hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    12 Jun 2011 Best
home   ask   best   8 years ago   
My Email Canary jgc.org
558 points by jgrahamc  2 days ago   118 comments top 22
dholowiski 2 days ago 1 reply      
I built 1pix.me about six months ago and it would be perfect for this. You get a link to a 1 p pixel transparent PNG, and phone or desktop notifications (via notifo) every time it is served. Its totally free, enjoy.
robg 2 days ago 3 replies      
Why not just a canary that a (unknown) IP has logged into the account? Gmail displays the logged in IPs. How hard would it be to grab that info into similar notifications? Add to that reverse look ups and you could get a IP and location. Train the system through use and you'll quickly get a white list.

I'd pay for that service.

JoachimSchipper 2 days ago 1 reply      
Clever, but works only against targeted attacks - an attack on many accounts would presumably rifle through your mailbox automatically, which would defeat this.
uptown 2 days ago 1 reply      
Neat idea. One thing I'd probably do if I wanted to use this technique would be to develop a browser extension to go along with it to either hide the row when accessed from "trusted" IP addresses, or injects the row via the extension when accessed from an unknown IP. That way I wouldn't be forced to have that row on my screen from home or work where it might accidentally be clicked on and triggered.
ktr 2 days ago 2 replies      
Maybe it doesn't matter (bc as I understand it, the image is really what notifies you - but this might tip off a hacker if they're perceptive), but would it be better for the zip file to be .zip instead of .gz? I would think that most banks, when interacting with "regular customers" would send zip files instead of gzip files ... maybe I'm wrong?
davweb 2 days ago 3 replies      
Gmail already has something similar built in with the Last Account Activity Alerts:


dsl 2 days ago 1 reply      
This assumes that the attacker is using a web browser.

Many toolkits exist (no, I'm not going to link to them) where you just feed in a list of usernames and passwords for popular email systems and they go harvesting, usually via IMAP.

callmeed 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is very cool ... but what would you actually do (to prevent disaster) from your phone?

Let's say I get an alert on my iPhone but I'm 30 mins from getting to my laptop.

How would you stop them from recovering your DropBox or VPS console password?

eik3_de 2 days ago 2 replies      
To the OP: Do you use Google's two-factor authentication with that account? If so, where do you see potential attack vectors?
ericfrenkiel 2 days ago 2 replies      
Check out www.inboxalarm.com which is something I built for fun a couple years ago. It's a free service and uses SMS to alert you the moment the image is triggered.
metalfrog 2 days ago 6 replies      
Two big points here, any hacker with a brain wouldn't

1) Rummage through your emails with image loading turned on
2) At least at a minimum be behind a service such as tor..

so uhhh, i guess this is a good idea for alerting you, if that is you are un/lucky enough to get 'hacked' by those that ignore the previous two points.

tcarnell 1 day ago 1 reply      
I like the idea - but please do not confuse this with security. While the canary might be activated, all of your genuine information has also been compromised.

I have thought about the security issues with gmail, especially for mobile devices (they can be easily stolen).

It would be really REALLY great if Google offered several account access levels - I could use a 'read only' account for my mobile device, which could also only give me access to the last 1 hour of emails for example. and seperate account access for use with 3rd party services (facebook, gtalk apps etc)

chrisjsmith 2 days ago 3 replies      
I think that it's a bit over the top. The "canary" gets in the way of what you are doing.

I operate on the opposite principle: there is nothing sensitive in my email account. When it arrives, it is actioned and disposed of (properly) immediately.

I am not sentimental and do not keep every email "just in case" as I do not remember 99.9% of telephone conversations I've had.

revorad 2 days ago 3 replies      
The catch is that images are not displayed by default. Why would an attacker click on show images? Only if the text of the email asked them to...

EDIT: I'm wrong as pointed out by others in the replies below.

jarin 2 days ago 2 replies      
Awesome idea, even though it means you can never use stars again.
munin 2 days ago 0 replies      
and so when an attacker configures thunderbird to slurp all the email out of your inbox this does .. what? why not just poll the list of most recently logged in IP addresses and track the number of currently logged in sessions/authentications, and when that number approaches a certain hair trigger, sound the alarm? oh right, google already does that for you...
verroq 2 days ago 2 replies      
If an attacker is going to attack your gmail, they already know that their IP is logged on the "Last account activity". If they are really going in, they'll be behind at least 7 proxies. Then again, there is next to nothing you can do with an IP address, if this make you feel safer then w/e.
talboito 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm thinking of a secondary alarm anytime you get an email that may be a password recovery.

Something like SpamBayes put trained for account related emails from the popular services and banks.

jvandenbroeck 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cool idea! But I think that if would get widely adopted, hackers would see it coming from miles away.
forgotmyuser 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why not build an app that keeps a log of every time you log into your email, stores it to x specified # of logins and sends you an sms showing your email activity including # of logins, what time and IP address.
a3_nm 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't see the point. The guy says he owns a private server. Why doesn't he just move his email there, and monitor activity in all sort of imaginable ways?
thewisedude 2 days ago 1 reply      
May be I am missing something here... what if the Display Images is turned off? How will that activate the alert system?
"My current theory is that programming is quite literally writing." slashdot.org
498 points by damncabbage  3 days ago   190 comments top 41
edw519 3 days ago  replies      
Most code sucks because we have the fluency equivalent of 3 year olds trying to write a novel.

Let's get a little more specific...

Most code sucks because the programmer:

  - didn't name his variables what the really were
- didn't understand variable state
- didn't understand variable scope
- didn't understand the basic concepts of iteration
- didn't understand any of the algorithms he needed
- wrote the same lines of code multiple times
- didn't know enough about the language to find a better construct
- didn't understand concurrency
- didn't understand fundamental data base concepts
- refused to follow well worn standards
- didn't have any well worn standards to follow
- built code on top of hopelessly designed data structures
- didn't understand deeply enough what was going on under the hood
- built to requirements that changed too dramatically to recover from
- didn't even consider the concerns of the "next" programmer

But most of all:

  - was just good enough to get "something" (no matter how bad) deployed on time

larrik 3 days ago 8 replies      
I think he's right.

In college, my CS 2 class was taught by a professor very different than the rest of the teachers there. He wanted all of your programming assignments on paper[1]. Then, you'd get it back with every possible bug marked in your program, and he very rarely missed any[2].

That was the first time in college I thought "I really need to learn how to do that!"

I went to a state school, so maybe all you guys with your degrees from fancy schools wouldn't be that impressed, but the difference between this professor and the rest there was gigantic. (He retired that year in a round of state-wide budget cuts, so that's the last class I had him.)

[1] A lot of the other teachers wanted you to hand in binaries so they can see it run. Sometimes with the code, sometimes not.

[2] I actually don't know of any case where he did, but I'm not saying "never."

RyanMcGreal 3 days ago 2 replies      
> Japan is somewhat famous for churning out students who know a lot about English, but can't order a drink at Mac Donald's.

An old friend of mine had a master's degree in French literature. She used to live in Ottawa, Ontario and was fond of a pizza place just across the river in Hull, Quebec. One day she called to order a pizza, and when it came time to ask for it to be delivered she realized she didn't know how. She asked if the pizza place could put the pizza into a car and drive to her house with it.

The order taker replied, "Oui, delivery. Nous pouvons le faire."

ctdonath 3 days ago 2 replies      
He is exactly right.

As a beginning-programming instructor, my students have little difficulty understanding language syntax and operation - much like the "language lawyers" mentioned. Their recurring problem is not correct syntax, it's internalizing the process of expressing a solution to a problem using that syntax. They have few unto no examples of what a program - a real, functioning, well written program - looks like.

Indeed, programming is writing: it's expressing the solution to a problem using a formalized language. Understanding how the program works is one thing (and yes, all too often this is a problem); a good program also expresses why.

A 3 year old writing a novel won't succeed because, despite the ability to speak, he does not comprehend the process of concocting and presenting the story; all he knows is the minimum needed to just read one. He's not going to write good novels until he reads lots of good novels, and groks the literary structure and process of having and expressing an idea. Ditto programming: students may know the syntax, but they don't grasp the notion of "writing" because they haven't seen any decent examples.

Rosettacode.org may be a good starting place.

Thanks for the article, I may finally have identified the gap in my teaching. Now to find concise examples to fill it with, as the curriculum does not allocate copious time for reading lots of coding examples. Anyone have links to good examples for beginners regarding fundamental concepts? I don't mean syntax (I teach that well enough), I mean elegant uses akin to poetry or short stories. IOCCC (a moment of reverent silence for greatness ended) has wonderful examples of cool things in minimal code, but commands obfuscation. Anything akin to IOCCC for good readable nifty code?

pfedor 3 days ago 0 replies      
When you've learned two subjects with some depth, you start seeing some analogies. Paul Graham thinks that hacking is very much like painting, and this guy thinks that writing code is like writing English, and at one point in my life I believed that coding in Perl has a lot in common with calculating cross sections.

That doesn't really mean that these things are any more similar than two random areas of human activity. Our brains are just good at finding analogies, finding analogies is like spotting patterns, we see them even when there aren't any and when there actually are some their appeal is difficult to overcome. And if you know two subjects well you have more material to cherrypick analogous things from.

ansy 3 days ago 4 replies      
I actually subscribe to the theory put forth in Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Abelson and Sussman


Essentially, "computer science" is a myopic name for what is really "process studies." It just so happens that defining processes to run on computers is forwarding the field more than any other. But in the distant future we will all understand the field to be about abstractly defining processes i.e. a series of repeatable steps to accomplish a task. Which would be independent of the mechanism used to execute the process.

Therefore programming is the act of defining a process. And programming languages are what we use to define them.

It is covered fairly intuitively in the first few minutes of the SICP video lectures as well:


VMG 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm a little suspect if this analogy goes beyond "theoretical understanding without practical experience is worthless". You could draw a similar analogy between architects who know everything about architecture but don't know how to design proper buildings because they have no experience. Or painter who knows everything about technique but can't paint a horse and so on.

It is easy to find differences between good writing and good code: Uniformity in code is good, while uniformity in prose is bad. In writing, a large vocabulary is an advantage, it's difficult to see if that is the case in language. In programming, proper abstractions are essential while I can't really see the equivalent of that in writing.

As far as analogies go, I can't see how this one is much better than others.

tytso 3 days ago 1 reply      
His theory might be true if you were only talking about writing a program from scratch. But programming is a lot more than that, because except for the smallest, most trivial exercises, programming is a team sport. Which means you need to be able to understand somebody else's code, and you also need to be able to modify it in a way that makes sense.

You can have a program which is beautifully structured, and factored in an extremely clean way. But what happens when you have to modify it in response to a change in requirements? And what if you have external code that depends on the existing interfaces? At that point, the skills needed to be a good programmer are quite different from that of a writer.

wccrawford 3 days ago 6 replies      
Programming isn't about writing. It's about logic. It's a series of instructions for a computer to follow.

The old 'write down how to tie shoes' or 'write down how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich' projects show just how hard it can be to pin down exactly what needs to be done to do seemingly simple tasks.

The writing is merely how to you transmit the logic.

david927 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's a nice theory but I disagree. Programming languages are really just a poor effort towards a mathematical notation.

There are those adept in theory that can't practice well, but that's because to practice the art means dealing with a plethora of hacks, exceptions and miscellaneous trivia completely unrelated to the core problem at hand.

Personally, I don't think the answer is becoming 'fluent' in handling the exceptions and idiosyncrasies of the chosen language, framework and platform. Rather we need to work on building a notation that provides better abstraction mechanisms.

NY_USA_Hacker 2 days ago 0 replies      
Of COURSE. Why would anyone think anything else?

For more, let's start with source code. Suppose we have source code line

     a = b*c

Reading this line, we want to know what it does and check that it's correct. So, we need to know what the line 'means'.

But, we conclude that

     a = b*c

doesn't really mean anything.

Of course if we saw

     F = m*a

we might guess that the variable names were mnemonic and guess Newton's second law that force equals mass times acceleration. Okay, now we know what the line means and can check if it's correct.

Okay, we are beginning to see:

A line of code such as

     a = b*c

doesn't mean anything. So, we have nothing to read and no way to check. So, we don't have anything.

We could write

     F = m*a

and begin to guess what this means. But we are still in trouble: We still have no good way to communicate meaning to permit understanding or checking.

So, we have to ask,

     F = m*a

came from physics books, and what did those books do? Well, they wrote in a natural language, say, English. Always, an equation such as

     F = m*a

was just an abbreviation of what was said in English. And, in particular, from the English there was no question about the meaning of each of the variables.

Net, math, and science with math, are written in complete sentences in a natural language. The variables are all clearly defined, discussed, explained, etc. At no time is an algebraic expression of such variables regarded as a substitute for the natural language. Take a physics book, throwout the English and leave just the equations, and will have nothing.

Physics and math understand; so far computing does not.

So computing tries to write

     force = mass*acceleration

or some such and omit the English. For simple things, can get by this way. Otherwise, this approach is hopeless, at best presents the reader a puzzle problem of guessing.

The matter of using mnemonic variable names as parts of speech in English is a grand mistake but common in writing in computer science. Bummer.

Bluntly computing has not figured out that there is so far just one way to communicate meaning: Use complete sentences in a natural language. Period. That's all we've got. But computing has fooled itself into believing that algebraic expressions with mnemonic variable names form a 'new language' that, in computer source code, can provide the needed meaning without a natural language. Wrong.


     F = m*a

the situation is simple. But significant source code has much more complicated cases of 'meaning' to communicate. Again, computing tries to get by, say, using a big library of software classes, relying the mnemonic spelling of the classes and members and the documentation of the classes. In simple cases, can get by this way. But fundamentally, for some complicated code, the meaning, workings, etc. just must be explained, and there's only one way to do this: Complete sentences.

So, writing these complete sentences to communicate meaning effectively is 'writing'.


