down to coding my initial project. First, the sheer number of technologies involved in developing my web app. For me, that's Ruby on Rails, Javascript, jQuery, Ajax, HTML, CSS.

Second, the lack of integration between the various technologies was surprising. I often knew what I wanted a particular page to do, and the solution was to learn a new technology, and then figure out how to shuffle data between the new technology and those technologies I was already using.

Integration problems also crop up in the form of mismatches between technologies. For example, I use bignum integers in my code; but ran into all sorts of interesting problems: Ruby/Sqlite work fine; but as soon as I uploaded the app to Heroku, I uncovered issues with how these integers were being stored in the PostgreSQL. And Javascript needs special routines if it is going to handle bignums. I haven't encountered this sort of mismatch on the desktop.

That said, now that I've got a working app, I think the learning curve was in some ways (though not all ways) less steep than the desktop. A couple of reasons for this, I think:

1) The communities share code prolifically. It is not that there is no code sharing going on in desktop development, but code sharing seems much more prevalent in web development. As a new web developer, this makes my job a lot easier not only because I can just plug in code, but also because I can read that code and learn from it.

2) You can get minimal results quite quickly, which is very encouraging. Again, you can get minimal results quickly on the desktop, but the standards are different on the web. In my experience, a desktop app needs a lot more to be minimally functional than a web app, probably because the level of complexity is different. Yes, web apps can be just as complex as desktop apps; but I think a minimally functional web app is in many ways less complex than a minimally functional desktop app. Just think about all the menus, help files, and other accoutrements you need to get a desktop app minimally functional; web apps can get away with less.

3) The web technologies I depend on are more modern. Compared to Objective-C/Cocoa, Ruby is like a dream. Javascript and less so, but only because it seems more like what I'm used to on the desktop. What can I say, I like syntactic sugar and the readability that comes with it.

So, perhaps web programming is hard, but there are several ways travelling the path is made easier - maybe even easier than on the desktop.

2 points by tibbon 2 days ago 0 replies      
Conversely, I think traditional programming seems really hard compared to RoR. I have to think about memory? I have to tell the computer what the variable type is? What are all these funny characters and symbols? I can actually crash the computer with this? What is this compiler thing and all these funny options?

I'm (slowly) trying to re-learn C/C++ after getting decent with Ruby and honestly it just hurts. Few things I do need speed or system access on this level. The verbosity is painful, and you need so much (ugly code) to do so little.

2 points by petercooper 2 days ago 0 replies      
It was funny to read this as I now find client side development ridiculously hard (I last did it frequently > 10 years ago) and difficult to get my head into, whereas even large scale Web development feels quite surmountable or even easy to me. I think it merely proves that what you keep doing, you eventually find natural.
1 point by siculars 1 day ago 0 replies      
When people complain to me about so and so technology related I tell them to relax, breath and consider the millions of things that need to go right in order for you to watch the latest Lady Gaga video on youtube.

I am constantly reminded of this by Louis CK http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

2 points by jallmann 2 days ago 0 replies      
Front-end web work, at its basic level, is not hard in the traditional "let's go shopping!" sense, but what I find maddening is how unintuitive some of it is (CSS, I'm looking at you). Then you have to worry about how broken or incompatible browsers are. I think "pain in the ass" is a more apt term.

When you get deeper into the UX, things like A/B, optimizing load time, scaling the backend, etc, and that is where it becomes less tedious and the domain knowledge required is more respectable.

1 point by Aegean 2 days ago 0 replies      
Web programming is hard but not necessarily intuitive. That's what I dislike about it. Its a heap of different technologies put together in unstructured fashion. This applies to individual technologies as well, take CSS and see how unintuitive a syntax it has.

Web programming is popular because it drives the web. I don't necessarily find it an intuitive programming experience. This way of thinking is the biggest obstacle ahead of the likes of me (hackers for pleasure) for business success, i.e. primarily focusing on what's interesting from an engineering perspective. This approach is sure to fail in business because people always care about the end result. Technology is just a tool to get there.

I guess part of the problem is when you study computer science or engineering in university, you try to learn the best engineering approaches out there and improve on your engineering skills. Then you face real life where the result matters. I cannot really say CSS or javascript is the best technology out there, but they play a crucial part driving the web.

2 points by jarin 2 days ago 0 replies      
It seems like there's always been a little bit of a rivalry between compiled language developers, web developers, and network administrators. Having done all three at high levels, I can say that in my experience web development (top to bottom) requires the most diversity of knowledge, which also makes it the most enjoyable to me. At any rate, I'm going to show this to my game developer buddies next time they give me crap about "working with toy languages"!
1 point by csomar 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the main difficulty for Web Development is the separation between the Front-End and the Back-End. In Desktop development, the two are linked together, so if you want to handle a button click, you do that in the back-end and no other hassles.

However, for Web Development, you'll need something called HTTP POST or GET and you want to improve it with AJAX (and make sure that it still works even without JavaScript). The user input become sensitive, and you have to take into account many other thing to secure your server.

Still, Web Programming is fund. Having a server that answer requests is funny, for me. The author found Web Programming is hard, because it underestimated it.

2 points by catshirt 2 days ago 0 replies      
I oft encounter Java, C++ programmers, etc. who don't understand the fragility of the client. This is difficult to deal with.
1 point by nathanwdavis 2 days ago 1 reply      
There are frameworks full of very high-level abstractions that can make it a lot easier up front. BUT, that only delays it being hard down the road when the abstraction you got for free has to be replaced. Often that time comes very quickly.
3 points by fjabre 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes - it is indeed hard to make something do what it was never intended for.
1 point by donaq 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've not done any embedded stuff, but I've had jobs doing low level c/c++ to interface with poorly documented serial devices passing bit-masked instruction codes and status codes around and I'm now doing web programming and man, all I can say is this: Nothing is easy. If it looks easy for some reason, someone has probably done a lot of difficult work for you previously.
1 point by wnoise 2 days ago 0 replies      

Yes, it's a somewhat different skillset working with somewhat different software, but there's not that much difference.

1 point by englishVoodoo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Is there a need to learn it all though?
I'm a designer at my place and here I do all the html/css work and a bit of jQuery fluff on top of that whenever it's quite basic. I do think that's how most places work.

Of course for a developer it's necessary to have some knowledge of html primarily, but no real need for deep knowledge. Not in my, somewhat limited, experience anyway.

1 point by jaspero 2 days ago 0 replies      
I appreciate the author for recognizing web development. I often stumble upon my 'programming' friends who think web development and especially front-end is boring and trivial. I have hard time explaining how important and how complex things can get.

It's something my fellow hard-core programmer friends will never understand. I love my job and what I do.

Web Development rules!

1 point by mfukar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yeah, web programmers are regular geniuses.
0 points by ataranto 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Desktop GUI can easily be made cross-platform."

lol wut?

Anonymous stops dropping DDoS bombs, starts dropping science boingboing.net
244 points by fredoliveira 2 days ago   85 comments top 9
50 points by pigbucket 2 days ago replies      
The focus of a large portion of media coverage here in the United States since the cables were released has been on the political response to Wikileaks' action, on the allegations of Wikileaks' criminality, on the severing of ties with the organization by major corporations in response to Lieberman et al., and on Assange and his legal woes. All of that is newsworthy, but it has come at the cost of focusing on the stories told by the cables themselves. The things said and done by US agents, in the name of the American people, have been, to judge by the cables I've read, sometimes good, sometimes innocuous, and sometimes unconscionably unethical and criminal. I'm all in favor of any action that brings the focus back where it belongs, and tries to defeat what I suspect has been a deliberate, massive US campaign of noise and distraction, albeit a campaign that increasingly seems of a rather dated style. I'll be massively impressed if Anon can achieve anything close to those stated ends. I understand people's skepticism, and even the occasional condescension, but I'm not ready to dismiss a phenomenon I don't really understand just because the participants are unseasoned and untutored in the art of studied apathy.
13 points by zachbeane 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hey, cool, they used my Lisp program to make it.


8 points by bittersweet 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems interesting and a lot less 'illegal'. There has been 1 arrest so far that I know of, a 16 year old kid from the Netherlands has been arrested for being a part of the MasterCard DDoS. [0]

[0] http://tweakers.net/nieuws/71259/politie-arresteert-16-jarig... dutch)

66 points by jdp23 2 days ago 2 replies      
Good pivot.
24 points by lhnn 2 days ago 2 replies      
Let's see how many anons go from downloading and running LOIC to analyzing documents and uploading audio on Youtube.
18 points by knowaveragejoe 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dunno about science, but this seems like it may actually further wikileaks' goals, as opposed to attacking corporations that are only defending themselves legally.
22 points by Rhapso 2 days ago 0 replies      
Much better Anon, much better.
6 points by orblivion 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not the first time, they did the same thing with Scientology. Though back then it seemed to be an outgrowth rather than the core group that did it.
6 points by trotsky 2 days ago 6 replies      
Boing boing cherry picking the only thing they approve of out of the chaos? There's no evidence that any of the ddos'ers are on board with this at all.

The most amusing thing is the comments section getting bent out of shape at the use of 'gentlemen' in the image as not being inclusive to females. Talk about a culture clash.

Visa.com Now Also Down Under DDoS cnn.com
241 points by thecoffman 4 days ago   256 comments top 33
69 points by tc 4 days ago replies      
I'm reminded of the country song whose chorus goes:

"I've got friends in low places."


[1] I agree, as noted by Nathan below, that this isn't helping Wikileaks' reputation any (despite, of course, WL having nothing to do with this). That's the problem with (and sometimes, benefit of) friends in low places -- no one ever accused them of being sophisticated.

[2] A related thought.... The system consisting of [ Person who leaks info + Wikileaks ] seems to be a modern instance of the Robin Hood archetype. Instead of "robbing from the rich to give to the poor," this system takes information from the powerful and gives it to the (relatively) powerless. Just as with Robin Hood, there's room for debate about the moral characteristics of this approach (particularly on the taking side). And just as with every Robin Hood reincarnation, this system is despised by modern aristocrats.

As I believe pg noted in an essay, during the time-setting of Robin Hood, wealth was nearly a zero-sum game. Today, wealth is not zero-sum, but power still is -- making this archetype all the more fitting.

19 points by DanielBMarkham 4 days ago 9 replies      
So I'm some average merchant, anywhere in the world.

Because of this action, Now I can't make money and support my family.

Aside from your personal feelings, what are the odds I blame Visa, and what are the odds I blame Wikileaks? All of a sudden Visa doesn't work, MasterCard doesn't work, some sites can't be accessed, sometimes the net is slower than it should, etc.

Maybe I'm smoking crack, but from where I sit, the more hackers thrash out over WL, the more ticked millions of people are going to become at both Wikileaks and the hackers involved.

This is a very sad development. People of all opinions need to take an active hand in trying to settle this down as quickly as possible. This is no good for anybody. No good can come from this.

EDIT: If you want to support the idea of leaking to fix governments (and not the massive attack of government nodes through information overload), which I do, then WL needs a standard of conduct: what it will and will not publish. It needs a standard of acceptable behavior: what cyber protests are in line with it's mission and what protests are not.

Without these things, I can't support WL, they're going to lose track of their message and the larger media narrative, and they are going spectacularly shoot themselves and the rest of us in the foot. This is becoming dangerously nihilistic.

49 points by geuis 4 days ago 4 replies      
Is it wrong to think of this at a very high level, where basically the internet as an system that relies on information to function properly has turned on its immune system?

I know this is a very meta idea, and its extremely easy to break this down to the component entities (Visa corporation, thousands of individuals, etc). But under the meta concept, wouldn't that be like individual t-cells talking to each other?

36 points by chailatte 4 days ago 3 replies      
Finally something has pissed off enough geeks. I thought the government's lack of respect towards due-process, the systematic breakdown of basic freedom or the massive wealth transfer to the rich via dollar printing/bailout would've done it.

V for Vendetta.

16 points by netcan 4 days ago 0 replies      
What this whole wikileaks payment processing issue has made me aware of is how bottle-necked this whole area is.

A client of mine a couple of years ago selling personal protection equipment (smoke & hazmat masks, mostly). They were based out of Australia and selling globally. Apparently they breached some US advertising restriction with one of their products (disposable hygienic suit) by having the words bird flu in the description.

Simultaneously to contacting (apparently they tried to contact earlier during US work hours), they contacted paypal and had the account shut down entirely. The US was never a major market so they put a big red sign on the product page: "Not for Sale in the USA." Getting paypal back online took weeks. Whatever department shut them down was not concerned with reversing the damage and paypal seemed like they knew which side to stay on.

Basically, paypal (and apparently visa & mastercard) is the on/off switch that various players within the US government can use. It does not take a high level one off phone call. This is an issue.

19 points by pointillistic 4 days ago 2 replies      
Considering that the Jesus was the original revolutionary and one of his major acts was throwing the money changers out of the Temple, I am stunned about the internalized commercialization of Christmas and the comments that put into question the current protest.

And I am saying this even though I hate DDos viscerally, my business was a victim of such an attack. But I have to say, as long as no one gets killed or injured this is a legitimate form of protest.

6 points by chailatte 4 days ago 0 replies      
There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, think, and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillence coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.
9 points by joshfraser 4 days ago 3 replies      
I wonder how much money Visa and Mastercard have to lose before they regret their decision.

For the attackers, instead of positioning the DDOS attack as revenge, you should give them as an easy-out. Stop blocking wikileaks and we'll stop the DDOS. Since Visa/Mastercard are loosing millions of dollars for each hour they are down, it would turn the issue into a simple business decision and they could change their position without losing face.

11 points by nod 4 days ago 5 replies      
Is this really an attempt to support free speech with a DDOS? Or is there some sort of meta/irony motivation here?
6 points by cosgroveb 4 days ago 3 replies      
The attack on MC supposedly took down SecureCode affecting those payments... Seems like Visa's equivalent, Verified by Visa is still up:


4 points by jonknee 4 days ago 2 replies      
Rumor has it the next target is Authorize.net (I assume not because anything they did but because that's how you actually take down the ability for Visa and MC to function). That would be quite dramatic to say the least.
7 points by goldenthunder 4 days ago 2 replies      
A co-worker Engineer just went down to get frozen yogurt. They couldn't process his card. Apparently they route transactions through their domain DNS?

Suddenly corporate powers don't seem as strong. It's amazing how vulnerable something man made is.

9 points by 12341sa 4 days ago 1 reply      
I find outrageous that compagnies like VISA or MASTERCARD take the right to forbid people to do what _THEY_ want with _THEIR OWN_ money.

Please continue the DDOS until they bankrupt.

3 points by morganpyne 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anybody have any details on the the technical side of these attacks and what happens when anon decides to fire all phasers at a target? My impression is of a loose group of individuals herding a diverse range of botnets and attacks which they bring to force on command from an agreed upon leadership (or a target consensus is reached)?

Are they using the latest bunch of 'best-practices' to take down a site? (e.g. slowloris, UDP flooding, DNS or TCP amplification, TCP SYN attacks, whatever is flavour of the month)

With all the fluff and the bluster being written about them I haven't seen a good technical analysis so I'd love to hear any info you might have.

7 points by binaryfinery 4 days ago 0 replies      
Akamai's stock should be going up.
4 points by hammock 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's not surprising to me why the shutdown of Wikileaks donation channels, as opposed to TSA or any of the other civil liberties breaches, triggered such rage.

The answer is simple: People get fucking pissed when they can't spend their money where they want to.

And it holds throughout history.

2 points by araneae 4 days ago 0 replies      
I should point out that Visa itself hasn't actually decided to stop payments to WikiLeak- only Visa Europe, its subsidiary. The people that run Visa.com are only responsible for selling Visa Europe the rights to use the name.
3 points by goldenthunder 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is a weird subject because it is totally dual sided.

1) It promotes freedom of speech and taking action as a community to promote change.

2) It is completely illegal which goes against the laws and freedoms they are trying to promote.

