hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    1 May 2011 Best
home   ask   best   8 years ago   
I don't learn anything on HN anymore, bring back the upvote count
1038 points by wdewind  2 days ago   220 comments top 72
tokenadult 2 days ago 5 replies      
When I first started reading HN I learned a TON very quickly and everyday about completely new stuff, and was able to do so because I could easily sort through the legitimacy of opinions based on their upvotes.

And yet the founder of HN said 25 days ago that there is a problem with HN, "the decreasing quality of comment threads on HN."


He summed up the problem by saying "The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted." If pg observed a situation like that, isn't it a bad idea to "sort through the legitimacy of opinions based on their upvotes"?

A link and comment in another recent metadiscussion thread largely sums up the back-and-forth about visible comment scores as a signal on comments in active threads:


>> Please bring back the comment scores. It helps a lot in parsing the comments and assigning a proportional weight to each when reading them.

> I had to think about this a bit, and I disagree so far. I'm finding that I'm not pre-judging comments as much. It's nice to be able to read someone's comment without knowing first that 70 or 80 or 3 other people thought it was worthwhile.

Once I had thought about that a bit, I reached the second conclusion. Readers on HN are gaining more quality comments as readers look at comments according to their inherent value and not upvoting or downvoting based on the crowd appeal of what someone else has already voted. Cognitive scientists have done a lot of research on what is called anchoring bias,


and I get the impression, after 892 days as a registered user of HN, that comment upvotes and downvotes for the last year or so have not been based on the same careful consideration of comment quality as they were in the early days of HN, but rather have been based too much on what net karma score is already displayed as people vote. I like the new comment score system of not displaying net comment scores on OTHER people's posts (of course I can still see my own comment scores) better than the previous system. In the spirit of pg's statement, I try to help the quality of HN by actively upvoting thoughtful, helpful comments, and being on the lookout for mean comments (which pg hopes will not be upvoted by anyone) and dumb comments (which surely don't help any users relying on comment scores to learn new facts) for downvoting those. A comment that is both mean and dumb ought to be downvoted, not upvoted. We can all do our part to help the quality of the community.

In his thread, pg mentioned comments that are mean or dumb "that (c) get massively upvoted." With that condition of HN less than a month ago in mind, how do the highest-voted comments visible in the bestcomments list


look to all of you recently? Are there fewer mean comments than before? Are there fewer dumb comments than before? Are the comments that are "massively upvoted" since the experiment began mostly comments that are reasonably kind and well-informed, helpful comments on the whole? In most of the treads you visit, do helpful, thoughtful comments seem to rise to a position of prominence, while mean or dumb comments gray out?

Remember, pg's claim is that recently HN has not been a place where there is an "easy way for readers to differentiate the noise," but rather a place where the noise has had an attached badge of being signal rather than noise. That isn't good for anyone reading HN. As you correctly point out, we STILL have "the location on the page," which is useful at least for comparing multiple comments at the same reply level as a comment thread develops, and the actual sources and reasoning used by one or another user in supporting points made in comments. People who LOOK UP what the facts are can find out a lot about who is taking care to do good research and who is just making stuff up. And that's always the safest path to learning, to check the sources to verify other people's factual claims.

mmaunder 2 days ago  replies      
You need to ween yourself off your social proof addiction. The problem with vote counts is that two downvotes can start a cascade of reflex downvotes. Or at best, it won't get upvoted. When vote counts where active, this effect caused many instances where an excellent comment was found greyed out at the bottom of the page until a few smart HN folks with high karma voted it back up.
AgentConundrum 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've noticed the same thing. I'll see a debate which is basically a thread of two people replying to each other with no other contributors. In this circumstance, it's impossible to distinguish between a situation where one person gets 10 upvotes and holds a well-agreed opinion and the other person gets 1 or 2 upvotes and is arguing his opinion just well enough to avoid being downvoted.

I understand that we're supposed to form our own opinions as to who we agree with, but sometimes its just not reasonable to take the time to do enough research. Sometimes, you want to learn from someone that actually knows what they're talking about.

Without some sort of vote indicator, it's hard to tell who has the most accurate opinion, except often in subjects like law, security, and seo where there are known experts that often chime in (e.g. grellas, tptacek, patio11).

I'd suggest that a form of "fuzzy vote counts" be implemented. Something to indicate either a relative score ("this comment is substantially higher voted than its parent") or just an approximate value ("unvoted", "few votes", "many votes") without a specific score.

mixmax 2 days ago 0 replies      
I absolutely agree - and since it's impossible to know whether a top comment in a thread is there because it was just posted or because it has a lot of upvotes the sorting of the comments doesn't really give me any information. This begs the question: If I can't see the votes and have no easy way of knowing which comments are highly rated why have a voting system at all? What is the purpose if not to serve as a guideline for the users?
moxiemk1 2 days ago 1 reply      
I feel the opposite - I'm learning more, because if I'm spending the time to read something, I have to think critically about it and do research sometimes in order to have a good interpretation. It takes more time, but it's real learning, instead of echo-chamber reading.
jsdalton 2 days ago 1 reply      
I guess only pg can answer this, but I'm wondering how the change has impacted voting behavior. Have there been more or less votes per comment? Has the proportion of upvotes to downvotes changed?

I get the sense that my comments have received more rather than less votes since the change. Previously, when a decent comment of mine had say 10 upvotes, I felt like people concluded "good enough" and didn't bother upvoting. Now without the score feedback, I actually feel like some of my mediocre comments have gotten more upvotes than they deserved.

Some behavior data would go a long way toward confirming or denying hypotheses like these.

blhack 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've said this in some of the other threads on this topic, but I'll say it again:

The huge (and incorrect) assumption that people are making about upvotes is that everybody reading the comments is stupid. We're not using the upvote count as a 100% perfect indicator of if somebody is correct or not, we're using it as an indicator of how many upvotes the comment has gotten. It's just one of several things that we can use to judge a comment's merit.

This information is useful, and I cannot fathom a benefit to withholding it.

grellas 2 days ago 0 replies      
Since HNers are so divided on this issue (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2445039), why not do one month on, one month off for a time to do a sort of A/B testing over a sustained period while keeping everyone at least semi-happy half the time? This would have the added benefit of letting cumulative totals get updated on searchyc from time to time.
jimrandomh 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't use upvotes to decide what I agree with, I use them to decide what to read in the first place. Hiding the votes means I can no longer skim through a thread to pick out the comments that are gems; I'd have to read all the bad comments too. And this means that reading comments here is no longer worth my time, so I don't do it. This is definitely not the desired effect.
masterzora 2 days ago 0 replies      
I know I'm not really supposed to have an opinion on these things, being a recently-created account and all, but I must respectfully disagree. If you really want to learn, using upvotes as proxy for correctness is a suboptimal way to do so, especially regarding topics without any clear cut answers. Being new to this site, I've actually spent roughly equal amounts of time with and without vote counts an I've noticed a pretty big difference in my own habits. In particular, rather than acting like HN is an omniscient font of knowledge, I treat it much more like wikipedia: a springboard for further exploration of topics.
sosuke 2 days ago 3 replies      
The highly voted comments still float to the top of the page don't they? When I was only reading the highly voted commetns I started to feel like I was only getting the popular opinion, especially so when it came to touchy topics. If HN does decide to turn the count back on I'd love an option to turn it back off in my own profile.
spencerfry 2 days ago 1 reply      
I completely agree. I don't have time to read every comment. I miss being able to skim to crowd-sourced, high up-voted comments.
rriepe 2 days ago 0 replies      
I could see this change working for other sites, but HN actually does have a sort of collective wisdom.

I've also stopped looking at comments entirely. Before, I would sometimes click through to just read the comments. There was value there. It's not necessarily gone now, but it is much harder to find.

gamble 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've been trying to give it a chance, but so far it doesn't seem like hiding the vote counts has done anything to improve the quality of comments on HN. Honestly, I think it's had the opposite effect. The number of in-depth comments seems to have plummeted.
tolmasky 2 days ago 1 reply      
What I found weird is that the points went away but the greying effect stayed. The truth is that that goes a lot further in making sure I don't ready unpopular views (with my eyes I often have to copy paste it to a text editor before I can read it comfortably). I would much prefer all comments be the same font color and being able to see the score so I can make my own decision as to whether to read it or not.
pluies 2 days ago 1 reply      
Yes please.

Also, the poll at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2445039 showed that most people agree.

cglee 2 days ago 1 reply      
I like not seeing vote count, but agree with you that it's a handy metric to sift through the cruft. How about a color scheme to show popularity instead of the specific vote count?
ilitirit 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the best solution would be for everyone to just start posting "better" commentary (and submissions), and revert back to the old ways of downvoting things that add no value to the discussion.

The "old" HN was a lot drier (for lack of a better word), but the discussions were generally much more informative and/or insightful. I remember people complaining about getting downvoted for a comment that would have probably gotten many upvotes on other sites, and I was always pleased to that these in turn were downvoted as well. This doesn't seem to happen any more though, which is a shame IMO.

famousactress 2 days ago 0 replies      
I miss them also. Was a weighted voting discussed as an alternative? One where the up/down vote is weighted against the karma of the voter? Seems like that would help elevate big-karma users to sort of meta-moderators and might help soften the concerns about reflexive voting?

And yeah, maybe for display the numbers aren't the best option.. just some sort of watered down "+" "++" "+++" type scheme...

jshen 2 days ago 1 reply      
"because I could easily sort through the legitimacy of opinions based on their upvotes. "

This is a mistake. People frequently vote down things that are right because they don't understand the material as well as they think they do.

merloen 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are so much more possibilities than just "show vote counts" and "hide vote counts": different sort orders based on more than just votes, collapsing threads, marking people as friends, or adding them to a kill-file. Giving votes different weights based on karma, or average comment score. Tagging of articles, and filtering or sorting based on that. And so on, and so on.

I understand that pg hasn't got the time to do all kinds of experiments, but this is HN, where more than half of us are great programmers.

Give us a simple API and let us do our own experiments. That's all I want.

evo_9 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for posting this. This is exactly how I feel about it.

The one upside to this change I guess is I'm spending much less time on H-N now.

fleitz 2 days ago 0 replies      
The only thing you're no longer learning is groupthink. Be glad you aren't learning it.

It's easy to learn in person, just parrot what everyone else is saying. You don't need HN to learn it.

You realize that people game the upvote system right? Writing karma whore comments is so easy when you know the votes. If you really want to know the votes, just reverse engineer the algorithm, it will show you the relative votes.

ronaldj 2 days ago 0 replies      
I miss the voting. I don't even bother reading comments anymore.
albertsun 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why not have a (high) karma threshold, above which you can choose whether or not you want to see vote counts?

I think respected, established members of the community would know themselves well enough to decide for themselves whether it's good or bad to personally have vote counts.

FWIW: Below the threshold I think it's better to not have counts.

lhnn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Could we have a hybrid? We don't need to see the exact number... what if massively upvoted (100+ points) got a green highlight on the "link" URL, and massively downvoted (-10 or more) get shaded, like they already do?

This keeps the content from being so quickly judged, but eventually shows strong content that has been upvoted by hundreds without bias.

ANH 2 days ago 0 replies      
I prefer not seeing the number of votes, and think lukifer's idea of a "view count or vote" model is great. A visible score attached to each comment seems to me somehow demeaning. But I've never been much for grades...

And has been stated multiple times, the highly upvoted comments filter to the top already.

yosho 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can we at least maybe have a star rating or color rating or something that lets us differentiate high voted comments from mediocre comments? It really does simply take too long to scan and read all the comments. Most of the time I'm just looking for interesting snippets of information, I simply don't have the time to read everything.

Please bring something back, I find myself never reading the comments now.

raquo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hm, this post is only 2 hours old and is already 14th on the front page despite having 600+ points. Do all local posts disappear so fast from the front page, or is this one treated specially? Or maybe its upvote/downvote ratio is low?
kuroir 2 days ago 0 replies      
The point you make is totally valid; and now that I think about it, when I was able to see the upvotes I could at a glance identify the answers with one or more of the following:

1. Correct Answer (real, like a founder answering about his app).
2. Popular Answer (comedy, something people "lol" to).

Identifying the difference between those two is done with only common sense; but supposing you still lack of that, you can still feel what the community liked by looking at the numbers.

"50 upvoted this" that must mean something vs "3 upvoted this"...

bandushrew 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am very sorry, but that is just wrong.

Votes are not a reliable indication of whether or not a post is correct.

They are a reliable indication of whether or not a post is popular.

It does sometimes happen that a post is both correct and popular, but that is not something it is ever safe to rely on.

'Social Proof' is a fantasy that does not exist.

knite 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't need to know a comment's score, just the score's magnitude provides a lot of utility. In the same way that a grayed-out comment signifies a poor reply, find a way to show me whether a comment is neutral, slightly positive, very positive, or stupendously positive.
blhack 2 days ago 0 replies      
To the people who think that comment points should not be visible:

How do you go about choosing which books to read? Do you read all of them, are you exclusive to specific authors, or do you depend on your peers to make suggestions?

larsberg 2 days ago 1 reply      
I hate to be "that guy," but I don't see why the count display isn't an option in our account panel.

In the previous polls, people seemed to be split 50/50-ish. Unless pg, as HN Overlord, feels that either removing counts has a performance or pedagogical purpose, this option seems like a perfect candidate for an account setting.

eande 2 days ago 0 replies      
every time someone posts this I add my 2 cents and say the same, please bring back the karma most useful.
97s 2 days ago 0 replies      
i agree. i miss being able to skim faster and determine what the community judges as a good reply, I know many others who feel the same way.
_sh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a thought: maybe it's time to close HN. That's right, close it down. PG said all along HN was a production experiment for Arc, so maybe it's time to evaluate the hypothesis and conclude the experiment.

All this hand-wringing about 'the community' and signal/noise indicates the membership has outmanoeuvred any means of wrangling it into some pre-conceived notion of 'quality'. For better or for worse, the thundering hoards of the internet have arrived and are drowning out the elitist clique. If that is bad for everybody, then it's time to shut up shop.

dmak 2 days ago 0 replies      
I, literally, stopped reading comments and even started to stop reading hacker news because I didn't feel like spending extra time to read through and filter out the informational comments.
blantonl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Although I learn a lot from the comments on submissions, I tend to learn a lot more from the submissions themselves.

Maybe the Hacker News team is trying to place more emphasis on submissions instead of comments?

JabavuAdams 2 days ago 0 replies      
One issue I'd like to see explored more deeply is the path-dependence of a comment's final score.

There's this often unstated assumption that "good" comments will rise to the top.

What about this:

1) Display all comment scores, all the time
2) A new comment is posted
3) Segment the readership somehow, so that the comment has a (possibly different) score for each segment. E.g. Allow a comment to have 4 different scores.
4) Start the comment off with a random score in the range [-2, +2], but one that's different for each viewer segment
5) track (but hide) the number of upvotes and downvotes for each score
6) display just init + upvotes - downvotes to each segment

zwieback 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not a heavy user of social networks so I don't know if this exists somewhere but why can't I have a customized view where posters I like are weighted more than others. Then I can do this:

- The poster's weighting would show up as a color (good,better,best)

- The product of the poster's weight and the popularity of the comment determines the order on the page

Now I can look at the top of the page where very popular comments show up and then scroll toward the bottom and quickly identify any posters I really like

I realize this wouldn't be too hard to do by scraping the comment page and maintaining my own database of favorite commenters.

bane 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps pg should set a point where the points are revealed, but additional voting is locked out (but not comments)? Perhaps 24-48 hours after an article is submitted? Then provide a link to those articles as they decay into that group for people who really need point confirmation to catch up on what the rest of the community thought?
runjake 2 days ago 1 reply      
Or at least shove it in a div or span and hide it by default, so those of us who want it back can style it unhidden.
ssing 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nowdays I just don't read beyond the first few comments. Request to please bring back the upvote count.
stretchwithme 2 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe there should be 2 modes.

One for those just wanting to read and learn where they can see the votes but where the user is not allowed to vote.

And one for those wishing to vote where they can't see and be influenced by the votes of others.

JabavuAdams 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow. I never realized that people paid attention to upvotes. This explains a lot...

> Especially as an engineer who knows little about business, it was extremely helpful to get a community perspective on the startup stuff.

It's not a community perspective. It's a positive feedback loop.

> The value of HN, from the perspective of simply learning, has been destroyed for me since upvotes were hidden.

Now, you're learning.

starpilot 2 days ago 1 reply      
To new HN readers, the comments appear to be sorted randomly. There's no explanation for why some posts are at the top or bottom. That's a definite flaw of hiding the votecounts and could dissuade newcomers.
zyfo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Good comments are still put at the top. Mentally filter out the recent comments, and you should be able to see quite easily how "good" a comment is. I honestly don't see the big difference.
mattdeboard 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have never. Ever. EVER. witnessed the top comment on an active HN thread be something "witty remarks that a lot of people found funny." Granted, I've only been here a year or so, but comment threads here do come very close to being a true meritocracy, where merit is a function is insight, relevance, wit and brevity.

HN only feels like Reddit comment threads to me on these introspective topics. I avoid them for the most part but your comment in particular stood out to me.

Goladus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Learn to read critically and think critically. You don't need prior knowledge on a subject to evaluate a comment. Look for sound logic. Identify and evaluate the assertions and any hidden assumptions.

Vote counts are won't ever reliably reveal truth.

rexreed 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't understand this. I have no problem discerning good quality content and comments from bad quality. I just read stuff. It sounds intellectually lazy and quite possibly self-defeating to rely on the trivialities of other people's votes to determine what is important to YOU.

After all, what is important to ME or not important to ME has nothing to do with what's important to YOU. The fact that you have stopped learning anything on HN, as you put it, has to do with YOU and not ME. So, don't blame the lack of votes. I wonder how you can get along in this world where you have to evaluate things at face value. In the "real world", there aren't point values and upvote/downvote nonsense on things.

I hope HN gets rid of the point system altogether. I'm sure I'm in the minority.

lupatus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Lately, I've been reading the "new" headlines as opposed to the "top" headlines to find those hidden gems that _I_ think are interesting.
besvinick 2 days ago 0 replies      
I feel like all the articles that get posted on HN are ones that I come across through a variety of other sources (SAI, TechCrunch, etc.) on Twitter. I find HN to be much more useful for discussions that are started based off the aforementioned articles from other sites.
6ren 2 days ago 0 replies      
Comment age is also a factor: an older comment has more points than a similarly ordered newer comment.

So, when scanning downwards, score is inversely proportional to age.

gsivil 2 days ago 1 reply      
How come this post is not in the first page after 8 hours while the following post for example still is?

Joel Spolsky: Lunch (joelonsoftware.com)
275 points by alexlmiller 12 hours ago | flag | 175 comments

kleevr 2 days ago 0 replies      
I kind of like hiding the points for active threads, maybe after 24 hours it could show the points. This would be helpful when
pnathan 2 days ago 0 replies      
Agreed, votes are a good way to filter out the most of noise from the signal.
espeed 2 days ago 0 replies      
So have two types of browsers -- those who choose to see vote counts, and those that don't. And discount the votes of those that do.
b3b0p 2 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe make the up / down votes on a comment a reward for participating on that thread.

That is, if you up vote / down vote a comment and make a comment on that comment you can view that comments vote count. Does that make sense or did it come out sounding bad?

Just a thought. I think I like it without knowing the vote count.

Edit: Clarification.

adaml_623 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think you either need an upvote count or the ability to collapse comment threads.
BoppreH 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can we get a user preference, as the case with show_dead and topcolor? I don't see that could be bad for anyone.

"Show score on posts: (yes/no)"

sebkomianos 2 days ago 0 replies      
Having it as an option for everyone to choose if he/she wants it enabled or disabled could as well be a "solution"?
FreshCode 2 days ago 1 reply      
Hacker News needs a Meta HN.
mattreading 2 days ago 0 replies      
Karma is a form of currency. It's influence should be exploited not suffocated! There are ways to use it that would benefit the community.
twodayslate 2 days ago 0 replies      
I did not even notice they removed the vote count. It doesn't bother me. I don't know how to downvote either though
turar 2 days ago 0 replies      
Will setting downvote display limit to 0 instead of -4 help?
teyc 2 days ago 1 reply      
I disagree. It is forcing you to think for yourself.

What do you want to learn here? What most HNers believe to be true, or do you want to learn to be independent?

known 2 days ago 0 replies      
What are the incentives for up/down voting?
solid 2 days ago 0 replies      
How about the Slashdot system? +1/5 Insightful/Funny/etc?
fuckoff 2 days ago 0 replies      
here here!
kedi_xed 2 days ago 0 replies      
I did see that as '..bring back the upvote c*unt'. Thought it was a little harsh.
grandalf 2 days ago 0 replies      
Suggestion: Try getting dopamine from reading the comments instead of from game mechanics layered imperfectly on top of the forum.
Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) ubuntu.com
428 points by SandB0x  3 days ago   210 comments top 39
fingerprinter 3 days ago 8 replies      
I've had it installed on my main machine since late December. There were some rough patches as things were landing during the beta period, but right now this is easily the best desktop I've ever used.

My workflow adapted to some of the additions in Unity so quickly that it was absurd. At this point I could never go back to something without Super+#, Super+w, Super+s and the other keybindings found here: http://askubuntu.com/questions/28086/unity-keyboard-mouse-sh...

Just be sure to install compizconfigSettingsManager from the software center and you can tweak Unity to some degree.

Just an FYI, what I tend to dev on is Ruby/Rails, Python, Javascript (Node/etc), some Erlang (not as much anymore) and Android dev. This system is so freakin' fantastic for all of those...really quite happy.

Garbage 3 days ago 2 replies      
A short list of whats new in Ubuntu 11.04 - http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/whats-new

And features - http://www.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/features

scrrr 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is exactly the right direction for Ubuntu. I'm installing this remotely on my dad's computer as I type this.

The shortcut keys (using the Windows-button) are very useful and the dock-like launcher is a good replacement for the old task-bar.

It might take a couple more years but somehow I have the feeling that Ubuntu might be heading for the mainstream. Rightfully so.

chao- 3 days ago 1 reply      
When last I used the Unity shell, it was clearly not ready for prime time. I'll spend some time later today, cross my fingers, and discover if that has changed or not. There's much more in a new release than just that, but the supposedly-cleaned up Unity will probably get most of the press.

Some concerns aside, I respect a lot of the chutzpah that Canonical is showing: Unity, Wayland, trying to force KDE/GNOME to work together on a notification API. They want to see the Linux desktop improve, and even if people fight against them and they lose, to me it feels better than the inertia of the status quo. Stasis gets no one anywhere.

JonnieCache 3 days ago 3 replies      
I'd like to point out that this is a good time to really test your connection. I've never downloaded anything faster than a torrent of a fresh ubuntu release.
lwhi 3 days ago 9 replies      
As I use my Ubuntu desktop to actually get work done, I'm quite terrified about installing this release.

I'm not sure I'll upgrade for a while yet, I want to find out what the general consensus is first.

unwind 3 days ago 4 replies      
Of course, this is the release that changes the desktop interface around quite a lot. I'm a bit hesitant, although this answer in the FAQ was soothing:

No problem at all. You can choose to launch the classic desktop experience when you log in to your computer.

Not sure if this really means that the choice has to be re-made on every login, or if is remembered. Anyone?

stuartcw 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I have upgraded and a all of the CPU hogging problems I have been suffering recently have gone away. I am very happy with the upgrade so far.
selectnull 3 days ago 0 replies      
Since I've been using Ubuntu (year and a half now), upgrade was always easy, and always resulted in a month of little annoyances afterwards. But I look forward to it nonetheless.