Watchmannen 3 days ago 2 replies      
Actually the article is missing one thing. Yes, you need to be able to express yourself in the (programming) language.

But, and here is the thing, the hard part is not learning the words and the grammar, nor actually writing in the language using the said words and grammar.

No the hard problem is figuring out WHAT to say and HOW say it to make others (humans or computers, depending if it is a natural or programming language).

In terms if human language it is about formulating a narrative story that presents the problem and the solution to the reader.

In terms of programming language it is about describing the data structures, data transformations and transactions/communications needed to perform the task.

This is the hard part and that is what separates good writers and good programmers from their lousy counterparts.

BTW: I hope this was parseable.

gte910h 3 days ago 0 replies      
I disagree.

Programming definitely requires writing skills (expressiveness and concision most importantly)

However it's about structurally combining that writing into maintainable code, using idioms of the past to build upon to gain error free use. It's about mentally modeling what parts of the machine are doing, and correctly understanding those interactions. It's about risk assessment, experimentation, knowing when to call something quits. It's about going back over old world to do it a better way. It's about decomposing a complex process into many simpler steps. It's about reading, reading lots in fact, usually reading to find out details of the bits of your mental models.

Programming really isn't anything other than programming. It's not any field like it or near to it that knowing a nearby field plays well into it (electrical engineers can make horrible programmers but brilliant electronics guys same goes for web designers), but lots of other skills parlay well into getting you partway into the panoply of skills that get you past the finish line.

People make bad programs code when they only have part of those skills (or when they do not put out the effort to use the skills they have, due to time or willpower restraints).

Another reason some programs suck: they picked the wrong problem to code.

vbtemp 3 days ago 6 replies      
Oh come on. Programming is not writing. When you're reading a novel you don't have to worry about concurrent access to a resource, threads, asynchronous events, or even much less conditional branching. With all due respect, I think this is just an inane post. That said, I can't blame the guy for dropping software development and moving to Japan to teach ESL. I often entertain similar fantasies all the time - programming is a great way to have the zest for life sucked straight out of you

Edit: Would someone have the courtesy to mention why they are downvoting?

dpapathanasiou 3 days ago 1 reply      
That reminded of this quote (I forget who said it):

"Programs are written for humans to read, not for machines to execute"

mironathetin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think that I can agree with the op on slashdot.

Programming is not about knowing lots of words or grammar. It is about getting the thoughts clearly structured and understanding quickly what a problem is really about.

THIS is quite the same problem as writing text. But, IMHO, the author approached this as someone who does not know how to write text, too. Its not about ingenuous choice of words and correct application of grammar. It is about clarity of understanding the problem and then find a solution how to get to the point clearly and quickly.

If a solution is in the mind, 70% of the way is gone. Then it is important not to give up unless this idea is on paper in the same shape as it was in the head before.
So I think the analogy is a good one, but the op has not necessarily found the reasons why.

6ren 3 days ago 2 replies      
So what's good example code?

Sadly (and tellingly) it's not necessarily the most successful code (success comes from meeting user needs, not from good code), but how else can you judge it, apart from reading it. This is made worse because it's hard to tell if code is necessarily complex without understanding the problem it solves, which may be complex. Further, if you don't yet know what good code is, how can you recognize it? Of course, if you are intelligent and reflective and try ideas out, you can learn from both code and bad - it's all raw material, grist for the mill.

IMHO the hard part of programming is understanding the problem to be solved. The solving is easy.

raghava 3 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't this the same thing Bruce Eckel wrote a couple of years ago? http://www.artima.com/weblogs/viewpost.jsp?thread=255898
misuse-permit 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is a decent analogy, but still I cringe whenever I hear someone comparing computer languages to spoken ones.

They are nothing alike, and I would be honestly surprised if we even used the same part of our brain for processing the grammars of human languages as we do for the rigid, formal computer ones.

If this were true, how come not all great programmers are great writers? Why don't more great programmers become fluent in other spoken languages?

hxa7241 3 days ago 0 replies      
Saying programming is writing is like saying building something is 'speaking to materials'.

When you look at software, what you see is not a language, it is a machine. A machine that is presented in humanly understandable and communicable form, but nonetheless, something with a particular kind of underlying determinate structure.

Yes, the main part of the conclusion is the same: you have to learn by doing. But because software is design -- rational manipulation of objective 'material' -- knowledge about how it works is also an intrinsic part of doing it well.

Design means creating something through clear knowledge: we go with particular design ideas because we can predict their outcome and effect. This is the knowledge about that the article underestimates. We choose quicksort not simply because we have immersed ourselves in social norms, but significantly because it has been proven asymptotically fastest.

That kind of determinate knowledge that programming by nature can have is important. It is missing something to lump it in as just being like spoken language learning.

kylemathews 3 days ago 0 replies      
I spent two years living in a foreign country learning a new language (my first foreign language) immediately before I started learning to program and it's always struck me how similar the two experiences are.

All good communication comes first from good thinking. Whether or not we can communicate in a certain medium (speaking a language, writing, painting, music, programming) depends entirely on how fluently we can translate our thoughts into that medium.

So good thinking + good understanding of programming concepts = good code.

Cyranix 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Besides a mathematical inclination, an exceptionally good mastery of one's native tongue is the most vital asset of a competent programmer." -- Edsger Dijkstra

As a programmer coming from a linguistics background, this sentiment has always resonated with me. As much as math is a part of my job, recognizing the transferrable skills from human language use has probably been the primary reason that I've been able to land programming jobs and write fairly successful code.

saraid216 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree with him. As kylematthews points out, it's not about the substance of the thing--capturing an audience, I/O calls, or anything like that. It's about communication.

Communication is about translating something conceptual inside your own head to become understandable by something (usually a person) outside of it. The way we do this is by language. A programming language is merely the way we communicate with a computer. To do it right, you need to understand the parts of the computer that you want to change.

It's not a mistake that we used to call impressive coding "wizardry" or "deep magic". It was about casting spells... except that if you actually step to the side and look at what "spell" means, it's simply a story.

A good program tells a good story. You might not appreciate the characters or the plot, but the computer sure does.

cschep 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like the author's premise. It's hard to find good writing that hasn't been rewritten.. a lot. That seems true to me about code as well. Perhaps we're seeing a lot of "rough draft" code being pushed to production. Novels never get published like that (hopefully!).
mparr4 3 days ago 0 replies      
To have good taste is one thing (the ability to recognize good from bad) but to be able to produce good work is another. As many good writers (and the author of this post) suggest, the best way to get better at writing is to read good writing and to write more. This method (of observing masters at work and practicing the craft yourself) works for many disciplines. Should it be surprising that it applies to hacking as well?

The post reminded me of an Ira Glass interview where he comments on having good "taste" (5 min)
which in turn reminds me of PGs essay "Great Hackers"
Good stuff!!

nikils 3 days ago 1 reply      
johnnyjustice 3 days ago 1 reply      
He is right. Good writing is sussicint, concise, and says a lot with a little. Good programming is clear and does a lot with a little.
pasbesoin 3 days ago 0 replies      
This makes me think of people who would try to "memorize" for e.g. science tests. They were ok as long as they could plug and chug, but they couldn't derive anything on the spot.

I'm wary of tickling my ego, but I recall not entirely seldom forgetting a formula, and so simply starting with other stuff and deriving it in the margin or on scratch paper. I think many of the instructors liked that, as well, as it showed a more conceptual grasp.

moioci 3 days ago 1 reply      
This discussion brings to mind Robert Lefkowitz's Pycon keynote from 2007 on Programming Literacy, very similar to this video from Stanford: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Own-89vxYF8. He is definitely an advocate of literate programming and basically says we will all be able to read programs when they can be written in English and not in code.
ignifero 3 days ago 0 replies      
Programming is a compressed form of serial semantic thinking. It requires the same brain structures as math and language, so it's similar to writing, except it's more specialized and more restrictive. It's also very effective
yuhong 3 days ago 0 replies      
That is particularly important in connection to management techniques. Programmers are not dumb automata.
stevenj 3 days ago 1 reply      
I think good writing is conversational in nature.

I don't think writing code works that way.

ryanisinallofus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Exactly! Writing. Copyrightable but not patentable. :)
DasIch 3 days ago 2 replies      
I find it fascinating that Python seems to be the only language which created a word to describe idiomatic code: pythonic.

Having learned Python as a first programming language I always try to gain an idiomatic understanding of the language which allows myself to think in Python.

aznwhtey 3 days ago 1 reply      
>We should be immersing students in good code. We should be burying them in idiom after idiom after idiom, allowing them to acquire the ability to program without explanation.

Does anyone have suggestions of some good code to read?

7952 3 days ago 0 replies      
No, its a kind of data. It has more in common with a spreadsheet than a novel. And like a spreadsheet you can get yourself into lots of trouble if you don't format the data in a way that suits the tool you are using.
dennyferra 3 days ago 0 replies      
The only problem I see with this is when Bob, David, Mike and Steve have their own ideas about writing a story and take your love story then turn it into a science fiction novel about aliens, cowboys, race cars and heavy metal.
Zeus-TheTrueGod 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've read the article. I am sure that when a new child is born he has, say, a 5% chance to have an ability to be a programmer. After the lucky one grown up he will get all required information and experience just because he has the ability and finally, say in 10 years, will be a good programmer. Other 95% may do everything they want, they can learn how to program, read a lot of books, do all their homework and hobby project, but they will grow up only to the certain level.

I want to believe in what I've just wrote cause that guarantee that I will not have a lot of competitors and I'll always have a job when I want

Create 3 days ago 0 replies      
... and "code should read like prose".

this is an old idea.

delinquentme 3 days ago 0 replies      
"We should be immersing students in good code. We should be burying them in idiom after idiom after idiom, allowing them to acquire the ability to program without explanation."

^ bingo.

voxmatt 3 days ago 0 replies      
Wait, SlashDot is still around?
A Big Surprise from the Edge of the Solar System nasa.gov
422 points by cromulent  1 day ago   71 comments top 12
Alex3917 1 day ago  replies      
There is a Terence McKenna quote from the early 80's where he says that basically everything we know about the (largescale) universe comes from radio telescope data, and all the bits from all the data ever recorded have roughly the same amount of energy as a piece of cigarette ash falling about two feet. And this is what our entire understanding of the cosmos is based on.

Not sure of the validity of the measure/comparison, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless. One does have to wonder though, if it's so obvious now why this phenomenon is happening then why didn't they predict it before seeing the data? Especially if we see the same thing in solar flares. It seems like it's generally a good idea to bet on the laziness of the universe, but beyond that anyone who pretends they know what's going on is probably full of shit.

edit: The Terence McKenna quote is from this talk about his life: http://www.matrixmasters.net/blogs/?p=1509

The talk in general is about his formative intellectual influences, and about why he finds psychedelic drugs to be intellectually interesting. He has another talk that's more about his views of physics, epistemology, and cosmology here: http://www.matrixmasters.net/blogs/?p=297

Perhaps my two all time favorite talks on any subject, albeit you need a high tolerance to ideas that are at times highly speculative. (And sometimes flat out wrong.)

demallien 1 day ago 1 reply      
Interesting. All of a sudden a deep space radio telescope seems like a good scientific mission. It would be a fascinating discovery if we poked our noses out of the heliosheath just to discover that all of the missing mass in the universe was to be found in cosmic rays that never reach the inner solar system.
yaix 1 day ago 5 replies      
It would be great if we would send one or two such probes out per year, in different directions. We could find so many interesting things. There are currently only two.
lotharbot 1 day ago 0 replies      
This seems like a sort of analog to the way hurricanes sometimes spawn tornadoes. At the boundary where the relatively still external air/space meet the rapidly spinning air/magnetic field generator, you get some turbulent interactions.

I would love to see the equations or programs they're using to model this.

iwwr 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is magnetic reconnection an established phenomenon, i.e. verified in a lab or at least strongly theoretically founded?
click170 1 day ago 1 reply      

"The sun's magnetic field extends all the way to the edge of the solar system," explains Opher. "Because the sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit like a ballerina's skirt. Far, far away from the sun, where the Voyagers are now, the folds of the skirt bunch up."

mrleinad 1 day ago 0 replies      
I always wondered why those pictures depicted the sun's magnetic field limits as so clean cut from the rest of the galaxy.. didn't seem natural..

Maybe I should have followed my science instincts and perform a career in physics instead of System's Engineering

alphadog 1 day ago 1 reply      
Could this offer some protection from a gamma ray burst?
orofino 1 day ago 1 reply      
This seems to be the problem with relying solely on the private sector space exploration. With shuttles there is opportunity for revenue, with revenue come investors, with investors we can make progress. However, where is the revenue opportunity from either of these probes? Without a body that can be truly altruistic about projects and the benefit they'll provide, certain projects may never have/or my never again, become a reality.

This kind of news makes me truly excited about the future. We have concrete knowledge about so little in this universe, the future is ripe with possibility if we can just show a little foresight.

Shenglong 1 day ago 0 replies      
Watching that video, I couldn't help but wonder what Sheldon Cooper would say. It's unfortunate that NASA needs to work towards this level of public appeal just to try and secure funding.
velutinous 1 day ago 0 replies      
Correct me if I'm wrong, at that distance isn't it possible to get some unreliable data.

The discovery is huge, but I'm just wondering

yxhuvud 1 day ago 0 replies      
Boring. With that title, I was expecting a monolith!
Steve Jobs Presents His Ideas For A New Apple Campus techcrunch.com
417 points by sahillavingia  3 days ago   216 comments top 47
aresant 3 days ago 2 replies      
Only Steve could glue me to the screen for 20 mins to watch a city council meeting.

It's like listening to PT Barnum read the J Peterman catalog.

thingie 3 days ago 3 replies      
I work in a small office park located quite similarly on a grassy field locked entirely by some freeways and other large roads, though the buildings here are cheap and ugly, but even if they weren't, it'd still totally suck. It's isolated, not a part of the city, essentially, it's just a large parking lot (most of which is below the ground, but that doesn't really change anything).