Right Idea - Wrong Method

2 points by sukuriant 4 days ago 1 reply      
There are so many active topics on the DDoS's happening today. I now wonder. What happens if Anonymous wins? If, under the pressure, Visa gives and succumbs to their wishes? What happens then?
1 point by frisco 4 days ago 0 replies      
CapitalOne account center is down for me; I was trying to log in to access a Visa card. Coincidence? I have no idea why they'd be synchronously connected, but odd timing.
1 point by llimllib 4 days ago 0 replies      
They had all day to prepare for this and they failed?

edit: up for me, at least.

1 point by futuremint 3 days ago 0 replies      
I pity the poor sys-admins whose pagers are interrupting their late-night hacking. Visa & MC probably don't care at all (they're swimming in plastic money!), its the front-line guys that are feeling this the most!
1 point by tocomment 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does this actually hurt visa? Wouldn't visa.com just Be a showcase type website eg "hey here's what visa is, here are some ringtones you candownload"

I'd imagine all their transaction processing happens elsewhere.

1 point by sdizdar 4 days ago 3 replies      
Both Visa and MasterCard are down. This just shows how fragile the internet is and how 'easy' is to shut down the entire economy and system.

The point is that coordinated attack by terrorists or plain old criminals can cripple the entire world's economy and there is no easy and effective way to prevent it.

We do need to think about how internet can be re-organized to be 100% distributed system to prevent this of happening again.

1 point by FirstHopSystems 3 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like Paypal is down too. Well only the server that redirects you to the secure page.

Just use the full path "http://www.paypal.com or "https://www.paypal.com

We took down Chevron by spray painting over one of the signs at a gas Station. CHEVRON IS DOWN!!!!!

3 points by keiferski 4 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like they're redirecting it to USA.visa.com
1 point by tkahnoski 4 days ago 3 replies      
DDoS strikes me as a violent form of protest.

Has anyone started a non-violent protest (offline or digitally) for WikiLeaks?

EDIT: Rethinking my statement on DDoS as violent. I am still interested in knowing if there are other non-DDoS protests surrounding WikiLeaks.

0 points by InclinedPlane 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm sure it's the US government! Or... not.

Turns out that DDoS is a dime a dozen today, they don't necessarily mean anything.

0 points by b1tr0t 4 days ago 1 reply      
And I haven't even seen any comments on the possibility of this being a smear campaign to tarnish Wikileaks further in the media?

I'm just saying, if you wanted to completely discredit an organization what's the fastest way to go about doing so?

Step 1: Manufacture accusations against it's founder for which there is no defence, where the individual is guilty before a trial even begins. Oh, I don't know, how about accusing a man of a sex crime? (Especially a funny looking foreign one!)

Step 2: Manufacture scary "hackers" who do scary "hacker" things. Hide your children!

Step 3: Let CNN and Fox do what they're paid to do. Spin and spin and spin.

1 point by balac 4 days ago 0 replies      
You have to think that paypal is also being attacked, in that case I am pretty impressed that they are managing to stay up while mastercard and visa get sunk.
0 points by faragon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Better attack: reduce the credit card usage, and try to pay more with cash. Spread the word.
0 points by itsnotvalid 3 days ago 0 replies      
Unless someone reputable stands out and make a statement, no one could be sure if this act is associated with WikiLeaks.
-1 point by toephu 4 days ago 1 reply      
its up now
Dropbox for Teams dropbox.com
237 points by johns 3 days ago   104 comments top 24
37 points by zefhous 3 days ago 8 replies      
This is pretty exciting. Great news!

I would love to use this for a number of things I'm involved with, but I am surprised by the package that is offered.

I'm not saying that what they offer (1 year of 350 GB for $800) is not worth the price, but I am disappointed that there isn't a smaller package.

My needs for this kind of thing are more like 10-20GB. The team features are very attractive, but there's no way I am going to sign up for a package that large.

I'm sure Dropbox has put a lot of thought into the decision though. I'm very curious about where they are going with this and if they will ever offer a smaller team account.

Personally I'd love to see a team account somewhere around $10 a month for 10 GB and 5 users. Basically same price as their Pro 50 individual account, but with 5 users and 1/5th of the capacity.

9 points by smoody 3 days ago 6 replies      
I've read through dropbox's security PDF and I still have a lingering question: What prevents employees/intruders from looking at your dropbox files stored on the server?

As I understand it (and perhaps I'm wrong), your dropbox password is not your encryption key. The fact that I can change my password and then still have instant access to all of my data (ie - it is not batch re-encrypted with new key) all but confirms this, correct? If that's the case, then it implies that, somewhere on their servers, they store an encryption key for each user (or gasp a single encryption key for all users).

If that's the case and someone is able to access those keys (employee, breakin, etc.), then they can decrypt the data for any user.

If this is all true, then this makes the service too risky (for me) for anything that could be considered medium to high security. I'd prefer it if the good folks at dropbox offer me the option to provide my own encryption key that is only known to me and is provided by me each time I want to gain access to the dropbox files.

12 points by hop 3 days ago 4 replies      
If they charged $65/month, rather than $795, I bet they would have 10x more customers for this. How many people would buy cable if it was $1000/year, ditto for cell phones, Basecamp, Salesforce, etc. A little pricing psychology can make a massive difference.
6 points by swombat 3 days ago 2 replies      
That's a pretty steep price point for small startups that need to watch the pennies. So if you have 7 active team members who need to save files as well as read them (quite a lot for a bootstrapping startup), it's still cheaper to get 7 Pro 50 accounts than to get this.

In fact, given that Dropbox Pro 50 is $100/user/year and this scales up at $125/user/year, Dropbox Pro 50 remains cheaper forever. So the only reason to upgrade to this is if you need more than 50GB of team storage.

Bad pricing for startups.

12 points by gst 3 days ago 4 replies      
Although the website mentions that "files are encrypted to military-grade standards" that doesn't help if secure client-side encryption is missing.

The best encryption doesn't help (me as a user) if I'm not the one in control of it. And even if I would fully trust Dropbox this does not help, as Dropbox must still surrender the data if, e.g., requested by law enforcement (which would not be an issue if the data were encrypted on the client, so that the user is the only one able to decrypt it).

Using software like encfs inside a Dropbox container does not help either. Once I start hacking around on such solutions it's easier to just use a service with client-side encryption. So if anyone from Dropbox is reading this: Consider this as a "feature request". I absolutely love the way how Dropbox works, but right now I don't really use it due to this security issue.

14 points by BvS 3 days ago 2 replies      
Honest question: What's wrong with using the normal Basic, Pro 50 or Pro 100 Accounts with a whole team? Obviously you have to share an account but if the dat should be available to everyone, what's wrong with that?
5 points by telemachos 3 days ago 2 replies      
The idea sounds great, but I really think that they need a few more pricing points/models. As an example, I work at a school. It would be great to be able to use this for students and teachers, but my use case is far more than five users but far less than 350GB of storage needed. Some flexibility in the plans would be great.
11 points by drpancake 3 days ago 1 reply      
I work at a large corporate. We're not allowed to use Dropbox, but I do and so do many of my co-workers.

Value + convenience > Consequences of being caught

This concept is great - and no doubt you've thought about what I'm about to suggest. But how about an on-site managed solution? These IT departments simply aren't allowed to put stuff in the cloud!

Remember, there's pretty much ubiquitous hate all-round for Sharepoint.

4 points by strooltz 3 days ago 0 replies      
We use dropobox pretty much as a "file server" at the office and my biggest issue has always been the lack of ability to assign permissions/roles. i'm glad they incorporated this much needed feature but at that price point there is a 0% chance we'll be upgrading. The attraction of dropbox, at least for myself and other small business/startups, seems to be the low cost of entry for

1) reliable and relatively secure backups

2) access over multiple computers, networks, devices

3) versioning

i only wish they had remembered the "low cost" part when adding the new functionality because at that price point it's better for me to just set up X number of s3 buckets and assign users/roles to each bucket and let them mount the drive via transmit 4 or sign up for jungledisk. yes, not as eloquent but it'll work for our needs.

11 points by aristidb 3 days ago 0 replies      
One question that I don't find the answer to:

Is it possible to link a computer to both a personal and a team account?

4 points by whereareyou 3 days ago 0 replies      
Aaaaaaaaaaand this is the best news I have heard all week. We have eight 100GB accounts at my company. Shared quotas and central admin are what we have been dreaming about. I started using Dropbox in its beta, and it is beautiful to watch this baby grow up.
4 points by thibaut_barrere 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't be surprised to see this becoming their main income at some point (time will tell). Well done!
5 points by jeffiel 3 days ago 0 replies      
Needs to have more admin permissions, like seeing all the shares, restricting sharing outside of the team, enforcing deletion of shares when people are booted, etc. It's a good start though to replacing the old file share box.
3 points by urza 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well I am staying with Wuala.. Just as easy for teams to collaborate as with the new dropbox team feature. In fact it is easy to be part of multiple teams or groups, have your private space and public sharings, no space limits (if you share space), better security.. I think Wuala deserves much more love.
(I am not affiliated with Wuala in any way, I am just a happy user wandering why such a great product is not more popular)


2 points by jason_slack 3 days ago 1 reply      
I had a simple e-mail exchange with a DropBox Sales person about Team a few days ago where I told them I was interested because I need more than 100gb of space, but $795 was huge.

They never got back to me......

3 points by Imagenuity 3 days ago 4 replies      
A lot of businesses can replace their file server(s) with this setup. No backup worries. Can get to it from anywhere. Files are automatically sync'd. The local server is archaic. Server in the cloud!
1 point by jfb 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hmmm. That's almost a low enough price for me to take it, even as I don't need the enterprise features. I do need the extra space, however.
1 point by kineticac 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's hard to see this work for smaller startups. Dropbox has always been for smaller consumers, at least the free version. Dropbox for Teams seems like a good step for bigger companies that share a lot of large files. Internet startups probably can just upgrade their individual plans and manage their files wisely.

I'd like a small team version, that would be pretty sweet. 50GB would suffice.

1 point by roel_v 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is awesome. I couldn't find any info on how locking would work though - Word's temporary files that it uses to detect simultaneous opened filed aren't sync'ed to Dropbox (for good reason). Anyone any idea how this works?
1 point by pclark 3 days ago 0 replies      
I know tons of companies that'd pay this much just for the versioning of local files. (non developers
2 points by jkahn 3 days ago 1 reply      
Great and a much needed product... But isn't it a bit of an expensive entry point compared to the alternatives? Check out the current prices of box.net and sugar sync.
1 point by Mistone 3 days ago 1 reply      
more appropriate name would be: "Drop Box for Big Companies, or Drop Box Enterprise edition."

I was really excited until I hit the pricing page. Should so a small biz edition at $25-$50 per month for 3-4 people.

1 point by esun 3 days ago 2 replies      
Jungledisk workgroup is a smaller package, but for a lot less money. Also, storage fees are per gb, which is nice. We use it for our 4 person team and pay about $20 a month. Same encryption and shared storage features.
1 point by thibaut_barrere 3 days ago 1 reply      
really curious - the linked twitter account shows an "ENTP" profile.

Is this classification widely used in the US ? I'm in France and only saw that with psychologically-savvy consultants.

Mark Zuckerberg Agrees to Give Away Fortune wsj.com
237 points by jakarta 3 days ago   193 comments top 32
41 points by lionhearted 3 days ago replies      

I wonder if all these very public proclamations are going to shift people's attitude towards taxes? Most people think of the government as wasteful, inefficient, incompetent, and corrupt to more or less degrees, and I know I'd prefer to see money allocated by smart people like Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg than by politicians who need to keep constituents happy and win votes.

I committed a while back to giving 10% of my income to charity henceforth, probably for my whole life. I know I've felt much better when I raised money for St. Jude's or Grand Ormond Street children's hospitals than when I wrote a check to the IRS to fund the latest special interest-fueled debacle.

There's a "the evil rich are against us" narrative in movies and stories a lot, but I wonder if the perception will start to change when all the good from these endeavors is realized. I think it's quite likely that smart people allocating resources intelligently will do 10x, 20x, 50x more good with the money than a politician possibly could.

72 points by DevX101 3 days ago 3 replies      
After someone asked Warren Buffet why he wanted to give away all of his fortune, he replied:

"I want to leave enough money to my children that they can do anything, but no so much that they will do nothing".

26 points by petenixey 3 days ago 3 replies      
I happen to have just watched a brilliant TED talk on the value of angel investment (not aid) in Africa. The talk underlined how it is capitalism rather than charity that creates wealth.

It would be wonderful to see some of SV's glitterati create more for-profit investment networks (bigger than Kiva, smaller than VC (...YC?)) in other hungry markets.

Kudos to Mark for committing to this. If he applies his product-brilliance to how he goes about it I'm sure he will do wonderful things.

(Alexis this has your name written all over it BTW ;)

27 points by narrator 3 days ago 3 replies      
I think if Mark wanted to give back to the world he should do what Elon Musk is doing and start high risk businesses that can create widespread beneficial change in the world.
5 points by grandalf 3 days ago 5 replies      
I think of this as sort of a cop out (on the part of all the people who do it). If you're good at business, then you can have a far bigger impact by creating businesses than by simply giving your money to some charity.

It's ultimately a socially lauded thing to do that divorces the donor from any ultimate responsibility for the amount of "greater good" done with the funds. I think they do it out of fear that they were a lucky, one-hit wonder... and out of low self-esteem or fear of the angry mob.

YC is a great example of a way to use wealth to make a real difference. PG uses his acumen to help a lot more people level up. This multiplies wealth. Spending it on charities simply redistributes it.

It makes me very pessimistic to see that the world's wealthiest people feel the need simply to pledge the money away, and no need to risk total failure by going out on a limb to do something bigger than whatever got them there.

What if Bill Gates tried some long shot idea and it flopped? What if Zuckerberg or Case did? That would take real courage. This pledge nonsense reminds me of the self-satisfied smirks people emit when publicly putting money into the collection basket in a church. Why isn't one of these rich guys going to bat for Wikileaks? (Probably because it feels a lot better to be praised all the time for being such a great person by all the sycophants trying to get you to write a check!)

13 points by quizbiz 3 days ago 3 replies      
How much liquid wealth does Mark actually have? Isn't the vast majority of it purely theoretical based on Facebook equity purchases?
19 points by burgerbrain 3 days ago 5 replies      
I'd rather see more people following the lead of Elon Musk than Bill Gates. Instead of throwing money at problems that will always exist and producing no real value, Musk is creating high-tech jobs and advancing the state of humanity.
6 points by markbao 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is really great to hear. We need more of this.

I'd pledge if I had any hugely significant sum like the others in the pledge, but alas.

5 points by j4pe 3 days ago 2 replies      
There is no reason for Facebook to go public anytime in the near future. It will be more and more revenue positive as it refines its advertising model. Zuckerberg's contribution is therefore worth very little at the moment, outside of the tremendous commitment it implies for Mark. At some point, he will probably control huge amounts of wealth and it's bold of him to sign away most of the cash before he ever has control over it.

But wouldn't it be amusing if Facebook were to go the way of preceding social networks, and leave the "world's youngest billionaire" looking a little silly for pledging a fortune that never materialized?

8 points by Jun8 3 days ago 1 reply      
AFAIK, Jobs has still not committed.
3 points by yason 3 days ago 0 replies      
If I had billions I would certainly pay great attention to where I would put that money to work in order to create most goodness and wealth out of it. I would be wary of many charities as groups can get as confused from big money as individuals do.
1 point by ramanujan 3 days ago 0 replies      
There is at least one billionare who is thinking different:


That's a story about the eight philanthropies Thiel is funding, which are much more oriented along the lines of "give a man the plans for a new fishing machine" than traditional philanthropy.

3 points by keiferski 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's certainly commendable to give away a vast fortune, and I don't want to take away from this honorable act in any way.

But I wonder why more ridiculously wealthy entrepreneurs don't, ya know, preneur? Especially in the nonprofit "make a difference space".

A billion dollars to charity is cool. You know what's really cool? A billion dollars towards a celebrity billionaire-spearheaded do-good project. (Or 1 million dollars each towards 1000 projects, etc.)

Maybe I'm missing something, and I'm certainly no billionaire, so I probably am. But if I were a billionaire, I'd be more interested in angel investing (in promising, impactful projects) and my bringing my own ideas to life.