Upgrading now and feel like a kid on a christmas morning :)

larrik 3 days ago 0 replies      
Serious question: Do any of you use Avant Window Navigator? How does Unity compare with it?
2mur 3 days ago 13 replies      
I'm not going back to linux on the desktop until it can sleep my laptop reliably. OSX is so nice for that. Just close the lid and go... I can't imagine working any other way now.
krat0sprakhar 2 days ago 8 replies      
Ok... this seems pretty much out of place but I dont suppose I can get a better answer anywhere else, so here it goes.

I'm a student in India and in a dilemma about buying a Mac or buying a windows machine (dual booting with Ubuntu 11.04 ). At about 3/4th the price of a Mac I can purchase a more powerful windows laptop and boot up Ubuntu ( and thus avoid windows altogether ).

I need a workstation for Ruby on Rails/ Node development. Since my parents will be the one paying, I want to be sure if Mac is worth it. I've never worked on a Mac before but since I've read that most startups that are hiring offer Mac to developers, I'm guessing owning a Mac would really make development more enjoyable. Would love to hear your guys' thoughts on this.

Thanks a lot.

lhnn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've had it for a little bit, but I went back to Ubuntu Classic when I saw I couldn't add a "Show Desktop" to the panel... Between gnome-do and the window snapping feature a-la Windows 7, "Ubuntu Classic" works well for me.

Besides, I'm experimenting with moving all my servers to Debian Stable. It's interesting how much Ubuntu does for you automatically...

urza 2 days ago 0 replies      
Are there any up-to-date statistics how many people uses ubuntu? Ideally also compared to other linux distributions, windows, osx.. Google gives me only few years old numbers or estimates, I guess its not easy to do these kind of stats?
mjs 3 days ago 4 replies      
I find the description of which image to choose confusing. You need the a 64-bit image to handle processes over 4GB, right? Why is the x86 version recommended for "most machines with Intel/AMD/etc type processors and almost all computers that run Microsoft Windows." (That's from the server description, too.)
paulkoer 16 hours ago 0 replies      
WARNING: Installing Natty may brick your Macbook Pro


I really love ubuntu, but if you have a macbook pro be careful! I may have to have my logic board replaced!

lurker19 23 hours ago 0 replies      
On Sandy Bridge graphics,X server freezes or flickers everytime anything interesting happens, like screensaver or suspend or console switching. New graphics bugs are reported daily. My X has frozen hard 6 times in 2 days.
Nvidia drivers have some trouble also.
In short, 2011 hardware is not compatible with Unity or Compiz at all. Legacy Metacity is slightly better, and disable all power management to get a mostly stable system..
enterneo 3 days ago 2 replies      
aargh! I just installed it in Vmware Fusion on Snow Leopard only to realize it does not support OpenGL for Linux OS. Ubuntu went into a fallback mode and disabled Unity. Seems like I need to switch to a different Virtual Machine Software, any suggestions?
mmaunder 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why is it so hard to find a changelog for the server edition of 11.04?
hartror 2 days ago 0 replies      
12 hours later I think I have everything working as I intend . . though my productivity is still taking a hit trying to find various things.
meric 3 days ago 5 replies      
Ubuntu's website shows of its Dash "Spotlight", Launcher "Dock", Status Icons "Menu bar with status", Workspace "Spaces", Ubuntu Store "Mac App Store".

It's almost like they're trying to directly compete with Mac OS X, with "killer features" that match exactly with what apple regularly shows off with Mac OS X.

lurker19 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Networking is extremely flaky in my home LAN. Since I set up a new box with natty, my box had been crashing my actontec DSL modem. There are some workarohbds online for disabling ipv6 and restarting wifi when he module crashes and the indicator Applet loses its connection to he network-manager service.
BasDirks 3 days ago 0 replies      
Both the launcher and the dash are awesome. Takes very little time to get used to.
bergie 3 days ago 1 reply      
I've been running this on my MacBook Air for a couple of weeks now. Some rough edges, especially with GNOME3 from a PPA.
ra 3 days ago 1 reply      
I got nervous with Ubuntu releases when 9.10 came out, and it was really buggy; definitely shouldn't have been released in that state.

This time round I upgraded a couple of nights ago from the repos, and I'm pleased to say there have been no dramas.

cgoddard 3 days ago 0 replies      
Been using Unity and natty for a few weeks now. The only feature I really miss from the gnome interface right now is the ability to add / move / remove toolbar widgets. Has anyone figured out if it's possible / how to do this in Unity?

Overall I feel a lot more productive with Unity. The numerous super- functions are really helpful and nifty. I especially like the super- 1-9 for positioning/resizing windows on the current monitor.

zenocon 2 days ago 1 reply      
i'm shopping for a new laptop to put this on. i'm looking for something maybe like the samsung series 9. ideally, i'd like it to be as slim as that, but have a 15" screen. anyway, looking for laptop HW recommendations from others here. i've run ubuntu on a number of thinkpads before, but i want to buy a new laptop to replace my MBP.
leon_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, I'm running Ubuntu 10.10 - but I use awesome-wm instead of gnome. Is it worth to upgrade to 11? After reading the comments here it seems like the big thing about 11.04 was the new gnome shell.
taken11 2 days ago 0 replies      
upgrade failed, unity/compiz does not work with my graphic card. none of that detected, worst ubuntu upgrade so far.
buster 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just in time for my new laptop, perfect.
I am eager to see the Unity interface! :)
jhawk28 3 days ago 1 reply      
Updated our server. Only issue was that I needed to reinstall Mercurial.
Symmetry 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was very impressed by Unity, I'd been using a tiling window manager for a while but after rebinding some miscellaneous shortcuts to Super+(right hand key) I'm totally happy with it.
enterneo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am wondering, if Unity isn't supported due to lack of hardware acceleration, does it fallback to Gnome2? (does it mean it still bundles Gnome along with Unity?). This is essential to make a choice between Xubuntu and Ubuntu when running in a VM
malkia 2 days ago 1 reply      
Heh, just installed ubuntu-10.10-dekstop-amd64 on my EverRunNote notebook.

Now this came out :)

Btw, there is no ubuntu-10.10-notebook-amd64 - probably because there are not many 64-bit notebooks?

alienfluid 2 days ago 0 replies      
The upgrade's going - another 40 minutes or so.

Pro-tip for people with laptops that have switchable graphics - Go into your BIOS and set the default to "Discrete graphics" and not "Switchable". Otherwise Ubuntu will default to integrated and you'll miss out on all the fancy animations.

T_S_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
Can I upgrade a Ubuntu 10.10 machine in-place? Don't worry its a VM.
aashu_dwivedi 3 days ago 0 replies      
I always was a little skeptical about unity , and thought I'd rather go with the gnome3 , but consider it a peer pressure or whatever i am upgrading to unity as I type this :) [and yeah i'm every bit excited] , cheers .
mise 3 days ago 2 replies      
Dare you?
ioSami 3 days ago 0 replies      
Already downloading.
Bose founder makes big stock donation to MIT mit.edu
416 points by privacyguru  1 day ago   93 comments top 18
Anechoic 1 day ago 5 replies      
Folks like to rag on Bose products (and from a pure sound quality standpoint they are overpriced IMO) but Amar Bose was the best professor I had and his enthusiasm for engineering and acoustics showed in all of his lectures.

He's been good to MIT over the years (MIT students, faculty and affiliates get substantial discount) and this is another example of him giving back. I hope this encourages MIT to resurrect some of their acoustics programs (aside from a couple of projects coming out of the Media Lab and a telephony class or two, acoustics has been dead at MIT since the late 1990's) but I suspect they'll just use it as a cash cow.

rit 1 day ago 2 replies      
This is an incorrect title; the wrong conclusion may have been drawn.

Although he has given them majority shares they are nonvoting only. The terms of.the gift forbid them from selling the shares or participating in any management or governance of the company.

Bose is remaining a private / independent company still run by said founder. This is essentially a gift that should pay nice stock dividends for MIT.

tt 1 day ago 3 replies      
I was fortunate to be a student of Dr. Bose many years ago. No other professor gave unlimited time on exams, plus free Toscanini's ice cream to boot!

Beyond those small perks, his stories working with Norbert Wiener and his inspirations have completely transformed and shaped my personality and how I solve problems. Above all, the highest integrity one would have with his/her work, has been my #1 beacon thanks to Dr. Bose. I will always cherish that end-of-term field trip at his corporate headquarters where I witnessed amazing demos (including the active automobile suspensions), and heard even more stories that made me believe that anything is possible when you put your mind and heart into it.

tt 1 day ago 2 replies      
Dr. Bose strongly believes that the company would have gone down a terrible path had they taken on any VC money. He had always wanted Bose Corp to focus on research, and thus all profits are poured into funding more R&D. No doubt this decision makes it possible for him to donate the majority of shares to MIT today. I still remember his words: "Those MBAs would have had me fired in no time."

So how did he fund the company initially? According to Dr. Bose, Lee handed over his entire life savings because he firmly believed that Bose would succeed!

guelo 1 day ago 4 replies      
What a wasteful donation. MIT has an over $8 billion endowment, and it teaches the most privileged technical students in the world. If MIT was at least trying to expand to teach more students, but of course it can't since it needs to maintain it's high selectivity in order to preserve its reputation. I can think of a thousand better donations than wasting it on rich ivy schools.
robg 1 day ago 2 replies      
According to the definitions often used here, isn't Bose a lifestyle company?
joshfinnie 1 day ago 1 reply      
A bit of a sensational title. With all the discussion on Hacker News lately about ownership of the company, this is interesting. Gave a majority of non-voting stock to MIT to get company dividends. That is all.

Interesting way of donating your fortune to a school.

thematt 1 day ago 0 replies      
If MIT will have no voting authority under this new arrangement then I wonder what the value of actually giving the shares is. Couldn't Bose just donate all their earnings to MIT every fiscal year instead, earn a tax deduction and avoid the dividend tax that will be assessed to MIT?
smackfu 1 day ago 3 replies      
He should have donated 30% to MIT and 70% to a good marketing school.
kevinherron 1 day ago 1 reply      
Can anyone explain the "'51" after his name? Is that class of 51?
uberc 1 day ago 0 replies      
I attended one special lecture by Prof. Bose while at MIT. I can't remember the subject matter specifically -- something about acoustics. But I remember the feeling of the man: humble, wise, noble. This news reminds me of that feeling.
rajatmehta1 1 day ago 0 replies      
this is what is called as a life well lived, you do something great that creates an impact and then the earnings are donated back to enhance your creation or somebody else's as long as innovation happens for the +ve.Too good.
I am surprised at some comments that still people have the nag to find a fault in this thing as well :)
orijing 1 day ago 1 reply      
It says Bose donated a majority of the shares. How much is Bose (private company) worth? And how much in dividends can MIT expect from Bose on an annual basis?
joejohnson 1 day ago 1 reply      
What power does this actually give MIT? I don't understand.
kennethologist 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is an admirable and inspiring gesture. I only hope one day I can do this for my alma mater (moreso my high school than university). Thank you Dr. Bose.
executive 1 day ago 0 replies      
He should have invested in making better speakers.
zandorg 1 day ago 0 replies      
All your Bose are belong to MIT.
rubergly 1 day ago 3 replies      
I don't understand anything about the stock market, but giving someone a large portion of stock with the agreement that it can never be sold seems like the wrong thing to do when people need to spend more to bring us out of a recession.
AWS Service Disruption Post Mortem amazon.com
374 points by teoruiz  2 days ago   101 comments top 26
nicpottier 2 days ago 11 replies      
tldr: ""The trigger for this event was a network configuration change. We will audit our change process and increase the automation to prevent this mistake from happening in the future."

AMZN has gotten a lot of flack over this outage, and rightly so. But I do want to dissuade anyone from thinking anybody else could do much better. I worked there 10 years ago, when they were closer to 200 engineers, and the caliber of people there at that point was insane. By far the smartest bunch I've ever worked with, and a place where I learned habits that serve me well to this day.

I know the guys that started the AWS group and they were the best of that already insanely selective group. It is easy to be an arm chair coach and scream that the network changes should have been automated in the first place, or that they should have predicted this storm, but that ignores just how fantastically hard what they are doing is and how fantastically well it works 99(how many 9's now?)% of the time.

In short, take my word for it, the people working on this are smarter than you and me, by an order of magnitude. There is no way you could do better, and it is unlikely that if you are building anything that needs more than a handful of servers you could build anything more reliable.

bretthopper 2 days ago 6 replies      
I've been noticing a trend recently when reading about large scale failures of any system: it's never just one thing.

AWS EBS outage, Fukushima, Chernobyl, even the great Chicago Fire (forgive me for comparing AWS to those events).

Sure there's always a "root" cause, but more importantly, it's the related events that keep adding up to make the failure even worse. I can only imagine how many minor failures happen world wide on a daily basis where there's only a root cause and no further chain of events.

Once a system is sufficiently complex, I'm not sure it's possible to make it completely fault-tolerant. I'm starting to believe that there's always some chain of events which would lead to a massive failure. And the more complex a system is, the more "chains of failure" exist. It would also become increasingly difficult to plan around failures.

edit: The Logic of Failure is recommended to anyone wanted to know more about this subject: http://www.amazon.com/Logic-Failure-Recognizing-Avoiding-Sit...

Smerity 2 days ago 0 replies      
> The nodes in an EBS cluster are connected to each other via two networks. The primary network is a high bandwidth network... The secondary network, the replication network, is a lower capacity network used as a back-up network... This network is not designed to handle all traffic from the primary network but rather provide highly-reliable connectivity between EBS nodes inside of an EBS cluster.

During maintenance instead of shifting traffic off of one of the redundant routers the traffic was routed onto the lower capacity network. There was human error involved but the network issue only provoked latent bugs in the system that should have been picked out during disaster recovery testing.

Automatic recovery that isn't properly tested is a dangerous beast; it can cause problems faster and broader than any team of humans are capable of handling.

wanderr 2 days ago 1 reply      
I highly recommend that anyone who was surprised by this outage, or the description of the chain reaction of failures that lead to it, read Systemantics. It is a dry but amusing exploration of the seemingly universal fact that every complex system is always operating in a state of failure, but the complexity, failovers and multiple layers can hide this, until the last link in the chain finally breaks, usually with catastrophic results.
senthilnayagam 2 days ago 0 replies      
AWS was numero uno in terms of customer visibility and the image of a pathbreaking cloud service, before the incident.

Lack in transparency in reaching out to customers is the biggest mistake what AWS did. They would learn from their mistakes, their servers and networks would be more reliable than ever.

This incident has given a reason for people to look at multi-cloud operation capability, for disaster recovery and backup reasons. AWS monopoly would be gone, there would be many new standards which would be proposed to bring in interoperability and for migrations between clouds.

thebootstrapper 2 days ago 1 reply      
One of the main cause for "re-mirroring storm," is node not backing off from finding a replica.

Here's Twitter Back off decider implementation (Java)


When last time i looked i was little clueless on this. Now I find its usage.

hobbes 2 days ago 3 replies      
>...one of the standard steps is to shift traffic off of one of the redundant routers in the primary EBS network to allow the upgrade to happen. The traffic shift was executed incorrectly...

This supports the theory that between 50%-80% of outages are caused by human error, regardless of the resilience of the underlying infrastructure.

epi0Bauqu 2 days ago 1 reply      
They should also allow one-time moves of reserved instances between availability zones.
mml 2 days ago 4 replies      
Did I read this correctly in paragraph 2: " For two periods during the first day of the issue, the degraded EBS cluster affected the EBS APIs and caused high error rates and latencies for EBS calls to these APIs across the entire US East Region."

Their "control plane" network for the EBS clusters span availability zones in a region? If so, this would be the fatal flaw.

rdl 2 days ago 0 replies      
I still don't see a good justification for keeping the ebs control plane exposed to failure across multiple availability zones in a region. Until that is fixed, I would not depend on AZs for real fault tolerance.
moe 1 day ago 0 replies      
Now that's what I call a post mortem. Kudos to the author.
charper 2 days ago 0 replies      
Seems there is always this issue. System fails. Systems try to repair themselves. Systems saturate something which stops them from repairing. Systems all loop aggressively bringing it all down.
gojomo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I doubt this is the last time we'll hear of a "re-mirroring storm" in an oversaturated cloud.
thehodge 2 days ago 2 replies      
An automatic 100% credit for 10 days usage, thats pretty good IMO
leoc 2 days ago 0 replies      
Compare to the 2008 post-mortem: http://status.aws.amazon.com/s3-20080720.html Messaging infrastructure as single point of failure? Check. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2472227
johndbritton 2 days ago 0 replies      
"We will look to provide customers with better tools to create multi-AZ applications that can support the loss of an entire Availability Zone without impacting application availability. We know we need to help customers design their application logic using common design patterns. In this event, some customers were seriously impacted, and yet others had resources that were impacted but saw nearly no impact on their applications."
mcpherrinm 2 days ago 0 replies      
There's a quote I found interesting that hasn't been noted here yet:

"This required the time-consuming process of physically relocating excess server capacity from across the US East Region and installing that capacity into the degraded EBS cluster."

And if I read this description of the re-mirror storm correctly, I think that implies Amazon had to increase the size of it's EBS cluster in the affected zone by 13%, which considering the timeline seems fairly impressive.

assiotis 2 days ago 1 reply      
I find it surprising that they did not and do not plan to employ any sort of interlocks/padded walls. What I mean is, if the system is exhibiting some very abnormal state (e.g #remirror_event above a fixed threshold or more than x standard deviations above average) then automated repair actions should probably stop and the issue should be escalated to a human.
thebootstrapper 2 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me again, Distributed System are hard and the first fallacies "The network is reliable"
mauricio 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's strange we haven't heard more from users of the 0.07% of EBS volumes that were corrupted and unrecoverable during the outage. I just assumed there was no data loss as a result of the outage.
pwzeus 1 day ago 0 replies      
I for once just want to say that claps to them for figuring this out , nailing it down in fixing it in just few days. After reading this if feels like issue at such massive level can take large amount of time to fix.
AdamGibbins 1 day ago 1 reply      
I found this rather entertaining: http://intraspirit.net/images/aws-explained.png
VladRussian 1 day ago 0 replies      
interesting, several weeks ago someone (reddit?) has already hit the problems with EBS availability. Did Amazon paid attention and analyzed the problem back then? Or let it just pass?
mikiem 2 days ago 1 reply      
The whole thing is just too complicated to be highly-available. There will be more problems, but I wish them luck.
nodata 2 days ago 3 replies      
tl;dr version?
gord 2 days ago 1 reply      
This article reads like nonsense - but this is not a criticism of AWS.

The real problem is there is no good mathematical model of distributed behaviour, from which statistical guarantees can be made.

I think we're at the limit of what the smartest people can achieve with hand crafted code.

Most likely new math will give rise to new tools and languages, in which the next generation of reliable distributed systems will be written.

Without this advance we will have storage networks that aren't reliable, an internet that can be taken down by one organization, botnets that are unkillable and patchy network security.

Eating Healthily for $3 a Day miketuritzin.com
370 points by miketuritzin  3 days ago   347 comments top 35
mmaunder 3 days ago  replies      
My wife and I tried to do this recently on $1.70 per person per day. We didn't last our intended 28 days. A few observations we found:

Meat and organic food was too expensive.

Fruit is crazy expensive so we bought OJ from concentrate with no additives as a cheap source of Vitamin C.

Eggs were are very expensive, but we needed the protein and nutrients, so rationed ourselves to 3 each per week.

We had to remove all sugar to save on cost and sugar crashed badly.

We decided that Costco was cheating due to the $70 membership fee and so we alternated between Safeway and Walmart.

You quickly learn the difference between broccoli florets and stems. [Stems are cheaper]

Baking your own bread is incredibly cheap and if you're using a sourdough starter you just need flour, salt and water. It's a great staple and adds taste to the meal. I scraped the unused flour off the work bench and dumped it back in the sourdough starter to save on cost.

Lentils are the most complete non-meat protein source.

Combining beans and rice give you a complete protein.

Cheese is too expensive and you can't make cheese from regular organic off-the-shelf homogenized ultra-pasteurized milk. It just doesn't set when you add the rennet.

You can buy coffee for $1 for a months worth of ground coffee at walmart. It's called Master Chef and it tastes like a used catbox.

Before we did our experiment we found a few "living on a dollar a day" blogs, but every single one bought in bulk and then calculated the cost of each scoop they took out of the bin. They also didn't care about nutritional completeness and basically starved themselves for the period.

After trying to do this on $1.70 and failing, I think Mike's budget of $3 is probably a realistic per person budget if you're going to stay healthy.

wheels 3 days ago 4 replies      
I've thought about putting together a brief founders' cookbook with a dozen or so of the recipes for things that I survived on in the lean days that you can make for about a buck or two and in about 20 minutes.

The real trick is not buying prepared foods at all. Things like flour, rice, eggs, beans, pasta, potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, yogurt, cheese, ground beef, fish filets and chicken breasts are all reasonably cheap and you can have a lot of variety with a relatively small set of ingredients on hand. With some practice you get to where you know how to parallelize the cooking steps so that you can get everything done and even cleaned up faster than you could run out for fast-food.

Secretly I want our next office to have a full kitchen since one of the things I miss when I'm at our office is being able to cook in the middle of the day.

colanderman 3 days ago 3 replies      
As a vegan on a limited budget, this approximates many of my meals (though I could stand to eat more nuts and seeds and fewer grains), and I can attest that any day I eat roughly this mix of foods is a day I feel superbly healthy.

I would suggest replacing the low-fat dairy milk with a non-dairy alternative such as soy or almond milk. Although this would up the cost to $3.50ish/day, non-dairy milks are usually fortified with more calcium than dairy milk contains naturally, and are often fortified with B12 as well.

henryw 3 days ago 5 replies      
Wow, the amount of protein in this diet is really low. And all those carbs may not be for everyone. This diet may be cheap, but not healthy.

If you are the type of person who puts on weight easily (like me), than I would suggest doing 50% to 60%+ of your calories from protein and 20% or less from carbs. The easiest source of protein are white eggs (in a carton), chicken (pre-cooked), beans (get low sodium), and protein shakes (whey during the day and casein at night). All these foods can be prepared with just the microwave.

Eating carbs is the easiest way to gain extra pounds. Removing carbs also removes any food coma you may experience after eating a meal, allowing you to be more productive.

I lost like 30 lbs without trying that hard by eliminating carbs and focusing on protein. The degree to which I'm in shape one day is correlated to how much carbs I have avoided in the previous few days.

And of course, take vitamin supplements. Throwing in some veggies for the fiber, or take fiber supplements.

b3b0p 3 days ago 4 replies      
I'm sorry, but I really disagree with any sort of dieting advice articles appearing on Hacker News for multiple reasons. Reading this thread only backs up my own thoughts and reasons why I dislike these articles.

First of all, everyone has their own idea of healthy.

Second, there are so many different diets, fads, foods, etc to eat or follow that's it ridiculous to even argue one way or another. Some eat lots of protein, some eat lots of fat, some eat low fat and high carbohydrates and everyone believes their method or means of eating is healthy. I'm sure no matter which way anyone argues there is a book, article, pubmed article to back up your ways. Making statements such as that can't be healthy, or you need to eat vegetables, fats, a certain amount of calories, and other similar statements is only someone else's opinion or belief and everyone is different.

Go with what makes you feel good. The best diet is the one you can follow. Listen to your body.

I would down vote this, but I can't down vote yet.

I'll probably get down voted for all this text, but I feel that strongly about this.