It's quite disappointing. Maybe it's a marvel of architecture, but indeed it's a failure of urbanism (which, I believe, is much more important). It's 2011 and we're still building things while thinking in predefined square lots separated by roads? Such a shame.

kabdib 3 days ago 7 replies      
A bit of Silly Valley lore: Go graph "Company builds a new campus" against "Company stock falls like a rock."

Atari, 1983.

Apple, 1991.

Sun (both times, I forget the years).

SGI, 1990s.

Various other companies (I forget which, it's been a while). It's like the hubris builds up to the point where the company is in a natural position to say, "Hey, we need a new campus," and the Gods decide that a little humiliation is in order as well . . .

guelo 3 days ago 2 replies      
I don't know, I worked in a campus with a huge courtyard in the middle, though smaller than this, and it was mostly wasted unused space. I think it actually makes different parts of the company feel more isolated from each other because the other side of the building is so far way, the middle almost feels like an intimidating wilderness that you stay away from. If instead you have multiple smaller buildings connected by meandering paths it gives a campus a friendlier feeling.
jacoblyles 3 days ago 5 replies      
Apple style - one monolithic building designed down to the square foot.

Google style - a motley assortment of buildings spread out over a large campus, some of which are better than others.

thematt 3 days ago 6 replies      
I find it extremely interesting that they'll be using natural gas as their primary energy source for the campus and using the electrical grid as their backup. Is this really cost effective? Are many businesses doing this?
Steko 3 days ago 3 replies      
Just for perspective:

Proposed Appleplex: 1.4 mil sq ft (?), 12-13k employees

Pentagon: 6.5 mil sq ft (3.7 mil for offices), 26k employees

Empire State Building: 2.8 mil sq ft, 21k (?) employees

barrkel 3 days ago 1 reply      
This isn't the first time he's presented to the council, I remember a previous show he put on that was also on YouTube, over 5 years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meVQqYNGzYA
flyt 3 days ago 3 replies      
Really, really nice looking building and landscaping.

Why keep the IL1 campus, instead of just moving everybody into a slightly larger mothership in 2015?

Todd 3 days ago 0 replies      
I, too, found myself watching the proceedings for longer than I should have. The design is elegant and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Ironically, the most amazing thing about the video is seeing a modern icon in such a quotidian scenario.
daimyoyo 3 days ago 3 replies      
I understand that Apple is a very important company to Cupertino, but I've never need a city counsel so lovestruck at a meeting. They should just give him a rubber stamp for whatever he wants to do.
barrkel 3 days ago 0 replies      
It reminds me somewhat of the Borland campus. That thing was Japanese inspired, and shaped like a kind of jagged C, but similarly had a large central courtyard, and due to its shape had lots of natural light in the offices.
plainOldText 3 days ago 1 reply      
Watching this presentation makes me think of how important it is to stick to your values across everything you are doing. The building Steve jobs presented has some of the same design principles found in the recent apple products; roundness, simplicity, clean neutral colors, environmental friendly, etc. I think this gives apple great appeal.
bgarbiak 3 days ago 1 reply      
The project looks like a literal approach to the walled garden idea.
sambeau 3 days ago 1 reply      
What a lesser mind would come up with given a similar breif:

"Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Cheltenham, United Kingdom"


amirrustam 3 days ago 1 reply      
That council is so embarrassing.
pjy04 3 days ago 5 replies      
They should have asked when the iPhone 5 is coming out

Plus: very sneaky for the council to ask for free wifi, ipads, more apple stores, donations for schools in this presentation...

cubicle67 3 days ago 0 replies      
for some reason it reminds me of a Panopticon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panopticon
thematt 3 days ago 1 reply      
I wonder how it is structured inside. 12,000 people still seems like a lot for that building. Does anybody know how Apple employees are typically structured? Is it offices for everybody? Open spaces with collaborative work spaces?
noonespecial 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd have a back up plan for a second nearby city so that once the town councils bike-shedding begins, Steve can just shrug and say "Gee it would have been nice to build it here but..."
sjwright 3 days ago 4 replies      
When I saw the photos, I figured that the building's circumference would be so wide that curved glass would not just be unnecessary, but almost counter-productive, as it's difficult to curve glass without imperfections that might ruin its reflections.

Surely we'd be talking about small fractions of a degree per pane.

Can anyone estimate what the building circumference is, and therefore what amount of curve would be called for?

bretthopper 3 days ago 2 replies      
This isn't impressive to me. What would be impressive would be building a skyscraper in downtown SF. Being environmentally friendly isn't building a massive campus on a plot of suburban grassland. Apple likes to say they think differently, but this isn't different. It's just slightly nicer than most other headquarters in a suburban wasteland.
bluegene 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is it just me who shuddered every time when council leaders asked those completely off-topic idiotic questions? Free wifi, really?
joeguilmette 3 days ago 0 replies      
if i didn't enjoy free time so much i'd love to work in this new building :)
rmason 3 days ago 1 reply      
Not only will the new building become a tourist destination but it will be a prime tool for recruiting.
impendia 3 days ago 1 reply      
There are still orchards in Cupertino?!

Not for economic reasons. Modest houses on modest lots sell in the seven figures there. Whoever owns the land could make huge money by selling to developers, but presumably the city council has made it clear that they won't approve a zoning change. Apparently, the people there already really want there to still be orchards in Cupertino, if only as a memory of what was.

Sounds like Steve Jobs wowed the city council, but after paying some attention to SV local politics, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the community rallied against this.

Someone 3 days ago 1 reply      
Quite daring, to plan such a building. Who knows whether they will need the space, four years from now? With multiple buildings, it is easier to make corrections during construction or even afterwards.

Also, it will be a challenge to make that underground garage look as beautiful as the building. That is what most visitors will initially see from the building.

Finally, will this be a real click wheel or a modern version without moving parts? :-)

bkudria 3 days ago 1 reply      
Well now you know what they've been hoarding that cash money for.
mahyarm 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised it's only 4 stories. I would of added 3 more stories and added capacity for several more thousand employees. I can easily see them out growing the space very quickly in the next 20 years and possibly building two other circles in the empty spaces beside the circle.
cleverjake 3 days ago 1 reply      
I recently went to 1 infinite loop for the first time, and was extremely disappointed with the building. It was strikingly anti-apple in its aesthetic, seeming more like it was something out of Office Space from most angles rather than from the mind of Johnny Ives.

I am really glad to see how forward-thinking the concept looks.

bfung 2 days ago 0 replies      
in the LA Times article about the same topic, Steve Wozniak also added his own bits on the land purchased. Scroll down to the Comments section (it's via facebook).


teyc 3 days ago 0 replies      
In the "Man Who Fell to the Earth", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Fell_to_Earth_(film.... the lead character is an extra terrestrial posing as a man, made a lot of money by being a technologist selling amazing "inventions" from his planet, and has a luxury apartment which turns out to be a spaceship, which is meant to cart water back to his planet, which has run out due to its use in power generation. Maybe Jobs is planning bring natural gas back to his planet?
spitfire 3 days ago 0 replies      
Reminds me a bit of IBM's TJ Watson center in NY.

Very cool, very futuristic. That is a place I'd like to be.
Importantly, they've said they have a few thousand people at 1IL currently and they're consolidating everyone together. That should benefit the communication and innovation having everyone under one roof able to get together and chat.

In short, I love it. More companies should be so bold.

xxpor 2 days ago 0 replies      
What is the advantage to Apple to build in an incorporated city? I understand the need for infrastructure, but what does a tech co like Apple need other than electricity + water + gas? Wouldn't there be less regulation and taxes if they moved to unincorporated territory?
kmt 3 days ago 0 replies      
I bet that Jobs has had a dream about this building for a while. Finally, he gets to do it.
delackner 3 days ago 0 replies      
When I saw that aerial three-quarter image of the building, I started to imagine crossing from one side of the campus to the other via that inner garden. Somehow the burning man city layout popped into my head, along with memories of crossing the vast open middle on foot (not recommended. Only attempted a bicycle-free year once).
spitfire 3 days ago 0 replies      
What other companies have built beautiful office spaces like this? I count IBM and Epic systems. I hear sas has a great campus as well.
paramaggarwal 3 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, such a beautiful campus.
quickpost 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder what the radius of that building will be.
minikomi 2 days ago 0 replies      
Wow.. reminds me of the kindergarten I used to work at (at a massive scale!) http://www.landezine.com/index.php/2009/07/fuji-kindergarten...
tudorizer 3 days ago 1 reply      
Is it bigger than the Pentagon?
Anti-Ratfish 3 days ago 0 replies      
To quote our IT manager "So its an actual walled garden?"
seriocomic 2 days ago 0 replies      
So what would be the new address? Does it mean giving up "1 Infinite Loop"? Any guesses at a replacement?
hillbilly 2 days ago 0 replies      
Massive corporate office buildings seem so antiquated to me. Don't people work remotely nowadays? Even when I am on-site I prefer to hold meetings over web share and phone conferences. Meetings you have to walk to never start on time. What a waste.
kadavy 3 days ago 0 replies      
He seems so tired. Get well Steve. Beautiful building!
trout 3 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone else get a creepy Dubai vibe reading this? Some of the statements like 'there will be no straight glass' beg the question - is it really worth it?
lukestevens 3 days ago 0 replies      
Simply utopian.
An eruption from the Sun that happened today youtu.be
391 points by johnnytee  4 days ago   78 comments top 20
ChuckMcM 4 days ago 2 replies      
Very cool. Its amazing what we don't know about the star sitting just 8 light minutes away from us.

For jnorthrop generally these events are effectively deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere, however we don't know what we don't know. Its hard to estimate whether or not any one of the extinction events this planet has experienced over the past was caused by solar activity.

I would hope it would add impetutus to efforts to surviving large changes in the Earth's envioronment by creating completely controlled environments (ideally across several planetary bodies) but I have low expectations that it will.

One of the science stories I've been following for a while has been the growing body of evidence that a magnetic pole reversal [1] is becoming more likely. (Note there was a hoax around it changing instantly in 2012 which has been pretty thoroughly debunked). One thing that is pretty well understood is that during reversals the magnetosphere is greatly reduced [2] which suggests that the simulataneous occurence of a CME and a reversal of the poles resulting in a reduced magnetosphere would be something to write home about.

[1] http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/29dec_magnet...

[2] http://www.off-ladhyx.polytechnique.fr/people/willis/papers/...

alanh 4 days ago 1 reply      
Was that a real-time video (i.e., shot and played at 1x speed)? If so, the matter appears to be traveling at roughly the speed of light. Greater, perhaps, indicating the video was sped up. http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=diameter+of+the+Sun+%2F...

Edit… If you look closely (in HD), there are timestamps, suggesting this is being played at ~3600x, or one second of playtime representing an hour in reality.

skrebbel 4 days ago 1 reply      
Damn, I read "One of the coolest eruptions from Sun you'll ever see. This happened today."

I was like finally, closures in java!

scott_s 4 days ago 1 reply      
jnorthrop 4 days ago 3 replies      
Forgive my ignorant question, but what if that eruption was aimed at us? Was that a mass ejection of something? If so, could that something have ruined the electronics in orbiting satellites or stripped our atmosphere?

Maybe I'm over-reacting but that appears to be an absolutely massive explosion.

mmaunder 4 days ago 1 reply      
You'd have to line up 100 Earth's end-to-end to fit inside the Sun. This was reportedly about the size of the Sun itself, so it would engulf 100 Earths. It would probably destroy more since even planets on the periphery would have all life destroyed.
igrekel 4 days ago 0 replies      
The shockwave is expected to reach earth around 1 pm EST tomorrow (5pm GMT), auroras are likely to follow after that and they should be visible quite far south.


jvdb 4 days ago 2 replies      
For nice current images of the Sun, the Proba 2 satellite [1] continuously watches it and dumps some nice imagery/movies. It's ESA sponsored, and both it's sensors (SWAP producing the visuals) are interpreted by the Belgian Royal Observatory. Iirc the Belgians and the Canadians are the only ones keeping a close eye on the sun, counting sun spots and such. Makes for a nice desktop bg also!

[1] http://proba2.oma.be/index.html/

qq66 4 days ago 1 reply      
Is this sped up?
J3L2404 4 days ago 0 replies      
Until about the middle of February it looked as if we were going to maybe catch a break on global warming as the Sun's output was down significantly and the possibility that a Maunder type solar minimum was occurring was increasing.

About 2/15/11 solar output started getting back to more normal levels.


Too bad, we could use a break.

agilo 4 days ago 3 replies      
I wish there was a way on HN to easily find out submissions that have videos in them. Often times, especially when I'm eating at my desk, I'd rather watch interesting videos than read articles, and such a feature would be of great help on HN.

Maybe there's a way that you guys know of (besides reading cues from the title)?

mirkules 4 days ago 1 reply      
First reaction: that's it?? Second reaction: wait, this was big enough to engulf the Earth. Cool!
edge17 4 days ago 0 replies      
Might be interesting to watch this over the next few days - http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast
etruong42 2 days ago 0 replies      
I thought the title meant that an executive from (the now nonexistent) Sun Microsystems lost his cool.
mdariani 4 days ago 0 replies      
what simulator do they use?
RobMcCullough 4 days ago 1 reply      
Call me paranoid, but that just made my stomach drop.
strooltz 4 days ago 0 replies      
so that's why skype crashed this morning... :P
necenzurat 4 days ago 0 replies      
the sun divided by 0
ryandvm 4 days ago 0 replies      
swah 4 days ago 0 replies      
Didn't hear a thing.
HTML Email Boilerplate htmlemailboilerplate.com
378 points by joshuacc  4 days ago   107 comments top 19
autarch 4 days ago 1 reply      
This looks great, but the license includes the Creative Commons non-commercial clause, which basically makes it unusable, since it's not compatible with open or closed source usage!