But I digress. Bravo to the billionaires. Really, this is awesome.

2 points by meric 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is great; Rather than having government's and or NGO employees who pulls normal salary and aren't experienced in efficiently managing the spending of billions of dollars of development aid and end up harming the recipients, we are now getting the billionaires - people who excel at efficiently investing billions of dollars to reap billions more - to allocate these resources.
3 points by nhangen 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is from the PDF on the giving pledge website:

"The pledge does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations. The pledge asks only that the individual give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organizations either before or after their death."

Interesting way to do this. I still don't really understand the need for a pledge of this magnitude, but at least they aren't pooling the money or soliciting for specific causes.

That being said, I still think Zuck is far too young to make such a strong commitment.

3 points by scorpion032 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if you can buy real groceries using facebook stock, yet.
2 points by paulitex 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hey Sergey, Larry, and Steve, heads up.

These guys all have around the same net worth as Zuck, but much more liquidity. Sergey "don't be evil" Brin's absence from the list is a particularly curious... Anyone know what his philanthropic track record is like? Is it mostly through Google.org?

3 points by code_duck 3 days ago 2 replies      
I find it odd how people such as Gates and Zuckerberg obsessively stomp down their competition through any means possible, and then turn around and grandiosely pledge to give away their gains.
3 points by webXL 3 days ago 1 reply      
You can give it away while you're alive, or split it between your loved ones and the state when you die. I think it would be more fun giving it away to those most in need rather than enriching those who've already had a pretty good life... and your loved ones, too.
1 point by iterationx 3 days ago 0 replies      
Stating that the global population was heading towards 9 billion, Gates said, “If we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services (abortion), we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 per cent.”

Another billionaire signs up for Gate's depopulation agenda.

2 points by jiganti 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's commendable for anyone to give away their money, but especially so when it's a guy in his mid-twenties.
2 points by chopsueyar 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yet since his wealth is from his ownership stake a company that has yet to list on the stock market, much of that wealth is theoretical at this point.
2 points by reneighbor 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like that it's about thinking how to give responsibly and effectively, pledging early in life so they can put their creativity to good use, as the article says. People who sign are trading ideas and logistical advice, it's like a book club for philanthropy.
1 point by tomjen3 3 days ago 6 replies      
Well, this will properly be nice for those who receive those founds, but I have to wonder why he did it. Why get a fortune just to give it away?
1 point by beeeph 3 days ago 0 replies      
Someone once said, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." If you ask me, this just might do it for Zuck. Congrats Man! I hope you find yourself surprised by how many other young entrepreneurs follow suit. But seriously, do yourself a favor, quit renting your little college house and buy yourself a little home while interest rates are still low.
1 point by SoftwareMaven 3 days ago 1 reply      
The big question will be does Zuck's fortune liquify at anywhere near the level that it is now. :)
1 point by toephu 3 days ago 1 reply      
zuckerberg doesn't even have $10mil cash, let alone billions.
it's all on paper.
0 points by stretchwithme 3 days ago 0 replies      
After much cajoling, I have agreed to accept it.
0 points by minow12 3 days ago 0 replies      
Would be better spent donating that money to research. Technology helps way more people than food stamps do.
-4 points by RtodaAV 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wouldn't.
-1 point by jrockway 3 days ago 0 replies      
This makes it okay that he sells my list of friends to advertisers!
-1 point by nhangen 3 days ago 0 replies      
With great wealth, comes great power, and with great power, comes the ability to change the world.

Though I loathe the way he's built Facebook, I trust someone like Zuck with several billion more than I trust someone without the ability to earn it. Who is going to be managing this money, and where is it going? Is this just a pledge, with no strings attached?

The article isn't very forthcoming, and neither is the website: givingpledge.org

I don't understand what's happened with Gates, and though I admire his sentiment, I think putting pressure on young entrepreneurs, who already have thousands of voices in their heads, is a wrong move.

Call me callous, but this whole thing seems insane. Mark can do more good with his money by building new technologies than this fund could do manage multiple billions of dollars. It's rare that money on that scale is managed well.

What's really wrong with BlackBerry mobileopportunity.blogspot.com
227 points by macrael 1 day ago   65 comments top 15
15 points by mortenjorck 21 hours ago 1 reply      
The story of the Torch contacts list debacle is just astounding. How on earth could a system ship with redundant, easily-desynchronized versions of the contacts database? To me, that says the architectural problems run deep, and further, that there's no effective user experience apparatus in place to even try to deal with the usability problems that inevitably bubble up from it.

One thing the author doesn't really touch on, though, is the acquisitions that would appear to be directed right at remedying these problems. QNX has already been integrated into the Playbook, and by all appearances it's destined for BlackBerries, where hopefully it will sport things like a non-ludicrous contacts list API. The acquisition earlier this month of Swedish UI design firm TAT shows they understand that need, and could actually be a huge turnaround if TAT is actually given enough latitude within the company.

24 points by alanh 22 hours ago 5 replies      
Remember how everyone likes to note that Apple is never afraid to obsolete itself? Killing OS 9 to start completely new in OS X… Aggressively and constantly re-imagining the iPod… Replacing the iPod (effectively) with a completely new touch-based system (iOS)… beginning the revolution from PCs to iPad-style devices (they are selling as many iPads as they are computers, now).

When has Blackberry ever really dared to cannibalize itself?

8 points by Legion 23 hours ago 2 replies      
>> "Yes, Android is doing well, but neither RIM nor Apple is giving away its operating system, so it was close to inevitable that Android would eventually get the unit lead"

How is that any kind of rebuttal? How does saying that it was inevitable Android would eat up a bunch of market share hand-wave away the fact that it was really bad for RIM's situation that it happened?

>> "Yes, RIM's not good at sexy marketing, but it has always been that way."

Again with the rebuttals that don't actually make a point that helps RIM's case. The fact that RIM has always been poor at marketing doesn't somehow make it OK. Especially since now, as pointed out above, Android is eating up share. RIM's inability to market is becoming more of a liability. Saying "gee, it's always been that way" does not legitimately hand-wave the issue away.

Saying that the criticisms against RIM are "superficial and petty" and offering those kinds of nonsense counterarguments against them drove me up the wall.

18 points by timtadh 22 hours ago 7 replies      
"Yes, Android is doing well, but neither RIM nor Apple is giving away its operating system, so it was close to inevitable that Android would eventually get the unit lead."

If that is true, why doesn't the Linux desktop have the unit lead? I mean its free, installable on everything, and easily obtainable. This kinda of reasoning simply does not hold. There a loads of reasons why Android is doing well, but I don't think that being free is necessarily one of them.

[Edit: I should note that other than that one line, I thought his analysis was excellent.]

5 points by Silhouette 21 hours ago 1 reply      
I think the Torch is going to be RIM's Vista. They released a supposedly premium mobile device that in practice had obvious deficiencies even relative to products that rival brands had already established in the market for some time. When has that ever worked out well?

FWIW, when I was looking into mobile support for a start-up I'm involved with, using Blackberries was the obvious choice: business focus, we all prefer keyboards to touch screens, etc. Unfortunately, after much time looking through RIM's web site trying to figure out which of the various centralised IT systems we're setting up could easily be hooked into Blackberries for mobile access, I had gone nowhere. Their web site is full of buzzword bovine excrement, but it told me little or nothing about what sorts of protocols were supported for e-mail, calendaring, etc. They kept mentioning integration with a couple of big name tools like Exchange Server, which might be helpful for larger and more established businesses that use that kind of tool, but the fact is, we're a start-up on a budget and we don't. We're also a start-up with finite time to consider our options for infrastructure stuff like phones that don't actually make a product we can sell, and RIM's time expired before I had even scratched the surface of knowing what I needed to know.

8 points by alanh 22 hours ago 1 reply      
The argument that Apple has a much rosier future than RIM cannot possibly be distilled to “Apple has better marketing.” They do… but their phone also don't make you want to tear your eyes out. (I am not under the impression that our author thinks it's all marketing, but Business Insider sees it more or less that way.)
17 points by Isamu 23 hours ago 4 replies      
Very insightful analysis. At the very least read the section "How a computing platform dies" - this is the first I've seen that perspective. I wouldn't mind reading more about this.
1 point by SandB0x 15 hours ago 2 replies      
In the last year I have seen a lot of new BlackBerry users in London. However, the majority of these have been teenagers on the bus using some entry level model, which is available on pay-as-you-go, or with a very cheap contract. I get the impression this was not their first choice of phone, and I think this (anecdotal evidence) matches the author's analysis.

All the older BlackBerry users I know have switched to iPhone/Android, and at most carry their BB as a secondary, mandated work phone. One friend complained that "it's like they took an old desktop pc and just decided to shrink all the icons".

I hope RIM can pull it together but it doesn't sound too healthy.

4 points by gbhn 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I found the claim that RIM's market is saturating to be suspicious. What was smartphone penetration in the US three years ago? It is only about a third even today, after huge growth. In many parts of the world growth in the last three years has been even more explosive.
1 point by ntownsend 5 hours ago 0 replies      
RIM has extremely talented engineers and developers, but it does not have a culture where engineers can say "We are doing the wrong thing" and have any decision-makers take notice. This is the fundamental problem with RIM. They have completely failed to effectively use the talent they have. If I were another technology company, I would definitely be trying to poach talent from them.

(Disclaimer: I'm a former RIM employee.)

3 points by juiceandjuice 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I heard that blackberry has completely separate teams that work on each OS subrelease, meaning that the 4.6 guys don't talk to the 4.7 guys, who didn't talk to the 5.0 guys. Developing anything for the blackberry over more than one OS release is a complete and utter nightmare. Even after that, you have to worry about carrier differences, BES vs. BIS devices, and a ton of other things.

In the App driven world, BB development cycles tend to run 1.5-2x longer than iOS and Android because of the inconsistencies, even for seasoned devs, at least at my last company.

BB will die because nobody will develop for it.

2 points by Isamu 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Several years ago I did some development on the BlackBerry platform and was shocked at their api - got the distinct impression they were coasting. I think they only started to get back in the game in response to iPhone and Android. I still get the feeling they wouldn't have updated as much if not for the competition.
1 point by AlexMuir 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Just compare the share prices of RIM, Apple, Nokia and HTC (shows as 2498):


It's clear that HTC and Apple are taking off. Nokia's peak was around 2000, with a second (dead cat bounce) at the end of 2007. RIM's peak was 2008 - and that correlates with my experiences.

2 points by VladRussian 19 hours ago 0 replies      
once i saw who were among recent RIM's hires, it immediately gave me the understanding what the environment inside RIM is like.

>it seems to have lost the ability to create great products.

yep, that's natural in such an environment.
Pundits can discuss various small details of marketing, product, leadership ... It all just noise. Once the rot has spread through the company ... Everybody who worked in similarly failed companies can recognize the symptoms.

1 point by rorrr 9 hours ago 0 replies      
RIM is a one trick pony. If they don't innovate like Apple, they will be irrelevant very quickly.
Staging Servers, Source Control & Deploy Workflows, And Other Stuff kalzumeus.com
210 points by revorad 11 hours ago   43 comments top 16
15 points by nostrademons 6 hours ago 3 replies      
A few other things:

One-click rollbacks. It's really, really important that when you deploy a release to the production servers, you can un-deploy it with a single click or command. That means all changes should be logged, and all the old files should be kept around until the next release. You hopefully won't have to use this often, but when you do, it's a lifesaver to be able to say "Okay, we'll rollback and fix the problem at our leisure" rather than frantically trying to get the servers back online.

Staging/production configs. If you do need to have differences between staging & production configs, try to limit them to a single overrides file. This should not contain app config that changes frequently, and should be limited to things like debug options and Patrick's "don't e-mail all these people" flag. Check in both the staging and production config overrides, but don't check in the actual filename under which the system looks for them. On the actual machines, cp the appropriate config to the appropriate location, and then leave it there. This way it doesn't get blown away when you redeploy, and you don't need to manual work to update it on deployment. (I suppose you could have your deployment scripts take a staging or production arg and copy it over appropriately, but this is the poor-man's version.)

Deployment schedule. I'd really recommend having a set, periodic deployment schedule, maybe even run off a cronjob. The problem with manual deployments is they usually happen only when people get around to it, and by then, dozens of changes have gone in. If something goes wrong, it's hard to isolate the actual problem. Also, deploying infrequently is bad for your users: it means they have to wait longer for updates, and they don't get the feeling that they're visiting a living, dynamic, frequently-updated website.

The holy grail for deployment is push-on-green. This is a continuous-integration model where you have a daemon process that continually checks out the latest source code, runs all the unit tests, deploys it to the staging server, runs all the functional & integration tests, and if everything passes, pushes the software straight to the production servers. Obviously, you need very good automatic test coverage for this to work, because the decision on whether to push is completely automatic and is based on whether the tests pass. But it has big benefits for both reliability and morale as team size grows, and big benefits for users as they get the latest features quickly and you can measure the impact of what you're doing immediately. I believe FaceBook uses this system, and I know of one team inside Google that has the technical capability to do this, although in practice they still have some manual oversight.

Third-party software. I know Patrick recommended using apt-get, but I'm going to counter-recommend pulling any third-party code you use into your own source tree and building it with your own build tools. (Oftentimes you'll see all third-party software in its own directory, which makes it easier to audit for license compliance.) You should integrate in a new version when you have a big block of spare time, because it'll most likely be a long, painful process.

There are two main reasons for this. 1) is versioning. When you apt-get a package, you get the most recent version packaged version. This is not always the most recent version, nor is it always compatible with previous versions. You do not want to be tracking down a subtle version incompatibility when you're setting up a new server or deploying a new version to the production servers - or worse, when you rollback a change. (If you do insist on using apt-get, make sure that you specify the version for the package to avoid this.)

2.) is platforms. If you always use Debian-based systems, apt-get works great. But what if one of your devs wants to use a MacBook? What if you switch hosts and your new host uses a RedHat-based system? The build-from-source installers usually have mechanisms to account for different platforms; open-source software usually wants the widest possible audience of developers. The pre-packaged versions, not so much. And there're often subtle differences between the packaged versions and the source - I recall that PIL had a different import path when it was built & installed from source vs. when it was installed through apt-get.

5 points by mixmax 4 hours ago 0 replies      
"...until that day when I accidentally created an infinite loop and rang every number in the database a hundred times."

A developer that worked for me did exactly this a few years ago, only instead of ringing numbers he sent them overcharged SMS messages. I had to call up every single affected customer and explain to them why they had just received 50 SMS messages that cost them $5 a pop. After that I of course refunded the money - only problem was that the SMS gateway charges 40% on each transaction, which I couldn't get back.

Very expensive mistake.

14 points by SkyMarshal 8 hours ago 0 replies      
>Git is very popular in the Rails community, but there are probably no two companies using git the same way.

For anyone not already aware of it, I recommend checking out Git Flow. It's a set of git extensions that standardize the git workflow:


Some articles:



4 points by larrywright 5 hours ago 0 replies      
An excellent article - these are lessons most people learn the hard way. I'll second the recommendation for using Chef or something like it to manage your system configuration. It makes building new servers based on your configuration trivial (say if you wanted to move VPS hosts). Additionally, if you use Chef, you can use Vagrant[1], you can replicate your production or staging environments locally in VirtualBox.

Also, not to pimp my own stuff, but I wrote a thing about generating test data with Ruby some time ago. I've used this strategy a number of times and it works really well: http://larrywright.me/blog/articles/215-generating-realistic...

[1]: http://vagrantup.com/

7 points by thibaut_barrere 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Good post! I especially appreciated "staging = production - users", simple and easy to remember.

It is so useful to have very similar setups in staging and production.

In particular, I really try to avoid having a different architecture (eg: 32bits vs 64bits, or different versions of ubuntu, or passenger just in production etc). It makes it easier to catch issues earlier.

6 points by pmjordan 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Sorry for nit-picking on an otherwise great post, but:

It is virtually impossible to understate how much using source control improves software development.

Shouldn't that be "overstate"?