Frankly, what else bothers me is that almost any time someone expresses disagreement, they get down voted. Thus, people who disagree often times probably end up never posting.

dirtae 3 days ago 0 replies      
Broccoli crowns are on sale this week at Lucky (in the Bay Area) for $0.57 / lb. This should allow the OP to shave at least $0.50 per day from his food budget. :-)


As the co-founder of AnyLeaf, I talk to lots of people about saving on food and groceries. Some people "trade down" to save money, e.g., by replacing meat with beans. My personal strategy is to determine the diet I'd like to eat and that I consider healthy (the Paleo Diet, in my case) and then plan my shopping around the weekly sales offered by grocery stores. The variation in the price of a given item at a given store throughout the year is huge. Almost everything goes on sale for at least 50% off at one time or another. Also, every week there's almost always a good sale being offered on some product in every category (meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, etc). A typical meal for me is meat or seafood with some vegetable and some fruit for dessert. If there's a great sale on chicken breast, I'll have chicken breast. If the sale is on ground turkey, I'll have ground turkey. Likewise with fruit and vegetable choices. Shopping this way is a low-effort (if you use AnyLeaf) way to save substantially without trading down and compromising your nutritional goals.

credo 3 days ago 2 replies      
The post doesn't explicitly mention this, but this $3/day diet is also a vegetarian diet (with milk being the only non-vegan item in it).
beagle3 3 days ago  replies      
He follows (old) USDA dietary recommendations, which stipulate no saturated fat, and 60% carbs. That is really, really bad. The ultimate reference is "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes - it is meticulously researched and referenced, and is likely 40 years more up-to-date than your nutrition or medical professional.
chollida1 3 days ago 1 reply      
> Maintains the standard caloric ratios: 20-30% of calories from fat, about 10% from protein, and the rest from carbohydrates

This is the weirdest breakdown I've ever seen.

If you are at all concerned about lean muscle mass, and you should be if you want to be even the slighest bit athletic, then the minimum amount of protien you'd want is a half gram per pound of body weight.

Most people who work out or play sports try for closer to a 1 to 1 ratio.

This diet is severly messed up.

D_Alex 3 days ago 7 replies      
Can I ask: What is the motivation of trying to limit the cost of your food to such a low (for first-world) amount? I am really weirded out by the number of me-too responses, the philosophy of such extreme saving on food is alien to me.

For me, delicious food is near the top of my priority list. I really do not stint at all, my grocery bill is abt $40/day for 2 people... that is $15k/yr, such a bargain considering: rent+utilities on my modest apt is $35k/yr, 2 cars (Subaru+Toyota... not fancy) abt $20k/yr all up (I live in Australia).

Good food is such a bargain.

orenmazor 3 days ago  replies      
as somebody who exercises a great deal (and consumes over 3000cal a day), I can't recommend egg whites enough. for $4 (canadian) you can get almost a liter at costco. construct your menu right, and you can easily consume a great deal of healthy food for very little.

another tip: while YMMV, stay away from most beans other than black or chickpeas. those are the ones that tend to cause the least disturbance in the force.

pitdesi 3 days ago 2 replies      
Random tangential thought:

There are many areas in the world where you can eat a lot more than this for $3 a day. I lived on $2/day in India for a year (was working in microfinance and wanted to live like my borrowers). I got full vegetarian meals made for me in a major city (Ahmedabad) at that price.

Something to consider.

latch 3 days ago 2 replies      
I've mentioned it before, but anyone serious about this type of thing should get familiar with quinoa. It might be more expensive than rice, but it also contains a balanced set of essential amino acids - which is pretty rare for a plant. Most meals that call for rice can generally use quinoa instead, and you'll be much better off.
nickpp 3 days ago 1 reply      
No omega-3 oils. No greens. No fruit.

That can't be healthy...

malkia 3 days ago 0 replies      
Back in Bulgaria we used to have a farm (almost anyone had) at the "village" - e.g. the house that most city people would had at certain near rural place.

Mushrooms, chickens, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. Now can't be certain how much it cost supporting, and also water, transport, etc. - but salaries were (and still are) very little compared to US. Granted some things are ten times cheaper, but then others reach the price of US (absolute prices, not average salary relative).

Homebrew alcohol (wine, liquior), preserved tomatoes, salads, fruits, etc. Homemade ketchup kind of like stuff was (and I guess still is) very popular.

Some people even made cheese from milk (for feta you need bulgaricus bacilicus, for cheese I think not). And off course milk from the cow.

photophotoplasm 3 days ago 1 reply      
> 6. Keeps saturated fat to a minimum

In case anyone's interested, this recommendation is long outdated.

You should be keeping trans fats to a minimum and trying to increase your polyunsaturated fats, but saturated fat is neither here nor there.

dkarl 2 days ago 0 replies      
Doenjang and cheonggukjang (Korean fermented soybean products) are reputed to contain B12 and other B vitamins. They might be price-competitive with eggs, and they'd certainly add some welcome taste and variety. Unfortunately, I can't find any source for nutrition information. One would think they would be similar to natto, which has very impressive stats:


However, natto apparently doesn't contain much B12. Natto would be harder to find anyway (and harder to find cheap) since most large cities have Korean grocery stores that cater to budget-conscious customers. If you're looking for cheap, nutritious food, a trip to your local Korean store would be worthwhile for the chance to buy cheap rice and check out the nutrition information on the plastic tubs of doenjang. The cheonggukjang I've bought has not had nutrition information on the label, but it ought to be similar to doenjang or maybe natto.

davidmathers 3 days ago 1 reply      
Golden Produce, a local shop

A few doors down from Golden Produce is El Castillito, the source of my staple food: the super carne asada burrito. At just over $8 it sounds more expensive, but OP doesn't mention how long his staple meal takes to prepare.

Preparation time is definitely a cost if you'd rather be doing something else. Like taking a walk to buy a burrito. So I don't think the $3 figure is entirely accurate.

This does make me curious about how my meal stacks up in terms of carbs/fat/protien/calories.

Dramatize 3 days ago 1 reply      
My wife and I lived off $2.80AUD a day while she was finishing her last year of Uni.
It was really rough and Lucy end up developing iron deficiencies.
feint 3 days ago 1 reply      
more people should write posts like this so the myth of "eating healthy is more expensive". And it doesn't need to be boring food like in this post. Italian peasants have been spending much less than $3 a meal for centuries and have one of the healthiest diets around.
eyeareque 3 days ago 1 reply      
If you live in Mountain View (or the bay area for that matter) go to 99 Ranch. It's an asian supermarket that smells like fish due to their huge live seafood section. If you can get past the smell you will be able to buy fruits and vegetables for extremely low prices. I can't believe how low their prices are some times. It is by far cheaper than Costco, Farmers markets, Safeway, and Nob Hill (from my experience).
ZoFreX 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who has suffered from pernicious anaemia, I heavily recommend against this diet. Vitamin B12 is extremely important and is not necessarily well absorbed through supplements (if you went to a doctor for B12 deficiency, you would be given either supplements or injections well beyond the 100% RDA amount). Eat food with it in instead, or even better, consult with a doctor or other relevant medical person before taking such risks with your health.
code_duck 3 days ago 0 replies      
That's about what I eat: home cooked beans, brown rice, random vegetables, some bread, nuts, olive oil, occasional cheese and milk, plus a vitamin.
jhuni 3 days ago 2 replies      
The real problem with this diet is it doesn't contain any fruits (Avocados, Cucumbers, Olives, Bananas, Grapes, Berries, etc). Our ancestors lived primarily on raw fruits so they are definitely the healthiest natural/uncooked foods for humans.
bdclimber14 3 days ago 4 replies      
This reminds me slightly of Tim Ferris' "The 4 Hour Body". Has anyone had any real experience with his suggested diets? I find eating consistent and similar meals is cheaper and healthier.
nanoanderson 3 days ago 0 replies      
This quote struck me as funny and sad:

"I'd rather buy the cheapest grains and vegetables than buy the cheapest meat. Bargain basement meat is likely produced in atrocious factory farming conditions and pumped up with hormones."

What gave him the idea that bargain basement vegetables are produced in any better conditions… or that they produce any better product (nutritionally speaking)?

kentosi 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is extremely awesome.

For those who feel hesitant about this (ie - not getting enough taste), I would recommend trying this for, say, breakfast and gradually increasing the frequency.

martinshen 3 days ago 1 reply      
Anyone recommend a site that can build a week's menu/grocery list based on approx budget etc.? I'd definitely use that product.
papa_bear 3 days ago 4 replies      
I feel like this might be a good time to plug my project: http://swole.me/

It's a diet generator I made over the past few weeks that promotes adhering to certain proportions of macronutrients. I'll probably make a full post about it when I add some more features/food choices, but so far it's been a great way to learn to program. If you use it, let me know if you have any feedback!

thenduks 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting, almost makes me want to try it. But I'd like to see a version that isn't focused on price, but just on the 'healthiness' part. When it comes to eating right, money is no object.
edtechre 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am surprised the author did not mention eggs. A good source of protein, cheap, and they have a pretty good shelf life.
charlieflowers 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'd really like to see someone do an analysis like this, but including meat. I'm a meat lover, but would like to get an idea of just how cheaply I could eat healthily.
puredemo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Paleo > Legumes.
vipivip 3 days ago 0 replies      
Most Adventists live on this kind of diet, they are the healthiest individuals around the nation and they live the longest, just google Seventh Day Diet.
xriddle 3 days ago 4 replies      
Protein fail
Building a Web Application that makes $500 a Month " Part II tbbuck.com
329 points by mootothemax  3 days ago   46 comments top 18
patio11 3 days ago 3 replies      
Congratulations. That's a nice milestone to hit, and I'm sure bigger and better things are in your future. Mind if I give some advice (take with a grain of salt)?

1) Welcome to
Discover the Twitter & Facebook tool that's packed with features and free for 10 days!
<-- Nothing here provides value to customers. What is the benefit to them of using TweetMachine? "<h1>Get More Customers With Less Work</h1> Manage your Twitter/Facebook campaigns faster. Try free for 10 days!

2) http://tweetingmachine.com/features/schedule_tweets needs more text on it to rank for [schedule tweets]. Ditto for all of your feature pages. Very important: put buttons on these pages leading directly into the free trial, because they will be large entrances into your site. Build links directly to them.

3) Customer personas: explain what this means for small business owners, marketing managers, and social media consultants. Bonus points for cutesy cartoon characters representing them. (It works!)

4) Quicky question: how many of your customers are ladies? Lots, right? If so: watch my presentation about selling to women, with particular regards to pushing emotional buttons and not using screenshots of software because software is boring.

5) "Try for free" should probably be orange (test test test) and you probably want the hero screenshot to link to that, too. If you installed CrazyEgg you would quickly see that it gets clicked more than anything on the page.

jxcole 3 days ago 2 replies      
I love these articles. As much as I respect people who quit their jobs and start wonderful and vast new companies, I don't feel this path is for everyone. It's nice to hear about a success story from someone who has a side project; something that actually does generate small amounts of revenue but doesn't consume the author's life.

I would like to have a project like this. Keep the articles coming, I'd love to hear more.

mootothemax 3 days ago 2 replies      
Hi everyone,

Author of the blog post here, if you have any questions or feel that I've missed something out, please feel free to ask me :)

Previous discussion of part I is here: http://news.ycombinator.net/item?id=2471130


wbhart 3 days ago 1 reply      
OK, here is my experience with the main page. I'm not a marketing expert, but maybe my comments might still be useful.

* Oh, nice professional looking website
* First look to left middle "Tweeting machine"
* Read the catch line about it being a FB/Twitter tool
* Hmm, yeah, but what does it actually do?
* Look to right pane. Bleh, looks like an FTP login shell. Oh wait, "Time to send", oh yeah, I think I remember this website popping up on an aggregator somewhere before. It's that one that lets you send out your tweets at a specified time. Not sure how I'd know that just looking at the screenshot though, unless I'd read about it before.
* Look to top of page. "Twitter machine ". Wait, what's the star. Is there some fine print somewhere I'm missing.
Look to bottom of page.
* Schedule tweets. Yep it's that one I read about. That's the killer feature.
* Auto follow. Hmm, suppose that could be useful. Would be nice if there were lots of interesting features like that.
* Auto unfollow. Hmm, not useful. The Queen and Wikileaks are never gonna follow me. But I sure want to follow them.
* Eventually spot the $19.99/month. Wait, didn't the blog say $19.99/year. Yeah it did. Oh wait. Looks like he changed that to $19.99/month. No WAY I'm gonna pay $19.99 per month. Do I pay for Twitter and Facebook? No, I don't think I do (checks credit card bill).
* Hmm, what happens if FB and Twitter implement these features. This guy will be sunk.
* Finally, after some minutes of puzzlement, thinks. Who is actually the market for this? Oh, I know, maybe people who want to send out tweets to thousands of people and who have thousands of friends on FB. Maybe people making money from being on social media. Advertisers. Spammers. People putting on concerts. Famous celebrities.
* Hmm, so after all that, maybe this app is not aimed at me.

Anyhow, wishing you the best of luck with it. And again, I'm not an expert in any sense of the word. The above is just my honest reaction as I checked it out.

guynamedloren 3 days ago 1 reply      
mootothemax - thanks so much for this series. I loved the first post and was anxiously awaiting this one. It met and exceeded my expectations, packed with great advice and insight. That being said - the language seemed a bit rushed at times. Please run through it and fix grammatical errors - just a nit-picky thing :)

Oh, and I have a few quick questions on gaining initial users. Other than mass-mailing bloggers and submitting to twitter directories, what have you done to bring traffic to your site? Also, I'm interested to know unique visitors vs. free users vs. paid users, as I'm sure many others here are wondering as well. Do all free trials end up converting to paid users? Also, how have you handled existing customers when experimenting with price changes? Do you keep them on the plan that they signed up with, or do you apply the price changes to ALL customers? Please share with us!

jschuur 3 days ago 0 replies      
Any noticeable subscriber increase since you posted the first article on HN?
ohyes 3 days ago 2 replies      
I have a comment about your site:

(full disclosure: I don't have any expertise about marketing, or entrepreneurship or anything at all really)

This may be my stupid showing through but on the front page, it looks like a piece of software that simply schedules tweets. That is a useful tool, but not something i'd pay $20 a month for considering I would probably just do it myself.

It would be good if there were a little user story or something about how this service will make my tweeting easier and save me a ton of time during my daily life on the world-wide-inter-tweets... Also, it would be good to have a price on the front page. I'm hesitant to click the 'try for free' button, because if I like it, it might be too expensive and then I would be sad.

jasonlotito 3 days ago 1 reply      
How much time do you spend supporting/interacting with your users? Have you had to sell any of them on your product directly?
christonog 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great story. How has the TweetingMachine affiliate program worked for you?
chopsueyar 3 days ago 1 reply      
Good article, and I wish you continued and even greater success!

When you try Adwords, keep in mind your CPA (cost per acquisition) profitability should not be judged solely on a single month's price.

If you find out most of your users stick around for 3 months, and you are charging $20/month, the average signup is worth $60. But if you spend $30 in Adwords and get a single signup, and think it isn't profitable because you spend $10 more than the signup, it is a mistake. Over the next two months you will make a $30 profit.

Of course, this is over a three month period. But, if you have enough sign ups in the pipeline, you can see how well this works out.

simonista 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm curious which paypal product you use, and how it's working out for you?
perssontm 3 days ago 0 replies      
Your entire portfolio is very well executed, I might not agree about the usefulness of them all, but you've done it nicely and professional. An inspiration! Thanks for sharing!
namank 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty amazing and inspiring! Hey care to share the conversion rates - so how many visitors sign up for the trial and then how many of those end up paying?
jhack 3 days ago 1 reply      
Excellent series of articles, really enjoyed reading them.

I think the problem for a lot of people is coming up with that initial idea, that spark to get things moving. It's really difficult, I find, to come up with something that hasn't already been done before or is already better than what's in my head. I hope to reach your point some day, heh.

patja 3 days ago 0 replies      
It says it is a twitter and facebook tool, but none of the items on the "features" page (or anywhere else that I could find) describe what exactly it brings to the table with respect to facebook, other than the ability to authenticate with a facebook account.
Hipchan 3 days ago 1 reply      
Congrats, and nice writeup. Thank you very much.

What's your most important sources of traffic?

Do you spend any money on getting users?

k00k 3 days ago 0 replies      
FWIW, I would move the mailing list form out of the main call-to-action area as it visually interferes with the "Try for Free" button. Maybe move it to the black bar below that and center it. Could possibly reduce the size of its elements a bit too.
tkumarr 1 day ago 0 replies      
Awesome buddy thnx...
Why I, Jeff Bezos, Keep Spending Billions On Amazon R&D sfgate.com
316 points by rrrgggrrr  4 days ago   124 comments top 12
jordanb 3 days ago  replies      
Judging from things Steve Yegge has written about Amazon, and from friends of mine who have worked there, I don't get the impression that Amazon is a company dedicated to technical excellence.

In particular I seem to recall something about 40 million lines of C++ code in their core product, and about mediocre engineering talent and high levels of burnout due to the technical debt they're required to deal with...

In fact, ever-increasing engineering costs would be just as indicative of mounting technical debt as it would of an increasing commitment to R&D.

vaidhy 3 days ago 1 reply      
Disclaimer:I work at Amazon as a dev manager.

Working at Amazon does mean that you need to work hard, long and smart. There is a lot of technical debt to deal with too. But the technical debt did not come from bad design, but from the way business grows and changes. There is a 20% growth YoY. Inventories run into millions of products across multiple warehouses. We ship through multiple means and we ensure the product shipped reaches the customer on the promised date at over 95% of the time.

In real life, this means that you are going to have trade-offs and some of the trade-offs do turn into technical debt. What we do with the debt is more important and amongst my groups, we are decreasing the debt by leaps and bounds.

If you want to see how it is, give me a shout. We are hiring, as usual :) I can take resumes in any format too :)

prpon 3 days ago 1 reply      
That letter is so geeky, I doubt if 90% of amazon investors would get the things he was explaining.
As a geek though, I love it.
px 3 days ago 0 replies      
Investors want higher margins but obviously Amazon is investing substantially in itself. So far, though, Bezos seems to be winning the tug of war. Many analysts are glad to see higher revenue and feel that Amazon is cementing its position at the top of the ecommerce world. AMZN shares are up over 5% despite the earnings miss.
javanix 3 days ago 3 replies      
The end result of all this behind-the-scenes software? Fast, accurate search results that help you find what you want.

Has Bezos ever actually used Amazon's search functionality?

I know it isn't the easiest problem in the world to solve, but their search is by far the worst of any of the major shopping sites that I use on a regular basis.

cmelbye 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is only slightly on-topic, but regarding the service-oriented architecture that he mentions at the beginning of the article, how would one implement this internal? Specifically, how would you communicate with your internal services? Just an HTTP API? Is that fast enough? Another thing I'm wondering is what's the best way to handle internal authentication between your frontend and some backend service for example? Sorry if this is too specific for this discussion, but I've just always wondered this and I figure that HN knows.
czhiddy 3 days ago 5 replies      
Interesting how AMZN jumps 5% after missing earnings, yet GOOG drops nearly 10% with nearly the exact same results (increased hiring and expenses resulting in lower than expected profit).
sahillavingia 3 days ago 2 replies      
TWADDLE 3 days ago 1 reply      
Its funny how people seem to be whining about Amazon.

In fact Amazon is one of the best places in terms of innovation. In addition to having a strong core business, they also have AWS, kindle, android app store.

Who cares if their legacy codebase is 40 milllions lines of C++ and not your hip Ruby or LIPS nonsense. The truth is that they get work done. AWS is one of the best cloud computing system out there. Nothing else comes even closer. Dropbox, Heroku and Reddit all rely on them.
Who cares if they take resume in word format, they pay well.

Its sad to see HN turning into a language fanboi and apple fanboi club.

The AWS EC2 outage did not even affect 0.01% of their revenue.

revorad 3 days ago 2 replies      
PR damage control?
aphexairlines 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wish the company would reveal some information on the internal systems he outlined in his letter. Amazon's architecture is impressive and its infrastructure teams build great stuff to help developers get their work done & deployed.

Exposing these things would be a powerful recruiting tool.

spinchange 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is instructive. Google's stock might not have tanked as hard the other week if LP had come out and placated the street with some jargon like this, re: Google's also ballooning expenses.
Your taste is why your work disappoints you. kottke.org
318 points by entangld  4 days ago   56 comments top 22
SandB0x 4 days ago 2 replies      
Contrast with _why:

"when you don't create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create."

schrototo 4 days ago 2 replies      
Don't forget to watch the other parts of the interview as well, it's great stuff. Part two especially should also resonate with everyone who does something creative .

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loxJ3FtCJJA building blocks of stories; very well illustrated!)

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW6x7lOIsPE (kill your darlings, failure is part of success, you don't want to be making mediocre stuff)

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY (taste & disappointment)

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baCJFAGEuJM (common pitfalls of making stories; be yourself; what's interesting isn't only your take of things, it's seeing you interact with other people)

edit: fixed the links

yason 4 days ago 3 replies      
This is very true. I think that a good taste is always ahead of one's works, almost by definition. I've never heard of an artist or a programmer who could just do exactly whatever they envisioned instead of a feeble attempt only.

(I bet Leonardo was never too happy with the smile of that little Mona Lisa either and probably couldn't really put his finger on what it was that he really wanted but couldn't just do.)

The counterpoint is that in order to live at least a relatively enjoyable life you will have to learn to cut yourself some slack. You have to have somebody, preferably yourself, to tell you that "This is enough effort; this is good enough for now and given your skills you've done well." Not that you could ever give up on your taste but I think that the acceptance of "I'm not good enough yet for what I want but that's okay because I haven't given up either" is what will eventually propel you to eventually accomplish even better works.

yesbabyyes 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm 33 and I've been programming for almost 20 years. Rarely does my work not disappoint me still. It is getting better, though.
DamagedProperty 4 days ago 2 replies      
The one valuable key I have found to becoming better at your craft is to improve your identity. I have been studying accelerated learning for many, many years. How we identify with what we are doing has a dramatic impact on our performance and ability to learn. Identity is one of those strong beliefs we hold about ourselves and our capabilities.

Writing code is the best and only way to improve. But as everyone is aware this does not guarantee you become a better programmer. Over time I think everyone does to some extent but some become better quicker. What is the difference? I believe it is what we believe we can do.

I have taught many people how to play guitar. I always start by teaching them the basics and looking for my opportunity to convince them that they are now a ‘guitarist'. Because they will never continue and fall in love with it until they can find some way to identify with it.

xutopia 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'm an amateur chef and I cook for friends and family all the time. They're often happier than I am about the meal because I know it could be way better.
ErrantX 4 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, absolutely true. Anecdotally the first couple of novels I wrote (unpublished) disgusted me. I know the stories I want to tell and all of the things that make books in my genre (fantasy and historical fiction) suck. But I found myself reading the semi-finished work and finding the same plot holes and problems.

#2 was better than #1. And #3 is looking better and better as it goes on (I enjoy reading it, which is a good start :)).

Same with programming. I have scratty bits of PHP code from a couple of years ago that make me cringe. Today I am writing the same functionality - it still sucks, but not quite as much as it used to.

Geee 4 days ago 1 reply      
Good artists copy, great artists steal. To develop good taste you need to observe lots of other, better work and try to understand what makes them so. Taste isn't something you inherently have.
zcid 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think that is one of the most insightful and meaningful (to me) interviews I've heard in a while. When he plays his old piece and completely lambasts it, I felt amazingly inspired that, maybe, in 10 years I will be able to look back and say the same about my own work. But at the same time be extremely happy about it because I'll know that I'm well beyond where I am used to be.