I wrote the author a note via Github asking him to consider changing the license.

yock 4 days ago 4 replies      
Please get rid of your browser evangelism, no matter how clever it might be. I know very well that I shouldn't be using Internet Explorer. If I had any choice in the matter, I wouldn't
benatkin 4 days ago 8 replies      
I'm not sure having an email be 900px wide (the table has 3 300px wide cells) is a good idea. Wouldn't that get a horizontal scrollbar on the iPad no matter the orientation? When it's horizontal there's a sidebar; when it's vertical it's only 768px wide.
barrkel 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm puzzled as to why this is upvoted so highly. It's just a very wide website with a picture and some code on it. "Boilerplate" to me means the legalese at the bottom mandated by corporate lawyers, but I don't see much in the way of boilerplate here.

Is it a template for emails that look like the website? I'd ignore any emails that look like this website, but then I'd never see them, as I don't have HTML email enabled by default, for lots of reasons.

JonLim 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've taken a look at it and placed it into the PostageApp (http://postageapp.com) template system and it immediately spat out four issues:

- width CSS property is not supported by Outlook 07, Notes 6 and 7

- height CSS property is not supported by Outlook 07, Notes 6 and 7, Blackberry

- line-height CSS property is not supported by Notes 6 and 7, Palm Treo (Palm Garnet OS), Blackberry

- display CSS property is not supported by Outlook 07, Palm Treo (Palm Garnet OS), Blackberry

Let me fiddle with the code, and try to fix this up. And like the others, the three tables with 300px cells are not the best of ideas.

donbronson 4 days ago 0 replies      
the templates that mailchimp put on github seem much more useful https://github.com/mailchimp/Email-Blueprints
ItsTrueYouKnow 4 days ago 6 replies      
Please don't send HTML email, there is almost never a scenario when it is necessary. All it does is create larger emails, have redundant information (most HTML emails also send a plain text counterpart), make reading email more difficult (especially if you are using a terminal mail client or are visually impaired), and allow for obnoxious email styling.

HTML Email, just say NO.

davidcollantes 4 days ago 6 replies      
HTML and email are two things that do not go together well(IMHO). I prefer plain text.
Wickk 4 days ago 1 reply      
Really we can stop saying HTML email sucks, we get it. I don't like it either but every other comment seems to be saying this.

That said, in this day and age is an HTML email even, neccessary? An incredibly large amount of users these days don't even bother checking their email unless it's something specific they're looking for. Social Networking has made a large footprint in that market and a status update as to new products/services gets just as much attention.

joshuacc 4 days ago 1 reply      
It might be helpful to have a clearer link to the GitHub project on the site so people know that they can fork it easily.


SamColes 4 days ago 2 replies      
this is useless. Just for a start it's way too wide. e.g. Hotmail cuts off at 610px or so.
Kwpolska 4 days ago 1 reply      
HTML emails SUCKS. Use goddamn plaintext.
deepandmeaning 3 days ago 0 replies      
I found the hacks for display issues in various clients to be very helpful.

It's increasingly difficult to design HTML email templates which render well across all clients, this usually leads to design for the lowest common denominator. Usually Outlook and Gmail.

I'm sure there are loads of considerations for ISP's with regard to spam and other issues, but forcing design/rendering of HTML to 1990's type style and functionality is rather restrictive.

At some point I hope things will change, but with the popularity of mobile clients growing (and their small screen issues), I suspect if anything it will not.

PetrolMan 4 days ago 1 reply      
Interestingly the site won't render correctly for me in Firefox 4. I'm getting a nice error about lack of HTML5 and CSS3 support.

And, as a fan of Space Balls, the creator misspelled
"The Schwartz"...

st0p 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm really not understanding all the hate against HTML email. To me it seems like saying: "Ascii text is enough, who needs nicely designed word documents or websites"

Also, all our communications (website, snail-mail letters) use our corporate branding. So why not use it in our emails?

a3_nm 4 days ago 0 replies      
Why the ridiculously elaborate design? It's probably pretty, but it wastes space...
NHQ 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am surprised that gmail is such a small player.
rmk 4 days ago 1 reply      
HTML format email is an abomination.
Kwpolska 4 days ago 1 reply      
XHTML sucks. Transitional does even more. So does HTML mail. Use plaintext for god's sake.
Redditor Explains Why Apple Continue Making Frail Power Cables reddit.com
320 points by kmfrk  1 day ago   150 comments top 36
squidbot 1 day ago 4 replies      
My reply, I think it may not have made reddit as I've never posted before:

I'm calling BS on this whole thread. The reason for the breakage is in the green circles, not the red ones: http://i.imgur.com/EYSo5.jpg

The 2007 cables had small buttons on the sides that you had to press to disengage the connector from the device. This meant you had to pull on the body of the connector to remove it. The 2009 design removes the buttons and the catches, which means the plug can be removed by yanking on the cable. It's the yanking on the cable that is causing the problem in the image, you can tell because the wire sleeve is pulled back from the connecter rather than split horizontally, which is what would happen if it was a strain relief issue.
Yanking from the cable rather than the connector affects all cables. Apple connectors typically fit very snugly in their sockets (which is a good thing generally) which means it takes more force to pull them out, consequently pulling out the wires as well. It's not a problem unique to Apple by any means. Ever have a pair of headphones that start to crackle when you touch the connector? Same problem.

Apple cords do indeed have strain relief, and they are fine for typical use. They may not hold up as well as a longer relief when bent at high angles consistently, but generally they do the job they need to do when sticking out the side of a device.

Though I like the button design, if I were to guess why Apple removed the buttons, is because I'll bet people were still pulling on the cords to try to remove the connector and doing far worse damage to cord and/or socket due to the mechanical connection between the two.

adamesque 1 day ago 7 replies      
Except, there are strain relief features built in to Apple power adapters.

Power Adapter:

LED Cinema Display Power Adapter:

These may not be adequate, but clearly Apple industrial design has taken a pass at the problem. Anybody have photos of older power adapters to see if that sheathing has always been there?

jsz0 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Is there actually any evidence to suggest Apple's 34-pin dock cables fail more often than others? I've owned 34-pin dock devices going back about 8 years now and I cannot recall ever having a broken dock cable. I have no doubt it does happen from time to time but from my own personal experience it doesn't seem any more or less common than other types of cables. I know plenty of people who lose them or want a second one to charge at work or carry in their backpack but where's the tar and feather brigade at Apple Stores over this? Why aren't my friends and family coming to me with mysterious charge/sync problems? At $30/pop if these cables were failing at a very high rate I would expect quite a lot more public outrage.

It may be that since iPods and iPhones are replaced fairly often, and include a new cable, people have a cache of spares? If so doesn't that alone kind of shoot down the designed-to-fail argument? Why include a new cable? Wouldn't the increased support costs from telephone/in-store support for these problems be far larger than selling $30 cables? It seems like the typical Internet conspiracy that doesn't really make any sense when you start to look at the details and notice there's absolutely no evidence to support the original claim being offered.

hollerith 1 day ago 4 replies      
Two other places where aesthetic form trumps function in Apple keyboards and Macbooks: (1) arrow keys are much narrower (especially on the 11-inch Macbook Air) than on most notebooks (probably because unlike most notebook makers, Apple decided against breaking the "clean line" along the edge of the keyboard closest to the typist). (2) the axis on which the two halves of the "clamshell" (the bottom half and the screen half) turn is in a different place than on most notebooks. In particular, on a Macbook, the axis is between the top and bottom surfaces of the bottom half of the clamshell whereas on most notebooks it is about .3 inches (whatever is just enough to allow the two halves to fold all the way together) above the top surface of the bottom half (and more or less in line with the plane of the screen whereas on Macbooks it is about .3 inches from this plane). The probable reason for this choice is that it gives Macbooks a distinctive look even though the way the other makers do it seems more practical to me (because the notebook is more secure when it is not resting on a flat horizontal surface and because the probability of disaster is lower if the notebook is open on the floor and someone catches the screen half with their foot). Since I do not have the patience to create diagrams, I will stop here even though I realize many readers probably did not get what I mean from just this textual description.
dmix 1 day ago 3 replies      
Design isn't just about aesthetics, its about balancing aesthetics AND functionality. Apple's designers certainly knows this.

This was a poor design choice on their part, not just the design department taking precedent over engineering and customer service. The designers are personally responsible, not just the structure

Aloisius 1 day ago 5 replies      
I understand the æsthetic decision, but there is no reason why Apple couldn't have made the wire that runs from the brick to your laptop detachable. That way I could actually replace it for a reasonable amount.
dexen 1 day ago 1 reply      
I recall seeing some (non-Apple) hardware with case-to-cable transition designed as an inverted strain relief. Instead of a semi-rigid tube extending from device, the function was performed by proper curvature of the hole itself; nothing extended beyond the profile except the cable.

I'm having hard time describing it properly, but the hole walls had specific profile, elliptical extending outward. Pretty much like the big end of a trumpet. The most you could bend the cable was to make it touch the hole wall, and that profile of the wall was good enough to prevent cable cracking.

One disadvantage is that this kind of solution takes up some space insede of the case...

runjake 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Am I the only person who doesn't have a problem with this? Am I the only person who removes dock (and MagSafe) connectors by pulling on the plug, not the cable?

Heck, I'm not even OCD. I'm pretty lazy and I still do it this way.

Apple headphones on the other hand, I go through 2-3 pairs a year (due to rain and the rigors of running). Fortunately, the Apple Store just sends me replacements without much hassle at all.

kabdib 22 hours ago 0 replies      
In the late 80s, Apple bought a Cray supercomputer to help them design molds. They simulated plastic flow and helped them do fewer turns of the injection molds they used for computer cases.

Makes sense, considering that each mold cost upward of half a million dollars.


The "Industrial Design is King" thing is true at other companies as well. I've seen horribly broken products go out the door, where the fixes involve making ID changes, but the ID changes couldn't be made to happen because of (a) the lead time -- usually a year -- and / or (b) it would have destroyed the "cool look" of the product in someone's eyes.

RobAtticus 1 day ago 3 replies      
I wonder if this applies to the problem I've had ever since I've gotten a MBP in the fall. I am now on my 4th charger. No matter how I handle the adapter, it still manages to stop working within 3-4 months. The first one was probably my fault as I didn't keep the brick as ventilated as I could've, so I think it eventually fried itself.

The second one is still a mystery as I tried to use it one day and it didn't work. No LED, no charge. The third one had a slow death where it would take more and more jiggling and manipulating the cord to get it to work.

I don't get it. I wrap the cord around the little hinge things they have, keep them ventilated, and they still crap out on me. By far my biggest gripe with this MBP. If anybody else found a reliable way to stop this from happening, please let me know.

parbo 1 day ago 4 replies      
Why isn't the iPod/iPhone/iPad connector using the magsafe design?
pedalpete 1 day ago 0 replies      
The unfortunate part I find is that many companies are following Apple in this 'design trumps all' to their detriment.

How often are you actually wrapping up a power adapter, and bending the cord to obscure angles? Compared to your headphones, or phone charging plug.

It seems most headphone manufacturers have moved away from relief rings, and that results in much shorter lifetime for the headphones due to failure at this point. I've got my zune charge cord here, and it doesn't have these rings either. Kindle power cord has one small relief on either edge (but doesn't get used as much anyway.

Am I giving Apple too much credit? Did they start this trend? or has this poor design always existed?

msutherl 1 day ago 2 replies      
For me the problem is not that they bend and break, but that they melt! See: http://www.google.com/search?q=magsafe+melted

But before I go into this, let me explain the engineering of a power cable. If you look at a power adapter cable for any non-Apple product, you'll notice some metal "spikes" where the plug transitions to the cable. These spikes are called a heat sink. The purpose of a heat sink is to prevent the cable from heating to a severe degree if you use the charger for an extended period. The heat sink allows the cable to have a nice dissipation of heat instead of heating up and melting.

scotty79 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great. Now I know why cable fails. From other sources I know why GPU failed (twice, and more to come, as fix by heating GPU to 200C is temporary).

Once I'll figure why battery swollen to thrice the original size (thank gods it didn't exploded or spilled toxic substance on somebodies lap) then I'll know why my girlfriends mac book is such a pain in the ass.

themal 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I like Apple's hardware, but they seem to be useless at power cables and batteries for their laptops. What makes matters worse is the replacement parts are so expensive. I ended up removing the battery permanently because it grew too big for the compartment. I also cut open the power cable so that the wires could be rejoined and taped again. I never had these problems with ThinkPads... sigh.
TuxPirate 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here is a picture that shows descibed problem on such cable: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaako/2316658032/
chopsueyar 1 day ago 0 replies      
I feel the explanation could fit in the headline.
blendergasket 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yep, I'm on my second adapter for my MacBook. First broke between the adapter and the cord going to my computer. The second sits beside me with that same spot covered in duct tape. It's REALLY frustrating since the replacement adapter was $80 and it's less than a year old.
chrisjsmith 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Mine is fine (it's the smaller of the two without the release clips). Unfortunately the USB plug on the other end has split AFTER the strain relief resulting in sticky tape bodge.
ugh 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sounds like a reasonable tradeoff to me.

I can understand why some people might not think that way but don't be surprised that there are some people who do.

gsivil 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Does anybody know if the adapters are covered by the warranty?
scriptproof 16 hours ago 0 replies      
So, if I summarize correctly the red comment, they choosen the new design because someone at Apple prefers it.
grandalf 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this really an issue? I have never heard anyone say anything but good things about mag-safe adapters.