6 points by enlil 10 hours ago 2 replies      
I also recommend to have a demo server, to which you can push your latest changes without thinking twice. This way, demoing new features to the customer or testing your deployment script does not change the staging box.
This way you can have your staging deploy be a much more realistic test run of your production deploy. You only push to staging, when you are about to push to production. Otherwise you might get state differences between the two like outstanding migrations that need to be run on one server but not on the other one. Typically things like that beak you neck during deployment to prod, so you want to test that. But you still want to have a faster way of getting features vetted by your customer. So you should have demo and staging.
2 points by bryanh 9 hours ago 3 replies      
"...but I'm not Facebook and having capacity problems means that I am probably already vacationing at my hollowed-out volcano lair."

So now we finally know patio11's grand scheme!

But seriously, thanks for the writeup. I am using the lazy man's version control (Dropbox... ;-) ), but I definitely need to more to Git ASAP. I guess before now the time spent learning and setting Git up was better spent doing something else (at least in my mind).

3 points by Goladus 10 hours ago 4 replies      
A third option for the staging database is to do a dump and then scrub the data for security compliance. You may be able to use that database through several development cycles.
1 point by jluxenberg 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm planning to use this git-based deployment workflow sometime soon:


Seems pretty nifty.

3 points by koski 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Other cool stuff that i haven't seen in many places is an environment that is automatically testing that the backups are working.

That's something worth of having as well.

1 point by cpr 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Patrick, how do you compress such hard-won wisdom in such a young person's head, and express it so well at the same time? ;-)
3 points by PaulHoule 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I figured out much of this the hard way. You don't hear people talking about it much because most people who know how to do it are too busy to write about.
1 point by inovica 7 hours ago 0 replies      
For a sandbox for AWS we've just started using Zettar (http://www.zettar.com/zettar/index.php). I'm not affiliated with the company, but I found them when they purchased one of ours.
3 points by swah 5 hours ago 2 replies      
What is a seed script?
1 point by swah 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm using Git and I have a question: when do you commit?
Apple engineer uses Lego to rebuild Antikythera mechanism cnet.com
194 points by gommm 2 days ago   41 comments top 22
18 points by jacquesm 1 day ago 2 replies      
What should really blow your mind is the precision of the original metalworking and gearing, well before the age of clockmaking and watchmaking.

An item like that to spring in to existence without any record of a history leading up to it or a history of devices descending from it really makes you wonder whose imagination it sprang from and why it wasn't recognized that these principles had further application, or, alternatively could point to lots of stuff (including knowledge) getting lost.

14 points by noonespecial 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've always thought that "Math with gears" would be a fascinating elective course and should be included with most engineering programs.
11 points by bryanh 1 day ago 0 replies      
Check out the guy's actual site with tons more technical detail: http://acarol.woz.org/antikythera_mechanism.html

What an impressive achievement. I think this is what we want all of our pet projects to be...

6 points by pavs 1 day ago 0 replies      
He is a long time redditor. Gave some more info in this reddit post: http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/ej948/lego_antikyth...
9 points by jonursenbach 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is probably the first time in my life that my jaw has literally dropped while watching an invention/recreation in action. Absolutely incredible.
17 points by kunjaan 1 day ago 1 reply      
Kudos to the director as well. The video wowed me as much as the machine it self.
6 points by spanx 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just a clarification on the source story. I work at Digital Science, who commissioned this video. Andy had actually already built this device (we didn't sponsor building it), along with a Babbage difference engine. He brought them a long to Sci Foo this year, and i believe the filming took place around that time.

I've seen both the devices in the flesh, and they are little works of art. Not sure if he's planning on building any more.

8 points by evgeny0 1 day ago 1 reply      
The video is definitely very impressive, but I'm still far more impressed by the fact someone made this in 100 BC than that someone re-created it in 2010 AD. I had never heard of the Antikythera mechanism before.
2 points by dmoney 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is offtopic, but it makes me angry every time someone uses Lego (singular) as a collective noun. When I was a kid they were always called "Legos". I never heard someone say "I built X out of Lego". I don't know if it's worse that they try to enforce this artificial use of language, or that everyone goes along with it. "Lego bricks" sounds artificial too, but at least it sounds plural.
3 points by Clarity1992 1 day ago 0 replies      
For me the professional production of the video makes a ridiculous difference to how much I enjoy news like this. It's really nicely put together.

Related to that, the way it was posted on CNET added nothing to the information in the video and reminded me that I'm getting increasingly irked by reposting culture.

Hacker News is good because it links to original content with a snappy title and then space to discuss below. Which leads me to wonder why this item links to the CNET article and not straight to the youtube video?

2 points by Luyt 1 day ago 1 reply      
Brian Dunning wrote an interesting article about the Antikythera Mechanism:


"Astronomers and astrologers probably could not have afforded it. It could have been used as an education tool. Most likely it was built for wealthy Romans who had some interest in its features, probably not too different from early adopters who wanted to have the first iPhone with all the cool apps."

7 points by cbo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Say what you will about Apple, their products, or their business model, but I've always found their engineers to be the pinnacle of quality and hacker culture.
3 points by jonhendry 1 day ago 2 replies      
The same engineer also built a Lego Babbage difference engine:


Anyone know what Mr. Carol works on at Apple?

2 points by damoncali 1 day ago 0 replies      
For those interested in mechanical calulation, check out the Curta Calculator: http://curta.org/

I have one of these. It's amazing.

4 points by ygd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Reminds me of this:
2 points by ck2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Gears doing math and the adding is especially amazing.

Then realize they figured that out over 2000 years ago.

3 points by davidchua 1 day ago 0 replies      
Beautiful! When I first read about Antikythera sometime back, it fascinated me to learn that 2000 years ago, someone has created what seems to be the first computer.

I wonder if the Ancient Astronaut theories could actually hold water.

1 point by curiousyogurt 1 day ago 0 replies      
According to Aristotle, we uncover theoretical knowledge by exploring that which has no practical (action-based) or productive (product-based) result; and what we possess is that which is known only for its own sake, for the sheer pleasure of knowing.

I've often thought a similar distinction can be made in engineering, where the product is created for its own sake, for the sheer pleasure of seeing it exist. This is one of those. An amazing piece of work. Bravo.

1 point by neovive 1 day ago 0 replies      
Truly amazing level of detail! Hopefully the plans are made available for others to learn from.
2 points by CallMeV 1 day ago 1 reply      
Their next task will be to build the Babbage Difference Engine out of Lego.
1 point by gsivil 1 day ago 0 replies      
Does anyone know if some body has created an emulator for the Antikythera mechanism?
How to Fly 35,000 Miles, Visit 4 Continents, 9 Countries, and 15 Cities for $418 nerdfitness.com
190 points by vamsee 3 days ago   107 comments top 20
21 points by mgkimsal 3 days ago replies      
It's certainly cost this person a lot more than $418, because most of this seemed to be earned with credit card reward points. Spend $4k in 6 months and get 75,000 points, etc. So.. great. Spend a lot of money (possibly buying more than you intended to) and get a reward.

I guess being on the other side of the table - a merchant - I resent the whole 'rewards' racket. A) I end up getting charged more as a merchant, and I can't not accept your card. B) It's encouraged a culture of chasing after rewards that often aren't really something you need or end up being hard to use for most people (airline miles).

Yes, there are a few people who can really 'make out' (like this guy) but in the end this is mostly just another way for banks to make extra profits off people's greed ('something for nothing').

"If I were to pay for this adventure with cash and book individual flights, it would cost almost $6,000"

I'm guessing there was a lot more than $6k spent on 'stuff' to get this.

9 points by travisp 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you spend 250,000 frequent flyer points on a vacation, it's not free. This is not just because you had to spend money to get those points (which might have been spent on cash back credit cards for example), but because those points have value (almost as a separate currency) that could be spent on other things (and not just flights).

But, he still got a great deal using the OneWorld Awards program and it's definitely a great option for those who have the free time to do this.

7 points by acgourley 3 days ago 1 reply      
I feel it takes so much mental energy to hack rewards cards that it's a net loss. He's obviously bright, I'm sure he could have used his time simply earning enough money to take his dream vacation.

As far as rewards go, amazon's reward card gives a good return without cognitive effort.

3 points by goatforce5 3 days ago 2 replies      
If you're flying a fair bit anyway, I recommend you look in to doing an AA Platinum Challenge.


It'll help you get bonus miles for flights you're doing anyway, and AA is actually not a bad airline when you have decent status with them.

5 points by ssharp 3 days ago 0 replies      
I thought this was going to be about some super-ineffcient international route, featuring multi-day layovers that was offered for $418 by a carrier.
2 points by snewe 3 days ago 1 reply      
Important caveat:

"I'm not kidding when I say that I spent probably more than 24 total hours in the past three weeks having a blast on this thing creating itineraries, checking mileage, and figuring out where the heck I could go without going over the limit."

1 point by bonsaitree 3 days ago 0 replies      
I can't help but be reminded of "hacking" casino comp systems. Please.

In truth, this trip cost well in excess of $418 due to the other purchases and time tie-ins involved.

I'm all for leveraging advantages, but there's leveraging, and then there's outright "gaming". The former can yield value when you factor in your time & attention, reasonable workflow safety margins, and compliance with spirit of a policy. The latter is merely a mental exercise to optimize a series of transactions around a single parameter, in this case the present dollar cost, to the complete exclusion of externalities.

At least he got some follow-on web traffic for his efforts.

2 points by stevenwei 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cool scheme. For that amount of travel I feel like he should have collected more miles and gone for the first class award (280,000 airline miles required for the same distance flown).

Sure, it requires twice as many miles, but if you're going to be flying multiple transcontinental flights, first class is nothing to scoff at. The total cash value of that many first class flights is going to be far north of $100k, so in some sense you're also getting more value out of it.

2 points by xutopia 3 days ago 3 replies      
I heard about a hack that allowed you to purchase bonds or something with your credit card and then reselling those bonds while racking up air miles.

It was all possible until there was a crack down. This guy essentially did just that.

1 point by chrisaycock 3 days ago 1 reply      
He gets most of his points for sign-up bonuses. He doesn't say the exact number, but it looks like he registered for at least four cards in the span of a year. Applying for a lot of credit in a short amount of time is a great way to hurt his credit score! I wish he'd write a follow-up about what happened to his credit after this experiment.
1 point by rjett 3 days ago 1 reply      
How does a stunt like this affect your credit rating?
5 points by AlfaWolph 3 days ago 0 replies      
So he's Tim Ferriss Jr?
1 point by noodle 3 days ago 0 replies      
huh... interesting post, because i'm in the process of building up miles in order to do the exact same thing. glad to know it works
2 points by Edmond 3 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe he travels for work...easy to do if you charge expenses to your personal card and get reimbursed.
2 points by aeurielesn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Unfortunately, I am not my own boss so I am more concerned on how to get those 6 months to spent.
0 points by kondro 3 days ago 2 replies      
Sounds like fun but the guy must shop to get to the following points in 11 months:

  130,000 American Airline miles
105,000 British Airways Miles
40,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points
25,000 American Express points

I'm only guessing at the spend required for that many points but surely that is $200k - $300k in spend. Surely this blog post isn't accessible to everyone.

Having said that, I admire his sense of adventure to just pull-up stops from his life and travel the world for 9 months. It is something I really need to get around to myself.

1 point by megaframe 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's anice idea... If I could only take a 9 month vacation and retain my job :-(
0 points by gregparadee 2 days ago 0 replies      
$5000 to the winner? Wasent Facebook Chat developed my an intern? I would assume $5000 and a chance to work for Facebook would be a better price.
0 points by ashconnor 2 days ago 0 replies      
Refferal code in the ebook link, you have to be kidding me.
-3 points by jsvaughan 3 days ago 1 reply      
and be personally responsible for nearly 7 tons of CO2 emissions
How to impress Joel Spolsky stackexchange.com
187 points by rlmw 1 day ago   74 comments top 18
58 points by jasonkester 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's hard to believe that we used to get a new story like this every few weeks.

Joel is such an enjoyable author to read that it really doesn't matter what he's writing about. He could be writing about some random Distributed Version Control system you have no intention of using (and he has) and you could still be pretty sure you'd be in for a pleasant 15 minutes.

I hope somebody can convince the guy to put stuff like this up on JoelOnSoftware. I mean sure, somebody might accuse him of blogging again (god forbid), but selfishly it would be nice not to have to rely on HackerNews to find little gems like this for me.

38 points by kevinpet 1 day ago 3 replies      
I thought about writing a blog post once because I think I've finally found the key insight to being a successful engineer. Then I realized it isn't long enough for a blog post.

Simple rule: if you're the smartest person in the room, go look for a room with smarter people in it.

37 points by timmorgan 1 day ago 7 replies      
I don't mean to be dumb, but I really don't get it. How does that story answer the question, other than to imply that in a few years, nothing the OP will have done will matter at all. Sort of sad.
10 points by tptacek 1 day ago 2 replies      
Oh, come on, Joel. Grand Haven isn't that bad. It's only slightly colder than Manhattan, and just 15 minutes further inland you're in a weird Michigan microclimate where they can grow decent wine grapes. The beaches are fucking beautiful --- those are the beaches they shot the end of Road to Perdition on.

And I bet the chairs they give you at that company are awesome.

44 points by kylec 1 day ago 0 replies      
You could start by spelling "Spolsky" correctly
7 points by sizzla 1 day ago 0 replies      
What the story might leave out is that Ashton's family is in a lot of trouble, Mom alcoholic, Dad MIA a long time ago. Mom's boyfriend is a physically abusive guy and thinking about that prick gave him strength to do just one more rep on his 200 lb bench-press routine. He could never quite fit in with the rich "middle class" kids from the big cities, preferring to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon with his high-school buddies, get stoned and listen to 80s hard-rock. On one or two occasions, he read Hacker News but thought ... well, the readers here might get angry but our farm boy thought all of them were sheltered dweebs who did not know a damn thing about how real life is like.

On one of those occasions where their crowd was full of freshman girls who were really looking forward to getting wasted and laid that night, in drunken stupor Ashton heard Wayne calling out to him. He hasn't seen Wayne since he joined the Army 2 years ago. Man it was good to see him again, he's the kind of buddy who'd get in a fight for you without asking a single question. Wayne knows what's up, Ashton thought to himself as they talked about Wikileaks and f__king sh__ up. Giggly girls just kept interrupting his conversation and, irritated, he asked one of them if she would give away a government secret if all it was doing was covering someone's ass for raping some 9 year old dancing boys in Afghanistan. Janice just clammed up and some of her ditsiness immediately disappeared. Not having much to say, feeling put on the spot, a bit shamed and a bit embarassed, she remembered him well that night, but that's another story.

Wayne and Ashton went to Bobbie's Diner to sober up with some greasy burgers and shoot the sh_t. Soon enough they weren't talking about tits, even though Janice had a really nice pair... Wayne kept telling him how much of cool stuff the military really does and how he could hook him up. Man, Wayne knows what's up, he thought to himself. Besides, if it came to working with guys like Wayne or the dweebs in San Francisco, it was a no brainer....

That's at least how Ashton thought about things back then... but then again, he was only 20. Nowadays he spends his time working for DISA on new worms. Everyone needs a botnet nowadays, even the government. It's really cool work, he learned a lot. But he knows damn well that's something he's never going to be able to talk about. At least Wayne gets to post bullshit on Twitter as th3j3st3r, he thinks to himself. His $80k salary is pretty damn good, and even his Mom is better, she dumped that dickwad. Though she is really getting old, all that alcohol just turned har brain to mush and she sometimes doesn't make sense. Maybe it'd be better he went to Silicon Valley, but then, just glancing over at the picture of him, Janice and their adorable 3 year old made him say "fuck no!" loud enough that his officemate looked up at him with that "dude, are you allright?" look.. He would've never met Jen and would probably still be chasing money like a wannabe pornstar in Los Angeles...