Never give up.

kadavy 3 days ago 0 replies      
As someone who is "finally" starting to find success in my early 30's, this is something I think of a lot.

Think of all of the famous people you know of, who are doing great work right now. Now look at how old some of them are.

Steve Carrell is 48 years old. Jon Stewart is 48. Louis C.K. is 44.

All of them are great at what they do, but how old were they when they finally reached the top of their professions? Sure, you can think of small gigs they had in the decades before, but just think of how long they had to work at what they did to get where they are. I always wonder how often they came close to quitting. (I remember hearing an interesting story about this from Louis C.K., but I don't remember the details)

To do great creative work, you not only have to love it enough to work that hard at it, yes, you have to have incredible taste to always be finding that one little thing that you can improve - for decades and decades.

rkon 4 days ago 2 replies      
He makes an interesting point. I'd like to hear him address the other side of it too though: What about people who have good taste but won't actually be capable of producing work that meets their high standards even after trying for a decade?

He says after 8 years he was still an awful reporter, but I don't think good taste necessarily guaranteed he'd become a good one. Seems like a lot of people could head pretty far down the wrong path if they just take his word.

entangld 4 days ago 0 replies      
It definitely spoke to the writer in me and also the entrepreneur. Sometimes I get this ache inside and when I'm unable to express myself. Even now I can't say it right.

Finally after a lot of hard work people finally understand what took me a long time to translate. I always imagine how the creator of Mad Men or any site that works beautifully must have really beaten themselves up to get that good.

agilo 4 days ago 2 replies      
Probably off topic, but the deadline point struck me most about the video. I'm a firm believer in self-directed learning, but I must admit that one of the benefits of having an overarching system that pushes you to deliver on time, such as school or a boss, can also have its benefits in setting the deadlines for you (and enforcing them). It takes a great amount of self-discipline to stick to one's own deadlines.
Reclix 4 days ago 0 replies      
I loved this, thanks.
The hardest part about being a creative / writer, or even entrepreneur is the high expectations set by those you admire, and the impossibility of fully imagining the amount of time it will take you to reach their level.

I don't know how true it is, or whether others agree, but I have always felt (except with work of exceptional brilliance), that I have the power (given enough work) to create work on the same level of anything I can see and appreciate - the key, I think is knowing why I appreciate it.

clintavo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Not sure I completely agree with this idea. I used to own an art gallery and saw many artists, early in their careers, who actually THOUGHT they were great, but who were actually terrible. Some of those same artists later DID become great and produced masterful works (and were embarrassed by their early works). For some people I think it's possible for taste to improve as they walk along their creative journey.

Another example: I wasn't frustrated with my code when I first started because I didn't even have the taste to know it was bad.

mattgreenrocks 4 days ago 0 replies      
It's not just the work; I've come to accept (on some level) that I need to keep moving when working on projects and not fixate on a single detail to get it exactly right. But there's also the nagging feeling that programming is just, well, not all that deep creatively.

I can't shake it, and its rather pernicious.

tuhin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Something similar I had written a year back: http://tuhinkumar.com/journal/good-taste/
mannicken 3 days ago 0 replies      
My work always disappoints me because there's the idealistic image in my head and I could never get it right on paper, no matter how hard I try just like I could never draw a perfect circle.
dev_Gabriel 4 days ago 0 replies      
I think most of the time I'm not happy with what I do 'cause I know I could do a lot better and I know what I need to do to achieve that.
But seems like I just can't quit my bad behaviors and do what needs to be done.
domgreen1 3 days ago 0 replies      
i can relate to this comment, I have been programming for only a few years but seem to get constantly frustrated with where I currently am compared to where I want to be.
nicetryguy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Perfectionism pays off, but its a savings bond, not a pennystock
gattaca 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is simply brilliant. Thanks for posting this and making my day. Onward..
Why Instapaper Free is taking an extended vacation marco.org
277 points by rufo  2 days ago   110 comments top 30
patio11 2 days ago 2 replies      
I second, third, and fourth the notion about pathological customers. iOS is practically training a generation of them. I'm glad they are far away from me.
maukdaddy 2 days ago 1 reply      
Excellent analysis and line of thinking. The tech community really needs to give up the idea that hard work should be given away for free. Trail periods are fine, but legitimate businesses need real cash flow, and very, very few can survive off advertising alone.
dpcan 2 days ago 3 replies      
"Maybe you think I can only do this because Instapaper is already popular. But it built its popularity while charging a lot for an iPhone app from the start."

AND there was a free version out.

He's neglecting the "critical mass" factor.

The free version helped him sell the full version until it reached that "critical mass" that was required for the popularity of the full version to continue to drive sales of itself.

I've personally found that by just offering a paid version of an app from the beginning is quite frustrating. But once I put out a free limited version, sales took off. So, MAYBE I'll try losing some of my free versions to see what happens, but I think that free-to-paid actually works just as well.

napierzaza 2 days ago 3 replies      
I like his arguments since they are logical and backed up with data. But at the same time I never would have bought the app if I didn't use "free" for several weeks and got the idea it was useful.

This is after reading about Instapaper everywhere and hearing from close friends that it's almost the main reason they even have an iPhone (which was probably an overstatement on their part).

Edit: Can we please stop the tired argument of "you paid 600$+ for the device, what difference is 5.00$..."?

It's like people who pay 6000$ for a HDTV don't mind paying 100$ for the HDMI cable. Some people do indeed do that, but I for one determine the value of an app or accessory based on the sunken costs of the device. I value a HDMI cable's value at about 5-10$ because that is the cost of a quality one from Monoprice.

corin_ 2 days ago 2 replies      
There's some incorrect logic in there to point out.

"The math to explain this is simple: most Free users won't give me anywhere near $3.50 worth of ad impressions."

So, a free user is less valuable than a paid user, fair enough. But not 100% of people who would use the free version will buy the paid version.

As he said in the second paragraph, "it's hard to say which portion of the increase, if any, is attributable to Free's absence"

While I'm not saying this is for sure, it is a possibility that, while one user with adverts gives him less money than one user who pays, cutting off all the free users could lose more money in advertising than it generates in sales.

unwantedLetters 2 days ago 1 reply      
I am sad about this since I was an Instapaper Free to Instapaper paid convert. In fact, I would never have used it if I hadn't used the free app.

I know I'm in a minority of users, but I still think the free is useful.

Having initially spent many months using my iPhone and not paying for any apps at all (only downloading free apps), I took my first step into paid apps with a cheap $0.99 app, and realized that for the small price, it made my app (and phone) experience a whole lot better. After that, I was always willing to spend money on apps (even if it was just for experimentation) and Instapaper became one of the first apps I bought.

I don't know if this is an unusual thing, but I've noticed a lot of my friends act in a similar manner. After paying for that first app, they are very willing to pay for more. And you'd be losing some very good customers if you removed the free app.

I suppose I understand Marco's decision even after all this, I'm still unhappy that we might see it go.

jrockway 2 days ago 5 replies      
How does he know nobody will buy the Android app? I barely use any free apps other than the ones that come with Cyanogen Mod.

Titanium Backup? Paid. ROM Manager? Paid. Treking? Paid. Android IRC? Paid. X-Plane? Paid.

Android users have no problems paying for apps. Non-Android developers are afraid of the unknown.

karterk 2 days ago 0 replies      
This post reminds me of a post by Jacques Mattheij about an experiment he did by doubling the price of his app:


These two articles definitely make a case for experimenting with the pricing based on your market and target audience to find the sweet spot.

jcampbell1 2 days ago 2 replies      
As an alternative viewpoint, his thinking seems incredibly shortsighted. When it comes time to launch "InstaAlbum, share your family photos", he is going to have 1/3 the potential audience to draw customers. 3x the existing customers could make the difference between the top of the charts and the press recognition that goes with it.

Part of his rational is that some tiny percentage of the free customers complain, and write negative reviews. Marco should man up and simply accept he has a good product and is a talented developer. That way he doesn't have to give a damn about the haters. It is sad that the %.1 of the population that is inherently bitchy, is driving his business decisions.

dk 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using the free Instapaper iPhone app for some time, until it just completely stopped working. Trying to update, it would tell me that there was no network connection. Uh, wrong. Over and over. Eventually I logged out, wiped the local cache, and tried logging in fresh. And what did I get? A blank page with "403" at the top.

My impression of the app at this point was that either the developer is a fuck up or that I've been geo-locked out because I'm not in the U.S. Actually the second implies the first. I didn't care, I just stopped using Instapaper.

On the basis of this post, I took a leap of faith. Despite a complete failure of user experience with the free app, I bet $5 that maybe the paid app would, well, work. And so far it has.

Marco, if you're listening, you make some great points in this post, but your upselling in my experience is... as described.

rubergly 2 days ago 0 replies      

  Not only did sales increase incrementally, but nobody seemed to notice.

What does this mean? This "nobody even noticed!" attitude he expresses several times seems very ignorant to me. Sure, very few people heard that Instapaper had a free iPhone app, didn't look for it right away, then a month later searched for it, saw it wasn't in the App Store, and emailed or tweeted Marco personally asking what happened. This is the only chain of events I can see leading to a potential user giving Marco direct feedback, the lack of which is what he seemed to interpret as "nobody noticed."

If you change a bunch of road signs, but everyone from the neighborhood is on vacation and so no one sees the new configuration and exclaims "What is this?!", does that suddenly mean that new drivers won't act differently in response to the new road sign configurations? Note that assuming that somehow "everyone from the neighborhood is on vacation" is not at all an unrealistic assumption to make. People who had already downloaded the free app were golden when he removed it, so long as they didn't wipe their iPhone or upgrade. You could argue that maybe they would've thought "huh, why haven't I gotten updates in a while?" First of all, I doubt anyone thinks like that. I know I certainly don't think about updates until the App Store tells me I have 10 and I get frustrated at it; I only notice when apps require updates, not when they don't require updates. Second of all, they may have just thought the free app would be getting less updates than the paid one.

And there are countless other reasons why "no one has personally emailed me about the absence of this" is a terrible reason to conclude "nobody really cared" and especially (what I think he is implicitly getting at) "no potential future buyers of the paid app were turned off by the absence of a free app." Maybe they only cared a little and got bored once they couldn't find it in the app store, but otherwise would've been engaged by the app or (since he acknowledges that there are few converts) have been interested enough to tell friends who would eventually pay for it. Maybe, and this is _crazy_ to propose, a significant number of geeks went looking for the free app having heard a lot about Instapaper, saw there was no free app, were pissed, but didn't know or think or care to email Marco about it; maybe they thought he did it purposefully and didn't want to bug him, maybe they were intimidated, maybe they didn't know who Marco was, etc.

modernerd 2 days ago 0 replies      
Instapaper has little need for a free app because it's so unique; there are few paid alternatives, let alone free ones. If you're building something less extraordinary, offering a free app with an in-app upgrade path makes more sense.

The free-to-pro transition seems to work better with a single app using in app purchases (to remove ads and unlock features) than with two separate apps.

It's possible to structure the experience in a free app to make the upgrade more compelling too. Thermo and Astronut (both for iPhone) are two examples that handle it well in different ways: Astronut (game) presents an upgrade option when you reach the end of the first stage; Thermo (temperature widget) shows an ad at the bottom with a tempting X button -- when you tap that, you're prompted to upgrade.

michaeldhopkins 2 days ago 0 replies      
I use Instapaper free and am happy with it. The ten article cap doesn't bother me because I clear my backlog quickly. I actually like choosing from ten articles, reading one, archiving it and seeing a new one pop into the menu. Free used to not save my place in the article and I almost upgraded for that, but then Free started to save my place and I didn't upgrade. I am vaguely aware of some other features Pro might offer, but ignorance is bliss...
fragmede 1 day ago 0 replies      
> On the website, this cost is defrayed by ads from The Deck, but people using the iOS app might never visit the website.

That's theoretically true, but how true is it? What percentage of people who have used the iOS app have also logged in via a desktop web browser? How many people have only logged in via a desktop web browser.

A look at the web server statistics would prove quite fruitful - it would tell the author where to spend development time. Do most of the active users have an iOS device? Do they ever use the mobile safari 'read later' bookmarklet? Spend time getting iOS push to push new articles to the app vs. time improving other things; but only if the data justifies it.

gcv 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great article. I particularly liked the points about filtering out undesirable and unprofitable customers. Some clients really are just wrong, and far more trouble than their business is worth.
ilamont 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recently bought the paid app, based on the recommendations of a friend and the number of positive reviews in the app store, but am quite disappointed in what I got in return for my $4.99. I won't turn this into a review of the functionality or criticize the developer for wanting to increase sales, but I will say that buyers should have a way to vet the product before purchasing it (there was no free option when I purchased it).
rkudeshi 2 days ago 1 reply      
Perhaps the free app might've converted better if Marco had added an in-app purchase to upgrade to the full version.
xinsight 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thoughtful approach on app pricing and customer selection.

The point that resonated with recent experiences was this one:

"How much effort do I really want to devote to satisfying people who are unable or extremely unlikely to pay for anything? (This is also a major reason why I have no plans to enter the Android market.)"

jranck 1 day ago 0 replies      
I applaud the fact that a developer can charge for his time and effort into building a good product. While I love hearing about these success stories, lets not forget the fact that all applications are different. There is an inherit and perceived value for everything and it's all dependent on the audience. The ROI per user is different for everyone, what works for you may not work for someone else. Marco's audience is made up of mostly tech savvy individuals where the implied value is greater than the cost of the service. This isn't the exception to the rule but it isn't the typical audience that a lot of startups are trying to capture. Every audience and product is different and take inspiration with a grain of salt. With that being said nice work Marco.
alanfalcon 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's like a reverse of the iShoot story that caused everyone to run out and make free lite versions of their apps several years ago. Different market (productivity Vs. game, early app store Vs. current app store) but it's still interesting.
jfruh 2 days ago 2 replies      
I totally get Marco's decision to go with a paid version of his app. Of course, he doesn't provide an option for publishers to opt out of providing free versions of their content, which is what they're doing when Instapaper strips all the ads off of them.
goforth 2 days ago 2 replies      
I think Readitlater (and lately Readability) strips down the content much better than Instapaper. Instapaper always has a lot of weird extraneous stuff around the text. The others do not. +1 for them.
alexknight 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think the App Store is necessarily fostering a new generation of entitlement minded people. I think those people have and will always exist no matter what. IMHO I always prefer paying for apps, and I never complain about the prices that are in the App Store. I prefer to support the hard work that goes into the quality apps that I use. I also don't feel it's fair or right for me to complain about a product when it's provided for free. I think Marco made an excellent decision.
rakingleaves 2 days ago 3 replies      
I'm one Android user who would definitely pay $5 for an official Instapaper app.
hrktb 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have a lot of respect for all the hard work, especialy since I am hooked to Instapaper like services, and getting rid of the free version might be a good move I think. Now, he seems to have such a policy of ignoring his competition in his talks.

I would guess one reason he doesn't hear complaints about the loss of the free version is because ReadItLater and others have a free app to catch these users. He talks a lot about the cheapstakes that wouldn't upgrade, but the free version couldn't get me to register when I tried it. When it worked afterwards, it was so stripped down it wasn't funny.

In contrast the decision to buy the ReaditLater (same priced at the time) pro version was natural, and I kept the free version on devices I didn't care to sync.

At least, he is totally right, after using the Instapaper free version, I am bitching a lot.

rumblestrut 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had tried the free iPhone app and could never get the thing to accept my credentials. So, I gave up and didn't give it much thought.

But then I kept hearing about how great Instapaper was. I didn't get it. My experience with the free app was bad so I didn't know what I was doing wrong. Instead of writing a terrible review of the free one, I went ahead and purchased the paid app.

And now I'm hooked. I find Instapaper to be incredibly useful and love its simplicity. I then turned it on in my Twitter client, expanding my use even more.

The free app is a detriment to Instapaper rather than an asset. Marco is likely better off sticking with a great product customers are willing to pay for who end up loving the service, than having a mediocre app that doesn't build up a fan base that translates to paying customers.

Keep up the great work Marco!

volandovengo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes - he fails to note that the reason that most people learned about instapaper is because he offers a free version of it. I love instapaper but haven't contemplated paying for it because the differences between the free and paid versions are relatively minimal.

Freemium has a lot of perks, the chief one being - getting the word out about the product. How many people would know about dropbox if they didn't offer a free version?

prestia 2 days ago 0 replies      
If it weren't for Apple's pricing restrictions, I would love to see a free version of Instapaper that is "unlocked" to a full-featured version if the linked account is a paid subscriber. (For those that don't know, Instapaper also utilizes a subscription model: http://www.instapaper.com/subscription)

I happily pay the quarterly subscription fee and would love a full-featured application to go along with it. That said, I no longer own an iOS device.

ameyamk 2 days ago 1 reply      
I love instapaper, but I really really want search built for it...
thibaut_barrere 2 days ago 0 replies      
These days I really prefer to pay a service or an app, hopefully to give it some sustainable fuel, rather than invest in a free tool that doesn't allow the author to pay its bills.
Facebook shoots first, ignores questions later; account lock-out attack works arstechnica.com
256 points by shawndumas  2 days ago   83 comments top 24
powertower 2 days ago 5 replies      
The worst is that as soon as Facebook detects the stink on the internet of this, they will rectify the situation for ArsTechnica, but everyone else will still be screwed.

When you are dealing with virtual monopolies that have zero customer support and negative processes (Facebook, Google, etc) getting locked out does not mean that you get go somewhere else, it literally mean getting locked out of an entire aspect of your life and/or business...

Think about it: all your friends are on facebook, you get banned, where are you going to go, which other social site are you going to use?

Facebook did not make facebook popular, the users did. Virtual monopolies need to recognize this, that they have a responsibility to the users.

DanielBMarkham 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have a fan page for the hn-books site (shameless plug: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hn-books/176636875710129?ref=s... )

On it I talk about what books and tools we're reviewing and cool book and tool stuff for startups and hackers. Hn-books.com is a hobby site, and the fan page is a part of that hobby of collecting cool resources.

But really, at the heart, it's all links -- links to the site, links to hn, recent blog entries with links. I don't do events, and resource links are the most useful thing I can provide. So when FB banned me from my own fan page, I was kind of freaked out. Why do that?

The only answer I got was because I was spamming, but heck I was just doing what the page was supposed to be about. I guess the problem was that somebody joined the fan page, then complained about the links the page was providing. The links they asked to get.

Just like with Ars, I found very little help. I finally sent an email off into the blind with something like "I am not spamming. I am simply maintaining a page full of resources. People who want to be fans of the page expect to see these resources. That's the whole point!"

A few days later the ban was lifted. The whole episode happened with very almost zero useful information from Facebook.

So somebody out there is reading these emails. But my customer service experience was far from pleasant. I hope Ars gets it straightened out. When you're in a situation where you can be punished for little reason and without much recourse something is whacked somewhere. This situation desperately needs some transparency and structure.

CWIZO 2 days ago 0 replies      
My boss recently went trough something similar. His profile was locked and he just received a generic email offering no explanation as to why that has happened. He sent them an email asking why he was locked out and received no response. After about 14 days he finally got an email from FB that his account was locked because of an error or something like that.

The saddest part is that now he can't use FB's advertising tools anymore, there is just some text there saying that he is locked out. No explanation. No form he could fill to resolve the issue. No nothing. And he has spent several thousands euros on FB adverts for our products (and was planning on spending even more). I really can't say anything else but what the fuck Facebook?!

msy 2 days ago 5 replies      
I feel like I'm repeating myself daily at the moment. If you're not paying for it, you shouldn't expect anything. If people paid for the services they used, they'd have recourse and the interests of the provider and the consumer would be aligned. As it stands, why would or should Facebook give a shit?

Brands building their online presence via Facebook are mad as far as I'm concerned, Facebook owns that content, they can do with it what they want and as this demonstrates, zero recourse.

16s 2 days ago 1 reply      
Many IT security standards actually require account lock-outs. For example, PCI-DSS requires it. No one seems to understand that the goal of the attack may be to deny access. The attackers may not want to compromise the account, only to keep someone (or a group of people) locked out for a bit while they do something bad elsewhere.

Edit: I'm surprised an account would be locked by a DMCA request though. Block or remove the content (if it's a legit DMCA notice) but keep the account alive. That's just one more way to carry out this sort of denial of service attack.

paulcjeffries 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm Paul C. Jeffries, Head of Legal Operations at Facebook, where I work with the team that handles incoming notices of intellectual property infringement. I wanted to provide a little color about what happened in this situation.

As you may have heard, today we investigated a number of recent trademark (intellectual property) takedowns, and as a result of this investigation we restored four Facebook Pages. We apologize for any disruption to those who posted content.

Taking a step back, abuse of DMCA and other intellectual property notice procedures is a challenge for every major Internet service, and we take it seriously. In many cases, when we're put on notice we're obligated to take appropriate action. We have invested significant resources into creating a dedicated team (including me) that uses specialized tools, systems, and technology to review and properly handle these intellectual property notices. This system evaluates a number of factors when deciding how to respond -- and in many cases, we require the reporter to provide additional information before we can take action.

As a result of these efforts, the vast majority of intellectual property notices that we receive are handled without incident. Of course, no system is perfect and we're always striving to improve our practices. Rest assured that the dedicated team who handle incoming complaints from rights holders are equally devoted to protecting the interests of people expressing themselves on Facebook. As part of our ongoing efforts to improve, we will be considering the results of our investigation into this matter as we continue to refine our systems and procedures.

te_chris 2 days ago 0 replies      
As an aside, I had my personal account hacked last year. It was such a torturous process getting it back. They got into my gmail account, then took my fb account off that (I actually didn't realise the two were connected as I'd signed up to FB with my University of Otago email addy back when you had to have an academic address - turns out you could login with your "backup address"). Google's process for locking my account and getting it back to me was clinical, quick and mostly efficient: I had my account back in a day. Facebook took nearly two months of me trying everything to get them to respond. I got my friends to email them, I emailed them daily, I started a blog about my ordeal, I did everything then, finally, they got back to me, after nearly two months.

I think I was quite lucky to have both my gmail and FB go down at the same time as it showed me such a clear contrast of approaches. Google, though impersonal, still assume that you're telling the truth. Facebook just don't give a shit.

recampbell 2 days ago 0 replies      
It seems like someone clever could easily turn this policy against itself by reporting popular facebook pages for DMCA violations. Not that I would encourage or condone such activities.
jrockway 2 days ago 0 replies      
They have 500 million users. It's probably easier to shoot first and ask questions later, because even if you kill 1000 users a day, you still have a lot of users.

Remember, Facebook is about one thing: eyeballs. If some eyeballs cost them money, it's easier to lock them out than to work with them.

If you don't want some large company to shut down your website, host your own.

rexreed 2 days ago 0 replies      
FYI - the copyright complaint form is here: https://www.facebook.com/legal/copyright.php?noncopyright_no...

As you can see, it's not a normal DMCA take down, and it can easily be spoofed.Yes, you have to certify under penalty of perjury, but what difference does that make if the contact information is bogus?

JoeCortopassi 2 days ago 1 reply      
Easy way to fix this: Flag everything you see on Facebook. Once it starts crippling everyday users, they will take more care in taking stuff down just because a random person complains
praptak 2 days ago 0 replies      
Oh well: "Everyone who uses Facebook is on some level a Facebook partner."