I keep wishing the patent would expire so that all consumer devices could use them.

shiven 1 day ago 0 replies      
This looks like a decent solution: www.macmagsaver.com

I am not affiliated with them in any way. Though, I will be ordering one very soon.

tobylane 1 day ago 0 replies      
Apples' designer's choice, or what seems to be a small heat/fire problem covered by warranty? I haven't heard of anyone's laptop being damaged by this, and the only people paying are out of warranty. It's a bother I don't want to see, but at least they cover it.
molecularbutter 1 day ago 0 replies      
in other words, why apple makes such good looking products
kjell 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you don't think apple did a good enough job: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjell/5818859629/in/photostream
quinndupont 1 day ago 0 replies      
Damn... If I need to replace another power brick from Apple...
staunch 1 day ago 0 replies      
So Engineering should come up with a solution that isn't ugly. Problem solved.
icarus_drowning 1 day ago 0 replies      
I guess I'm the only one who hasn't had any problems with a Mag Safe adapter in the 3 years I've owned a MacBook Pro?
mmaunder 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know you hn turkeys hate reddit but the resulting comment thread is f'ing hilarious.
zyb09 1 day ago 0 replies      
Planned Obsolence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence). Yes Apple is doing it, does it surprise anybody?

edit: well thanks for the downvotes, I know RDF is strong here but consider how they removed the strain rings, how they charge $30 for a cable and why they use a proprietary port. Making cable is no rocket-science, this is definitely planned.

shii 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's funny how any link to reddit.com is always upvoted like a rocket.
dstorrs 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here's a much simpler explanation:

Because the cables cost $30 and revenue is good.

kmfrk 1 day ago 1 reply      
Full text, in case Apple catch wind of the comment:

> I used to work for Apple and interfaced with every division in the company, and I know EXACTLY why this happened. It has nothing to do with trying to get customers to buy more replacement adapters, but rather with the hierarchy of power at Apple.


> But before I go into this, let me explain the engineering of a power cable. If you look at a power adapter cable for any non-Apple product, you'll notice some plastic "rings" where the plug transitions to the cable. These rings are called a strain relief. The purpose of a strain relief is to prevent the cable from bending at a severe angle if you bend the cable at the base. The strain relief allows the cable to have a nice, gentle curvature if you tweak the cable instead of bending at a severe 90 degree angle. This gentle curvature prevents the cable from being broken through repeated use.


> Now let's look at the hierarchy of power at Apple. As with any company, Apple consists of many divisions (Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, etc.) THE most powerful division at Apple is Industrial Design. For those of you unfamiliar with the term industrial design, this is the division that makes the decisions about the overall look and feel of Apple's products. And when I say "the most powerful", I mean that their decisions trump the decisions of any other division at Apple, including Engineering and Customer Service.


> Now it just so happens that the Industrial Design department HATES how a strain relief looks on a power adapter. They would much prefer to have a nice clean transition between the cable and the plug. Aesthetically, this does look nicer, but from an engineering point of view, it's pretty much committing reliability suicide. Because there is no strain relief, the cables fail at a very high rate because they get bent at very harsh angles. I'm sure that the Engineering division gave every reason in the world why a strain relief should be on an adapter cable, and Customer Service said how bad the customer experience would be if tons of adapters failed, but if industrial design doesn't like a strain relief, guess what, it gets removed.

dmix 1 day ago 1 reply      
"tl;dr: Apple is run by idiots." - Reddit comment

This is why I much prefer HN for any technical discussion.

The Dangerous Mr. Khan nas.org
303 points by cwan  3 days ago   241 comments top 60
maukdaddy 3 days ago  replies      
The comments thus far show exactly what is wrong with HN. HN has become an echo chamber where we all love certain people/companies/ideas and immediately dismiss any counter viewpoint.

Instead of immediately discrediting the linked article because they're "haters" or "threatened", try reading it and understanding their point of view. I love Khan's work and what he's doing, but at the same time the article raises some valid points. You learn a lot more by examining both sides of a story than being a fanboi.

salmankhan 3 days ago  replies      
Hi Everyone,

This is Sal here. I wanted to respond directly on the author's page, but they seem to be having a problem taking comments.

The reason why I make history videos is that many people I know (many of whom are quite educated) don't even have a basic scaffold of world events in their minds (or the potential causality between events). Most American high school and college students would find it difficult to give even a summary of the Vietnam War or the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many of these people have sat through years of traditional history classes (taught through state-mandated books by "experts"). Even more worrying is many experts who have taken one side or another of a historical issue and view their viewpoints as facts (this is the tone of most history books).

If the author really watched my videos, he would see that I start most of them telling the listener to be skeptical of anything I tell them or anyone tells them; that no matter how footnoted something is, in the end it is dependent on people's accounts--the people who weren't killed--which are subject to bias (no matter how well-intentioned). Very few history books or professors do this. If anything, they create a false sense of certainty.

As for the "one voice" issue, I don't see how a guy making digestible videos that inform and encourage skepticism (on YouTube where anyone else can do the same) are more dangerous than state-mandated text books. I don't see how lectures that are open for the world to scrutinize (and comment about on YouTube and our site) are more dangerous than a lone teacher or professor who can say whatever they like to their classrooms with no one there to correct or dispute them.

Finally, there is nothing I would like to see more than other teachers/professors/experts adding their voice to the mix. Rather than wasting energy commenting on other people's work with pseudo-intellectual babble, why don't they produce their own videos and post them on YouTube? If someone can produce 20 videos that seem decent and want to do more as part of the Khan Academy, we'll point our audience at them. If our students respond, we'll figure out a way that they can potentially make it a career.


mquander 3 days ago 4 replies      
The way the author writes, it's as if he thinks there is some superior alternative that Khan is displacing. Last I checked, there ain't.

Fact is, Khan's videos are considered good because the actual history education that most students take away from classrooms is even worse. Like most other subjects, that's what you get when you try to deliver a comprehensive, objective, detail-oriented education to students who (within a small margin of error) couldn't give a shit. Never mind the Bolsheviks or the timeline -- what percentage of randomly sampled American high school graduates would even know that there was a Russian Revolution if you asked them?

If we can replace zero history with a fifteen-minute-chunk version of history, I'm for it.

icegreentea 3 days ago 3 replies      
Has a point. The Khan Academy approach is very good for maths, and most sciences. These are cases where you can distil knowledge into a few examples and cases, and it works well. The viewer now has a working, and accurate mental model of whatever they were learning, without having to go through -everything- involved.

However, this approach to history and other topics can be a problem. While some of the criticism is somewhat overblown, it is valid. Distilling history and other social sciences down, to the degree that Khan does is very hard to do properly, and likely to introduce all sorts problems into the mental model of history the viewer has.

It's not a case of "taking sides" or whatever. But, if the Academy really does want to be "the classroom of the world", then it -should- go into enough detail to build accurate mental models. How much stuff do you think people learn in a classroom, and never have a chance to "relearn". How many incorrect mental models are formed, and then never corrected until catastrophe. The responsible thing to do, if attempting to be come the classroom of the world is to realize that if they are successful, then for many people, the Academy will be their sole source of information for some topics (as in, not the only source of information, but the only source that they go to), and teach accordingly. Either have the lesson be able to provide an accurate and correct mental model, or make the learner explicitly aware that what they are learning is incomplete/unprecise/whatever.

ajscherer 3 days ago 1 reply      
A visit to the wikipedia entry on the National Association of Scholars may help you understand the author's perspective.

The first half of this article makes a reasonably convincing case that Mr. Khan is a much worse history teacher than math tutor. The second half of the article makes a totally convincing case that the author understands the Internet worse than Khan understands anything.

I guess in his nightmare scenario the "algorithms of the Internet" will one day cause everyone's web-browsers to redirect every request to one of Mr. Khan's fizzy history lectures where he just glosses right over the moral infallibility of the US, the inherent superiority of western culture, and the fact that Jesus died for your sins. The same algorithms will doubtless prevent the author from creating his own history videos clarifying those topics for people. After all, Mr. Khan appeared on Charlie Rose!

crux 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's quite apparent to me that Mr. Clemens' political leanings and the exigencies of blogging culture have worked together to transform a worthwhile small point into a pretty overbaked big point. Mr. Clemens demonstrates ably, I think, that Mr. Khan is a lousy history teacher. I haven't taken any of his science courses, so I can't speak about them, but it's clear that when it comes to history Mr. Khan lacks the depth of knowledge and fluency with the facts to teach effectively. So he ends up missing things, leaving things unexplained, falling back on pop culture depictions, oversimplifying motivations.

On the other hand"what does this have to do with pretty much anything else? I think it's not a stretch to see how every deficiency displayed there can be directly derived from a lack of familiarity with the material. Do you really need to try to make the overheated claim that being waffly with facts and simplistic with the human narrative is the result of an academia-enforced political and epistemological philosophy? Mr. Khan isn't exactly saying, you know, 'As we learn from a cursory reading of Baudrillard, the concept that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in any meaningful, substantial way is clearly a fiction of the necessities of realpolitik.' He's just fudging it. Mr Clemens continues to spiral outward, proposing a grim reality where all our education is mediated through Facebook and thus (because of the nature of Facebook's algorithms at the moment) through political conformity, confirmation bias, and groupthink"which results in Mr. Khan's own pernicious beliefs being beamed, unopposed, into the minds of our modern youth. All this from “from FDR's point of view, Hitler definitely was in the wrong here” and a reference to _Saving Private Ryan_.

Mr Clemens should have restricted his aim to a more manageable and germane topic: the unfortunate fiction that we can teach history, or anything else, by reading out loud from the textbook, or by stringing together a sequence of pictures of famous people. Teaching is hard, and many people in lecture halls and seminars all across this great nation do it poorly every day. Unfortunately, when it comes to World War II, Mr. Khan is a member of their ranks. I'm not sure that Bill Gates' neoliberal plans for a New World Order history course necessarily enter into it.

wccrawford 3 days ago 1 reply      
So, their biggest problems with Khan are that he doesn't go into enough detail and that he doesn't pick sides in the wars?

Wow, that -is- dangerous. He might teach children to think for themselves or something!

As for the Skinner Box, the internet is anything but. Yes, you tend to only see things you want to, etc... But there is nothing stopping you from seeing other things, and most sites will step out of your comfort zone quite a lot.

They honestly believe that somehow Khan's videos could become the -only- resource for learning about history. Not a chance.

synnik 3 days ago 1 reply      
As someone who has been a teacher and trainer of various kinds, removing your own bias from your teaching does not come naturally or easily. So I think the points made (while exaggerated) have at least a kernel of validity. However, ranting on a blog is not a productive response. Instead, I'd document them as constructive criticism and send them to Mr. Khan directly. I've got to believe that anyone who is passionate enough about education to put the Khan academy together in the first place is also willing to hear suggestions on improvements.
bbg 3 days ago 2 replies      
+1 for the idea that history is more than an "incoherent torrent of factoids"

I heard Khan say recently on the Colbert Report that he read the Wikipedia article on the French Revolution as his source before making his video on the subject.

That's fine for his purposes, but somewhere up the information food chain someone must actually read the sources, weigh them, interpret, compare, and do all the other work of understanding and transmitting history. It's hard to imagine that those 'educated' by Khan can take up this work, or if they do, that by the time they become competent, they will regard his videos as anything other than inconsequential in their effort.

However, I do think it's overblown to say that Khan is any more dangerous than Cliff's notes or similar supposed shortcut to education. And I suspect his math and finance videos might be quite good, based on the response, and on the fact that he actually spent time in school learning math and finance. (But I haven't watched them.)

tokenadult 3 days ago 0 replies      
On the facts reported in the submitted article, I would have to suggest that Mr. Khan bring some expert historians (preferably of multiple cultural backgrounds and different nationalities) on board his project to produce the history videos. He could well devote his own time to producing more videos on more elementary levels of math, as elementary mathematics is still very poorly taught in much of the English-speaking world.




hnhg 3 days ago 0 replies      
Okay, so the first part of this is nitpicking the obviously impossible task of summarising the history of the world (perhaps it was Khan's intention to simply get students interested in the subjects so that they could study them further), and then the second part verges on parody by putting together some poorly connected thoughts and trying to pass them off as an argument.

If this is representative of the type of person against the Khan Academy, I'm for it even more.

astine 3 days ago 0 replies      
The author's complaint seems to be that the Khan Academy's history lectures give an overly simplified view of history and that this, along with their availability, will make them more attractive to students who, the author fears, will watch Khan Academy videos in lieu of studying the topics in depth. This, he fears, will lead to a cultural forgetfulness of what the author considers to be the important moral lessons of WWII.

It's an important objection. There is a real tendency towards laziness among human begins and an easy availability of a simplified history could discourage people from deeper study. A simplified history from only one viewpoint is even worse. But I think he's pointing the finger in the wrong direction. Wikipedia is already a far greater threat on that matter and their are plenty of simplified versions of history available, some even taught in schools. Sal is only example of this (and possibly a product as the author alludes.) The proper solution would be more, and more in depth videos from other perspectives. I know some people who might be willing to do just that...

TeMPOraL 3 days ago 1 reply      
The thing I remember was almost always missing in the education process I went through right up to the university was the big picture. A brief summary, a TL;DR, an idea, an answer to questions like "what does it mean?" or "why should I care?".

My experience with education is that for most of the time, we are being taught 'the form', not 'the contents'. It was after I've watched SICP video lectures that I finally understood many computer science concepts that I was being taught (read: forced to memorize for the exam) at university and even in high school.

I strongly believe in what Einstein said: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." If Khan can summarize almost entire XX century into a 15-minute talk while staying correct with the facts, then that's great. It's what we call a 'high level overview'. It might be not sufficient, but it's a good start, as it constructs a skeleton which makes the details stick easier in our brains.

scythe 3 days ago 0 replies      
>I pulled up his video “U.S. History Overview 3"World War II to Vietnam”

Well, there's your problem. If you concern yourself primarily with US History, as Khan does (and declares what he is doing), you're going to necessarily ignore a lot of non-US perspectives, like, y'know, Leningrad, Churchill, the rape of Nanking, Japan's lack of oil reserves, the whole bit. The real question is not whether Mr. Khan did a poor job of explaining US History, it is whether the idea of teaching "$country history", when we concern ourselves primarily with foreign affairs as Mr. Khan does, whether focusing on the actions of $country in an era of global politics gives a skewed and ultimately inaccurate perspective. The answer to that should be a rather obvious 'yes'...