27 points by AlexeyMK 1 day ago 1 reply      
I feel like Joel really misses blogging. Good writing is just kind of pouring out of him, spilling here and there.
5 points by bluesnowmonkey 1 day ago 0 replies      
Best way: build something that you know will break, then be prepared to swoop in and fix it. Whenever you fix one bug, add another. Repeat ad infinitum. Some people will be impressed by your resourcefulness. Others will be angry that things break at all, but over time these people will get fed up and leave. Eventually a culture will develop wherein it is accepted that IT systems are just fundamentally unreliable. You will get stable long-term employment, a good salary, and regular (though superficial) praise and deference from everyone around you, including your boss.

This strategy is extremely reliable. I have seen it used successfully at every company I've ever worked at, large and small, in multiple industries.

Another approach is to develop an internal professional ethic and pursue it irrespective of office politics. It's not as good for career stability but you sleep better.

19 points by duck 1 day ago 1 reply      
Funny how the guy that doesn't do anything in the story is named Jeff.
5 points by RiderOfGiraffes 1 day ago 1 reply      
This was a good read, yes, but did anyone here really learn anything new from it? I don't understand why it's go so many upvotes, and I'd really like to know what I've missed.

"Write code that people use, and ship it."

Was there anything else?

7 points by softbuilder 1 day ago 2 replies      
All I can think about is Batman vs. Spock. I mean, it's Spock, right? It's gotta be.
9 points by X-Istence 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think I may be missing the point of the story ...
2 points by rayvega 1 day ago 0 replies      
The writing style of both the posted question and Joel's response gave off such a "Dear Abby" advice column vibe that it was a pleasant, surprising piece to read on a usual by-the-numbers Q&A site. If he ever returns to blogging, a "Dear Joel" format might be an entertaining read.
4 points by rlmw 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Ashton even wrote a macro for Jeff that automated that one task. Jeff didn't want to get caught, so he refused to install it. They weren't on speaking terms after that. It was awkward."

My favourite quote.

2 points by jonsagara 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by EGreg 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow! Spock vs Batman! I never thought about it!
2 points by trobinson 1 day ago 0 replies      
by spelling his lastname correctly?
A reminder for us all: The Hacker News newcomer welcome page. ycombinator.com
183 points by RiderOfGiraffes 2 days ago   58 comments top 12
42 points by retroafroman 2 days ago replies      
My favorite part, which clearly shows that PG understands what the dynamic of a news site and it's users, is when it states:

"The worst thing to post or upvote is something that's intensely but shallowly interesting."

Frankly, I think this happens way too much. Any post about Zuckerberg, Assange, Arrington, and others probably gets way more upvotes than necessary. While they have definitely created interesting things, the product is probably more important than the person.

10 points by dholowiski 2 days ago 1 reply      
That's great- I'm a relatively new user and I didn't know that page existed. I think you should have to read it (like a terms of service) and check I agree before you can create an account.
2 points by praptak 2 days ago 1 reply      
As I'm posting this, the top submission on the /news page is "Why Microsoft Sucks: Hotmail dev team questions need for open standards".

I am guilty of upvoting it. Five seconds of thinking before upvoting would have prevented me from doing so - the linked comment just doesn't support the headline and Microsoft being hostile/oblivious to open standards isn't such big news anyway.

My point is that maybe we should be able to cancel upvotes. This would give upvoters the chance to read the comments (shallow stories usually have some comments pointing out that they are not that interesting) get convinced that they made a mistake and fix it.

Well, I understand that this might not be as simple as decreasing the counter. I suspect that there might be some impact on the ranking algorithm and probably a dozen things I haven't thought about. Still it might be worth it.

3 points by T_S_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
Essentially there are two rules here: don't post or upvote crap links, and don't be rude or dumb in comment threads.

Where there are no bright lines, your side of the road becomes mine. Rudeness banned (mostly). Condescension, upvoted. Dumb, downvoted. Groupthink, upvoted.

My favorite condescension indicator: Post that include the sentence "Sigh."

7 points by Semiapies 2 days ago 0 replies      
People who don't like the posts showing up on the front page should flag more posts. Even if it's too highly-rated to kill a story, flaggings reduct the amount of time a story spends on the front page.
3 points by ajaimk 2 days ago 0 replies      
Probably the greatest reason for Hacker News' success is the fact that PG and many YC associated founders have the access to kill posts. This keeps the trash out and the content in. Also, we need to keep in mind that these people are users of hacker news and not just moderating it.
2 points by jdp23 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very useful. Wish I'd seen it when I first got here ... it'd be great to include a link to it on the main page and mention it in the FAQ.
1 point by ojilles 2 days ago 1 reply      
While it's relatively easy to comment on the stuff that gets to the homepage that shouldn't be there, the actual stories/discussion that don't make it there are a loss to our community.

F.ex. I found the 7 comments and a brief appearance on a thoughtful article like the "Tracking all releases by Etsy" [1] disappointing. That would have been a great discussion, we all together didn't have.

[1]: http://codeascraft.etsy.com/2010/12/08/track-every-release/
(Couldn't find the HN article anymore)

1 point by jschuur 2 days ago 0 replies      
While the welcome page does a great job of explaining the kind of atmosphere it has created and how people should behave, it doesn't explain how it encourages it. In short, blunt words, how do we keep the jerks out?

Someone who wants to be a troll isn't going to be discouraged by a few words in the welcome page. That type of user isn't likely to even read the page in the first place.

On the other hand, that's not the point of a welcome page either. It's to welcome those people that do want to be a friendly new user. However, then I read HN's hypothesis about popular community sites declining in quality, the first thing that went through my mind was 'Oh no, how does HN solve that?'

HN has obviously been successful at it so far. Maybe it's the utilitarian nature of the site. Perhaps HN's biggest benefit here is its name. The subject matter might not be limited to 'hacking', but the thought lingers in people's head when they hear it, and probably keeps a good number of people at bay who would otherwise post the latest Justin Bieber gossip.

1 point by jsarch 2 days ago 0 replies      
I would find it very helpful to have a little blurb on the "Submit" page detailing how to submit to the different subpages (e.g., "ask", "jobs", "offers"). From what I can tell, submissions are automagically placed into the different subpages; one can help this sorting by adding "ASK HN" "SHOW HN" etc. to the title.
-1 point by bhavin 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Does your comment teach us anything?"

HN approach to comments in a nutshell!

-4 points by rokhayakebe 2 days ago 2 replies      
Frankly I believe Hacker News should not allow new registrations any longer.

Edit: Or at least make it invite-only.

Unladen Swallow is dead google.com
168 points by ot 2 days ago   57 comments top 11
41 points by jnoller 2 days ago 2 replies      
No, it's not dead, and I'm sad that this is sitting at the front page, because it's so misleading.

The fact is, it's stalled (https://www.google.com/buzz/bcannon/bZDN1jNZ3uC/Is-this-fina...) - http://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-3146/ was accepted. This means that a branch was made with the intent of merging US into Py3k. Unfortunately, this proved to be a greater task then originally planned. Stalled != Dead.

To quote Collin:
"Unladen Swallow is stalled because merging the code into the py3k-jit branch plain sucks: lots of new compatibility work to be done, lots of corners we had to un-cut, lots of drudge and suffering. It doesn't help that Google is full of far more interesting and influential projects."

So add in the fact that the resources Google had "assigned" to the project got moved/reassigned onto something else, and what you have is a very stalled project. Collin has stated that they hope(d) that other python-core devs would/will step up to help, but everyone is pretty tapped out as it is.

I'm as disappointed as anyone that it's stalled - given it's compatibility with C extensions, potential speedups and future potential, it has been one of the projects I've had the most hope for.

That said, PyPy is also coming along; when they hit 2.7 compatibility and they have drop-in replacement capability, the ecosystem will be very interesting. Competition in the interpreter space is good, and I feel that Unladen's aggressiveness helped spur/move PyPy along.

That said Unladen (in my mind) remains the CPython interpreter's best way of moving into the future. It still has the most promise for that code base.

20 points by jacquesm 2 days ago 5 replies      
This sort of thing is one of the reasons why I'm very careful in picking the pieces that make up the tools that I earn my living with.

Left right and center you're bombarded with 'use this', 'use that', but most of these projects end up not having much staying power and if you depend on them for the running of your business then sooner or later you might end up having to support them.

When I choose an open source component these are the things I like to see in the eco system around it before deciding to jump in (obviously not every project selected will have all of these, but more helps):

- multiple maintainers, active response to patches being sent in

- broad support, using open standards

- preferably a drop in replacement available

- lively community of people willing to help each other out

- two years track record with a good roadmap for future support

- people working on it because they like it, not because they get paid to (this one is probably very counter intuitive when you're looking at this problem from a business point of view, but it is my opinion that people working on something because they like it are automatically in for the long haul).

Every time I've been seduced by new, hot and sexy technology I've come to regret it sooner or later. Old, boring and solid seems to win the race every time.

Running a small shop means that the investment you make in a tool is one of the most important decisions you can make, the wrong decision could cost you a lot of time and/or cripple your company.

I hope that everybody using unladen swallow is able to easily transition to a replacement.

22 points by cawhitworth 2 days ago 3 replies      
Reading the thread, it seems there's still an intention to roll the JIT into py3k at some point, but the project devs don't have the time and the community doesn't seem to have the inclination to take over the work. I think calling it dead might be overstating things slightly.

Or, seeing as this is Python we're talking about: It's not dead, it's just resting.

11 points by rfugger 2 days ago 2 replies      
With PyPy moving ahead so well, I wonder if there's much point to Unladen Swallow anymore. Weren't they always expecting to be a stopgap until PyPy was ready?
8 points by eliben 2 days ago 1 reply      
Are we reading the same page? I don't see anything saying it's dead. Perhaps out of focus, but there's still a plan to merge.
9 points by zacharyvoase 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's not dead, it's just pining for the fjords.
8 points by acme 2 days ago 3 replies      
Unladen Swallow looked very promising, came out with lots of excitement and news. It overannounced and underdelivered. I tend to prefer underannouncing and overdelivering...
8 points by pin4444 2 days ago 1 reply      
Nice editorializing there. I suggest readers who care should read the entire thread, and be careful when they see future posts from "ot".
2 points by pingswept 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is there a wise one among us who could summarize the characteristics and status of the various Python interpreters us Python amateurs should be excited about?
1 point by scrame 2 days ago 0 replies      
Funny, I was just talking about them not being able to remove the GIL today while working through a tornado app.

I wonder what the future holds for pypy.

1 point by ronnix 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's not dead, it's sleeping.
Peter Seebach: How I learned C seebs.net
168 points by gnosis 2 days ago   32 comments top 17
21 points by tptacek 2 days ago 2 replies      
I started learning C++ when I was a freshmen in high school with a copy of Borland Turbo C. I didn't get far.

In the summer I graduated from high school, I lived in Seattle and worked for my uncle who runs the King County Library System, doing basic Unix stuff. This is months before the WWW went mainstream. I got bored one day and started playing with Unix commands to see what they'd do (I had, let's call it, a "tfile's understanding" of Unix at that point).

I vividly remember C clicking for me the moment I figured out how to deal with system calls that returned structures (via pointers). C clicked for me with "getpwnam()". I started writing little utilities that printed out structures returned from system calls.

I learned design from Leendert van Doorn's NFS shell. Y'all are too young to remember this, but in the '90s, the NFS shell was the most important piece of offensive security code out there (try to imagine an Internet where the biggest security problem is the fact that 10-50% of your systems are exporting '/' to the world). NFS shell had a command prompt driven off an fgets loop and an array of string commands and function pointer handlers. Mind: blown. I started writing utilities with arrays of string commands and function pointer handlers. Then I hooked them up networks and made little protocols. Brief dark period of Perl. Back to C. Working at an ISP, wrote a program to scan arbitrary ranges of IP addresses for live hosts. My girlfriend at the time taught me recursive linked list delete. Got _C Interfaces and Implementations_. Shortly thereafter: first dev job. Off to the races from there.

Seebach had MUDs and curses games. I had security tools. Otherwise, similar stories. Helps to come up on Unix instead of DOS.

8 points by mrcharles 2 days ago 3 replies      
I wish this had been my back story. Maybe someone here can help me out, or maybe I'm just a terminal under-achiever.

I never learned a lick of programming until I hit school. I tried, using the limited resources I had at my disposal. But I lived in a small remote town of 6000 people, and that was the major urban center for well over 200km. Being Canada, we had no access to any of the major online services, and any services available in Canada were long distance. My parents only had one phone line, so I never got to explore the one bbs that was available in the town.

Around 1992, I was 13, my parents finally got a computer. MS-DOS/Windows based. I was familiar with computers, having become addicted to many games at friends' houses. But, being DOS, getting games to run forced me to learn the hard way. Mostly this involved destroying things and reinstalling them. I wish I'd known anything about unix/linux, but I'd never heard of it. Dos was the only thing I had seen or knew. I didn't even know anyone with an amiga.

I tried to do things with basic, but I could find no documentation, and the basics were beyond me. I tried modifying things, the odd bit of hex hacking (my crowning achievement was modifying Civ to give me extra gold when I negotiated -- but only because it was stored as plain text in the dialogue files).

I knew programming -- and especially games -- held interest for me, but I could not penetrate it myself. In 1997 I finished high school and went off to an overpriced game programming school which shall remain nameless. I left with not a lick of programming ability.

I learned fast, and with just the first few weeks of C courses, and a couple hints on how to draw a bitmap, I set off like a rocket, and was whipping out games before anyone else. Programming just clicked for me. I graduated with one of the highest marks (and turned almost every assignment
in to a playable game of some sort in the process).

Fast forward nearly 12 years, and I am a successful and decent coder. I know a bunch of languages, I can learn any new one in a few hours of puttering around (often without a book, though I do like having reference manuals), I've done web stuff, and windows apps, but mostly just games.

But in reality, I have done very little outside of work. I'm good at what I do, I have my pick of companies any time I want, my last two games were Assassin's Creed 1 and 2, responsible primarily for the combat systems. I am apparently good at it but I've never felt like a great programmer.

This is never more obvious than when I try and do personal projects. My harddrives and perforce depots are a wasteland of started and abandoned projects. I hit a technical challenge and I don't have that drive I did when I was a kid. I'm not really happy with my job, I don't find it as satisfying as I once did, and I want to do things on my own, but, somehow it just doesn't click for me.

Often I just chalk it up to being addicted to big development -- I'm used to having a massive support team for art, level design, etc. And I'm not multi-disciplinary. I can't do any art at all. Even placeholder, it's just horrible. I can do design, and I can do code, and most other things are beyond me.

But I feel this is just an excuse I use to avoid actually working on my own projects. I'm pretty sure I have the ability, but I can't really find the focus.

I guess this has been rambling, but I do hope maybe someone can give me some pointers as to what my problem is. Like I said, maybe I'm just a terminal underachiever when it comes to my personal projects.

6 points by mgunes 2 days ago 1 reply      
Before floppies and CDs existed or were viable to distribute with a magazine, computer magazines used to come with giveaway software in the form of source code printed on a cheap paper booklet. Somewhat similarly to the author, I learned BASIC as a kid mostly by typing in dozens of pages of code from those supplements.

Initially I was just drawn to the free software; the laborious typing was just a means to get it. It was when it started failing due to my or the author's typos, rotting tapes and shortage of memory that I had to actually look into the code, look commands up in the user manual (which was otherwise unattractive since it was totally cryptic for a kid), and find practical ways of fixing things, which then led to a desire to learn what was actually going on, and the feeling of "It's not magic; I can do it too".

The mere abundance of doing, even of the rote and uninteresting variety, can teach you things in a particular subtle way that's hard to attain otherwise.

11 points by morphir 2 days ago 0 replies      
making sounds on a violin does not make you a musician just like coding up some statements does not make you a programmer. But it is how everyone, great or small, starts. Nice read.
2 points by malkia 2 days ago 0 replies      
First it was BASIC for me (Apple ][), then Turbo Pascal 3.00, 4.00, 5.00 for DOS and at that point I was writing a File Manager (like Norton Commander, but single page).

I got stuck due to missing move file (move(), RenameFile()) function in the Turbo Pascal Library. I was not familiar at that time with Interrupt List, or how I can call assemnly from Pascal (it was rather easy).