Even taking into account some level of exaggeration, this is laughable. Facebook advertisers might be Facebook partners. The Facebook-user relationship cannot be further from partnership, it is the relation between a farmer and their livestock.

ck2 2 days ago 2 replies      
Counter-notice, but only if you are positive it's a bogus takedown.

https://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca/counter512.pdf (not actually a pdf)

They have to put it back online with a counter-notice.

tambourine_man 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find it amusing that this may come as a surprise. Facebook's got so big that people think it's a government institution or something.

The outraged tone and arguments of the article imply that the author thinks he has “rights”, hence his fairness demands. This is a privately owned website, they can do what ever the ____ they want with the data that you give them. This quote from the article exemplifies this view:

How dare we post our own content to our own Facebook page

They really think it's their own. I can't decide if that's sad or hilarious.

I'm not an open web fanatic, but such naivety from a tech savvy site is scary.
Regular people must think Facebook is a given, like air or tap water.
This widespread lack of education is going to get ugly soon.

Maybe I'm just a grumpy young guy, but I can't understand why people not only use, but depend on Facebook.

Look at Hacker News, there is something interesting here everyday. I'm sure there are equally relevant sites in almost every field of knowledge. Yet, I've never seen anything in Facebook deeper than regular gossip or elevator chitchat about the weather: your friend spent last holiday at his beach house. Wow.

And regarding business contacts, C'mon. We've been doing business networks for ages. I've yet to see someone getting loads of money because of whom they met at Facebook.

sawyer 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is what happens when people and businesses choose to lock themselves in a walled garden they do not control.

All the businesses out there actively marketing their Facebook page should take heed. Set up and market a proper website; utilize a mailing list for client communication.

michaelpinto 2 days ago 1 reply      
If Facebook wants to scale they need to learn about customer service " maybe not so much for their individual users, but for businesses. I recently helped a consumer brand client clean up her Facebook presence which was a mess " their interface was impossible for typical bricks-and-mortor biz owner to decipher.
orijing 2 days ago 0 replies      
It sounds like a hard problem to find a balance that satisfies everyone. What do the security experts here recommend?
invisible 2 days ago 3 replies      
It looks more like facebook PAGE lock-out. Furthermore, aren't they legally obligated to do this under DMCA?
ignifero 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's not even news, everyone who has worked with facebook has the same issues. For such an understaffed company, that's not surprising. We have our domain banned from their spam filter before we even launched our game (really, it was just a redirect back to facebook); been like that for months and still no response to our complaints.
mrerrormessage 2 days ago 0 replies      
Can someone come up with a way that any of the Zynga stuff (or even better, Facebook-generated content) genuinely infringes on their rights? If they start getting takedowns for things that make them money, that might make them think about reforming their procedures.
leon_ 2 days ago 2 replies      
> At least the help page has a contact e-mail address, but we have received no response as of yet.

You could assume a $50 bil. company would have something like a customer service ...

bxr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Facebook has issued a statement to ReadWriteWeb and (as of this post) has yet to contact Ars. That action speaks volumes about what Facebook's real concerns are.
mkramlich 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm making a note here: sharecropping reminder incident #435.
narrator 2 days ago 2 replies      
You are one of 500 million "customers" who aren't even paying them any money. They can drop you at any time.
How to parse a sentence and decide if to answer "that's what she said"? quora.com
248 points by fogus  3 days ago   44 comments top 17
follower 3 days ago 1 reply      
Slightly OT, but I was really intrigued to read about the "Switchboard" Corpus (http://www.ldc.upenn.edu/Catalog/readme_files/switchboard.re...), especially given they were from audio recordings.

It seems, unfortunately, that the recordings aren't publicly available, although archive.org seems to have small sample of the transcripts: http://www.archive.org/details/SwitchboardCorpusSample

One particularly interesting section of the above readme was the section on technical issues (http://www.ldc.upenn.edu/Catalog/readme_files/switchboard.re...) including this example:

"ii.) The third problem was small changes in synchrony between A and B, due to a pseudorandom dropping of 2 ms chunks of data on either side. Over the course of a 10 minute conversation, these could accumulate to a differential of 30 or 40 msec between sides--enough to change a cross-channel echo from inaudible to audible, for example, or from barely audible to very noticeable, for a human listener.

When this bug was finally run down, it turned out to be a piece of code in the utility which extracts conversations ('messages') from the Robotoperator message master file. The code performed a check at each data block boundary to see if the first two bytes had the values 'FF FF'; if so, these were interpreted as header information, and the 16 bytes beginning with "FF FF" were discarded as not part of the speech data. This code was a relic from an earlier version of the Robotoperator which did not deal with mu-law values, and thus never encountered FF in data. In mu-law data, FF is one of two ways of representing zero signal level ('minus zero'). The offending lines of code were removed and the problem ceased."

nyellin 3 days ago 6 replies      
This submission reminded me why I love HN: On Reddit, there would have been a flowchart (at best) if I followed the link. Here, there's an engineering solution, with practical tips for machine-learning.

Now I want to build a "that's what she said" bot for Twitter, which will parse new tweets and reply accordingly. (Maybe I will, as a learning exercise.)

zecho 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process."
" E. B. White

I think that answer at Quora, while awesome, should sufficiently kill TWSS.

tlrobinson 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Pre-trained That's-What-She-Said (TWSS) classifier in Ruby":


shasta 3 days ago 1 reply      
Here's my algorithm: Return false
hugh3 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's a lot harder than I was expecting.
jzila 3 days ago 1 reply      
One of the commenters on Quora linked to an academic paper providing a solution to this problem. It was apparently published in ACL-HLT this year.


Enjoy. It's easily the most hilarious academic paper I've read.

r00fus 3 days ago 2 replies      
Answer ignores a very public and growing corpus of data: IRC channels.
zach 3 days ago 0 replies      
Hey, let's see Google's prediction API take on this challenge, if it's so general. Just find a decent corpus and pop it into a GAE app.

In any case, I think most of us are now primed to try out some implementation or another now. It would be a lot of fun regardless of the quality. Actually, the false positives are probably funnier.

lwhi 3 days ago 0 replies      
A British equivalent to 'that's what she said', would probably be 'said the actress to the bishop'.
thedaniel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would gem install twss


gilesc 3 days ago 0 replies      
Working on this, if anyone wants a corpus (positive examples from twssstories.com, negative from fmylife.com)


mitko 3 days ago 0 replies      
2 suggestions:

1) Ask people in mechanical turk to write those sentences. Then you can ask others to verify them - you get far with few dollars

2) Include higher level features - for example bi-grams, there is more information in them

Also: corpus at http://thatswhatshesaid.com/ (I have no relation with this site)

snikolov 3 days ago 1 reply      
I would be very surprised if a simple bag-of-words approach works in this case. Intuitively, it's not the presence of certain groups of words that's important, it's something much more subtle and structural. Something that might be promising (and I'm being very handwavy here) is to discover 'template' sentence structures, as well as the particular words that populate those templates that result in TWSS.
Skywing 3 days ago 0 replies      
If this were to emulate some of my friends then it could respond to just about anything with "that's what she said."
wging 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this is marvelous but overthought. Here's my Python code (2.7 and 3.2-compatible):

twss = lambda sentence: True

lucisferre 3 days ago 1 reply      
Nice try Skynet.
Geohot Chimes In geohotgotsued.blogspot.com
242 points by shawndumas  2 days ago   95 comments top 12
shawndumas 2 days ago 1 reply      
You know; this guy makes some good points:

"This arrogance undermines a basic security principle, never trust the client. [...] Notice it's only PSN that gave away all your personal data, not Xbox Live when the 360 was hacked, not iTunes when the iPhone was jailbroken, and not GMail when Android was rooted. Because other companies aren't crazy."

"[...] To me, a hacker is just somebody with a set of skills; hacker is to computer as plumber is to pipes. And the same ethics should apply, if you want to mess with the pipes in your own house, go for it. But don't go breaking into people's houses and messing with their pipes."

praptak 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is interesting: "Traditionally the trust boundary for a web service exists between the server and the client. But Sony believes they own the client too, so if they just put a trust boundary between the consumer and the client(can't trust those pesky consumers), everything is good. Since everyone knows the PS3 is unhackable, why waste money adding pointless security between the client and the server?"

I wonder if he's purely speculating or maybe knows something more. It's also good to see he can at least still talk about Sony security in general (or can he?)

pushingbits 2 days ago 3 replies      
Good Christ, what comments!

"You're the perfect example of someone who can't even grasp the simple concept of how YOUR actions have consequences for OTHER people. If Sony wanted to remove Other OS that's up to them, people like you and George should have just dealt with that. Instead like children you have this sense of entitlement and so the PS3 was hacked and root keys published. No thought was given to how this would be used by other people, all that crossed your tiny little minds was how this affected YOU."


You see people become inoculated by all sorts of kooky ideas (usually offering salvation or universal insight), but to see people get their mind twisted around some faceless video game company... the mind boggles...

awakeasleep 1 day ago 0 replies      
"And let's talk about Sony's use of the word illegal. It is illegal, criminally so, to break into someone else's servers. But when the same word is used to refer to streaming a song from a non RIAA approved website, or to gasp playing a homebrew game on your PS3, respect for the word and those who say it is lost."

Who is this kid? He's like 20 years old and he talks like this? Geohot, you have my respect thats for sure.

Jun8 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is an excellent piece, my esteem for geohot got even higher. It vilifies Sony (rightly so) but also is balanced. The plumber analogy is spot on and funny:

"To me, a hacker is just somebody with a set of skills; hacker is to computer as plumber is to pipes. And the same ethics should apply, if you want to mess with the pipes in your own house, go for it. But don't go breaking into people's houses and messing with their pipes. (Note that I do not endorse water piracy)"

pdenya 2 days ago 3 replies      
Strange how many of the commenters on the article think the Sony was hacked from a rooted PS3. There's no evidence but I'll assume this was done from a PC until I see some reason why doing it from a PS3 would make it easier (in any way).
yuvadam 2 days ago 5 replies      
Gotta love the subtle xkcd reference at the end.
thomson 2 days ago 1 reply      
On a pedantic note, is there a reason why large corporations 'regret' mistakes rather than apologize for them? Is it just so they don't want to go on the record as being wrong?

Sony's statement for reference:

artmageddon 2 days ago 1 reply      
I thought part of geohot's settlement with Sony was that he wasn't allowed to discuss what happened? Maybe that was just with his case and not with the latest incident. Regardless, I like his attitude, and hope he continues honing his hacking skills. As he points out, at least they used a very strong XKCD style randomization algorithm.

It's a real shame that Sony alienates their customers with these kinds of acts while building a flimsy infrastructure for gaming. I'm one of those people who bought the PS3 just for OtherOS(and thankfully never got the removal patch) and honestly, given the lackluster performance it has and this move, I'm highly tempted to just sell it. The rootkit debacle of several years ago still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Today's Penny Arcade covers it quite nicely:

leon_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't understand those comments. Are those frustrated kids who can't play online anymore?
chopsueyar 2 days ago 1 reply      
What about the money from the legal defense fund? What happened there?
daimyoyo 2 days ago 9 replies      
The word "hacker" has been corrupted by the media to the point it's nearly derogatory. We need a new term for what we do. Something like "techsmith." Any other ideas?
Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures nist.gov
235 points by urbannomad  2 days ago   16 comments top 9
quant18 2 days ago 1 reply      
There's insane amounts of great stuff hidden in the various nooks and crannies of the NIST website. Some of my other favorites:

Engineering Statistics Handbook

Digital Library of Mathematical Functions

The Quantum Algorithm Zoo

nrbafna 2 days ago 2 replies      
a two-minute css-pivot to make homepage a little easier on the eyes.


sphynx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Haha, there is a definition of Marlena:

Definition: A wonderful wife. Every man should have such an incredible wife. We got married in 1976, too, and life's only gotten better.


andrewcooke 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Don't use this to cheat" - how quaint. There was once a time when there was an economics of scarcity in information...
misterbwong 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you're interested in glossaries of this type, there's a great one (with pictures!) in the back of The Algorithm Design Manual by Steven Skiena.


Hexstream 1 day ago 0 replies      
thejbf 2 days ago 1 reply      
This dictionary looks like it's the index of The Algorithm Design Manual by Skiena: http://www.amazon.com/Algorithm-Design-Manual-Steve-Skiena/d...
bmohlenhoff 2 days ago 0 replies      
So, how many of these algorithms do you think are covered by litigatable software patents?
beck5 2 days ago 0 replies      
Interesting, Would be great if there were some sort of tag/taglike system for the properties/usages.
Apple Q&A on gathering and use of location data (Apple Press Release) apple.com
213 points by andysinclair  4 days ago   147 comments top 27
sounddust 4 days ago 3 replies      
I often travel internationally (with no data roaming) and I've noticed that the iPhone's A-GPS is incapable of determining my location when I arrive in a new place, even if I've pre-loaded my route/maps in the maps application prior to arrival. But once I've connected to the internet - even for a few seconds - my phone is permanently able to track itself in that city, even after I've left and returned months later.

It's going to be unfortunate when I can't do this anymore because of people blowing this issue out of proportion. I hope Apple will at least provide the option of caching this data for longer than 7 days.

thought_alarm 4 days ago 1 reply      
I use location services on an iPod touch almost daily and without a network connection. The location cache is currently limited by size. It seems to hold about a small city's worth of wifi hotspot coordinates, which is downloaded in large blocks at a time.

Reducing the size of the wifi location cache to a mere 7 days could severely reduce the usefulness of that feature.

I really hope they're not killing a great feature because of some hysteria and bad reporting.

DanielBMarkham 4 days ago 9 replies      
The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested

Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.

I think a lot of folks who spent money on Apple products are going to be happy with this, and for that I'm glad.

But I didn't find this release adequate. Apple is not tracking me -- they are keeping a time-stamped list of nearby access points on my device, which effectively is a huge breadcrumb trail of everywhere I've been and when. Apple doesn't know it's me -- because the data is encrypted, which makes no sense at all. Whether data is encrypted or not is meaningless. Can I go to the Apple server logs and track incoming downloads and associate them with the data or not? I strongly suspect the answer is "yes". If not, that's great, but that wasn't described here.

The killer omission? That Apple has been doing all of this -- which is at the very least controversial -- without informing the users in a manner in which they clearly understood it. The response we see is simply a reaction. The "bug" here is getting caught.

I don't necessarily see anything nefarious at work, but I'm troubled with the idea that Apple was keeping a list of my whereabouts (the nearest access point, for those of you who are literally-minded) without my knowing it. That's a pretty serious breach of user trust, no matter how many times it was covered in the 47-page lawyered-up doc that nobody reads.

But like I said, folks are willing to cut Apple lots of slack, and they deserve it. But hell if I'd want to see something like this happen again, from any manufacturer. I'm not so sure that vendors are getting the point.

extension 4 days ago 1 reply      
Ironically, shrinking the geolocation cache will result in more frequent requests to the server, making it theoretically easier for Apple to track your location.
pieter 4 days ago 2 replies      
5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?

No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data

I hate it when companies use 'encrypted' like it would somehow make your data more secure in their hands. They mean here they use something like SSL so snooping the traffic is impossible, but of course they can still read what you're sending, otherwise the information would be useless to them.

The claim that apple can't identify the source of the data is also highly dubious. If they wanted to, they could probably correlate your IP with the IP used to access your iTunes account. That they don't do this is one thing, but claiming that they can't is something else.

EDIT: come on HN, since when did we start downvoting stuff you don't want to hear? This is a valid point, if you have critizism just leave a comment. If you want to downvote something, do it on the summary comments. Sheesh.

foobarbazetc 4 days ago 2 replies      
Oh no, reasonable and accurate information. Plus a list of things they plan to do to fix it.

What will we all hate on Apple about next?

tjogin 4 days ago 5 replies      
8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

Interesting. Apple generally does not pre-release information about upcoming products, at all. They must have felt their hand forced in this, or Jobs is not at the helm of this press release (which I'm sure he is).

ajdecon 4 days ago 4 replies      
Sometime in the next few weeks Apple will release a free iOS software update that:

- reduces the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone,

- ceases backing up this cache, and

- deletes this cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

Looks reasonable to me. The only thing missing that I'd like to see is an option to opt out of the tracking data (anonymous or not).

sklivvz1971 4 days ago 2 replies      
3. Why is my iPhone logging my location?

The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested

This actually makes sense - looking at the logs on my iPhone and iPad, the locations where pretty far away from the places where I usually roam, and actually there was a very great deal of places where I've never been, not even close.

brudgers 4 days ago 1 reply      
>"The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested. Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take up to several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data to quickly find GPS satellites, and even triangulate its location using just Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data when GPS is not available (such as indoors or in basements). These calculations are performed live on the iPhone using a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data that is generated by tens of millions of iPhones sending the geo-tagged locations of nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers in an anonymous and encrypted form to Apple."

Some are located more than 100 miles away because the database contains every location ever logged. Despite the fact that hotspots and cell towers over the horizon cannot play a role in accurately determining your location, Apple's response is intended to create the impression that they play such a role and thus justify permanent storage.

Furthermore, short of magic, there is no way to send a relevant subset of the crowd sourced data to an iPhone without first knowing both the location of the iPhone and its unique identity.

>"The entire crowd-sourced database is too big to store on an iPhone, so we download an appropriate subset (cache) onto each iPhone. This cache is protected but not encrypted, and is backed up in iTunes whenever you back up your iPhone. The backup is encrypted or not, depending on the user settings in iTunes. The location data that researchers are seeing on the iPhone is not the past or present location of the iPhone, but rather the locations of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers surrounding the iPhone's location, which can be more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone."

Apple is trying to create the impression that storing the data from which location can be triangulated is somehow significantly different from storing the actual location and again creating misdirection with the reference to "more than one hundred miles away from the iPhone."

>"5. Can Apple locate me based on my geo-tagged Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
No. This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data."

In an interesting shift of language, Apple's answer is technically about the person's location rather than the location of the iPhone and it could be argued that in this context "source" refers to the person using the iPhone rather than the identity of the iPhone. Given that "cannot" rather than "do not" is used, the limitation does not correlate with something in an algorithm since an algorithm can be changed to identify the specific iPhone.

yalogin 4 days ago 4 replies      
This is a perfectly reasonable explanation.

I have seen this more and more lately, the standard reaction to anything Apple in the tech community is pitchforks. I have a feeling subconsciously we all want Apple to fail at something and try to latch on to anything remotely blamable.

geuis 3 days ago 0 replies      
So now the usefulness of my phone gets degraded because Apple has to pander to people that don't understand what the actual situation is.
msravi 4 days ago 2 replies      
1. This explanation seems to ignore the timestamps that are stored along with the hotspots/towers data. What do the timestamps represent? The time when the cache was downloaded onto the phone?

2. Speculatively, the way this seems to work is, that the phone identifies a tower, say, with ID12345. It then looks up the crowdsourced database for the tower with this ID, and queries it for all towers/hotspots within X miles radius. The result of the query is logged into the consolidated.db file, along with the current timestamp.

3. I don't know about the 100 miles number, but for me, in an urban setting, it certainly seems to be accurate upto approximately a mile or so, that together with the timestamp, gives a reasonably accurate picture of where I've been, and when.

packetlss 4 days ago 0 replies      
So it was a bug after all.

This was one of the best responses out of a big corporation I've seen in ages. They even explain the function of it, not often that you see that.

rakkhi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Great clear response from Apple. Patch is a good outcome, turning off location service actually stopping tracking and limitation to 7 days are very good moves.
famousactress 3 days ago 0 replies      
Meh. Everyone sucks at press releases this week (thinking about you, Sony). This just seems so much more bloodless, dispassionate, and frank than it ought to. It's obnoxiously contrary to write "The iPhone is not logging your location."

I mean, really? That's just argumentative. My mom is gonna look at the location history visualizers people wrote and respond "Really, Apple? Cause this looks very much like log of my locations".

Somebody at Apple's PR needs an ass-kicking. This ought to be a video with a short transcription from someone on the phone team (not Jobs) that just explains it without getting defensive of semantically tricky.

sudonim 4 days ago 4 replies      
"The reason the iPhone stores so much data is a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly"

A bug _you_ uncovered?

ramen 4 days ago 1 reply      
I assume that my ancient iPhone 3G will be exempt from this privacy update.
ugh 4 days ago 2 replies      
Where's the fluff? Seemed pretty straightforward to me.
RyanKearney 3 days ago 0 replies      
>Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.


>Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

...... The collection of anonymous traffic data involves tracking your location to determine what road you're on and what speed you're going. They can't even get their story straight.

nutjob123 3 days ago 2 replies      
A huge hole in this press release is how apps use location information. An app can easily log a user's location and send it anywhere along with whatever other data the app has access to.
jitbit 3 days ago 0 replies      
"You're not slaves - this collar just looks good on you!"
(c) Strugatsky brothers, "The Doomed City" novel, 1988
delphi42 4 days ago 1 reply      
"In the next major iOS software release the cache will also be encrypted on the iPhone."

Great, thanks a lot! Now I no longer have the option of viewing what law enforcement will be able to get anyways. Nor will I have access to what essentially was a pretty neat database to look through.

scorpion032 4 days ago 0 replies      
> Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.


dabeeeenster 3 days ago 1 reply      
"The iPhone is not logging your location. Rather, it's maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location"

So, it's logging your rough location...

diminish 4 days ago 0 replies      
this q&a is misleading a bit. iphone downloads locations around hotspots u have already been close to by timestamping, and it means ur approximate location+timestamp was logged indefinitely on ur phone and copied to PC, though indirect.

the whole q&a is a simple game words to trick users.
`apple is not tracking ur location` but `your approximate location is downloaded, timestamped and stored on ur mobile phone due to a bug`

this whole wording is can't even trick a child.

look at the result.

Cherian_Abraham 4 days ago 0 replies      
From the press release:

Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.


Let me guess...Where, all roads lead to Apple?

EDIT: I posted this fully knowing it will be unpopular. But reading the press release gave me the feeling that Apple was using a sleight of hands by turning the public's focus from the privacy and security issues this incident has amplified and brought to the public's view, and instead is saying "Gee..We were doing y'all a favor by building a better maps app, and now you come along and screwed that up". Security is not an afterthought people. Hasn't the Sony fiasco that is still unraveling taught us anything?

A Rough Guide to Social Skills for Awkward Smart People techno-anthropology.blogspot.com
211 points by KennethMyers  18 hours ago   99 comments top 32
giberson 13 hours ago  replies      
I'm an awkward smart guy, but I'm not an egotistical ass. I'd really love a guide for social situations that would actually be of use.

Mainly it would address:
-When in a social situation, other than silence, how am I suppose to participate or excuse myself from participating in a discussion about american idol or some other topic to which I have no knowledge and may perhaps despise? Neither being quite, admitting I don't follow said topic are well received. Isn't there a positive way out of this dilemma?

-When some one brings up something sad or bad that has happened is "I'm sorry to hear that" or "Don't worry, it will get better" really enough of a response? Frankly I find it hard to offer these "words of comfort" when I find no comfort in them myself. As a realistic person, I realize that sentiment does not alter a situation so it's hard to be encouraging. Should I just say them regardless?

-When discussing something with some one there are occasions when I'm genuinely curious as to why they have a certain line of reasoning. I want to ask "why do you think that?" but it always comes off condescending. This is especially true when perhaps we are discussing a problem and I know the solution and they do not. I want to know what the reasoning behind their solution is rather than just telling them it's wrong or what the correct solution is--however when trying to ask them their reasoning I can't come up with a way to do it without sounding condescending. Should I not bother?