I do doubt however that Mr. Khan truly hopes to achieve or at least does not really believe that he can achieve a monopoly in education. Perhaps his format will be copied but I doubt his lectures themselves will become the status quo especially if they are as lacking in depth as the example shown (I am not really familiar with the Khan Academy). The graver problem shown in the article does not really concern the Khan Academy but rather our method of consuming information from a general standpoint, and the dangers of the personalization of news; but this is a rather tired complaint, and the author does not suggest a novel approach for combatting it.

hillel 3 days ago 0 replies      
To the author of the article, Mr. Clemens, and other academics annoyed by Mr. Khan's compressed description of important topics, I ask the following question:

Other than criticize this new source of education, what are YOU doing to address the needs of people hungry for learning other than continuing on the same well worn path that you've been on for decades?

Professional academics whining about Khan Academy ignore the fact that their customers are telling them something by flocking to Khan's videos. They're saying that higher education today doesn't always meet their needs, and they need these services packaged, priced, and delivered in new ways.

If Mr. Clemens doesn't like Khan's treatment of a particular topic, how about recording your own video that does it right.

It does seem easier to criticize and keep to your own cloistered little world rather than put yourself out there and try to innovate. But that's just my perspective.

tibbon 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to be pretty nitpicking. He says things that plenty of educators would likely say in describing events such as, "as you'd imagine".

His point about FDR's viewpoint of Hitler's invasion of Poland is really weak and I just don't get it. Everything actually is relative. The Germans probably thought it was just as fine (if not moreso) to invade Poland as in the US Bush thought it was ok to invade Iraq. Of course history is written by the victors. Had Germany won, it would have been written as a good action from their perspective.

So in 15 minutes he doesn't dig into terribly much detail. Let's face it, even after a teacher spends an entire semester going over this with 8th graders, in 10 years time do they remember all the details? Details are something that can come after interest is solidified. Pushing details on 8th graders misses the larger point often as it is buried in dates, maps, names and such. If you get them hooked on the main point, they will find the details.

Revisor 3 days ago 0 replies      
If the Khan Academy were the final station in someone's education, as the author silently presumes, that would be bad. It's simplified and sometimes wrong as the article points out (though no educating institution gets everything right) .

If on the other hand Khan Academy were the FIRST station in education: igniting passion for a subject - as it does for some people in math and economy - inspiring people to explore further and read more about it, mending the damage done by our institutional education!

Than that would be a great achievement regardless of the mistakes, simplicities and even the ideological leaning.

JabavuAdams 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the Khan methodology works very very well for elementary math, and I'm a huge fan of the automatically-generated practice problems. These are more valuable than the videos IMHO.

It's valid to point out that other subject matter may not be well presented by this kind of approach.

On the other hand, it's early days. So fast-forward 20-years when you can download a video-game from Khan Academy that will teach you about Vietnam or the Korean war that is exhaustively researched and curated by a hobbyist and veteran (from both sides) community.

Imagine downloading an interactive demo that shows that even if you target an airstrike to within 1m in an urban area, fragments will travel 500 m into neighbouring apartment blocks.

That would be better than kids learning their military history from CoD.

chrisjsmith 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the conventional "educators" are feeling threatened because concise education in tolerable chunks is looking more attractive than toiling in lectures and massive tomes for hours over minor details. The Internet age has destroyed verbose teaching finally.

Facts are important. Details are for the interested.

jlgosse 3 days ago 2 replies      
The only real problem I have with the Khan Academy is that they appear to be using a mouse to write notes on the digital chalkboard. This is incredibly messy and really hard to understand.

For example:

In the first video on motion, Sal is going on and on about the topic, and is doing a wonderful job. At the same time, he's writing notes. This would be fine, except the first '=' he writes looks like a 'c', and then in his first example, he is literally saying "D is equal to fifty.", while clearly, his writing looks more like "d=60".

Seriously, couldn't Bill Gates buy some new tools for Sal? It really takes away from the production value when I see this.

richcollins 3 days ago 0 replies      
I don't think he gets that Khan isn't the big idea. The market can select for history teachers that are better than Khan. The big idea is that many won't need universities moving forward.
bstar 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree strongly with the Author's issues with presenting history in this manner. History is a living document of clues that are merely interpreted by us- very little is fact.

I've been studying Egyptology for about 6 years now and it's amazing what perspectives have changed in that time. We're even starting to see stories now that are challenging the "Out of Africa" theory. Whenever I hear a teacher/lecturer describe something historical as fact, it makes me cringe because so much is left to interpretation.

Khan doing history in this manner is dangerous. But at the same time, the ways our schools do history is dangerous as well. Presenting singular perspectives and presenting them as fact only breeds misinformation.

I believe khan academy is superb for math and sciences, especially for quick overviews of concepts. But the format is absolutely terrible for presenting historical topics. Understanding history requires reading from many resources and coming to logical conclusions. A copy/paste job from wikipedia is simply pathetic.

mbesto 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems a bit strange that Mr Clemens [1] who is a English teacher that teaches online courses is commenting on issues concerning online teaching in history. Regardless he does bring up some very valid points that have plagued history scholars for centuries, but offers no real solution. I suppose the title "The Dangerous Mr. Kahn" that suggests that Mr. Kahn is dangerous to history education is a bit too sensationalist to suggest that he is any more dangerous than today's media, school teachers, disagreeing historians, and countless other attempts to present historical information in a categorical way. Everything is up to interpretation.

My interpretation of his overall point is that "no one person should control the messages of history". There is definitely some work to be done by Mr. Kahn in this regard and given his very open mind I don't doubt he already has considered this.

[1]- http://www.mpcfaculty.net/david_clemens/default.htm

Apocryphon 3 days ago 0 replies      
The article is full of FUD, but Khan himself probably shouldn't be teaching humanities (like history) or social sciences (other than for his own specialization, economics) or the life sciences (and any other discipline he is not too familiar with).
jmarbach 3 days ago 0 replies      
While this article does argue against Mr. Khan being the one and only teacher, it does not refute the effectiveness of his teaching.

This is exactly why every teacher should be delivering their course content in the same format as Khan. I am in the process of building a platform for any teacher to manage learning online in the same way that Khan has been so successful. I've been fortunate to be receive support on this transformation in education as recipient of the Thiel Fellowship: 20 Under 20. Visit http://ingenic.com to follow my progress.

rsheridan6 3 days ago 0 replies      
Khan Academy is mostly about math, and it shouldn't be judged almost solely on the basis of one history video. I have my 7 year old doing math well beyond what they've taught him in school using Khan Academy.
torque2 3 days ago  replies      
Khan's physics videos are no better. Excerpts below from my series taking a critical view of Khan Academy: http://bit.ly/khancritic ...

Ironically, Khan's TED talk is in stark contrast to two previous TED talks:

* Dan Meyer - Math Curriculum Makeover http://bit.ly/DanMeyerTED
* Sir Ken Robinson - Do Schools Kill Creativity? http://bit.ly/SirKenTED

According to Dan, today's math curriculum is teaching students to expect (and excel at) paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them. How does Khan Academy foster problem posing and creativity?

If your philosophy of education is sit-and-get, i.e., teaching is telling and learning is listening, then Khan Academy (and flipping) are more efficient than in-classroom lecturing.

But why lecture at all? TRUE progressive educators, TRUE education visionaries and revolutionaries don't want to do these things better. We want to DO BETTER THINGS.

Rather than instructing students with Khan's videos, teachers should be inspiring them to figure things out on their own and learn how to create their own knowledge by working together. For example, instead of relying on lectures and textbooks, Modeling Instruction in Physics emphasizes active student construction of conceptual and mathematical models in an interactive learning community. Students are engaged with simple scenarios to learn to model the physical world. In comparison to traditional instruction, Modeling is extremely effective " under expert modeling instruction high school students average more than two standard deviations higher on a standard instrument for assessing conceptual understanding of physics.

Watch one Modeling class in action: http://bit.ly/ModelingPhysics . In the clip, the teacher says, “I don't lecture at all. Instead, I create experiences for the students either in the lab or puzzles and problems for them to solve and it's up to them to try to figure that out.” I've often wondered why this type of teaching hasn't gotten more attention in the media. Maybe because the teacher is using simple things like whiteboards and bowling balls rather than shiny iPads and SmartBoards?

While Khan argues that his videos now eliminate "one-size-fits-all" education, his videos are exactly that. I tried finding Khan Academy videos for my students to use as references for studying, or to use as a tutorial when there's a substitute teacher, but the physics ones aren't very good. They don't use a lot of the multiple representations that are so fundamental to learning. Concept development is minimal, and he unknowingly plays into student misconceptions. His videos do not align with proper Physics Education Research. Teachers improve via reading up on pedagogy and getting feedback from mentors & students. Where is Sal's feedback? Where's the pedagogy?

The research that Khan chooses to ignore is summarized in this one book, now available as a free PDF: "How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom" http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10126

ph0rque 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this article points out a weakness that has a rather simple solution: Khan should bring experts in other fields with a knack of teaching well into the academy.

Also, sometime in the near to mid-future, the platform should open up to allow anyone to submit their own video lectures.

Dramatize 3 days ago 0 replies      
Kahn's videos are what magazines are to books.

It's much more accessible/enjoyable to read a PC magazine than read a technical document.
They expose topics to a much broader audience.

I loved the French Revolution videos.

pontifier 2 days ago 0 replies      
I was at the Singularity summit in SLC this weekend and had the privilege of hearing Mr. Shantanu Sinha (president of Khan Academy) speak. One of the questions from the audience after his presentation was about how they plan to teach subjects that are more open to interpretation than math.

His answer (according to my notes) is that they are working on it, and it is a challenge to eliminate bias. He stressed that they have just recently grown to 8 employees thanks to the recent funding, and that they are doing their best.

Their overall vision is one of enabling true mastery of subjects by enabling students to proceed at their own pace, and expand upon on a topic only after mastering the prerequisites (switching from percent knowledge in fixed time to complete knowledge in variable time).
The eventual goal is to change the in-class focus from data transmission to social interaction, learning interpersonal skills, communication, leadership, and teamwork.

I was sceptical about Khan academy, but I believe that with sufficient funding and attention they will be able to create a curriculum that is at least as good as what the average student gets now, and probably much better. They have also started experimenting with A/B testing using analytics on their 2 million students to find the most effective ways to teach.

natural219 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think this article is very interesting, if only to get a look at what objections might exist to an educational paradigm similar to KA. If we're serious about fighting for an efficient education system, we must be prepared to answer objections like this.

He brings up a few valid points that I haven't thought of before. Presumably, as systems like KA are adopted the amount of total educational material decreases, as individual curricula are replaced by a standard set of materials. This decreases diversity in the type of education available for students, which can be seen as a good or a bad thing. I bet the author would be all for the system if the videos were "conservative" and they were replacing curricula of "liberal" educators teaching our children filthy subjectivist lies.

ashbrahma 3 days ago 0 replies      
I agree that there are some valid points however history books have also been written by someone or a group of people with a certain viewpoint. Facts are sometimes suppressed in support of their viewpoints.
eyko 3 days ago 1 reply      
I believe it's still a very good way to get students to actually read a book. In 15 minutes, Khan does a great job, and the author of the article... well, he fails to get that.

The idea behind it is getting children interested in history enough that they would pick up a book. It's not, as I understand it, the only account of history they're expected to have. And to think otherwise is to think stupid.

drhodes 3 days ago 0 replies      
One of the author's gripes:

   Unfortunately, he does not explain what a Bolshevik
is nor how or why the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian
empire, nor why it matters but no dilly-dallying, just
fast forward and bingo...

This is a limitation of the 1-way set in stone nature of video. It could be addressed by augmenting the lecture with an interface similar to an interactive-movie-game at the arcades circa 1993 called Dragon's Lair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragons_Lair). A concept similar to "pick your own adventure" books but with video.

For instance, if some lecture L is about ideas A, B, C, D, and there is another lecture B+ in the library that specifically targets B in detail, then there could be an option presented to the user around the timestamp B to divert to B+ in depth, then come back to C. The important part is that the material is relevant as decided by the user. If they decide B+ isn't what they wanted, they could cut right back to C immediately.

bigwally 3 days ago 0 replies      
David Clemens (the author of the article) should read the text books presented in American high schools.

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Jason_Wilmot 3 days ago 0 replies      
How many brick and mortar history teachers are doing a far worse job than Khan? Probably a lot.

Ok, so the content can be tightened up, but that's not why Bill Gates is excited here. Take the Khan concept, pick the worlds finest educators in respective fields, build the content, and distribute. That's the game changer here.

sradnidge 3 days ago 0 replies      
When presented with '1 + 1 = 2', some people will be interested enough to ask why, and others won't give a fuck. Same goes for 'Hitler invaded Poland'. It doesn't mean one person is better or worse than the other, they're just different.

The real problem will arise when people stop being interested. And when that happens it won't be the fault of the Khan Academy or wikipedia or the Internet or TV or video games or religion or <insert favoured target here>.

colbyolson 3 days ago 0 replies      
I think the problem is bias.

Math can be taught without bias, as numbers can only be seen as numbers. There are only a few ways you can teach maths. When you teach history, it brings in a plethora of views, opinions, and bias. There will always be someone saying "hey wait a minute, you forgot <fact>.", and I'm not sure there's a way around that. At least not in history.

Symmetry 3 days ago 0 replies      
While I think that the criticisms in this piece were misplaced, its very possible that there are better free history resources out there. I've very much enjoyed the History According to Bob podcast series, for instance, but those would probably be too in depth for teaching kids, except the overview episodes.
crux_ 3 days ago 1 reply      
Completely and totally off topic, but I find the popularity of the "filter bubble" concept fascinating.

It's not as if the vast majority of us didn't already manually create deeply effective filter bubbles, after all; but now that we can blame it on algorithms rather than our own nature, it's much easier to talk about.