Someone also told me that all games and serious things were written in "C/C++". A friend of mine moved to "C" and he made his first mistake of putting all code in the header files (in Turbo Pascal, you only code in the .pas files, they become binary objects - called units .tpu).

So I spent a year just reading the "green C book" that was released in Bulgaria. After spending rereading, rereading, without touching (and no internet, not newsgroups, that was 1992 - only few people had modems, and my first experience with the internet was ... 1998 :)).

Then after switching to Borland C/C++ I felt a little more advanced than my other programming folks (we all went to a computer club in my city of Burgas).

But then, some things strike me - the executables were bigger, the compile time was bigger - more memory, but yet I was on the right language.

So I moved back to Pascal, and it was not until I started real job in a company that I moved to C/C++.

Borland (Inprise now, or whatever their name is) kind of lost it - Delphi was good - but nothing was better than TurboVision and the BGI libraries at their time.

Now, more than 10 years later - I can barely read Pascal code - and I use to write this extensively. I can't even remmember how you open files (and I did couple of small antivirus programs back in the day for DOS in it).

3 points by IgorPartola 2 days ago 0 replies      
I learned C, after having learned BASIC and Pascal. I was 14 and read somewhere that C was the main language of UNIX. It clicked pretty quickly for me since I thought pointers made a lot of sense. When I first saw p++ in a C book and realized that the actual value of p would advance sizeof(whatever p points to) rather than 1, it just kind of made sense.
5 points by krosaen 2 days ago 1 reply      
nice example of how at the beginning the only way to get good at building real things is to dive in and put yourself through the ringer
7 points by gcb 2 days ago 0 replies      
Omega source code

Would be fun to know the version he is referring to

2 points by kragen 2 days ago 0 replies      
My own story is http://lists.canonical.org/pipermail/kragen-tol/2007-March/0.... Some people have told me that it's a good read. But Seebs's version has more drama and is shorter, and he's probably a better programmer than I am.
3 points by callumjones 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've found after learning C I have a much better appreciation for writing resource conscious programs on a computer than I did before when I was first introduced to Java.

It has certainly helped me learn Objective C and C++ a lot quicker.

I'd even go as far as to say for new people to programming and put off by C, Objective C could be a good stepping stone for them.

1 point by brettmjohnson 2 days ago 0 replies      
In 1984 I was working for a small company that made Z80-based desktop computers running CP/M. All of the software was written in Z80 assembly language. MS-DOS was gaining traction, so we built a machine that contained both a Z80 and an 8088. It could run CP/M or MS-DOS.

However converting a bunch of Z80 assembler to x86 assembler for all our system utilities etc was a daunting task. There were tools available that would translate the code, but the quality was poor and the resulting output was not really readable [maintainable]. I expressed my annoyance in a planning meeting, saying "We should have written some of this in a high level language." One of the other guys on the team had done a small amount of C programming at university and was aware of its portability advantages. He suggested I look into it.

Although I had used several high level languages in the past (Basic, Fortran, Pascal), I was completely unfamiliar with C. So I bought a early edition of K&R. I started reading it from the start; got about 4 chapters in and thought, "This looks easy enough." So I sat down and wrote a rudimentary VT100 terminal emulator (something I knew a great deal about at the time). I tried to compile it: a dozen errors on the first line, a dozen errors on the second line, etc. I thought, "Hmmm, maybe not so easy after all."

The one guy I knew who had done any C programming at all, had done so little as to be useless as a source of knowledge, and we didn't really have a great deal of C source code available to us at the time. So I sat down with K&R and started doing the examples 1 at a time. Hello World going forward.

I picked it up pretty quickly, and within months our source was about 80% C and 20% assembler. Although I wasn't a self-taught programmer, I was pretty much a self-taught C programmer. The scary thing was, I was then considered "the go-to guy" for C programming advice for the rest of the team. I probably ruined them for life.

5 points by mfukar 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recognized myself in many of those sentences. Great story.
3 points by stcredzero 2 days ago 1 reply      
A good way to learn C? Learn VAX assembly! (PDP-11 works too.)
2 points by z2amiller 2 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if there will be a next generation of hackers that learn this way. I had a similar story, learning "programming" by poking around inside giant dungeon crawl type games written in basic. However, any game that is interesting enough for "kids these days" won't be a text interface written in a couple thousand lines of basic. Are there languages and tools simple enough to create a game that would be interesting enough for a potentially budding hacker to bother digging in to?
3 points by donaq 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think elements in this story would be familiar to most hackers.
1 point by vahidR 1 day ago 0 replies      
very interesting story. I know a couple of programmers who did the same.
2 points by timepilot 2 days ago 1 reply      
great story, thx for sharing
Copyright troll lawsuit blows up in face of Righthaven eff.org
159 points by grellas 4 days ago   30 comments top 11
46 points by SkyMarshal 4 days ago 3 replies      
All the more reason to sign up as a regular donor to EFF.org, even if it's just $5/month. If every developer, designer, software engineer, computer scientist, and new media professional who depends on unencumbered knowledge and information for their livelihood did just this small bit, EFF would be even more capable in its defense of intellectual freedom, and better able to prosecute all of these ridiculous patent/copyright trolls back to hell.

For anyone here who hasn't, here's a clickable: http://www.eff.org/


3 points by URSpider94 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love reading the filings in cases like this. It's really amusing to see the kind of two-bit lawyers employed by Righthaven get taken to pieces by some of the finest legal minds in the country.

EFF's strategy is spot-on: turn Righthaven's odds game back onto themselves. Righthaven is betting that they can profit by filing scores of lawsuits, then coercing settlements in just a small fraction of them. If this case plays out in EFF's favor, then just a few contested cases could cost Righthaven all of their profits in defendants' attorney's fees.

25 points by jorgem 4 days ago 1 reply      
Rule of thumb: Never back down from a bully.
18 points by drndown2007 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm smiling ear to ear about this one. I hope Righthaven gets taken down hard!
2 points by lotusleaf1987 4 days ago 1 reply      
A New Hope? Now I'm waiting for the Empire to Strike Back....
I kid but seriously, this is great great news. Patent trolls are anti-innovation, impede creators/entrepreneurs, and drive up costs for consumers.
3 points by JoachimSchipper 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm all for copyright trolls getting their due, but does anyone know if this kind of thing is enough to seriously hurt their profits?
6 points by bmr 3 days ago 1 reply      
Grellas, any idea how a "SLAPP-back" suit would fare for any of these defendants?
2 points by aditya 3 days ago 1 reply      
So, wait. Only the lawyers will end up profiting, as usual? (no offense, grellas :-)
1 point by athom 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm kind of surprised this hasn't made the top of DU's list. Maybe it did, and got buried under all the WikiLeaks stuff before I could get over there...?
2 points by paradox95 4 days ago 0 replies      
I love this story. Kudos to them.
1 point by beeeph 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ahhh the joy I get from seeing these weak, greedy copyright trolls beg for mercy from the innocent people they prey on!
The frontpage with a threshold of 100 points ycombinator.com
150 points by pg 4 hours ago   70 comments top 23
24 points by andrewljohnson 2 hours ago 7 replies      
Not that this type of experiment is bad, but why is the UI so completely neglected? Is this a matter of thinking it's not important, because it's not fun work, or because it can all be customized with grease monkeys? Or what?

I think the quality of stories on HN is pretty good. What I'd much prefer to see any amount of attention given to is things like:

1) Let me take back a vote. Particularly on mobile, I misclick those tiny arrows a lot.

2) Let me comment inline. Having other comments, besides the parent around for examination while commenting would probably help overall comment quality.

3) Fix the mobile interface. It's impossible to use HN on mobile iPhone and Android handhelds. Making a slightly modified styled sheet with JavaScript is trivial.

4) Support someone making an app, or commission one. As far as I can tell, the current HN apps are all kind of buggy and have little updating. There are lots of young neophytes who'd love to work on this, particularly if sanctioned, and a funded effort would lead to a better product.

These basic UI improvements don't even seem to be on the radar. Also, I'll add, the story-killing on this site is pretty heavy-handed, yet capricious. Same with the title-editing. What constitutes a "hacker-centric" story changes with the mood of the moderators, and the tendency to just change each title to the original headline is misguided. I also think that the special privileges given to YC companies corrupts the whole system.

If there were any other community like this, people would be driven away by the neglected UI and the Star Chamber that governs the content. But there isn't, so there's no pressure to do anything but midnight HN science experiments. I should just pray for some competition I guess...

17 points by _delirium 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Any chance of a ranged version, like "over 5, but under 200"? For some reason, while upvoted stories are mostly good, the most upvoted stories less often interest me, since they seem to be disproportionately about politics, business, self-help/motivation, or some sort of drama. This list is almost a perfect list of stories I'd like to filter out: http://news.ycombinator.com/best ok, there's some good stuff in there too, but it's not bad as a heuristic).
1 point by resdirector 0 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd like an option alongside noprocrast and showdead:

* hidekarma

For your view only, it hides the karma in the top right, and hides the number of points next to each article and comment. I, personally, find karma to be a distraction. I'm not afraid to admit that I subconsciously check my karma score every time I log in, and very occasionally catch myself writing comments, or submitting articles in a way that will improve my karma, instead of concentrating.

This "karma whoring" a bad habit (like procrastination) and there shold be an option for each user to just not show karma at all.

14 points by gcv 3 hours ago 1 reply      
While this is a really, really tempting front page, won't this just encourage groupthink? HN doesn't suffer from this as much it might, but it has its share. In addition, interesting stories languish unnoticed on /newest all the time, and if enough people switch to an >100 front page, articles with just 5-10 points have an even smaller chance of being noticed.

pg, I'm sure you considered this problem; could you talk a bit about your thinking behind this filter?

9 points by ary 3 hours ago 1 reply      
This has probably been suggested before, but can we just get rid of the points display (story, comment, & user) altogether? The automated sorting on this data has always been enough for me, and I can't think of a reason why any of us needs to know the exact point total of any of these things (except maybe karma).

I suppose there are some out there that would like to know an individual user's karma as a quick indicator of worthiness for X. Aside from this I'd be thrilled to see the number games and measuring sticks go away.

1 point by spoiledtechie 2 minutes ago 0 replies      
any chance with making it dynamic? I tried changing the number from 100 to 10 and it didn't work. Went back to 100.
15 points by Encosia 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Of course, if many people used that threshold, almost no story would ever reach 100 points in the first place.
4 points by Groxx 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Doesn't seem precise...

http://news.ycombinator.com/over?points=489 (489) doesn't see a thread with 490 points, but http://news.ycombinator.com/over?points=484 (484) does. Caching? Rounding? Thread in question: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1990498

Still, awesome, many thanks! Especially because it drags up a bunch of good-but-older entries that I may have missed.

1 point by bootload 25 minutes ago 0 replies      
the choice of 100pts is pretty good though it's spread over 2 pages. I tried a quick graph hack to visualise, "Number of points required to fill 1 page of stories (30)?" ~ http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootload/5256341554/
4 points by blehn 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Is it just me, or have the front page point totals exploded in the last few months?

pg " care to share any traffic data?

4 points by jeffmiller 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Twitter feed with a threshold of 100 points: http://twitter.com/newsyc100
1 point by gasull 46 minutes ago 0 replies      
Twitter and RSS feeds for HN stories over 20, 50, 100 and 150 points:


1 point by damoncali 47 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd prefer under?points=x

The very highly upvoted articles seem more likely to be trendy and/or sensational.

4 points by Nogwater 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Can we get filters like this for the official RSS feed?
1 point by da5e 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is great as an option where we can fill in our own threshold. It's another way to play with the feed. I prefer the "newest" setting myself. It's incredibly quick to scan the headlines to see what I'm in the mood for that day. Or I can search with "news.ycombinator.com: searchterm" if I'm looking some particular subject matter. But sometimes it's fun to visit the lists too. news.ycombinator.com/lists Perhaps a couple of those options should go on the top menu.

Maybe the top menu should be Hacker News new 100+ searchterm best active bestcomments etc.

1 point by abecedarius 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Upvoted just 'cause it was at 99 points. [Added: I think the temptation to do this shows a (minor and obvious) misincentive, like we used to see on IRC when I published weekly stats on the chat in #C.]
1 point by itsnotvalid 47 minutes ago 0 replies      
Is there any link to this new feature instead of manually typing this or saving this to a bookmark (or any other ways besides a proper hyper-link)?
2 points by jscore 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Great, as I was JUST thinking of making a chrome extension to filter posts with 100+ points.
2 points by quizbiz 3 hours ago 1 reply      
It just occurred to me that while I vote up great comments, I don't remember the last time I gave an up-vote to a thread. Am I atypical?
2 points by dholowiski 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Even better I changed it to 200 points and found some great gems I had missed.
1 point by robwgibbons 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This post itself has almost 100 points. Soon it will be on the 100-point threshold page!
1 point by revorad 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Wow, looks a lot more interesting.
A virus could increase lithium batteries capacity by 10x fastcompany.com
140 points by phalien 3 days ago   70 comments top 13
34 points by sliverstorm 3 days ago 2 replies      
Perfect timing. I was only just discussing battery technology with some friends, who believe batteries cannot possibly grow to capacities larger than we have today on the basis of 'gee, they haven't grown as fast as other technology in the past 100 years'

No faith in scientists, I tell you.

18 points by redthrowaway 3 days ago 2 replies      
The biggest winner of this, should it come to fruition, would seem to be electric vehicles. Electronic devices would surely prosper, but further miniaturization of smartphones doesn't really seem desirable, so it would go towards increased computational power and battery life. EVs, on the other hand, derive a double benefit: By shrinking the battery, you reduce weight, which increases range and efficiency, which reduces the requisite battery size, etc. The end product would be much cheaper and much more efficient. Having an economical EV that could get 1000 miles to a charge for the price of a Civic would be huge.
7 points by bingaman 3 days ago 2 replies      
I can't be the only one that hates the word "automagically." I don't see anything magic - he's explaining it right there and "therefore" or something similar would have worked fine.
3 points by Quiark 3 days ago 3 replies      
The one thing that popped in my mind when reading this was "poor viruses, they put electric charge on them". :) Now it's clear that a virus is so simple that it's not even clear if it can be considered alive, but what if something similar was devised with bacteria? Where would we draw an ethical line? :
4 points by arnemart 3 days ago 0 replies      
There seems to be news about new and revolutionary battery technologies that will increase capacity N-fold every few weeks. I have more or less stopped reading about this, as none of the ideas ever seem to make it to the market. I prefer to be ignorant of emerging battery tech, and would rather be pleasantly surprised if anything of this actually turns into a product :-)
4 points by lini 3 days ago 4 replies      
Given that Li batteries are packing enough power now to be considered unsafe and "explosive" in some cases, imagine what would happen if their capacity was increased 10 times. I've started thinking conservatively about battery capacity - it's the chips and software we should redesign, not only the batteries.
5 points by jcfrei 3 days ago 2 replies      
Every now and then there's news about radically improving battery lifetime. I'm skeptical. Wouldn't the organic cell structure of the TMV decay over time?
2 points by jaekwon 3 days ago 6 replies      
wow, i'm all for better batteries, but that's a lot of viral mass we're talking about. what are the potential consequences of producing tons of viral matter?

are we already doing this?

and on a related note, i wonder how much viral mass a human gets when he/she is sick from a nasty flu.

2 points by JoeAltmaier 3 days ago 0 replies      
I thought electrode surface area related to recharge Time, not capacity? Its a current-density thing.
2 points by protomyth 3 days ago 0 replies      
So, if the batteries have 10x the capacity, what is the charge time?
1 point by Rhapso 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yay! Looks cool! Now to wait 20 years for it to be implemented commercially.
0 points by maeon3 3 days ago 0 replies      
After much deliberation from top management we have decided that the 10x lithium battery device must be brought in on-time and under budget. Sincerely, Thaddeus Plotz.
Paypal.com appears to be unavailable paypal.com
142 points by ivankirigin 3 days ago   123 comments top 26
25 points by Silhouette 3 days ago replies      
I suspect we are going to see two major changes over the next few weeks as a direct result of the "cyber-attacks" going on recently.