-When walking leaving my office and entering the hallway, how close should a person be entering the hallway from the opposite direction be before I wave or say hello. If I wait to long, they think I ignore them. If I do it to early, then theres a great length of time that we are both still walking down the hall and having used my throw-away "Hey" I have nothing left to offer them. It's awkward.

-Is there a method/statement for suggesting an attempt at becoming friends with some one? "Hey, want to be friends" is unutterable for me. No matter how I imagine saying that line it feels pathetic. If I don't drink beer or coffee is there anything else to ask someone out to do in order to have some bonding time?

-How to accept a compliment. Thanks or agreement feels egotistical. Trying to act as humble by playing it down doesn't seem to be received well either.

tokenadult 17 hours ago 0 replies      
The submitted blog post is a humorous treatment of a topic studied in the scholarly literature.



The submitted examples are almost frighteningly true-to-life. I gained perspective on social skills from travel. ("The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.") In my school days in the United States, I read a short story by Philip K. Dick that gave me and many of my contemporaries the idea that IQ difference between two persons is an unbridgeable social barrier. An expression of the same idea by a different author is "The child of 180 IQ has one of the most difficult problems of social adjustment that any human being is ever called upon to meet." But when I went to live in east Asia as I studied Chinese, I discovered that this view is largely confined to Western culture. Confucius said, "三人行,...有'師焉" ("where there are three persons walking, surely my teacher is among them") and expected to learn from anyone in his environment. Ancient Chinese culture didn't differ at all from ancient Western culture in noticing that people differ in ability, but it expected high-ability people to use their ability to get along with other people. That was a refreshing idea to me when I first heard of it. It's an idea I try to share with all my smartest friends in the West.

And of course Lewis Terman, developer of the first IQ test widely used in English-speaking schools, the Stanford-Binet test, wrote, "There are, however, certain characteristics of age scores with which the reader should be familiar. For one thing, it is necessary to bear in mind that the true mental age as we have used it refers to the mental age on a particular intelligence test. A subject's mental age in this sense may not coincide with the age score he would make in tests of musical ability, mechanical ability, social adjustment, etc. A subject has, strictly speaking, a number of mental ages; we are here concerned only with that which depends on the abilities tested by the new Stanford-Binet scales." (Terman & Merrill 1937, p. 25)

Update after noting a helpful comment by another participant: Yes, it can be helpful for learners who learn readily and find school easy when they are young to find other young people of similar ability to spend time with. That helps all those learners learn that they still have plenty to learn, and are likely to have opportunity to keep on learning from other people all their lives. School settings with underchallenging curricula in the interest of "self-esteem" and with prohibitions on ability grouping don't allow this valuable form of social learning. As Richard Rusczyk puts it, "If ever you are by far the best, or the most interested, student in a classroom, then you should find another classroom. Students of like interest and ability feed off of each other. They learn from each other; they challenge and inspire each other."


citricsquid 16 hours ago 7 replies      
This isn't about social skills, it's about not being a dick.

I am socially awkward, I struggle to talk to people and I can't maintain eye contact, but I sure as hell know "You're a moron and your beliefs are idiotic" isn't a nice thing to say. Are there seriously people who think that this is appropriate (and use "Sorry I'm socially awkward" as an excuse)?

feral 15 hours ago 2 replies      
I notice most comments broadly support this message.
Well, I think you are all stupid and wrong ;P

But I do believe there is a big difference between being humble, and being falsely humble.

I believe in being humble, to a point, but typically not in being falsely humble.

Being humble is generally good. Maybe you are better at maths than someone, or better at arguing logically.
It is good to be humble, and to realise that even if you are smarter than someone in one dimension, they may still have plenty to teach you, and that there may still be a lot of worth to what they say. As a result, its a mistake to write off their beliefs, or to come out and perhaps tell them you are smarter 'overall'!

But I think its ethically problematic when you decide to 'one-two' other people, by deliberately downplaying your abilities.

The author is effectively saying "You know you are smarter - but you should hide that, so you can effectively manipulate others."
I don't think this is a good attitude.

For one, I think it shows the very social cluelessness that the author is accusing others of.

Your human relationships should not be treated as if you were a spy behind enemy lines. If you think this is an appropriate framework with which to reason about your human relationships, you are doing something /very wrong/.

I think the attitude expressed in the blog post, is, frankly, condescending, manipulative, and very patronising to the people the author chooses to mislead.

If someone did that to me, I'd lose respect for them.

Now, I must make two things clear:
While I think its good to strive for honesty in human relationships, obviously you have to take care for other peoples feelings. It is, of course, necessary, to give gentle feedback, or to sometimes leave things unsaid, for the greater good. But this should ideally be done with their interests in mind - not yours.

And sometimes - perhaps you are in a critical business context, where some one who genuinely is a moron in the ways that matter, and not a nice person, and is going to cause your company a lot of damage, unless you massage their ego - or perhaps you are, indeed, a spy; in which case it is necessary to use techniques like the authors 'one-two'.

But this should be used only when its unavoidable.

Its not a desirable state of affairs, and its not what we should aspire to in our interpersonal relationships.

If you build this culture in your startup, for example, you'll have a situation where people won't know they can trust each others opinions.

The author writes:
>"Even after you know it was a lie, the false-humility still gives you warm feelings. Now when this guy later turns around and says "Aw, naw, not really; well, I guess kind of I dabble in the Ultimate Truth", I'll probably listen."

Well, I'd instantly be suspicious that whatever he was telling me about the ultimate truth, was to serve his own ends.

Be nice to people, definitely - but strive for honesty, and don't set out to manipulate.

Hawramani 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm socially awkward and after reading lots of books on this topic I've come to realize that social skills are just that, skills. You get better at social situations the more time you spend in them. You'll never get good at them by sitting at a computer reading books about how to get good at them.

Most of us geeks do not have social skills because we haven't spent as much time as 'normal' people interacting with others. I have spent thousands of hours on computers, time I could have spent doing things with other human beings. Instead of being great at interacting with others, I'm predictably good at interacting with computers.

There is no shortcut for gaining social skills[0], and no book is going to solve all of our 'problems', or even a quarter of them. I'd say if you read a book on better friendships or public speaking and this improves your skills by 3% then it must have been a truly fantastic book.

The only solution is for us to engage in a lot of interactions with others, if for some reason we deem it worthy of our time. For example, if a guy is terribly shy during business lunches, the only solution is for him to keep throwing himself into that situation again and again.

After 100 or 200, or 1000 lunches most of his business lunch awkwardness will have gone away.

But is getting better at interacting with people worth the time we could have spent getting better at interacting with computers[1]? Maybe for some[2].

[0] None that I have found.

[1] Through learning more about a programming language or an OS, etc.

[2] For example if you decide to choose a career that greatly depends on effective human interaction.

lloeki 16 hours ago 0 replies      
This is why the term "clue-bat" rejoices my nerd mind so much, as we all know deep inside that it's an oxymoron. One cannot forcibly insert clue into someone by wielding metaphorical instruments head on. The most effective LART is not a bat, it's lead poisoning. Yup, leading someone closer to truth (whatever that means) is something that requires patience and subtlety. It's a puzzle in itself, only sometimes the problem at hand needs no derailing towards enlightenment of clueless folks, for various constraints of time and complexity are prevailing, thus you wish you had some magical tool at hand, skipping the hand-holding process altogether, so that finally, can we move forward now, please?

Yet sometimes, the inexperienced, naive mind comes in and utters words of magic, triggering the process towards a brilliant solution that could have not emerged from our overarching minds, clouded by our experience and knowledge. This kind of emergence is one that we should learn to recognize and not mistakenly quench before it had time to bloom.

Maybe we're smart dorks, but we should be open-minded ones.

Gaussian 17 hours ago 5 replies      
I've found the smartest people I know tend to embrace the ethos of this piece almost instinctively. As for those who have to be spoon-fed these strategies? Well, in short: they're not as smart.
erikb 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Isn't it interesting to seee, that this thread got so many points, without actually beeing a good post? Every comment I read is actually disagreeing with the author. And yet the topic is so interesting to everyone that the result is exciting for everyone and the post a success for the author.

There is a big lecture here for everyone. You can actually do something awkward if the direction is somehow important to the other people around you. Because in the end your social success is not about you. It is about what is important for the other people.

Psyonic 16 hours ago 1 reply      
The focus on being a spy is useful but ultimately misguided. The real problem is being so cocksure to begin with. You DON'T know everything, and other people generally do have something to offer.
ary 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Immediate up-vote for the flagrant flaunting of Godwin's law.
rkon 16 hours ago 0 replies      
The problem isn't with intelligence, it's the fact that gifted kids are often left in average classrooms rather than placed among their peers. Everyone is liable to develop awkward social habits if they grow up outside their peer group, regardless of how intelligent they are.

Also, a lot of the traits people mention when talking about smart, awkward people are common signs of Asperger's...

michaelochurch 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Meh. This "one-two" thing seems disingenuous. It's good to be slightly self-deprecating in the sense of knowing what you don't know and having a sense of humor, but presenting oneself as an idiot is just dumb. I think it's best to take the attitude of, "I'm good, but this person might be smarter, or at least know something I'd benefit to learn".

What I think smart people could be better at is separating stupid ideas from stupid people. Most smart people have stupid ideas on occasion, and I've certainly had my share. It happens.

pathik 17 hours ago 1 reply      
The old One-Two or UPOD (Underpromise and Overdeliver) really works. But only for the first time.
iAinsley 59 minutes ago 0 replies      
Are you still consider smart if you cannot recognize social cues, Or are you just a gifted savant?
mrleinad 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Please, someone send this to Richard Stallman, fast.
jwuphysics 17 hours ago 2 replies      
I wish that people had told me earlier that it's possible to be both smart and not awkward. Circa sixth grade, I gave up my academic life for my social life. Now I'm in CMU desperately trying to get above 50th percentile.
JanezStupar 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Disarm. Don't be an ass. Be weak. Be self-deprecating. Build Ethos.

Bullshit. Building ethos has nothing to do with playing it down. As long as you do and talk only what you are sure and confident of and politely abstain from what you are not. Then you have disarmed and conquered.

Ethos is your projection on other people. And self-depreciation is not a way to impress other people. It shows that you are insecure and frankly, dumb. A smart person never points out his weaknesses, you may show that you are vulnerable - but any kind of drama ruins it.

There are countless strategies for social interaction. But none of the winning entail hiding in the corner and weeping.

aj700 16 hours ago 2 replies      
solarlion 8 hours ago 0 replies      
This is great advice for teachers also.

I have noticed that the best teachers I have encountered are masters of both self-deprecation and storytelling - generally mixed together.

When you subsequently get schooled by them, somehow you don't feel so beat up by the process.


"well, I guess kind of I dabble in the Ultimate Truth"


k7d 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Anyone feeling socially awkward should read Dale Carnegie
lnanek 15 hours ago 0 replies      
The article talks about the importance of being a spy, as it calls it, as a social skill. Another important facet of that is to realize that other people often act as spies, but don't mean any harm by it.

They'll say super nice things and say them over and over again and often not add any new useful facts or say anything outright. Throw in polite excuses and white lies where they won't actually say what is wrong or why they won't do something or where they'll say obvious lies that you aren't supposed to question. This makes it very difficult for someone who just wants all the facts on the table, feelings be dammed, so they can make a decision.

It can seem like the spies are lying manipulators, but their intention is often just to be friendly and get along with others. They consider being friendly more important than being factually correct.

dhughes 15 hours ago 1 reply      
I once heard someone say something along the lines of "not accepting praise for being skilled isn't humility it's arrogance".

Know when you're good and accept a compliment don't feign being stupid.

s00pcan 9 hours ago 0 replies      
No one has mentioned this book yet? It's what I expected this article to be like.

Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook

daimyoyo 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I guess I'm not as socially awkward as I'd thought. Within 5 minutes of meeting most people I've decided that they're idiots(usually they don't try to hide it) but I'm smart enough to keep my opinions to myself. There are two reasons why: First, I realize telling people that they're wrong and exactly why isn't likely to inspire anything but contempt; and more importantly, I understand that when you argue with an idiot you don't lift the idiot up, they drag you down. So why bother? Perhaps this blogger isn't smarter than everyone else, he's just a dick and isn't self aware of his condition.
nametoremember 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Somewhere along the line of my life, I sacrificed some smartness for social skills. I am glad I did when I read some things on here.
shuaib 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Wait a second... there is something wrong with that One-Two.

One: Be self-deprecating!? Show you are weak and clueless? In short, a false image?

Two: Be brilliant, and prove you were being a dick with the first step.

Giving a false image, be it over valuing yourself or the opposite, knowingly, belong to the same category in my belief. It is the silent, humble, but brilliant opponent/partner that has my highest regards.

known 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Learn how to accommodate/appreciate adverse/diverse people.
mrkva 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Yesterday I was thinking about exactly same thing, and buuum here I go :). Thanks!
pbreit 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Two points:
1) "Smart" people should be able to figure this out.
2) Great answer to "What does it feel like to be the smartest person in the room? I'm in the wrong room."
Read_the_Genes 9 hours ago 1 reply      
The smartest man in the room is a fool if he makes others look foolish.

-Ancient Chinese proverb

pw 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Neologism alert:

"Doing this in the wrong way Schrutes your whole mission. Doing this in the right way makes you Ani Difranco, or Bob Dylan."

zafka 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks! I know this stuff, but i keep forgetting. :
YouTube Founders Acquire Delicious delicious.com
214 points by Isofarro  3 days ago   17 comments top 9
lotusleaf1987 3 days ago 0 replies      
Much bigger discussion, literally right above: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2490067
kmfrk 3 days ago 0 replies      
I would not be surprised, if Chad and Steve were avid users of the service, and that part of their motivation for the acquisition was to keep it that way.
jonknee 3 days ago 0 replies      
The confirmation email about my agreeing to the transfer included a humorous bug:

"Originating IP address:"

keyle 3 days ago 2 replies      
That's fantastic news. I'm one of those that spent ages bookmarking and properly tagging. Finally, there is hope for Yahoo! Only it's outside of Yahoo!
thehodge 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder how many of the current userbase will login and transfer the bookmarks, I guess theres a lot of value in the historical accounts that won't transfer with the deal..
wonjun 3 days ago 0 replies      
is Google going to buy Delicious next?
Dylanfm 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad I didn't stop using it. Thanks Chad and Steve.
I wonder if they have plans for further development, or are just going to maintain it?
lizzard 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm glad to hear it won't be going away - I built a huge api-based service off Delicious that my whole team uses, and I really like how it works.
jimktrains2 3 days ago 1 reply      
What if we use our Yahoo login with delicious?
Mozilla Chromeless 0.2 mozillalabs.com
202 points by abraham  1 day ago   68 comments top 15
yan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seeing so much awesome stuff out of the Mozilla team yet again makes me thankful for such an active browser ecosystem.
rubergly 1 day ago 5 replies      
Am I the only one who thought this was some attack on Chrome? Whenever I hear talk about browser chrome I always think that Google's name choice was a little confusing. Probably best in the end, though, since it's a catchy name.
euroclydon 1 day ago 2 replies      
I can't tell if this is an alternative to something like QtWebKit. There doesn't seem to be any emphases on native code integration.
johkra 1 day ago 1 reply      
Looks like the decision to stop development of Mozilla Prism was not a bad one. "appify" looks very interesting.
latortuga 1 day ago 3 replies      
How is this different from xulrunner? In reading the description it sounds like a way to make a webapp behave like a desktop app but it's a little unclear.
jimmyjazz14 1 day ago 1 reply      
I like the idea of being able to do some parts of a desktop application with HTML but would really prefer not to have to use Javascript. Does anyone know of anything similar to this but that can be manipulated with another language.
ignifero 1 day ago 1 reply      
So is this like PhoneGap for desktops? it was about time
glenjamin 1 day ago 1 reply      
Their documentation system seems to be pretty cool. Does anyone know if this is spun off as a separate project somewhere? It looks pretty and seems to tie API functions straight to the equivalent github page - sounds like it would be pretty useful in lots of places.
ww520 1 day ago 2 replies      
This looks promising. Are there supports for native file system access, databases (SQLite?), and network access?
mgutz 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Where's the tutorial? Github pages for tutorial not doing anything. I'm very interested as this seems to allow more features than a Chrome Packaged Application desktop app.
Plugawy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow, it's pretty much the same as Titanium Desktop.

(yes - I remember XULRunner and Adobe AIR - but the first didn't have any usable documentation, and the later is just Flash with webkit web view + AS<->JS bridge)

jamesbritt 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice. Looks like an update on Microsoft's HTA (HTML Applications).
StuffMaster 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'd still like Prism to live on...it allows the user to turn any website into an application.
nrbafna 1 day ago 1 reply      
any sample applications to showcase?
drivingmenuts 1 day ago 1 reply      
The recent Amazon outage, in which actual data was lost, would seem to make a case for NOT using this.
Heroku's AWS outage post-mortem heroku.com
198 points by mileszs  4 days ago   80 comments top 18
ekidd 4 days ago 2 replies      
Kudos to Heroku for taking full responsibility, and for planning to engineer around these kinds of Amazon problems in the future.

In particular, I'm delighted to hear that they plan to perform continuous backups on their shared databases:

3) CONTINUOUS DATABASE BACKUPS FOR ALL. One reason why we were able to fix the dedicated databases quicker has to do with the way that we do backups on them. In the new Heroku PostgreSQL service, we have a continuous backup mechanism that allows for automated recovery of databases... We are in the process of rolling out this updated backup system to all of our shared database servers; it's already running on some of them and we are aiming to have it deployed to the remainder of our fleet in the next two weeks.

Combined with multi-region support, this should make Heroku far more resilient in the future.

adriand 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm very impressed by how they take responsibility for this, in their words: "HEROKU TAKES 100% OF THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE DOWNTIME AFFECTING OUR CUSTOMERS LAST WEEK."

It would be both easy, tempting and heck, even reasonable to assign at least a portion of the blame to Amazon. Their approach is interesting because their customers already know that, but are likely to appreciate their forthright acceptance of responsibility.

It's a good lesson. If I'm being totally honest I'd have to admit that, as a developer, I sometimes blame external services or events for things that I have at least partial control over. Perhaps I should adopt Heroku's approach instead.

chrishenn 4 days ago 0 replies      
Our monitoring systems picked up the problems right away. The on-call engineer quickly determined the magnitude of the problem and woke up the on-call Incident Commander. The IC contacted AWS, and began waking Heroku engineers to work on the problem.
Once it became clear that this was going to be a lengthy outage, the Ops team instituted an emergency incident commander rotation of 8 hours per shift, keeping a fresh mind in charge of the situation at all time. Our support, data, and other engineering teams also worked around the clock.

The system they are using (IC, ops, engineer teams, operational periods) is extremely similar to the Incident Command System. The ICS was developed about 40 years ago for fighting wildfires, but now most government agencies use it to manage any type of incident.

I've experienced it first hand and can say it works very well, but I have never seen it used in this context. The great thing about it is it's expandability---it will work for teams of nearly any size. I'd be interested in seeing if any other technology companies/backend teams are using it.


watchandwait 4 days ago 1 reply      
The AWS outage is definitely not over. Apparently RDS is built on EBS and they have not all been restored, I can tell you that first hand.
markbao 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wish Amazon was as good at communication and accountability as Heroku is.
waxman 4 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you for taking full responsibility.

Everyone makes mistakes, so what matters is how you deal with them. This was the right way to respond. Thanks.

bdb 4 days ago 0 replies      
Where is Amazon's?
greattypo 4 days ago 1 reply      
It's impressive that they're taking full responsibility, but very surprised there's no mention of refunds..
dpcan 4 days ago 2 replies      
What the hell? Why is everyone taking responsibilty and giving amazon a free ride? I'm a firm believer that only victims make excuses, and it's admirable to take responsibility, and maybe they should have more redundancy in place, but the way aws has been advertised, most of us felt this kind of thing should never happen even without a 100% uptime guarantee.

So, take 100% of the responsibility, but I wouldn't think any less of heroku if they only took 50%.

chubs 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is why i love hosting on heroku: they'll work their butt off to get it fixed when its down, and i don't have to lift a finger.
However, EBS has been long known to be a turd, its a pity they relied on it. Plus, if they had a way to bring it back up in a different region (eg the euro AWS infrastructure) at the flick of a switch, that'd make me less nervous...
chrisbaglieri 4 days ago 0 replies      
"Block storage is not a cloud-friendly technology".

Based on every post-mortem I've read thus far, it's clear how AWS and it's customers approach EBS will change.

trezor 4 days ago 2 replies      
And now reddit is down again (posting/submitting is impossible). Probably yet another Amazon issue, yet again.

In all fairness I've read that the reddit devs have made lots of boneheaded mistakes in their general infrastructure-design, but it still seems Amazon is not a very reliable platform to build your stuff on. Platforms built on top of Amazon's even less so.

metageek 3 days ago 0 replies      
>It's a big project, and it will inescapably require pushing more configuration options out to users (for example, pointing your DNS at a router chosen by geographic homing

Heroku should save the customers this pain, by setting up anycast:


oomkiller 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'd really love to know some details on the continuous backup stuff. Sounds cool.
AffableSpatula 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think this is particularly 'honorable' or anything like that.. it's the only sensible stance for them to take.

Let's be realistic about this; for most people using heroku the alternative would have been bare ec2, and could easily have suffered the same fate as on heroku.

Everyone should feel positive that they got to spend ~60 hours just sitting around moaning about being let down, instead of having to sweat their nuts off attempting to rehabilitate crazy, suicidal infrastructure.

Even taking this downtime into account, heroku is still cost effective for me in a lot of cases.

mtw 4 days ago 0 replies      
what about also spreading to multiple providers (i.e. also use rackspace cloud)? they'd be less dependant from amazon issues
awicklander 4 days ago 1 reply      
They gloss over their biggest failure; they weren't communicating or interacting with their customers at all.

* http://twitter.com/#!/heroku
* http://twitter.com/#!/herokustatus

chrisbaglieri 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wish more companies (hell people) were as forthright, pragmatic, and sensible as the Heroku gang. Their breakdown and response to the outage is exactly what me as a paying customer wants to hear.


Genesis of requiring a "Dropbox folder," versus designated folders quora.com
190 points by brezina  2 days ago   31 comments top 9
SoftwareMaven 2 days ago 3 replies      
The core take-away from this, especially for the early startup, is doing less better is a far superior strategy to doing more worse. At the early stage, nobody is going to care about how many features you have. They care about how well you solve the small problems you are solving.
Timothee 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's interesting to see how a decision that seems mostly based on a technical difficulty (how to make it work simply with multiple or any folder), had so many positive consequences in terms of user experience.

The fact that it doesn't take forever to do the first sync,* that you don't get to mess up your existing documents, that you don't go over your quota right away, etc.

On top of that, having a Dropbox folder is fantastic for branding.

* I'm having this problem with my BackBlaze account that has been uploading the first batch for the past 6 months…

Splines 2 days ago 1 reply      
It's most definitely a more easily understood mental model.

I also run Live Mesh to sync my music between work/home, because it has the neat feature of non-server syncing (it allows you to sync an arbitrary amount of data, but only between two client PCs, no server storage).

However, an odd feature in Live Mesh is the capability to add an already-syncing folder to an existing machine in the group. There's no UI to allow you pick where on the remote PC you want the data to end up, so it's possible to push a bunch of data to a drive that you didn't want to.

Plus, moving this data is also weird:

- Stop syncing the folder

- Move the folder

- Ask to sync the folder, and point to the new location

There's a certain level of "is this going to work?" going on in your head when you complete that last step. I'm guessing this sort of problem exists in both Live Mesh and Dropbox, although with the single-folder paradigm in dropbox, this scenario probably doesn't happen that often.