(( Once upon a time I thought the internet would be a cultural/ideological melting pot, but it was clear a decade ago that it was having the opposite effect.... ))

spencerfry 3 days ago 0 replies      
I watched a few of the Khan Academy videos. They're fun and entertaining and you may even learn a little, but they don't cover anything beyond the surface of a topic. I think the Open Yale videos where you can watch a full semester of a Yale professor's class are far more informative: http://oyc.yale.edu/
rweba 2 days ago 0 replies      
The entire success of Khan Academy rests on providing simple quick introductions to different topics. If Khan made the videos longer or went into more details the students would get bored and it might as well be a History channel documentary or a NOVA science show (fun for certain people but unlikely to capture the interest of many 8th graders).

As to this specific video I actually thought it was very good - precisely because of Khan's conversational breezy style that managed to keep my interest even though I was quite familiar with these events. A longer lecture would have me closing the tab pretty quick and I imagine the same reaction from the target audience.

Lastly, Khan Academy videos in their current form are probably not going to replace the entire educational system, but if you want to get a quick introduction to a certain topic they seem to be effective. For example I just watched this video a few minutes ago and approximately doubled my knowledge of diabetes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPLjSY00JlE and I would guess some of the viewers have similar increases in their knowledge in other topics. THAT is where Khan Academy currently excels and it is a perfectly worthwhile contribution.

aufreak3 2 days ago 0 replies      
Math and hard science learning can be reasonably measured by the kind of objective testing that KA does, however that is inadequate for subjects like history. Knowing about a bunch of events says nothing about the "lesson". I wonder how KA plans to address that, if at all.

IMO, it'll be good if KA focuses on the hard basics like mathematics. (By "hard" I don't mean "difficult" btw.)

iwwr 2 days ago 0 replies      
Uh oh, Mr. Khan is not reactionary enough for the tastes of someone like Clemens:

Here Mr. Khan stands exposed as possessing a historical perspective steeped in academia's standard issue, postmodern, left-leaning narrative of cultural relativism, multiculturalism, and moral equivalence.

tatsuke95 2 days ago 0 replies      
Entertaining read.

I agree with the assertion that The Khan Academy, via brief video clips, may be a terrible place to learn history (though it is GREAT for other subjects).

But as others have noted...who cares? The internet is filled with opinions and falsities, far more "dangerous" than anything on Mr. Khan's site, that pass themselves off as "history". It's just a matter of degree.

lekanwang 3 days ago 0 replies      
I was quite disappointed by his non-technical lectures as well, and hope they improve.

But, even if they are improved, almost every student watching that lecture will miss a big part of the humanities--being with peers, actively engaging in group discussion, and finding responses to questions by actively synthesizing information. Having an interesting discussion is like finally coding something interesting with a new programming language you just picked up. Learning the facts or the syntax isn't the point.

Khan has the vision that these videos will be used in conjunction with classroom teachers, but with roles reversed from the current school system--students will watch lectures on their own time, and in class, they will engage in discussions and doing practice problems. This seems to be the part that was missed in the article, and much of the discussion here. If that symbiosis is executed correctly (and the lectures are improved), this could be powerful.

peterwwillis 3 days ago 0 replies      
Uh. Would citing sources of information with pop-ups in the videos help? Perhaps links to online books or wikipedia articles (which I realize potentially creates a loop of false references, but whatever)
hasaneducation 3 days ago 1 reply      
From the article, Khan lectures on things he knows nothing about. Is that the revolution in education everyone is so excited about? Getting teachers that don't know the subject matter? His background is math and engineering, his history knowledge he gets from movies and his biology, he gets from pondering. Charlatan, definition of.

Khan on history of D-Day:
"if you've ever seen Saving Private Ryan it starts with this and it's probably, you know, I've never been in, never been on . . . never stormed a beach, but I can imagine it is probably the most realistic re-enactment of what it was like to storm the beach at Normandy"

Khan on Entropy:
In a recent talk he explained how he prepared for his lecture on entropy: "I took two weeks off and I just pondered it, and I called every professor and everyone I could talk to and I said, Let's go have a glass of wine about entropy.

joshaidan 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Imagine the consequences if his videos did become the DOS or Windows of education: tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of young minds, all fed by Mr. Khan's fizzy version of history. Not only would all students absorb the same value judgments, goofy comments, and cultural relativism, they would also conclude that Mr. Khan's factoids constitute knowledge of history. "

Isn't the simple solution to this problem is to hire other teachers than just having Mr. Khan do everything? In addition to Mr. Khan, hire some Japanese, Germany, and Russian history teachers so we get another perspective in addition to an American one.

Perhaps Khan Academy should become the universal platform for teachers from around the world to deliver their curriculum. Then we would have a much richer education system with a plethora of perspectives--which would even beat our current system of one teacher teaching everything in a classroom.

anandkesari 3 days ago 0 replies      
The postmodern approach of teaching history as a perspective is flawed in that this perspective should be developed by the student and not fed to them by the teacher. How can a student develop perspective without knowledge of facts? How is this different from dogma?
palguay 3 days ago 0 replies      
I looked up the author of the article. He is a professor , I wanted to see what his great book course was about, I could not access it and Khan academy offers me Instant access , this is something that the people in academics like him do not seem to understand why kids love khan academy.
BTW here is the course and I am definitely not interested in it
flavy 2 days ago 0 replies      
I like to think of Mr Khan efforts as something similar to those of the mentor in Sophie's World. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophies_World
He can teach the audience on how to think about subjects, but I doubt he can be deep on all of them. This is very helpful but is not scalable. I wonder how this effort will become mature if it continues to get funded and promoted.
bh42222 3 days ago 1 reply      
Oh no, a 15 minute summary of the history form WWII to Vietnam isn't thorough Well, I, never!

In all seriousness, I am not sure what the author's point is. Summaries lack detail? Short things are short?

hook 3 days ago 0 replies      
It is a lot easier to write an essay critique than it is to sit down and fix the problem by recording your own set of video lectures that teach people what you know.
bsiemon 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems like teaching how to research and read about history would be better than short narratives about various periods.
dendory 3 days ago 0 replies      
I went there expecting teachers whining about a new teaching model, but seeing what the videos really are like, and the things said, I fully agree with the article. I think having a full video based classroom for everyone would be good, but Mr Khan seems to be doing a rather sloppy job filling every topic in the world by himself.
Rustee 1 day ago 0 replies      
After reading the article I feel it 'attacks' Sal individually and not the KA as a whole, quoting vocabulary used by him.
"Historical velocity is achieved through words and phrases such as “essentially,” “fast forward,” and “as you can imagine.”
cstefanovici 3 days ago 1 reply      
Of course Khan lectures are not all encompassing just like his lecture on IPOs aren't but they provide a great deal of entry level knowledge.

If the author ever imagined that WW2 could be explained in one short Khan Academy video his expectations were wrong not Khan Academy itself.

Personally, I believe he is a spiteful fool afraid of a revolution in education.

bpourriahi 3 days ago 0 replies      
kerryiob 3 days ago 0 replies      
My own thoughts on this issue along these same lines:


Why we are unlikely to ever leave the solar system. antipope.org
287 points by shalmanese  2 days ago   174 comments top 44
cletus 1 day ago  replies      
That's a good, grounded assessment of the scale of the problem. I too believe that the human colonization of space, even near-space (ie within the orbit of the Moon) is a long way off. The energy costs are simply too high and resources too cheap on the Earth to make it viable (in spite of typical SF fodder of asteroid mining).

This is a problem because with 6.5 billion people we're using up resources. Fast.

Anyway, I see two potential solutions to this problem: one not-so-far-fetched and one incredibly far-fetched.

The not-so-far-fetched version is... hitch-hiking. Our understanding of the Universe is that it is full of mass wandering between stars. IIRC recently a planet-sized body was detected traveling between the stars.

Simple probability dictates that it is only a matter of time before a sufficiently large body travels through the Solar System with sufficient velocity (including direction) to reach somewhere else in sufficient time (but not too fast that we can't perform an orbital intercept) that we can essentially build a colony on it.

The far-fetched version is to use back holes as power sources [1] as this is, as far as I've read anyway, the only remotely viable method of providing propulsion without reaction mass to speak of and reaction mass is the death of any form of interstellar propulsion.

The answer to the Fermi Paradox [2] may simply be that it's too hard to leave our comfortable gravity wells and most (all?) civilizations simply run out of stuff before they get there.

I've also given the thought to "footprints". If you think about, say, a primitive tribesman. What do they need to survive in a sustainable fashion? They need a sufficient sized population (measured in the hundreds or low thousands) to avoid inbreeding and sufficient land area to provide a food source. This is probably measured in the tens or hundreds of square miles.

Imagine all they need as the footprint of a sustainable colony as that then dictates the minimum size of any spaceship.

Now imagine a more advanced society. 1000 modern humans would need an ENORMOUS footprint. Just think about computer chips. On any long voyage they'd break down so you need to be able to make new ones. That means a sufficient lab, technology, materials (or, in reality, the means to get more materials), all that knowledge and so on. Plus the size of the population goes up given required specializations.

This of course assumes that people would do all of these things instead of, say, an AI of some kind (which would actually solve a lot of problems).

That footprint is currently way too large to build any kind of interstellar vessel (IMHO). One of the trends I see in coming centuries is that footprint will reach a point of reducing in size. By 2100 I expect we'll be able to keep the sum of all human knowledge (or a close enough approximation) on an essentially mobile device. Advanced manufacturing techniques and materials may solve many of the footprint problems and so on.

As the footprint goes down, the viability of any isolated colony being able to survive increases.

The hitchhiking idea would also be ideal for the survival of humanity overall. With sufficient isolation, there will be cultural and genetic drift. If we're able to influence each other, that's a recipe for conflict. But a large mass passing through the Solar System is very likely a one-way ticket. There's no way to follow and no way to return (barring astronomically small odds of a repeat or inverse body).

[1]: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0908.1803v1

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

guelo 1 day ago 1 reply      
As impossible as the physics seems I think the social problems are bigger. Scientists are currently unable to convince people to act against the potential catastrophe of global warming. Humans are too stupid to organize a planet wide self preservation effort that requires any significant amount of resources. I think the more likely scenario for humanity over the next 10 thousand years is several cycles of civilization and population collapses with a constant degradation of the environment and fewer and fewer available resources. This century might be the zenith of human achievement. It might take a smarter species a few million years from now to escape this rock.
benwr 1 day ago 4 replies      
"The future extinction of the human species cannot affect you if you are already dead": I thought one of the implications of evolution was that we have a vested interest in protecting our genes, rather than acting solely on individual-level self-interest.

Edit: What on earth would cause you to downvote this?

Edit2: Thanks. I would still appreciate a comment if I'm 'doing it wrong.'

mmaunder 1 day ago 1 reply      
I dislike the word "never". As individuals and as a species we are addicted to short term gratification measured in years or decades. We also have a narrow view of the concept of "self" and what constitutes consciousness and experience.

If we could stand building for the future and experiencing by proxy, a few more options become available:

e.g. We could transport a set of human "blanks" or a "blank" creating machine to a distant star at 10% of c. It would take a few hundred years. When it arrives and deploys, we upload our consciousness at the speed of light with no acceleration and deceleration into a "blank" human.

Copies of ourselves could be regularly transported to and from a distant star over a few decades.

A few technological breakthroughs would be required to make this a reality:

* True Artificial Intelligence. A machine that is capable of self-awareness and analysis.

* A complete understanding of the human brain and how to replicate the organism and it's contents.

* A complete understanding of the human body, the life support mechanism for the brain - and how to duplicate it.

* How to turn nuclear fission or fusion into propulsion at a high level of efficiency.

* How to build factories that can stay dormant for a thousand years, wake up and operate as well as the day they were built. This probably will be solved as a result of AI and the ability to create self-repairing and self-improving machines.

Many of these problems are in the CS and Biotech fields. That's what we do. Now get to work!

Groxx 1 day ago 1 reply      
>Try to get a handle on this: it takes us 2-5 years to travel two inches [in their relative scale - e.g., Voyager probes]

What? No it doesn't. We can do massively better than this, right now. As in, today's technology. No problem.

Why haven't we? It's frickin' expensive.

But the long-range probes we've launched have been pretty damn near coasting their entire trip, with a few course corrections. They were pushed, and now they float until they gain sentience and come back to say "hi". If they had a huge-ass rocket attached to them, such as would likely be on anything interested in going any distance at any kind of speed (ie, human-carrying ships), they'd get where they're going a lot faster.

Next up, to get to proxmia centauri in 42 years with some hand-waving to make things simpler and 100% efficient energy usage:

>To put this figure in perspective, the total conversion of one kilogram of mass into energy yields 9 x 1016 Joules. (Which one of my sources informs me, is about equivalent to 21.6 megatons in thermonuclear explosive yield). So we require the equivalent energy output to 400 megatons of nuclear armageddon ...

Where did 400 megatons come from, if it's equivalent to 21.6? And if 400 is "the same as the yield of the entire US Minuteman III ICBM force", I say that's a miniscule amount of energy, especially once it's divided by 20. Crank it up another 10-fold beyond 400, and we're still talking modern-day terrestrial-level achievable energy without breaking a sweat.

>So it would take our total planetary electricity production for a period of half a million seconds " roughly 5 days " to supply the necessary va-va-voom.

Not bad, really. We're pretty inefficient right now. Make it cost a few times that - we'll be producing that in a week before we can even get a lame v0.1 ship built and in trials.


All in all, an interesting read. But it feels more like a half-accurate rant. We're waving magic wands to get 100% efficiency and 2000kg, but we're not waving magic wands to get away from conventional rockets and today's energy production levels?