1. Financial services will re-evaluate the risks of this kind of attack vs. the cost of assigning more resources to guard against it.

2. Governments will finally start taking IT security seriously.

The latter is the more interesting, because while banks are generally reasonably clued up about balancing risks and will simply adjust their current practices, elected representatives who aren't technically inclined will probably be discolouring their underwear over the fall-out if the bad guys really tried to do some damage, given that it is this easy for a few upset people to cripple the world's payment systems.

I suspect that as a reuslt, we can look forward to increasingly draconian penalties being introduced for this sort of action in most jurisdictions, the end of on-line anonymity as it has been known, and ruthless throttling/disconnection of entire ISPs/countries that don't play ball with either of the above. If you thought government reactions to copyright infringement were heavy-handed, I imagine they will look like a nun comforting a child compared to what is coming next.

The sad thing is that better security, robustness, user authentication, etc. should have been built into the Internet by default for years, but the same "Wild West" evolution that was so successful in the early days has also been a poor driver of consolidation now that the Internet isn't just a toy for the military types and the universities any more. Maybe the Powers That Be will finally start taking serious advice about IT from people who know what they're talking about and collectively give the issues the attention they deserve. (I won't hold my breath, though; this could all end in tears, with a mess of ill-informed and poorly-implemented measures that cause all kinds of additional dangers to innocent people without actually fixing the real problem.)

44 points by pigbucket 3 days ago 2 replies      
If you dominate a market, a serious ethical duty devolves upon you to do right by your customers, but Paypal, Visa, and MC, on which donation-supported non-profit orgs like Wikileaks almost entirely depend, have utterly failed to fulfill that duty; in fact they didn't even try. Their actions, arbitrary or spineless, have almost completely choked off funding for Wikileaks. I never imagined ending up saying this, but I'm impressed and grateful that there exists an international, anonymous horde able to begin the process of making companies like this at least minimally answerable for their actions, which no one else seems capable or desirous of doing.
17 points by zefhous 3 days ago 1 reply      
And now thanks to this story Hacker News is participating in the DDOS because we all want to see for ourselves if PayPal is responsive...
15 points by il 3 days ago 1 reply      
https://www.paypal.com/ still works, all they're doing is hammering the front page, any transactions over SSL should still work fine.
25 points by bayes 3 days ago 1 reply      
I fear some naive young US-based Anonymous participants may soon be getting a very rude awakening (if the FBI and Secret Service respond to this by making an example of them).

Edit: downvote me all you like, but you should read the post about what happens when you're busted by the feds (from the hacker crackdown): http://web.textfiles.com/hacking/agentsteal.txt

15 points by freechoice1 3 days ago 2 replies      
Paypal is notorious to freeze accounts as they like, and bully people around. They can do this because they know they are big. Now they are starting to force their own political agendas on the world population as well. I've quit my account with them because I want this world to be a better place to live in, than being controlled by a bully who harass people.
10 points by ThePinion 3 days ago 2 replies      
Shutting down the Visa and Mastercard probably didn't change too much, but this for sure will. Think of how much eBay is dependent on PayPal for purchases. This should be an interesting outcome! Even if people don't feel it's morally right, I'm still very impressed by the current "cyber wars" going on. Either way, I don't lose anything. I guess I'm just one of those people that likes to watch the world burn...
5 points by ericz 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone else keep coming back here because every link on the homepage is light grey because they are visited, but since the site is down it does not show this link as visited. Hehe
10 points by rms 3 days ago 0 replies      
Payments API is still working.
4 points by martinkallstrom 3 days ago 0 replies      
"It's not just you! http://paypal.com looks down from here."
1 point by singular 3 days ago 2 replies      
I really don't think this kind of behaviour helps anything. Though we may disagree with the actions of these corporations, using thousands of ordinary people's computers to flood sites many people use for things that have nothing to do with Julian Assange, Wikileaks or anything whatsoever linked to the cable leaks is simply wrong.

Being immoral in order to expose the immorality of others does nothing but muddy the waters. There are better ways of challenging these things while retaining your decency.

2 points by wildmXranat 3 days ago 0 replies      
As I'm sitting on the sidelines of it all, I wonder how a bunch of LOLcat loving, technically savvy people can bring down billion dollar multinational's, points of technical exposure.

What amount, if any, preparation can guard against a cyber mob-rule attack? It seems that unless a machine is unplugged from the network, you're up shit creek without a paddle.

6 points by vegasbrianc 3 days ago 0 replies      
This should help the IT Security industry get a boost and hopefully create more jobs.
2 points by herrherr 3 days ago 2 replies      
What I like most, is that all people click on the link although it says "It's unavailable". Wondering if this has an additional effect on the availability.
9 points by martin_k 3 days ago 1 reply      
www.paypal.com works for most people.
2 points by geedee77 3 days ago 4 replies      
To be perfectly honest, the actions of the 'anonymous' are pretty disgusting and it's bullying. A company provides a useful service to the majority of the on-line world and, just because they do something to protect themselves and their identity (there's a lot of people who dislike wikileaks) then this 'collective' decide to disrupt the whole company.

Bullying was pathetic in high school and is so much worse in the 'grown-up' world, especially when it affects so many normal people.

1 point by koevet 3 days ago 0 replies      
http://www.paypal.com is down from here (Denmark). Https is responding though. Quite impressive.
3 points by thehodge 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder if Amazon is next?
1 point by aj700 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm morally indifferent, even in favour of the principle of wikileaks. I'm not in favour of a leaker of US information motivated only by wanting reforms that are pipe dreams. Freedom of speech can never extend to state secrets. In Europe, we'd never be so attached to the idea that we'd take it that far.

I think we may have sacrificed a lot - eg. the ability of the net to process pre-Christmas payments, for the "gain" of providing the ability of some dick at DoD to tell us what Hillary's people think of various national dictators, or that Iraq was not 100% superbly executed. Yeah, big deal.

I don't believe Assange's arrest is a conspiracy. 4chan launching all this shit may just force the net to change in some very bad ways.

3 points by nikster 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's back up. But that sure was impressive. Anyone have a link to uptime statistics?
4 points by scottkrager 3 days ago 1 reply      
Yep, just tried to pay a contractor....no dice.
1 point by aj700 3 days ago 0 replies      

sites will be up AND down simultaneously for different people. That's what happens when they're overloaded.

1 point by FirstHopSystems 3 days ago 0 replies      
DNS issues?. No 301 Redirect from the server.

Just type https://www.paypal.com to go straight to the web page.

1 point by klbarry 3 days ago 0 replies      
Yep, it's working now for me.
1 point by desenu 3 days ago 0 replies      
seems like a correct assessment. SSL still works tho.
-1 point by kathyannov 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is this because they blocked the funds of Julian Assange? Probably a hacker group teaching a lesson or two here
A table that should exist in all projects with a database cherouvim.com
140 points by fogus 4 days ago   62 comments top 15
56 points by troels 4 days ago replies      
It's all true, but please take the lesson from rails and use timestamps rather than sequential id's.
15 points by rmc 4 days ago 6 replies      
Some frameworks take care of this automatically. Mango has an excellent library called South that does exactly this. It keep tracks of migrations and it can automatically detect nearly all migrations. It's much easier than doing it all by hand.
8 points by tbrownaw 4 days ago 0 replies      
Another approach I've seen used is to map the hash of your schema to an upgrade script (which would be an empty script for the latest version):

    while(true) {
string current_version = <sha1 of the dictionary table contents>
if (!upgrade_scripts.containsKey(current_version)) {
} else {
string script = upgrade_scripts[current_version]
if (script.empty())

2 points by jasonkester 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's no particular reason to keep a whole table for this, since all you really want to know is what version you're at.

We use a UDF called VersionNumber that returns an integer. When the continuous build processes a new database change script, that function gets modified to increment the value it returns. So you can always call VersionNumber() on any of our databases and know which version you're looking at. The builds actually use it to decide which scripts they need to run to get from where they are to where they need to be.

You already have all the commentary you need in source control and in the change scripts themselves. I don't see a reason to duplicate it in the database as well.

2 points by moe 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd argue that "all projects with a [relational] database [and an ORM]" should rather move to modern tooling instead of writing migrations by hand.

Rails is surprisingly anachronistic here, which probably stems from that awful conceptual separation between model and schema.

Most other platforms have semi-automatic schema evolution that usually works very well (datamapper automigrate, django south, hibernate SchemaUpdate, etc.).

2 points by lsb 3 days ago 0 replies      
If you don't have enormous amounts of data, one thing I've found helpful on my own projects is to make a hot backup of the database every time the schema changes, as well as make hot backups daily, and then when you check out a version of code you pair it with the latest hot backup.

(This is far easier when using SQLite, which has its own tradeoffs.)

6 points by StavrosK 4 days ago 1 reply      
Oh, django-south, how I love you.
4 points by checoivan 4 days ago 3 replies      
Another option is to have the schema creation/upgrade as scripts (either hand made or autogenerated ) , then check them into source control.

And resist the temptation of hacking the schema directly in your servers, it ends being a larger effort :)

1 point by fendale 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes yes yes. In my experience in Enterprise Dev teams it seems to be way too common that people just don't version control their DB schema, or use tools to produce schema diffs between dev and prod to product upgrade scripts, all driven by using GUI's to create their tables and then exporting the DDL using a tool (eg TOAD if you are doing Oracle work).

A few years back, I built an installer in Ruby to apply 'plsql modules' to an Oracle database. This was a massive project with > 100 developers at this point and probably heading toward 1M lines of code.

My migrations table worked on modules, so there were a set of migrations per application area, but it was really just an extension of this idea (and I borrowed the idea from Rails too)!

1 point by terra_t 4 days ago 0 replies      
Its generally true, but I've developed systems that go sideways and fork into multiple versions, so the data structures get more complicated.
1 point by BrandonM 4 days ago 2 replies      
Why manually specify a key as a string instead of using an int auto_increment?
3 points by smarterchild 4 days ago 0 replies      
Migrator.NET uses a similar setup for .NET programmers.
1 point by rezaman 4 days ago 1 reply      
Although the project is still pretty young, liquibase(http://www.liquibase.org/) is a solid opensource project for not only managing schema revisions, but inserting seed data as well as abstracting schema structure from DBMS.

Nathan also does a good job of applying submitted patches quickly.

1 point by mise 3 days ago 1 reply      
I have small PHP/MySQL projects I develop across multiple home computers and the server. This is a problem that's sometimes a bit hampering. Files are source controlled through SVN. Any suggestions on a tool that would be lightweight enough to be worth my time using it.
1 point by stepancheg 4 days ago 0 replies      
Just use http://bitbucket.org/stepancheg/mysql-diff/ to compare schemas.
How to reject a job candidate without being an asshole nathanmarz.com
139 points by nathanmarz 3 days ago   77 comments top 22
35 points by tjr 3 days ago 4 replies      
One time I got a rejection letter from a company that included a list of reasons that people are usually rejected. One of the reasons was spelling or grammar errors in their cover letter or resume.

As it happened, this letter that they sent out contained both a spelling error and a grammatical error. In retrospect, this was perhaps a little too snarky, but I wrote back to them and pointed this out. They contacted me again, asking if I would be interested in another position they had available.

57 points by ams6110 3 days ago replies      
The reason many places don't do this is not so much to avoid feeling like an a-hole but to avoid accidental liability.

There are so many things you can't say or ask in an interview, that a lot of companies that are big enough to have an HR person or department will require a very generic rejection letter just to be sure they don't provide grounds for a lawsuit.

9 points by alexgartrell 2 days ago 1 reply      
I interviewed at a bunch of places and only got two offers. One of the places I interviewed and failed was Microsoft. They had the interviews throughout the day (about 4 of them), and then after that they had an HR person give you the good or bad news.

(It's worth saying that the developers I interviewed with were really outstanding. They were in the Dev Tools group (CLR, Visual Studio, etc.) and were really sharp).

Anyway, I got pulled out, and the woman gave me "the bad news," and the typical HR lines about "not a good fit at this time," and, "we encourage you to apply again later." And then, out of nowhere, she throws out "And you should definitely take a close look at yourself to figure out how you could be better."

The reason I tell this story is to point out that "helpful feedback" is absolutely useless when not actually helpful. Having an HR person (who had, up to that point, been totally disconnected from the whole process), come and give me some "helpful tips" wasted her time and mine.

I also interviewed with Meebo (which was actually a pretty interesting interview, and the people there were pretty cool). I met with the HR guy at the end of the day, and he tried to talk me into doing an internship instead, because I'd be competing with people with "years of experience." I told him I already had some offers and I wasn't interested in an internship. Later, when he emailed to "give me the bad news," he said "we're going with another candidate, but enjoy your summer at Company X!" I'd say this loosely qualifies as rejecting me like an asshole.

I ended up with offers from Facebook and Google though, so life goes on :)

19 points by oiuytgyuio 3 days ago 1 reply      
You don't have any company lawyers do you?

Most companies in the land of the lawyer don't even send rejection letters, just in case the candidate decides that it contains some grounds to sue you over.

It doesn't even have to be good grounds - they just need a sleazy enough lawyer. The more info you give them the more ammo they have.

Yes it sucks to simply not hear from a company, and it leads to negative recomendations about them to friends /colleagues /potential other recruits. You can still be friendly in the letter but I would be careful about telling someone why they aren't hired.

6 points by ctkrohn 3 days ago 1 reply      
Many of the comments below talk about potential legal liability from rejecting a candidate in an inappropriate way. Would someone care to clarify the sort of problems that can arise?
5 points by samd 3 days ago 1 reply      
For all the people claiming that this is likely to end in a lawsuit where is your evidence? Do you have any actual cases where a company was sued because they gave legitimate feedback? How much money did the company lose because of this suit? How many lawsuits are there per rejected candidate? Do you know the text of the laws that specifically address this?
6 points by v21 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've got rejected a couple of times with good, useful feedback, and a couple of times with "We can't afford to hire anyone else for a while". In both cases, I end up happy for the feedback, not pissed I didn't get the position. I want to work for the company more than I did before. I follow the companies with interest, and feel a vague sense of attachment to them. If I saw the people who rejected me at some kind of conference, I would go up and say hi. I would recommend them to my friends.

So - please do this. Unless you don't care about my opinion of you. You may not.

5 points by fizx 3 days ago 3 replies      
If 1 in 1000 candidates would sue you, causing $100k in costs for a drawn-out legal battle, then your practice has a very expensive expected value, but in a way you won't notice until shit hits the proverbial fan.
4 points by desigooner 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think the most frequent complaint of mine is unprofessionalism on the end of the company in getting back to the candidates. It's pretty much being an asshole to not get back to the candidate who takes the time to come and interview with them. I understand that they may have many a people applying for positions and this and that but there are some common courtesies. And I'm not even talking about a hyper competitive job where hundreds apply for a few positions. This has happened when I was one of the 2 people considered for the position and what not. This one time I got an email from HR after a couple of months of interviewing asking me if I was still interested in the position etc.
4 points by grails4life 3 days ago 0 replies      
If the reason your not offering someone a job is because they messed up technical questions, I think its a good idea to give them candid feedback on the spot. Its objective. If you are having to choose among several qualified candidates, then I think this is asking for trouble, since there isnt an objective clear reason for the person not getting the job.
2 points by thingie 3 days ago 0 replies      
The only time when I had a bad feeling about such an email was when I felt that I got positive feedback during the interview, got no "warning" signs during it and so on, yet on the other day, I was told almost exactly this.

Otherwise, it's quite ok. Make it short, who wants to read ton of shit just to hear no? If you can list one (or more) serious reason (lack of experience, education, whatever, once, I was told that I was simply too pesimistic, but that was on phone), fine, but still, keep it short. And well, don't expect much feedback.

4 points by JimboOmega 3 days ago 0 replies      
Legal problems aside, I love this philosophy.

One of the things I hate most about the current interview process is that I take time off from work to do phone screens, maybe a whole day to do an onsite, and in the end I get these empty letters.