Nycto 2 days ago 2 replies      
I must admit that the first time I looked at Dropbox, the single folder design made me stop the train. It wasn't until months later that I realized I could set up symlinks. It was a bit of an "I feel like a dumbass" moment.

With this in mind, it's easy to see that the Dropbox made the right design decision. With symlinks, the problem was already solved for them in a way that power users are already familiar with.

d0m 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think I'll read that question/answer every time I've got to choose between "Complex to explain but powerful" vs "Easy but trivial to explain". It's so hard sometime to take the "easy" route as a programmer who know you can build the powerful way.
kylec 2 days ago 1 reply      
By and large I agree, but as I'm using Dropbox for more and more things, I really would like 2 small adjustments to existing features:

1. Allow me to sync any folder - i.e. don't require the creation of a "Dropbox" folder.

2. Modify Selective Sync so that I can omit folders on the client from syncing.

If those two features existed, I could select my home folder to sync and exclude Music, Photos, etc if they were too large for my account. I don't need a complicated remapping interface for syncing when this is done, and it maintains the mental model of a single folder that's synced.

nickpp 2 days ago 3 replies      
Don't know about you, but I already switched from Dropbox to Windows Live Mesh 2011.

One of the reasons (after unlimited p2p sync and 5GB cloud sync) was the ability to sync ANY regular folder on my HDD...

Turns out they didn't consider the UI as too confusing or complicated.

nlh 2 days ago 0 replies      
I seem to recall an older version of the Dropbox client (0.6.384?) allowed you to actually designate the name & location of your "My Dropbox" folder and get around this feature/limitation (if you're so inclined).

I know I did it when I first installed the software -- for as long as I've been using Dropbox I've never used "My Dropbox" - it's always been "Documents" for me.

I just did some checking and it looks like that version of the software isn't availble anymore (at least not via official channels). I know that upgrading to future versions does keep that setting -- I'm running v1.0.10 and it's still "Documents" for me.

From a scan of their Wiki, looks like symlinks and/or other utilities are the preferred method. Frankly, I understand why they made this design decision and it's worked well for them, but for advanced users (me & a lot of other HN readers , I presume), it would be nice to have a slightly more direct way of accomplishing this.

MrNibbles 2 days ago 0 replies      
one word, symlinks!
MacBook Air is enough for a work machine brooksreview.net
189 points by bergie  3 days ago   205 comments top 52
matthew-wegner 2 days ago 12 replies      
Not MBA-related, but for MBP machines you can use an OptiBay bracket to pull out the optical drive and replace it with an SSD or HD. Couple notes on that:

- The OptiBay is $80, but includes a USB enclosure for your SuperDrive to turn it into an external drive: http://www.mcetech.com/optibay/

- Cheap clone brackets are ~$20 on eBay, work just as well.

- The original HD bay includes a sudden motion sensor to park the heads on a drop. Ideal setup is to put an SSD in the optical bay and a HD in the internal.

- Battery life doesn't seem affected by two drives. I suspect cpu/video/display power significantly outweighs power from an SSD.

- The optical bay is 3 Gbps, the HD bay is 6 Gbps. Don't bother with the extra cost of new 6 Gbps SSDs if you put it in the optical position.

- If you do this on a new machine, do your boot camp install before you remove the drive. MacBook Pros have some kind of hard-wired device order that makes it impossible to install Windows from an external USB/FireWire optical drive.

I run a 250 GB SandForce SSD + 500 GB 7200rpm drive. SandForce does on-device garbage collection, which helps since OS X has no general-use TRIM support, and I do photo editing on the road so the faster HD is great.

achompas 2 days ago 7 replies      
My MacBook Air was $1,799 and the equivalent MacBook Pro (top of the line 15″, because why would you buy the 13″?) would cost me just over $3,200 (adding 3rd party SSD, Apple 8GB RAM and the Hi-Res screen).

Man, this is disingenuous. 8GB RAM? As if you can't get it cheaper (or the MBA even offered 8GB RAM as an option)? Or as if the 15" MBP doesn't blow the Air out of the water in every other aspect? I bought a 13" Pro because (a) it's smaller and lighter than the 15" and (b) I don't play PC games.

When we run THAT comparison, well:

13" MBP with 256GB Crucial SSD [0], 4GB RAM, 2.3GHz Core i5 -- $1699

13" MBA with 256GB SSD, 4GB RAM, 2.13 GHz C2D -- $1799

Sure, I don't have a Hi-Res screen (the one Pro feature I wanted on the 13"), but I can actually upgrade my computer in 3 years when 4GB RAM becomes a bottleneck. Now that's a low year-over-year computing cost.

The MacBook Air is an awesome machine, to be sure, but it's awesome because of the built-in SSD--not because of the value it provides.

[0] http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148...

ben1040 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've owned the original 12" Powerbook G4, and the first-gen MacBook Air (no SSD). With both of those I ended up with some buyers remorse about six months later, feeling like I was making some huge performance tradeoffs for the portability that ended up biting me later on. The 12" G4 was just plain slow, while the first-gen Air was hamstrung with crappy GMA950 graphics and a really slow disk. From what I've read the SSD on the original Air was on an IDE interface
and wouldn't have made much of a difference anyway.

I bought the new 13" Air the week after launch and absolutely love it for a dev environment. XCode runs nice and smooth and it now seems to me that an SSD is nearly essential to make Eclipse feel usable.

We're coming up to the 6 month point where with those older laptops I would think "oh God why did I spend $1800 on this," and I still think this is the best computer I've ever owned.

dasil003 2 days ago 3 replies      
Every time I get on a plane I wish I had an Air, but it's just not justifiable. Not only do I have and use my 8GB RAM (Photoshop, Parallels, browsers, Rails + large test suite), but the peripheral ports are critical. I don't think my Time Machine backup would ever get off the ground without the initial Ethernet plugin, not to mention the times when the DSL goes out at the office I can just plug into the hardline normally reserved for our Mac Pros. Also Firewire is another thing that may not be needed every day, but hurts bad when you don't have it (need to transfer a couple GBs between Macs quickly? Compare to wifi to Firewire Target Disk Mode). Even the SD card reader is quite handy. I'll leave the optical drive out because honestly that would be fine as a peripheral (although I do salivate at the thought of a top-tier 64GB SSD boot drive + 1TB data drive in optical drive bay).

I do have a bit of Air envy from time to time, but then I count my blessings that I live in a time where I have a portable workstation that I can use as my primary machine and carry from home to work every day. That is amazing in and of itself.

chime 3 days ago 3 replies      
I use MBA (4GB RAM upgrade, 128GB SSD) for doing a lot of XCode development. XCode4 runs very smoothly and I've never had any speed issues with running the iOS Simulator. It's light, doesn't heat up, and is very stable. I gave up my http://chir.ag/stuff/5lcd.jpg setup for a single MBA and I couldn't be happier (my electric bill went down by $125/month).

From personal experience I know that I'm more productive on 5 LCD than on 3 LCD or 2 LCD setup. However, I spend a lot more time working on my MBA than I ever did on my desktop and though I work slower, the end result is that I'm overall producing more.

oemera 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think I'm really late into this and nobody will read my comment but I will give it a try.

Six months ago I had a iMac 24" and a MacBook Pro 13" for studying and portability. I noticed after I bought my MBP that I didn't use my iMac as I thought to be using. Not because it was slow or bad or something. No it was just horrible to synchronize both devices with my work and study related stuff (Yeah I know now better that it is a charm with Dropbox).

While I was deciding if I should sell my iMac I decided to sell both iMac AND my MBP. Why, you ask? My MBP was just fine but sometimes I had to carry a heavy books plus MBP with me and this was why my back was hurting. So I decided to switch to something lighter and faster (and yes my MBA is way faster than my MBP ever was).

After selling both devices I bought a MBA with 128GB SSD and 4GB Ram and happier than ever before. This was one of the best decisions I made in my environment. And if anything happens to my MBA I will order a new one with thinking a moment about it.


* It is very fast,

* it is light as nothing else,

* I have instant-on (something which is really important to me),

* I have 5-6 hours of battery life,

* Eclipse runs really really smooth,

* XCode runs even smother,

* and every other development related works just fine (and sometimes I think even better as on my MBP)


* No glass display (I loved it cause it was way easier to clean than a "plastic" display)

* No keyboard backlight (while this was bothering me at the very beginning, I have to admit that I don't care anymore)

At the bottom-line I want to say that unless you are working on really high computation stuff (like 3D rendering or something) a MBA will do it smoothly. I never encountered anything which I had performance problems with. (If you ask me I would wait a second longer in exchange to carry much less weight with me)

Disclaimer: I don't play any games and try to escape Flash everywhere possible (cause it lets the fan freak out).

ethank 2 days ago 0 replies      
I went from having a 17" Mac Book Pro core i5 and a Mac Pro 8 core, both with maxed RAM to my MBA 13" top of line.

While I love the SSD, and I love the form factor, when working at a desk I really really pine for more RAM and a faster chip. I push the machine super hard on a normal day, not even when doing development.

Now as a portable, nothing can beat the thing, and when working on its 13" screen, it forces you to edit your multitasking so you really don't push it as bad. But when hooked at a 27" screen, you are tempted to multitask more and it gets bogged down.

Next week when the new iMacs come out I'm going to probably get one of those to use as a desktop machine and use the MBA as a portable. With Dropbox and MobileMe and Google sync, this is an easy proposition.

jimwise 3 days ago 1 reply      
Pretty much exactly my experience, except that I'm running a lot more compiles and a lot less photoshop on this 13" MBA.

In particular, if you're upgrading from a machine without SSD, the speed advantages you'll see for things like emacs or compiles of large projects -- things which access lots of small files -- are huge.

This machine replaced a MacBook Pro which was technically its equal in processor speed, but it feels faster in every way (and is a heck of a lot more usable on the train).

ascendant 2 days ago 1 reply      
I was seriously entertaining the idea of getting a top-end MBA earlier this year (refurbed for $200 off) but then the new MBP's came out and I couldn't justify a 13 inch screen and a Core 2 duo when for almost the same price I could have the 15 inch screen and a Sandy Bridge Core I7. I got the MBP and truly love it. I imagine the lightness of the air goes a long way towards what makes it so popular but I don't really travel that much, I just carry my MBP to coffee shops and tech events so it's not that big of a deal to me.
veidr 2 days ago 5 replies      
Workflows vary, of course. And yeah, for non-programmers, I think the Air is a great machine--good enough to be the primary machine for most people.

But for full-time programming work, I think it is absolutely fucking batshit insane to use anything less than a modern 12-core Mac Pro with 32 GB RAM and an SSD RAID boot volume (at which point multiple 2560 x something monitors are de rigueur).

That's certainly true for [Obj-]C[++] development, where large compiles still take minutes, even on such hardware--and can take an entire lunch break on the Air.

Obj-C coding is my primary background, so buying the fastest possible machine every year has always made sense in that way; perhaps I have a leftover cognitive bias toward buying the fastest possible machine. But, for the past year or so, I've been working mainly with Ruby and Objective-J, which don't have these burdensome compiles. Yet buying the fastest mainstream hardware still makes tons of sense to me.

Running a few hundred unit tests, one second is way better than eight seconds. Running a bunch of convoluted RSpec integration specs, 34 seconds is way, way better than seven minutes. And although I mainly use simple editors like MacVim and BBEdit, I also really like the psychotron-dynamic-heuristic CodeSense-style introspection-based context-aware autocompletion features of RubyMine--a heavyweight Java-based IDE that eats 800MB of RAM and can barely even launch on a MacBook Air, and certainly isn't usable on it. And of course the modern Pro can run Win7, WinXP, and Linux in VMWare in the background without breaking a sweat (that's why 16GB RAM doesn't really suffice).

Don't get me wrong; I think the recent MacBook Air is awesome. I have one, that I use for... well basically for word processing on airplanes (haha). And whatever else on airplanes.

But for working programmers, I think computers are still not nearly 'powerful enough'--there are still huge gains to be had by getting the fastest machine that it is reasonably possible to buy.

For roughly the price of one decently tricked-out Mac Pro, you can buy ten MacBook Airs. And for roughly the price of ten decently tricked-out Mac Pros, you can hire one additional developer.

That notwithstanding, I still think it makes business sense.

Sometimes, in my dreams, an AI built by an alien race visits my house, from the future in another galaxy, and explains to me the precise opportunity cost of a dozen human developers waiting three or four extra seconds, a hundred times a day for a year... and it's more than the ten grand that an appropriately provisioned Mac Pro costs

A bootstrapped startup where money is really tight is the obvious exception--the exception that proves the rule!

thenduks 3 days ago 0 replies      
'Enough'? Understatement. It's practically perfect. Sure it's not your gaming rig or fit for Final Cut Pro, so that could change things if this sounds like you... but as a developer it easily trumps every machine I've ever owned.
ScottBurson 2 days ago 5 replies      
Interesting that I seem to be the only 17-inch fan here. I can see the attraction of an MBA, but I prefer having a screen big enough that I can do everything on it without an external monitor, and I don't mind lugging it around at all.
dadro 3 days ago 4 replies      
I concur with authors opinion of MBA. The 13in MBA is the best computer I've ever owned. My current Mac Lineup consists of:

  * Latest gen 13in MBA
* 17in MBP (~1yr) work paid for it
* 13in Black Macbook (loved this one too!)
* Mac Pro (totally pimped out) work paid for it
* 3rd gen mac mini

The only machine I use now is the MBA. It is everything a Web Dev needs, great resolution, fast, travels well. It even plays Minecraft quite well. The only thing I'd ask for in the 3rd gen models is a back-lit keyboard. Love this machine.


Best accessory I've purchased http://www.luxurylapdesk.com/index.php

calebhicks 3 days ago 2 replies      
I use a 13" MBP with 8GB RAM and an Intel SSD. I could have gone with the MBA, but didn't like the thought of another Core 2 Duo.

I have a 24" monitor at my office, and a 27" iMac (my wife's) that I use as a second display for my MBP.

Best of both worlds. Speed, mobility, and big screens when I need 'em.

benologist 2 days ago 1 reply      
I use my maxed out 13" for all my work now with an external monitor.

It's an interesting change, the only problem I really have is I live in a hot country so the laptop runs hot and kernal_task screws around trying to get the temperature under control.

dmauro 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm using my MBA (no upgrades, lowest end model) for my daily routine as a designer, and it's holding up perfectly well. I am mostly just running Photoshop, Illustrator, Textmate, and a few browsers. Hell, I was even able to play Portal 2 on this thing. It's definitely the best $1,000 I've ever spent on tech, and I'm a Windows guy.

The only downsides are if I have a bunch of large files open in Photoshop and Illustrator, I might have to save and close some to keep things running smooth. When I'm plugged into a 27" display, some things are not quite as smooth.

So yeah, I'd rather be working on a faster desktop system (though the benefits would be minimal), but I can close this, bring it home, and continue working with the same workspace.

And the monitor is better than my Dell 22" I have at home.

kenjackson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Computing power-wise there are few machines that can't do the job for most people. I recently had a friend get the ASUS 1015B[1] for $289. For everything he does (he's not a developer, rather a policy wonk) it works just fine. He loves the form factor for travel, weight, everything.

But the problem with MBA, netbooks, and laptops in general is that they're less productive for some classes of work. Generally due to the display size/resolution. I find that even a 24" dislay is not adequate to really work at full steam. I need at least 2x24" when doing serious dev work. I can work on my laptop in a pinch, but its like writing a long email with T9. Sure, you can do it, but its not the way you like to operate.

[1] http://www.asus.com/Eee/Eee_PC/Eee_PC_1015B/

bergie 3 days ago 4 replies      
Also my personal notes on the same, running Ubuntu instead of OS X: http://bergie.iki.fi/blog/11-macbook_air-the_best_computer_i...
beck5 3 days ago 0 replies      
The bigest complement about my MBA is I love(d) my iPad, I took it everywhere, but I gave it to my mum at the weekend because I don't use it anymore since I getting a base 13" Air.
_Fil_ 3 days ago 3 replies      
The only thing that stops me from buying one is the 10/100 lan adapter.

I transfer every day large files between my mac and my pc or NAS and the transfer rate would kill me.

JCB_K 3 days ago 4 replies      
Playing back a 1080p h.264 video using the 24″ Cinema Display (in full screen), the computer drops a lot of frames doing this.

That was the only thing that really surprised me.

japherwocky 2 days ago 2 replies      
Dell made a laptop with similar specs called the 'Adamo' for a while. It's small, light and sexy, costs about half as much as an MBA, and Ubuntu worked out of the box.

A good alternative if you'd like to avoid the Apple flavored kool-aid.

guictx 2 days ago 0 replies      
Frank Chimero, illustrator and designer, wrote about his experience using a MBA as primary machine: http://blog.frankchimero.com/post/2799470127/the-setup
xbryanx 2 days ago 1 reply      
I know it sounds trivial but the lack of a optical (CD/DVD) drive is my biggest barrier. In my work place, I still get all kinds of files and media on CDs and DVDs.
quinndupont 2 days ago 0 replies      
Tangential question: I've got a MacBook Air and a first gen (of the current design) white plastic MacBook that stores all my music/video (300GB music, 100GB video, with a bunch more video on external USB drive). My issue is that it is very slow these days, and I feel like it is IO bound with my big, kinda slow HD. I'm considering replacing the optical drive with the OWC SSD hack. Then, the OS & apps can live on the SSD, music and video on slow HD. Thoughts on performance? Anyone else try this?
kayoone 3 days ago 1 reply      
I got the early 2011 MBP 15" because i wanted a single machine i work on in the office and at home. I am using it with an external screen though, mostly for ergonomical reason. Working Laptop-only hurts you, dont do it all day!

But the most annoying thing currently is that its fans speed up so quickly during work. Because of this i regret buying it and not going for a MBA11 + iMac.

jrockway 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a developer, I can always use as much CPU time as I have available. A good example is the Moose test suite: on my laptop, it takes 3 minutes (there are a lot of tests). On my desktop with -j8, it takes 10 seconds.

(This setup was a lot less than $1799, and I have 6G of RAM, an SSD, and 3TB of slower storage. But I am big on ergonomics, so a laptop doesn't work for me anyway.)

6ren 2 days ago 0 replies      
He mentions a useful life of three years - but within three years, I'd expect ARM laptops to have largely replaced intel laptops, and be lighter, slimmer, have longer battery life, etc.

Dual-core machines are out this year and are already fast enough for non-intensive tasks. Quad-core are expected next year. As a guide, in three years (2014) Tegra (Stark) is expected, which 100 times faster than Tegra 2. Apple's internal cpu could well be faster. Three years is a long time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_Tegra#Tegra_2_series

nwomack 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's really too bad there is not a matte option for it. I agonized over the MBA vs MBP decision for about a year, and finally got the High-End 15" 2011 MBP model with the matte screen upgrade. Couldn't be happier. Yeah, it's a big hulking beast, but the extra real estate and matte screen are really nice. I don't think I can go back to glossy ever again...
zmitri 2 days ago 0 replies      
I got the top of the line MacBook Air. It was my first Apple product ever. After tax was 1900 ish, which I do admit is super expensive. It does everything I need, and is SUPER portable -- I can carry it like a piece of paper. Everything is super responsive, and compilation is fast enough. I run Photoshop from time to time, and its not a problem whatsoever. Also tried out Portal 2, no problems at all.
dr_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've owned the 11.6" MBA for a couple of months now and it works great. It's portability is fantastic because I have to take it with me to several locations where I don't have a lot of work space. It's fast and the battery life is decent enough so that during the day I really don't require a power cord (but I don't go online much with it during the workday).
The only time I see it slow down a little is when I'm accessing my Yahoo email in Outlook.
tomlin 2 days ago 0 replies      
While the previous MBA might have felt like a compromise, I find the current MBA a top-tier contender for development, personally.

I use a BookArc Air from TwelveSouth[1], LED Cinema[2] display. I find it beats having 2 Macs. I love disconnecting my MBA, taking it to work and opening it up at the exact place I was when I last used it. The BookArc makes it aesthetically pleasing and organized and the MBA handles the Cinema display without effort. I also like syncing my iTunes library with my iPhone on one Mac.

[1]: http://www.twelvesouth.com/products/BookArc_for_Air/

[2]: http://www.apple.com/displays/

pdenya 2 days ago 0 replies      
MBAs look nice for on the go but I definitely wouldn't give up my 27" imac at home (1 20" attached to the imac too) setup at home. I have a company MBP that I use for whenever i'm out and about. I definitely don't haul it everywhere but it's no trouble to take on even an afternoon trip if there's a chance I could use it.

I'm also not sure what the problem is with switching to a different workflow on a laptop vs a desktop. I'm fine alt-tabbing between chrome and coda or xcode and ios sim but I'd prefer to not have to. All of my content stays in sync with a combination of git and dropbox so no issues there either.

grandalf 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've been using an 11" macbook air for the past few months as a development machine and it works just fine. I use emacs and ruby 1.9 mostly.
stcredzero 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am currently using an original 2008 Macbook Unibody as my work machine. I bought a 2011 i5 Macbook Pro last weekend, but I ended up returning it. Instead, I bought a 2010 Macbook Pro. It will support my 256GB Crucial SSD and two 1920x1080 27" monitors and will be my new work machine.
tomwans 2 days ago 0 replies      
My 2008 (Core 2 Duo) MBP died last week and I figured I'd upgrade rather than repair it (I felt the Core 2 Duo was aging fast). I borrowed my mother's low-end MBA for the time being and Fell In Love. It was great for Xcode development/tricked-out Emacs for remote dev. (pretty much all you need).

However, I ended up with a tricked-out MBP 15" w/ SSD & Hi-Res screen - the reason is I need the peripherals &etc. for heavy apps like Logic. But let me tell you, if you're going MBP 15" - cough up for an SSD, but also ... get the Hi-Res screen. It's only $100 extra and you will feel as if you have an absurd amount of screen real estate.

tchock23 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not to sound like a fanboy (I believe I posted something about my Air a while back on HN), but I'm a big fan of my 13" MacBook Air after a few months of using it. I agree with the original poster that it is more than sufficient for an everyday work machine.

As an aside, it's a pretty decent gaming machine as well... We recently started playing Borderlands GOTY edition LAN games at the office and my MBA ran the game much smoother than another a ~1.5 year old 17" Macbook Pro in the office. He had to downgrade the video to get it working nicely, while my MBA hummed along without much of a sweat.

daimyoyo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I suppose if money were no object I'd probably get a MBA but the fact is that the 13" MBP I ended up getting is more than enough for what I use it for and was 25% cheaper. And when every dollar counts, that's important.
JonLim 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've been slugging it out at work with my 5 year old Macbook at work with an external display and I will continue to until it dies.

When it does go though, I intend to make a choice between a Macbook Air and a Macbook Pro. I already have an iPad 2, but the lightness and mobility of the MBA might make it the better machine for me.

Tycho 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's by far the most appealing laptop on the market I think. One question I have though is can you get an anti-glare screen on it?
dlaw 2 days ago 1 reply      
Recently I was looking for a new laptop. The new MacBook Airs arguably have the best-designed hardware of any laptop on the market, but I object to certain hacker-unfriendly steps Apple has taken: namely, the use of pentalobular and triwing screws to make disassembly difficult. I cannot in good faith buy a computer from a company that so actively dissuades tinkering.