I'm always trying to improve myself, so having no feedback leaves me feeling bewildered. To be honest I don't know if I bombed the coding question. I came to an answer, maybe I had a couple hints - but was that it?

2 points by kgo 3 days ago 1 reply      
For an all day interview, sure some feedback would be nice.

For a phone interview, I'd probably think you're a bigger asshole if you went into details about how I failed the interview, what's wrong with me, why I'm unqualified, and how I can go about improving myself. Imagine someone going into the details about why we won't be going out on a second date.

2 points by ig1 3 days ago 2 replies      
A lot of big companies do give feedback on request though especially for developer roles where you can give specific factual feedback (candidate was weak in multi-threading, etc.)

It's one of the big advantages of technical interviews. You don't have to rely purely on subjective human judgement.

4 points by candre717 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like this philosophy. In general, people should learn how to give and take feedback. I've been in the position where I wish I had known why I didn't get a certain job or opportunity. Knowing the reason not only softens the disappointment but lets one learn and improve for next time.
1 point by mattchew 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to get rejected by somebody in this way. :)

Really, you're above average if you bother to contact the person at all once you've decided not to hire.

A lot of people are pointing out liability issues with this approach, and sadly, they're probably right. But I bet there are constructive things you could tell rejected applicants that would be still be safe from lawsuit.

2 points by FiddlerClamp 2 days ago 0 replies      
On the flip side, is it considered okay to simply stop contacting a candidate after three or four interviews, never send a rejection notice, and refuse to answer an email or phone call about the situation?

I've had this happen to me three times in the last five years -- mostly for positions within a marketing department, where you would think communication would matter.

Unfortunately, fear of retaliation or blacklisting keeps applicants like myself from disclosing specific company or hiring manager names...I feel it's disrespectful to not at least send an FOD note of 10 words or less if you've spent hours with them.

3 points by andrewljohnson 3 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen to me.
2 points by Stop_Lurker 3 days ago 1 reply      
At the end of interviews when they ask "Do you have any questions for me" I make a point of asking what they felt was good about my interview and how they think I could have improved it. Most of the time, they refuse to answer that question. I think it's probably a bad idea for me to do this.
1 point by bgruber 2 days ago 0 replies      
Frankly, just doing the actual rejection makes you less of an asshole than pretty much everyone else. I've applied for a handful of positions over the last few years, and the fraction of people who actually bothered to tell me I was rejected is 0. The only exception was the supreme asshole who hired me one day, then called me the next day to tell me that I wasn't hired after all. He didn't really have a choice.
1 point by jerdfelt 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about the opposite?

A company I turned down a job offer for has been contacting me every about every three months asking if I had changed my mind.

I just recently told them to please stop contacting me and I'll contact them if I change my mind in the future.

It felt a bit assholish asking them to stop contacting me like that, but I can't decide if that's just my personality having difficulty with it or if there was a better of way of telling them "No".

0 points by merubin75 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reality check -- sometimes you reject a candidate for less than scientific reasons. Either you didn't "click" with them, or there was something that you just didn't like. Shallow? Maybe. But when I've hired people in the past, I've made the mistake of overlooking someone's personality in favor of what looked like a superior skillset. Several magnificent failures later, I won't do that again.

The reality is that you have to look at someone's personality and whether they'll mesh with your team as much as their skills. That's a fact, and nobody -- repeat NOBODY -- wants to hear that they come off arrogant, ageist, misogynist, etc.

Anonymous in The Economist economist.com
134 points by mcantelon 4 days ago   69 comments top 8
41 points by electromagnetic 4 days ago replies      
I like the symbolism that Anon has become. Simply put Anon is the anger and frustration of millions (acted on by the few hundred) and is having real effects.

If Anon is taking down Mastercard and Visa, then perhaps our governments will start obeying their own laws instead of trying to manipulate companies into compliance. Or at the very least, our companies might actually question whether obeying the government is in their best interests.

12 points by mcantelon 4 days ago 1 reply      
Twitter just suspended @anon_operations. Expect involutary Twitter fast. ;)
4 points by alanh 4 days ago 1 reply      
Not positive, but I think this is “only” a blog, and not part of the print distribution.
3 points by DanielRibeiro 4 days ago 0 replies      
The corresponding twitter account has more info. Had actually. They got suspended, but google made us the favor of caching it: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:_OP3u3L...
4 points by JSig 4 days ago 3 replies      
Interesting magazine to be writing about Anonymous. I sometimes feel that the magazine itself is a LOIC for the global banking system. It's possibly one of many publications (nodes) that publishes (DDOS) anonymous writings that seem to usually endorse the position that the world needs more debt.
1 point by URSpider94 3 days ago 0 replies      
There was an article on New York Times online today as well. It's pretty funny to read how mainstream reporters try to explain Anonymous to their readers whose experience of the Internet begins and ends with email and Facebook. There was no mention of 4chan anywhere in the NYT article (probably for the best).
2 points by orblivion 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised. I thought they organize mostly on 4chan, and then go down to IRC channels spontaneously and temporarily, and keep their identities only temporarily. Am I to understand that there are actually people who have a persistent identity? Who are "in charge"?
1 point by known 3 days ago 0 replies      
"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth--anonymously and posthumously." -- Thomas Sowell
My crazy boss sold everything, bought a boat, and is sailing for an entire year sailingondine.com
132 points by bdickason 1 day ago   94 comments top 19
42 points by mixmax 1 day ago 9 replies      
I've lived on a boat in the Copenhagen harbour for the last four years.

I bought it in Holland, and knew absolutely nothing about boats when I started out. My thought was that the only regrets you have when you get old are all the things you didn't do. Besides I'm enough of a businessman that I'd be able to sell it without a loss if it didn't work out. So I gave it try.

Four years later I'm still here and wouldn't want to live any other way. The boat is paid for so my only expenses are $200 a month in harbour rent and roughly another $200 a month on repairs. Internet isn't a problem since 3G is everywhere now - I can surf hacker news while at anchor somewhere off the coast of Sweden.

The upsides are pretty obvious: A gret free lifestyle, beautiful views, ducks right outside your window and the ability to go anywhere you want (within limits...)

The downsides are that it's cold in the winter, you don't have a lot of space, and you need to become a bit of a handyman. I've bought powertools I didn't know existed five years ago.

But overall it can only be recommended. Oh, and drop me a line if you're ever in Copenhagen I'll take you for a trip through the harbour, it's beautiful just before the sun sets.

26 points by pavs 1 day ago replies      
I am doing something similar. I am selling everything I have (not much stuff though, I am frugal) and moving to SE asia (where I was born). This is the first time I will be there in a long time (15 years) so not sure what to expect.

I made the decision in 30 minutes. Bought the ticket, committed myself, sold most of my stuff, said good bye to most people I know. The plan is to visit 50 countries in the next 5 years. Leaving on Jan 3rd.

I am too content with my life. Sometimes you need a kick in the butt to get out of your comfort zone. The world is too big and not enough time.

11 points by SwellJoe 1 day ago 1 reply      
I've been living in a motorhome and travelling full-time since January, so I've been on the road for close to a year. I'd originally planned to do this for a year, maybe 18 months, but now that I'm a year into it, I don't see any reason to stop. I'm going to Mexico, and Central and South America next fall and plan to spend all the cold months way down south. When I've done all the driving on the American continent I want to do, I plan to buy a sailboat and keep travelling (buying or renting a van or motorhome when I get to various countries I want to spend some time in).

I highly recommend it. All of it, or any part of it.

Selling and giving away all my accumulated crap was liberating beyond what I could have ever imagined. Getting out of the rut of daily life in one place and going to see lots of new places breeds a zen-like state of peace over the minutiae of everyday life (I guess your comfort zone just expands to be really wide). Living smaller means you can focus on the things that really matter. Cost of living can be as high or low as you want it to; I'm currently parked in an RV park that is home to formerly homeless people who've been placed in RVs by a charity organization, as well as retired couples living in $250,000 rigs, and everything in between.

Living on a sailboat is pretty much the same idea, with a few additional logistical challenges, if you need to keep working (I've been running Virtualmin from the road, and I just had to solve the Internet and power problem; on a boat, the Internet problem is much more expensive to solve). It seems to attract the same sorts of people, and I've met a lot of RVers who have lived on boats in the past, or live on boats some of the time.

5 points by jasonkester 1 day ago 1 reply      
I spent a couple months living on a sailboat off the coast of Colombia and Panama last winter. I was crewing for somebody, but it was easy to see that it wouldn't take a lot of investment to get up and running on your own.

Worth knowing, from a developer perspective, is that Colombia has really good 3G coverage. Unlimited mobile internet access will run you on the order of $20/month, and it's available pretty much everywhere. Including anywhere you're likely to set up shop on your boat.

The San Blas off the coast of Panama are where you really want to be, but unfortunately the internet access isn't so great. You can get online in a lot of unlikely places (there are islands with literally nothing except coconut trees and a solar-powered cell mast), but it will cost you.

Head to Cartagena and ask around at Club Nautico. Chances are you'll find somebody who knows somebody who has a boat to sell.

8 points by blhack 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is something that I dream about doing.

Unfortunately, buying a boat is expensive, and I have no knowledge of sailing.

So I've found something that is the same concept, but might work even better: bicycle touring. A world class touring bike (a Surly Long Haul Trucker) can be had for $1200. Much cheaper than a sailboat. A good tent can be had for ~$300.

I've made a deal with myself that I have 2011 to either get back into school, get an interesting, fulfilling job, or have founded a site that is producing enough money for me to work on it fulltime. If I don't accomplish this, I'm selling everything, loading the dog into a trailer, and riding across the country.

6 points by ssskai 1 day ago 0 replies      
To anyone who is thinking about doing this, I highly recommend it.

When I was younger, my family sold most of what we owned, rented out our house, and moved onto our sailboat. We sailed from Seattle to San Diego, then down the West Coast of Mexico, and up into the Sea of Cortez. We were only planning on being gone one year, but since it was such an amazing experience, we decided to extend our trip for a second year.

On the second year, we sailed from the Sea of Cortez farther down Mexico, then down to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, through the Panama Canal, over to Colombia, up to Honduras, Belize, Mexico again, then Florida. This second year was certainly more rushed since we visited so many countries, but we need to get back stateside for me to finish school and go to college.

Many people believe it is unsafe and expensive to do such an extended trip. But if you are friendly to the local people and accept their culture, they are often welcoming and friendly. Never once were we approached by pirates (although the Mexican navy did stop us 100+ miles off the coast before leaving Mexico to enter El Sal, boarded our boat with AK47s and searched for drugs. Obvi nothing was there and they left). In fact, many welcomed us because we helping to boost their economy, and would improve their image as a "tourist" town.

As for expenses, living on a boat is extremely cheap if you are mechanically inclined. Granted, the boat is a big investment, but other than that there aren't too many expenses. We used solar panels for electricity, a mini-desalinazation machine for drinking water, and often fished off the side, catching fresh tuna. The only expenses were diesel fuel and food (which is cheap in 3rd world countries!). Occasionally we docked, but that was also cheap (we stayed at a high-end resort in MX, including 3 pools and a personal zoo with tigers, and we paid $20/ day). Also, since our home was being rented, that provided some monthly income with no work.

The one danger, and it is very serious, is when people have a lack of offshore sailing and boat handling experience. When (not if) you encounter bad weather you've gotta know how to properly manage the boat, be it at anchor or in the middle of the ocean. I've seen boats slam into rocks during storms in port, and heard captain's calling for help because they're boat is sinking far from shore. However, with some training near shore and a few trips to sea with experienced sailors, most anyone can learn what is necessary to take on an extended sailing voyage.

Also, for all you who need a constant internet connection, rig up an amplified wireless router. We bought an industrial antenna, mounted it halfway up the mast, and rigged up a signal amplifier. In our home harbor, this lead to an increase from 3 wifi networks to over 35 wifi networks! Usually had about a dozen free networks from local businesses.

When we returned home to Seattle, we simply moved back into our original home, met up with old friends, and had some great tales to tell.

7 points by dagw 1 day ago 3 replies      
I had a friend who, tried to, do something similar. Unfortunately he knew almost nothing about boats and bought a boat that ended up costing him almost as much as he paid for it in repairs, sank once, and that he eventually sold for a tiny fraction of what he paid for it a couple of years later having only been able to spent a few hours at sea.

So I guess my point is, if you're going to do something like that, make sure you buy a really good boat.

5 points by jessriedel 1 day ago 0 replies      
One of my favorite CV's is that of Physics Professor Lyman Page, who researches experimental cosmology at Princeton. (I worked in his lab for a couple of summers. He earned his world-renowned reputation for working on the WMAP satellite and the ACT experiment.) In between interning for the Bartol Research Foundation at the South Pole (1978-80) and getting his PhD (1983-89), he has this entry:

> Self employed February 1980 - September 1983

> Rebuilt a 37' wooden ketch and sailed about the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States. To support myself and my boat, I worked as a painter, carpenter, rigger, and cabinet maker in various ports of call. In the nine months before graduate school, I was based in Boston.

3 points by iloveyouocean 1 day ago 0 replies      
My girlfriends parents sold all their possessions and their house when she was 10 years old and bought a sailboat. They sailed for a year, starting at the Chesapeake Bay and ending up in the Bahamas, then reversing the route and eventually finishing in Newfoundland. This was a pinnacle experience for her whole family, but for a 10 year old it was absolutely transformative.

Nothing else could duplicate the quantity and quality of learning and growing she did during that year, and to this day she still uses her experiences as a touchstone. Can not recommend undertaking an adventure like this enough.

2 points by jacquesm 1 day ago 0 replies      
There is at least one HN'er living on a sailboat (hey there Max T.), it sounds like your boss is going to be having an interesting year. It's going to be even harder to stop doing that a year from now, that sort of freedom is quite addictive.

If anything it reads like he's still running a company, albeit a smaller one :)

5 points by ebaysucks 1 day ago 1 reply      
Cruising is a great lifestyle and can be done for less than $2000 per month.

There are plenty of people doing it on less than $1000 or $1500 for a family of four on sailboats from 30 to 35 feet.

More HN readers should consider living on a sailboat full time - it's fiscal mobility, grid independence, great stories, social without commitments and great views all in one.

Downside: Don't underestimate the work on a sailboat and you need to address maintenance issues right away - so be prepared to spend $xxx or $xxxx at random points in time.

3 points by jonknee 1 day ago 1 reply      
That's a beautiful boat. Is he still your boss? Always interested in hearing how people continue to earn money while sailing.
4 points by quinnchr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have a very flexible employer who allows me to work from home. So last summer I decided to bike across the US and work while I went. After buying the bike and camping gear my only expenses were internet and food. There's nothing quite like pitching a tent off the side of the road after a long day of cycling and pulling out your laptop to get some work done. However, sometimes after putting in 70+ miles in a day there is not much motivation left to get any work done.
4 points by vhackish 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is awesome - I have a 30' sailboat that I don't spend nearly enough time on. I would love to cut free for a while this like this guy! It sure would take a lot of courage.

Oh yes, and boats do require quite a bit of maintenance. I do most of mine myself and actually enjoy it usually, but it's not always on my schedule (although I try to be proactive, that helps).

One last thing: as a geek I really love fiddling with the boat systems. Having only two car-type batteries is not a lot, so I've been doing little things like replacing lights with LEDs (every boater should consider that IMHO for 1/8th draw and better longevity), changing how the charging system works, getting some solar going (in progress), etc. It's off the grid living!

4 points by pschlump 1 day ago 0 replies      
We sold everything bought a sailboat and have been up and down the east cost of the US and the Bahamas for 4 years now.
My children are 11 years old.
2 points by dminor 1 day ago 0 replies      
For a similar adventure, check out bumfuzzle.com and go back to the very beginning of their blog.
1 point by checoivan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Your very sane boss knows what he loves, and decided to go get it.

Been there, done that.It was awesome. It wasn't a boat though.

1 point by jijoy 1 day ago 0 replies      
he is not crazy , he is sane
1 point by webuiarchitect 1 day ago 0 replies      
He is smart; not crazy!!
       cached 13 December 2010 03:04:01 GMT