I've decided to go with the ThinkPad X220 instead. Although it's not quite as svelte as the Air, it is designed to be user serviceable. Hell, Lenovo publishes a manual with instructions on how to replace the system board (including details such as the torque each screw should be tightened to). And, although the X220 has a removable battery, its battery life is just as good as (if not better than) that of the Air.

(Oh, and the OS difference does not affect me because I will run Arch Linux either way.)

sidwyn 3 days ago 0 replies      
I own a MBA as well. What can I say? I've never looked back.
chopsueyar 3 days ago 0 replies      
I know MBA stand for MacBook Air, but reading some of these comments is a bit difficult/funny.
mark_l_watson 3 days ago 0 replies      
My MBA is my favorite computer also: for running IntelliJ, Emacs+Lisp, Rails development, etc., it is great to use. I do still use a MBP for one customer's work because I need a ton of services running during development.
jorisw 2 days ago 0 replies      
The SSD. It's fast, fast, fast.

I use an 11.6" MBA for everything I do. At my desk, I hook up a 24" monitor. At a client or a meeting, the 1366x768 resolution is just fine.

mahyarm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm waiting until the MBA gets thunderbolt and solves it's biggest problem, a lack of a fast data transfer method. Sandy Bridge CPUs and maybe maybe USB3 would be good bonuses. Otherwise I'm sticking with the Pro with gigabit ethernet and firewire 800.

If the MBA could also get a 1080p screen like the sony vaio Z does, it would get rid of the biggest reason I want to get a vaio Z.

anr 2 days ago 1 reply      
MBAs have glossy displays too, right? That would be a turn off for me.
MatthewB 2 days ago 0 replies      
I bought my MBA (top of the line) last week, it is amazing. It does everything I need it to do. When I take out my MBP 15inch now...it feels like a huge brick.
wedtm 2 days ago 0 replies      
This changed my mind from a MBP to a MBA. Thank you.
greg_gti 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you currently use a 13" MBP wait until the next revision of the MBA and buy because right now, the differences don't justify the expense
highpass 2 days ago 0 replies      
In case anyone is wondering, Brooks uses the 2.13ghz model.
lightoverhead 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm really not a fun for Mac stuff. It's just a fashion thing, not for work.
For the money you spent on Mac, you can definitely buy a cheap powerful machine with free reliable Linux system.

No matter to say its monopoly of market, even an adapter to projector need its own. I have seen so many times someone using a Mac but forgot bringing that stupid adapter for projector, she/he had to change to PC to do the presentation.

Still don't understand why people like such pricey not comparably useful machine.

Lessons Netflix Learned from the AWS Outage netflix.com
187 points by ravstr  1 day ago   15 comments top 6
mattew 1 day ago 5 replies      
"Currently, Netflix uses a service called "Chaos Monkey" to simulate service failure. Basically, Chaos Monkey is a service that kills other services. We run this service because we want engineering teams to be used to a constant level of failure in the cloud. Services should automatically recover without any manual intervention. We don't however, simulate what happens when an entire AZ goes down and therefore we haven't engineered our systems to automatically deal with those sorts of failures. Internally we are having discussions about doing that and people are already starting to call this service "Chaos Gorilla"."

I am wondering how they could simulate the loss of an AZ. Any ideas?

woodrow 1 day ago 2 replies      
Interesting that they're not using EBS to provide durable storage for Cassandra, but instead using S3 (along with S3-backed, or "ephemeral storage", AMIs). I wonder if that means they're batching up and writing their database logs to S3, plus running enough instances across AZs that it's generally okay to keep everything in memory even when an instance or two fails.

Anyone have any experience running a NoSQL datastore in this fashion?

radioactive21 1 day ago 1 reply      
I really love articles like this from companies summarizing a failure or disruption of service.

It's like a lessons learn. I hope more companies do this.

SriniK 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yet another great post. Seems like they rely on simpledb a lot.

Scaling up/down webserver-LB-appserver stack is the easiest part. Managing db(sql/no-sql) is a juggle. It is great that nflx avoided the db hosting them selves by adopting simpledb.

One common thing among other players that went down during the aws outage:
quora - mysql
4sq - mongodb
reddit - postgre

huntero 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the discussions after the AWS outage, a lot of people seemed to be assuming that Netflix was able to stay up because they had the $$$$ to spread their service across multiple regions, not just AZ's.

It looks like that wasn't the case, they stay in one region but avoid EBS like the plague(among other things).

g123g 1 day ago 0 replies      
In a way this outage can turn out financially positive for Amazon as more and more customers will start using multiple regions instead of just one region. In addition to multiple instances that customers will need to bring up, they will be paying for the inter-region data transfer costs. This should compensate for the customers they will lose because of this outage and new customers who will choose some other cloud.
Voyager Set to Enter Interstellar Space nasa.gov
185 points by pwg  2 days ago   63 comments top 9
jaysonelliot 2 days ago 5 replies      
It just so happens I was listening to some beautiful 1970s space music when I read this (Tangerine Dream, if you're interested).

The dreams of exploration we had from the time of the first man in space through the 1980s were so wonderful and optimistic. I grew up reading OMNI and Discover, watching Carl Sagan on television and playing with toy Space Shuttles.

When the Voyager left earth, we believed that man would walk on Mars by the end of the millennium, and that first contact was just around the corner. It was unthinkable that, in 2011, we would be seeing the end of the Space Shuttle with nothing to replace it and the suspension of SETI.

I hope that moments of wonder like Voyager leaving the solar system, still functioning, will light our collective spirit and inspire us to remember why we wanted to reach for the stars in the first place.

haberman 2 days ago 0 replies      
The article reminded me of this classic story of geek-love between Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan as they were creating the "gold record" that is traveling on both Voyagers.


cal5k 2 days ago 5 replies      
It's almost as if the universe was created to mock us. So much space to explore, but physical law makes it impossible to explore more than the smallest, most insignificant fraction.
calebmpeterson 2 days ago 1 reply      
Every time I read about either Voyager I/II or Pioneer 10/11 I am amazed at just how vast space is. Nothing like spending the better part of 50 years to go an incredible distance - a distance, which is so small in the grand scheme of things...

At the same time I'm delighted to be alive during a part of history in which humanity accomplished such a pitifully tiny and yet monumental feat.

veb 2 days ago 2 replies      
Fantastic read!

Fantastic technology! This stuff is old, but it still works extraordinarily well. They sure knew how to engineer stuff then.
They say that they might keep going until 2020 -- I bet those bad boys will surprise us and keep on kicking for much longer!

icehawk 2 days ago 3 replies      
Voyager is a beautiful example of reliable code and engineering. 30 years and 10 billion miles out, and still functioning.
daimyoyo 1 day ago 1 reply      
The fact is that we won't break the bonds of earth with NASA. Decades of bureaucracy and budget cutting has left them as little more than another government agency that exists solely to expand and maintain it's own budget. I'm 29 years old. So is the space shuttle program. It's completely unacceptable that we are taking 30 year old vehicles to space. Would you trust a 30 year old sedan on a cross country road trip? I wouldn't. And now, the program is being discontinued with nothing ready to replace it. We are going to have to rely on Russia until we can get our next rocket operational. If the men who created the Apollo program were told that one day we'd rely on the Russians for our space travel, they'd laugh you out of the room. Also, why haven't we been to the Moon in nearly 40 years? Is there nothing worth exploring left on the entire thing? Thank(insert deity here) that companies like Space X are taking up the slack. It's unfortunate that NASA has fallen so far, but it has.
paraschopra 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm so proud of Humanity right now. Thousands of years later when future Historians would be studying our period, I am sure they will feel proud about the far-sighted decision this Voyager project had been. Future scientist may thank us for setting a benchmark they now have to excel.
pwg 2 days ago 1 reply      
How many years until V'Ger returns home?
Google's secret perk? A private hackerspace hackaday.com
190 points by yan  4 days ago   53 comments top 9
kaib 4 days ago  replies      
I've actually worked at Google and been certified to use all of the shops including welding and metalworking. And the industrial grade heavy duty plasma cutter. The shops are really cool and they serve a slightly different purpose than for example TechShop. At TechShop a lot of the tinkering is more social, the Google shops are definitely less crowded. We run a similar much smaller shop at Tinkercad and I hope to expand that one in the future as well. The only gripe I have is that the campus is large enough that the Pi shops are a short distance away so you might not drop down there as often as you would like. That said the EE shop was pretty close to core campus.

As for the certification and elitism. The cert process was very straightforward and relevant. People easily forget that metalworking and some woodworking machines don't let you learn by experimenting. These machines kill in seconds, sometimes for mistakes that are very unintuitive. Like wearing gloves has killed several people. Which is unintuitive when you are handling razor sharp pieces of metal. Or the recent fatal accident at Yale where student was pulled in by her hair.

As for the particulars of Ihab. He is a very smart and diligent guy but he had very little practical machine shop experience. He recognized it himself and took classes to compensate. These standards aren't high just due to Rod, but because most Googlers are smart enough to be critical of their own skills when faced with lethal equipment.

Re-posted from this earlier thread on the same subject: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2487979

Edit: s/MIT/Yale/ for the lathe accident. Thanks.

newmediaclay 4 days ago 1 reply      
This sounds a lot like the design studio at Apple. It's basically Jony Ive and ~10 designers who have full rights to prototype new products, even if they're completely random. I think a telling difference is the fact that this is a part of the core myth of Apple and the emphasis on beautiful design and small teams. It's not some hidden away secret.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1367481/Appl... - "Jobs swiftly brought Ive in from the cold, moving the designers into a building on campus and investing in the latest rapid-prototyping equipment. He also beefed up Apple's security, locking down the design studio to prevent leaks and installing a private kitchen so designers wouldn't talk shop in public.

meterplech 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is incredible. I think Google is doing a great job of transitioning from a startup to a big company. They have so many things like this, 20% time, and letting tech guys focus on tech and still get promotions. I feel like they are trying to make themselves the Mecca for brilliant technologists. If you aren't a startup with an "us" against the world mentality, you have to add compelling reasons to attract talent.
martian 3 days ago 0 replies      
TechShop in SOMA (San Francisco) has similar machinery and equipment, from the sound of it. http://techshop.ws/ A potential perk for SF-based startups could be access to shops like this. Buying all that equipment is expensive. Austin TX has a similar communal workspace http://www.makeatx.com/ and I'm sure similar spaces exist in other cities.
joeyespo 3 days ago 0 replies      

I'm personally so much more of a software hacker. But I do have a friend that can do all kinds of hardware hacks, from woodwork to welding. He loves doing it too, but often hits a roadblock with certain ideas since he doesn't have the required machinery and is currently employed outside this field of work. And without the funds, also doesn't have the opportunity to go very far with his hobby.

Unfortunately, he also doesn't have the software background to work at Google. It's an amazing perk they offer for sure. It'd be really cool if they expanded this to allow some non-computer geeks to pitch in every now and then though.

xster 3 days ago 0 replies      
def jealous
mkramlich 3 days ago 0 replies      
I bet that's where SkyNet will be built. (Has been built?)
Darklink 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting, I wish there were some more pictures of the inside of the shop itself. Knowing Google, I'm sure everything in there is top of the line.
latch 4 days ago 4 replies      
Even within a small company cliques are a fact of life. But, something about the way this is worded seems...awful?

"which is open to any employee that meets some pretty strict requirements. A written test is given before an employee can access the facilities, and even then they must be deemed worthy of working on particular pieces of equipment"

I'd like to assume this is a safety issue, but this is Google which is known to be pretty elitist. Some employees will always get more perks than others (more money, more vacation time, more options...). Part of the very nature of picking "haves" is that you inherently devalue the "have-nots".

One step forward for having a more streamlined interview process, one step back for having interviews/tests for access to perks even after you're employed.

The Linux perf command rocks pixelbeat.org
183 points by pixelbeat  3 days ago   26 comments top 11
js2 2 days ago 0 replies      
For a recent example of perf in practice, see "git gc: Speed it up by 18% via faster hash comparisons" on the git mailing list


ssp 3 days ago 1 reply      
Also take a look at sysprof:


The 1.1.6 release uses the same kernel API as perf, but displays full call trees. Screenshot:


bcl 3 days ago 4 replies      
A few other tools I use are atop (more detailed top info, with logging), iostat (harddrive io) and vmstat (memory and cpu details).
hallmark 2 days ago 1 reply      
Are these tools (perf, atop, etc) useful and accurate in virtualized environments? For example, under Xen. Fine, I'll say it: on an EC2 or Linode instance. Would there be any skewing or clock issues due to virtualization?

Collecting the comments of HN readers with deep experience in this matter, on this thread, would be preferable to me trying to give a brief and uninformed Google search summary.

loboman 2 days ago 0 replies      
Not cool... "sudo perf record -a -g sleep 10" crashed my system badly (not even reisub would close it).
dsantos 3 days ago 1 reply      
the article mentions perf, valgrind, oprofile, etc. but misses the lttng tool


joezydeco 2 days ago 1 reply      
Do any of these run on MIPS? Profiling for embedded Linux can really suck sometimes...
hexley 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is this like the "Sample" button in Activity Monitor on OS X?
me_again 2 days ago 0 replies      
For Windows, xperf is in the systemwide-profiler category: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/performance/cc825801.aspx
vetler 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone know how to install this on CentOS?
joelthelion 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know how to install it on Arch?
Non-Libyan URL Shortener gadaf.fi
178 points by pitdesi  3 days ago   76 comments top 19
soult 3 days ago 5 replies      
While it is a funny play on all those .ly domains and the fact that vb.ly got seized by the Libyan government, it is my opinion that yet another URL shortener is a stupid way of protest.

Let me explain: I work with the Urlteam, a group of people that saves shorturl->longurl mappings for a bunch of shorteners. The typical life cycle of small shorteners is this:

- URL shortener opens, gets some praise for weird feature that bit.ly doesn't have.

- People actually don't care about feature and continue to use bit.ly.

- Spammers discover the shortener and abuse it.

- Owner closes the shortener because he can't deal with the spam.

All that remains are some non-functional links.

Xk 3 days ago 2 replies      
You should block me from redirecting a link to itself.


And probably block cycles too.

InclinedPlane 3 days ago 1 reply      
Or just use j.mp, it's the same as bit.ly just without the dependence on the Libya TLD.
thushan 3 days ago 1 reply      
I tip my hat to the genius who came up with this.
ares2012 3 days ago 0 replies      
Both funny and poignant. It is interesting to consider how many popular web services use .ly domain names and are hence tied to Libya (albeit far removed).
Locke1689 3 days ago 0 replies      
One minor problem being that it takes the "short" out of "URL shortener."

Decent for making a point, but those characters are a precious commodity on Twitter.

jschuur 3 days ago 1 reply      
Slightly unrelated, but given the current sanctions, you can't renew a .ly domain name right now as a US business, correct? Bit.ly's domain name expires early next year, last time I checked.
sjs382 3 days ago 0 replies      
I know this is kind of a joke, kind of a way to bring publicity to whats happening in Lybia, but if the bit.ly domain disappears you can always just rewrite "bit.ly" to "j.mp" and the short URLs will keep working.

Then again, this presumes that the company is still running (which we can't really put a ton of faith in), which is why i use http://isshort.com (shameless plug) to find publisher-provided short URLs where possible.

RobIsIT 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why not host your own?

I've been using Yourls (http://yourls.org/) for a while now. It works very well. I bought a short domain, installed Yourls in under 5 min and have been happily using it ever since. It even works with Tweetdeck to auto shorten URL's and has a couple of bookmarklets to make things easy. It's locked down for private / non-spammer use and is under my full control.

d0m 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think it should add http:// if it's missing.. I wasn't sure what wasn't working at first when trying www.google.com.

Also, I find gadaf.fi really hard to remember.

iuguy 3 days ago 0 replies      
While it's a great pun, it's not exactly short, though is it?
5l 3 days ago 5 replies      
Hate to nit pick but isn't it Gaddafi, or Qaddafi?

Edit: So it is, although the correct spelling is already taken.

guynamedloren 3 days ago 0 replies      
I tried 5 different URLS, then I realized that it only works if you include http or https.
westicle 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was simultaneously impressed by the clean, informative presentation and horrified by the assault of grammatical errors.

May I suggest having a native english-speaker review your copy? Otherwise nice site.

yaix 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cool idea! Best URL shortener name of the year.
ballard 3 days ago 0 replies      
Dictators don't just come out with their own line of cars anymore. http://goo.gl/PqQTK
hendavid 3 days ago 2 replies      
First post!
rkon 3 days ago 0 replies      
Now, if only we could stop getting our tv from Tuvalu. Stop reliance on foreign domains! America needs Internet independence!

/palin rhetoric

csomar 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't consider this a nice move. I actually hate it. It's like Gaddafi is going to stand longer than that and that we should only boycott him. We ought better supporting the rebellion or the people who are under the fire.

-- Misrata (24 April): http://www.facebook.com/media/set/fbx/?set=a.101501680318019...

Netflix Is Killing BitTorrent in The US torrentfreak.com
175 points by AndrewWarner  3 days ago   98 comments top 27
ANH 3 days ago 1 reply      
To me, Netflix streaming is like some alien technology from the future. I live in a rural area with terrible broadband (miniscule monthly cap). However, I have an unlimited data plan for my phone and with a composite video cable I can plug my phone into the television and stream movies from the Netflix app. We've never had cable TV, and with Netlix and iTunes there's no point. Even over 3G, we get surprisingly good video quality.
kbatten 3 days ago 4 replies      
When I want to watch a movie, the first place I go to is netflix. I won't tell you the second place I go to.

I'd pay an extra 5 bucks a month if it could increase the rate at which netflix lets me "play now" movies. Yes, some movies I specifically want to get on bluray, but there are plenty of others that video quality matters very little to me.

jaysonelliot 3 days ago 5 replies      
If I could rely on a streaming movie from Netflix to play uninterrupted and without flaws from beginning to end, it would be wonderful.

That, and if I could find the movies I want to watch, of course.

The reality for me, at least, is that I cannot watch two hours of streaming video from Netflix without the picture freezing or skipping at some point, even if it's just a little bit.

I love film, and that's unacceptable. I need to either go to the store and get the DVD, rent a download (not streaming) from iTunes, or hit the high seas. I need to watch movies when I want, and I need them to play perfectly.

That rules out Netflix, at least for me, at least for now.

pdubroy 3 days ago 5 replies      
The article doesn't actually offer any evidence, apart from the fact that Netflix has doubled its subscribers.
joelhaasnoot 3 days ago 2 replies      
And yet, there's still nothing in Europe that has "all you can eat" streaming, just $7.50 movie rentals for movies from 2006...
ChuckMcM 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't find this surprising. "Piracy" is the expression of a market that is unserved, which is to say that a product is offered at price X, the consumers price is Y which is < X and the risk of piracy is Z which is <= (X - Y).

The MPAA and RIAA and a bounty of plaintiff lawyers are trying to increase the cost of the risk, and people like Netflix are getting the price paid by the consumer below X.

When the inequality ceases to hold, people switch into being paying customers.

veb 3 days ago 2 replies      
Makes sense to me.

If you torrent a movie, you have to find it from a decent place (otherwise it could be a completely different movie, shitty release etc) then you may need to find captions for it, if you need them. This kind of thing isn't actually easy for non-technical people.

However I think it comes down to the fact: most people want to pay but shit is just so expensive otherwise.

lotusleaf1987 3 days ago 1 reply      
Easy trumps free.
kin 3 days ago 1 reply      
Netflix is not significantly killing BitTorrent directly. For one, mainstream BT users are afraid of using BT. Non-mainstream BT users are using usenet 'cause it's just so insanely fast. People's favorite trackers are being shut down left and right and then there's the people who're now streaming legally.

As much as I love Netflix, I still DL for any content it doesn't have (HBO and such), currently airing seasons, and new releases. I just can't justify $5 a movie rental or $1 an episode rental.

On a side note one thing I really need is a way to stream the playoffs. I would pay $$ to stream the playoffs in HD, not just season games.

dfc 3 days ago 0 replies      
The article fails to establish any causal link between Netflix subscriptions and decrease in bittorrent use. It is just as likely that an increase in Netflix subscriptions is evidence of a renewed interest in movies; and this renewed interest will also produce an increased demand for movies not yet available on Netflix.
maratd 3 days ago 1 reply      
From personal experience, this is only partially the case. Netflix IS more convenient and the cost is minimal, but their library is limited. I can download any movie/show I can think of via "alternative" means. That's not the case with Netflix, especially when dealing with foreign media that requires subtitles. Netflix still has a long way to go before I no longer have uTorrent running 24/7.
ChrisMac 3 days ago 1 reply      
For me it's the comfort factor. I stream Netflix through my Wii, so when I watch movies that way I get to sit on my couch and watch my big screen TV.

When I watch stuff on my computer I have to sit in my uncomfortable desk chair and view my small-ish monitor. Getting my whole computer hooked up to my TV seems like a hassle at the moment. On the other hand, Netflix is always ready to go and that usually wins.

BonoboBoner 3 days ago 0 replies      
When oh when will I finally be able to become a Netflix customer in Germany without having to deal with proxys, VPNs, etc?
HelloBeautiful 3 days ago 0 replies      
That is a bad news. If the movie industry succeeds in getting rid of privacy, the prices of Netflix subscriptions, BR disks, movie tickets, etc. will go way way up ... And those money won't go anywhere near the artists and other content producers. Plus ppl will be unable to use free software like Linux and Firefox to watch movies.
emitstop 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure that "killing" is the best word to use here. I would say that it is definitely making a dent. I've been using Netflix (and hulu) more and more, and torrents less and less.

Being able to instantly watch is a huge incentive for me. I also like to think that my views help the show stay on the air. Realistically, Hulu and Netflix viewcounts probably don't count much, but better than nothing right?

simpsond 3 days ago 2 replies      
Us Netflix users should do everything in our power to show that Netflix reduces piracy. Then, the studios, which own all of the IP, will work out a reasonable deal and we will have a larger streaming library. I don't care if it's true or false, i'm just tired of the MPAA not getting with the program!
BadassFractal 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is true for me personally. The Zune store, which is an all-you-can-eat music service has completely removed the need to download music from torrents/emule. I can just pay 10 bucks a month and enjoy all the content I want.

Netflix follows the same approach and is even more successful at it.

barrydahlberg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Grr. Piracy is still dominating down my way in NZ.
dmazin 3 days ago 0 replies      
People often give reasons such as "Movies are too hard to acquire" to justify pirating movies.
And Netflix solves them. Good for Netflix.
ZipCordManiac 3 days ago 1 reply      
They just need a better distribution model for new movies and they would kill it completely. If I had to pay, say, 10c for a 24 hour new rental on top of the monthly I'd likely be using it all the time.
nkeating 3 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting (& not surprising)that Netflix has proven to be a larger deterrent to piracy than anything the studios or government has come up with
rhdoenges 3 days ago 1 reply      
The article isn't saying that netflix is really killing torrents but rather that it has the potential to do so.
omginternets 3 days ago 1 reply      
Correlation != (causation || identity).

For all we know, bittorrent rates could be falling for another reason and American consumers could be responding to this by opting for netflix.

Come on... everybody should know this...

ivoflipse 3 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps the studios should consider letting it expand to Europe as well...
iam 3 days ago 0 replies      
Netflix has a long way to go before their quality is even as good as the "HD" channels on a Cable network.
ballard 3 days ago 0 replies      
There's all watching canv.as. If you want an invite, hit me up.
binxbolling 3 days ago 1 reply      
Um... I think they meant torrents in general, not BitTorrent specifically. Interesting rant though, I guess.
       cached 1 May 2011 15:11:01 GMT