I'm entirely on their side that our tech today can't get us to the stars. Totally. I agree, the energy needed is quite literally astronomical, and we're not even close to it. But we keep finding weird things with our science - I'm not writing it off entirely. And I don't see why people seem to imply that we must leave from Earth - why not mine the asteroid belt to provide the fuel at our leisure, and build a truly massive ship? We're not going to aim for the stars on our first go, we'll be living in space for a long time before then.

forgottenpaswrd 1 day ago 5 replies      
Oh, the ego, what a marvelous thing!

Believing that what we currently know is applicable to humans in the future, that our current limits are immutable.

We know all the laws of physics, right? We know if the universe is finite or infinite(because we had traveled there and seen the limits), we know what creates gravity and exactly how electromagnetic attraction really works... the same way the people Socrates asked 2500 years ago knew it all, and Socrates himself did not knew anything(in his own words).

The same way people already knew everything about the small things before microscope invention(in their own words it was unnecessary because "why we want to see what we already know smaller?").

That someone develops better ways to control active fission(atom by atom) and fusion reactions, that someone discovers something new about the universe,that someone discovers how to create antigravity because understands what gravity really is, that someone discover the way to crack the code on aging on our DNA, that someone discovers why the light limit on vacuum is what it is and some way of going faster, all of this impossible, because we know it all.

saulrh 1 day ago 1 reply      
I agree with this pretty well, in that it's likely that flesh-and-blood humans will never physically travel to other planets en masse without some fundamental discoveries in physics. You'll note, though, that he explicitly disregards both starwisps and strong AI, and there's a reason for that: putting human-descended AI out into the universe is a much, much more feasible endeavor, and one that I personally believe we'll eventually accomplish.
redthrowaway 1 day ago 3 replies      
He's already allowed for nanofactories and artificial wombs, so why send humans at all? Send frozen sperm and eggs and have the robots make the people once they get there. Now, all of a sudden, the length of the journey doesn't matter. Fling probes off willy-nilly at nearby and distant stars. If they get there, great. If not, you've only lost cash.

Edit: The cool thing about this is that, assuming these technologies come to fruition, the entire project could likely be financed privately by a group of wealthy backers. You wouldn't need the massive bureaucracy of NASA or their dependency on Congress. You'd simply develop, test, then manufacture the (likely quite small) probes, then send them up and out on commercial rockets.

RomP 1 day ago 1 reply      
A little over 100 years ago the humanity just learned how to overfly one football field.

In space, today, we're in pre-aviation days: we're still using hot air balloons for transportation. We make them lighter than air (i.e. shoot them up in space) and let the wind (i.e gravity) to carry them places.

Imagine the most educated human 120 years ago is being told about planes heavier than air, air transportation over oceans, jet-powered planes, autopilots and fly-by-wire, not to mention people on the moon. He would say it's impossible, due to energy constraints. Today a daily JFK-NRT flight uses more energy than all the horses which lived two centuries ago would be able to produce in their lifetimes, combined (my math may be off by one order of magnitude: it's late here). Today we're this person. Educated enough to have valid arguments against it, but utterly incorrect.

DennisP 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Ever" is a pretty strong word, and I think he's going to look pretty silly in a century or so. For example, here's an estimate of travel costs with boron fusion rockets:

If either Bussard's polywell fusion or focus fusion turn out to work, that'll be achievable within a couple decades. As Moore's Law continues and we get better at simulating plasma, it's not that unlikely that some form of fusion will work out.

There are a lot of possibilities for non-rocket launch, including various space-elevator-like schemes, laser launch, and mass drivers. Even without fusion, thorium fission could provide plenty of power.

It'd be pretty expensive and slow to travel to another star with fusion...but eventually, with large solar panels in close orbit around the sun, we'll have an awful lot of energy to play with, and just maybe we'll figure out efficient laser or microwave power transmission sometime in the next thousand years.

On the other hand, maybe we'll just colonize the Oort Cloud and gradually migrate to other stars over the next million years or so without really trying.

(And, not that I'm holding my breath for this one, but if Woodward's right about the Mach effect we'll get to other stars pretty quickly.)

As for the reasons...the resources of the solar system are millions of times what's available on Earth. Once launch is cheap it'll be a no-brainer to start mining the asteroids.

nostromo 1 day ago 0 replies      
I agree that humans will likely never leave the solar system. However, I think it's very possible -- even likely -- that human intelligence will.

One interesting thing about sending some future human AI into space is that it could in theory 'power down' higher functions for hundreds or thousands of years as it travels to its destination. Upon reawakening, it would be in a new star system, with the cumulation of human knowledge in memory and enough tech to reproduce and start anew.

Eliezer 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seriously? Who would be dumb enough to try sending proteins to another star in the first place? See you at Proxima, and I don't mean in the flesh.
weavejester 1 day ago 0 replies      
Given that several Stross novels deal with uploaded intelligence, I was surprised that no mention of this was made. In Accelerando, for instance, his characters travel three light years in a coke-can sized spaceship powered by a laser stationed around Jupiter.

It seems unlikely at best that we'll ever attempt interstellar travel in our current organic bodies. The idea of taking along an atmosphere, food, water, and enough space to move around just seems ridiculous when you could stuff a human consciousness into a volume that, at worst, is the size of a melon, and at best considerably smaller. You'd also be able to add error correcting and redundancy to make the ship robust from radiation damage.

I suspect that any future spaceship will consist of perhaps 100 tons of computer and memory, designed with considerable redundancy and error correction. Perhaps 200,000 tons of shielding/fuel will be required, sufficient to protect the core computers and memory from interstellar particles, but also from the radiation from the ship's drive. Finally, you'd have a 1 million ton black hole sitting at the tail end of the ship, sufficiently large not to explode, but sufficiently small to have hardly any gravity. This would be fed by taking matter from the shielding to keep the black hole stable.

For further redundancy the ships might travel in small fleets, each acting as a backup store for each of the others. If one ship gets taken out by a stray piece of matter, at least you'd have a few more containing the same colonists.

jacques_chester 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's two levels of magic wand here.

The first is some breakthrough in physics that makes interstellar travel feasible. Not likely, but a staple of sci-fi.

The second is a series of improvements in nanotechnology making interplanetary colonies feasible (though less necessary).

And the looming confounding factor is that a "singularity" event might make all of this moot.

tluyben2 1 day ago 0 replies      
I too believe we will (unfortunately) never leave the solar system. But for a quite different reason; consumerism. People are much more interested in stuffing burgers into their faces, living comfortably to a very old age while living unhealthy, buying tons of inane crap which they will never use. Downloading ringtones, spending 99% of their working day glued to Facebook, not cooking but ordering in every single day. Having a nicer car and house than the neighbors and getting their education while preferably not spending more than a month a year with their noses in books.

The smart/educated few are not enough to offset the masses and for the masses it's simply not 'comfortable' to work on space travel; why would you, you already have a pool? Maybe poorer countries where people are not comfortable could be of use? Nah; you see around the world; when GDP gets over a certain level, out come the gadgets, mobile phones, ringtones, bentleys and other useless crap.

A very small (fractional) % of humans is busy with the problem of energy and space travel. If it would be a few actual %s of humanity we might stand a chance, unfortunately, the rest of the collective brainpower is spent arguing if the latest X Factor was won fairly.

I don't think we'll ever meet aliens either; after a certain time in the evolution, every race of 'intelligent' beings will invent paid ringtones, after that all chances of interstellar travel are gone.

rsaarelm 1 day ago 0 replies      
The stirred-up crazy in the comment thread there is almost more interesting than the post itself. I never realized how religion-like this stuff has ended up being for a lot of people before seeing that.
SkyMarshal 8 hours ago 0 replies      
>The future extinction of the human species cannot affect you if you are already dead: strictly speaking, it should be of no personal concern.

Nor should the future bankruptcy of your country concern you as long as it happens after you're dead. Even if your descendents have to pay the piper for it.

chaostheory 1 day ago 0 replies      
“Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”

James Arthur Baldwin

That being said, I don't disagree with most of the post.

mikk0j 1 day ago 3 replies      
This one is gold:

"As Bruce Sterling has put it: "I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people settling the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live."

justin_vanw 1 day ago 0 replies      
Because we'll fall off the side! Oh, that's why we can't circumnavigate.

Some other things man will never do: http://www.rense.com/general81/dw.htm

rbanffy 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the 20th century we went from thinking that heavier-than-air flight was impossible to it being a major economic activity and the dominant form of medium-distance travel. We went from conventional explosives to nuclear explosives. We landed people on the Moon. We went from dying of dental caries to antibiotics and (very limited) genetic therapies.

In one short century we published more books and amassed more knowledge than all centuries past. Together. And we built the tools to search it and process it into meaning.

Traveling to another star is a formidable problem and doing it Newton style is not impractical. But if the past century teaches us something, we are a species prone to invent magic wands.

Besides that, we all know how futile is to try to predict the future. We can only see and express it in our own terms. The future is as alien to us as Twitter would be to my grandmother (who would be turning a century if she were alive).

Kilimanjaro 1 day ago 0 replies      
Phoenicians circa 1000bc:

"We won't make it to america unless we build ships as large as a stadium and can put a thousand slaves with oars in them. But then, where are we going to put all the food to feed them? Well, we let them die and throw them in the ocean, only the stronger will deserve to be called the first american settlers"

We don't know yet what the future may teach us.

liquids 1 day ago 0 replies      
While the author makes a good point about how humans will never leave the solar system, there are a few possibilities to continue human legacy. Ethics aside, sending seeded capsules to a habitable exoplanet could one day (millions of years) evolve into an intelligent species. Although not human, a DNA signature or some other artifact could be engineered to validate it as a human colonization.

Additionally you could explore the possibilities of fleets of nano sized probes, which over the course of thousands of years, confirm the habitality of an exoplanet, and build a crude nursery for sperm (which could be sent at a later date). This method makes the energy/momentum problems slightly less impossible.

VB6_Foreverr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was watching a documentary about the wright brothers recently and right up until they actually did it many bright people doubted it would ever be possible to have powered human flight.

Like it always has, something will come along that will change everything.

suprgeek 1 day ago 1 reply      
It comes down to which side of the human spirit you are betting on. Do you think that no matter how hard and how smart we try in the next 200-300 years we will never overcome some of the fundamental challenges of space and time? Then yes, what Stross says would make sense.

Personally I am an optimist on these things - in 1711 you could not have imagined regular Aircraft - something we take for granted today much less Spacecrafts. Electricity, Computers, Cell-phones, Internet, etc would have been inconceivable.
Today we have been to the moon ~40 years ago. Villagers in India use cellphones and electricity and a fifth of humanity is interconnected via the net.

So I have to believe that by 2311 we will have cracked the problems around Interstellar travel and be living around a different Sun than our Sol.

Anything else is just underestimating the Human Spirit.

scott_s 1 day ago 0 replies      
I reach for this whenever someone mentions the inevitability of humans colonizing other planets - which I did earlier today. Nice to see others thinking it's worth highlighting.
vorg 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Just 5 days ago...

"Kiwi developer Glenn Martin, who has been working on his flying machine for 30 years, intends to make it available on the market in 2012 at a cost of about US$100,000. Last month, the jetpack made its first high-altitude test flight, taking a dummy pilot to 1,500 meters under remote control while Mr Martin watched from a helicopter."

For more, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/8566096/Martin-Jetpack...

Humans will make it to the asteroids, to the rest of the Milky Way, and fill the Universe.

chmike 1 day ago 0 replies      
I had the same conclusion initially and called it the horizont of space reachability principle. There is a limit to the travel distance defined by the energy consumption. Reducing the energy consumption to the minimum would allow to extend this horizont limit. Pushing this reasonning to its limit I noticed that we have plenty of examples on earth of live forms able to extend this limit to infinity by mean of seeds or spores form. In such form the organism is totally passive and consumes no energy. It has a trigger which induces reactivation of life and development that may be activated by external energy and appropriate condition.

So it is possible for a life form, human or extraterrestrial, to build such a civilization seed which contains enough energy reserve and machinery to sustain life activity restoration and live form rebirth. Throw such civilization seed vessel like a bullet toward a distant solar system so that the energy of the target can be used to trigger start of development and we have our space travel capacity.

This is not how we'd naturally imagine interstellar travel, but the important point is that this proves that it is possible without relying on exotic or hazardous hypothesis. We should also keep in mind that there is still the possibility to tap into the dark matter as source of energy. While this is still very uncertain, it should be known and well accepted By now that interstellar travel and space colonization is possible.

I would like to add to this that if human life is a result of a natural process, there is a very high likelyhood that we are not alone in the univers and that other entities are likely to have started colonization already a long time ago. As we can see from earth civilization history a key factor to perserve its liberty and life autodetermination is the mastering of science and technology, intelligence and defense capacity. While there is still a need to protect ourselves from oher humans, in which we spend and waste a lot of ressource, the clock is ticking, and other civilizations may be developping much faster and efficiently than humans. It is no hard to see what it all implies.

rsheridan6 1 day ago 0 replies      
The problem with this analysis is that it assumes people will only do things that make economic sense, and only if it will benefit themselves or their descendants in a short time frame. In fact, we've done all sorts of useless, expensive things "because it's there," and we spend money on things like radiation shielding for nuclear waste that will last thousands of years.

Granted, space colonization would be much more expensive than any very long-term or symbolic project we do now, but it's not out of the question that future societies would be more inclined to do stuff like that than 21st century anglophones. If so, none of Stross's barriers are necessarily deal-breakers.

For example, I don't think Hitler would have spared any expense to seed another world with Aryans, regardless of whether it made any economic sense (since when do humans only do things that make sense?), and the 420 year time frame wouldn't seem like much to a man who thought he founded a 1000 year Reich.

pers3us 1 day ago 1 reply      
I guess i have heard this kind of argument before. In the movie book "Around the world in 80 days". Its not possible or you can't do travel all around the globe in 80 days. Still someone did it, sooner or later someone will do it, and see it takes us nearly 24 hours to make a complete rotation around the earth. Some day we will even reach to Proxima Cetauri.
shin_lao 1 day ago 0 replies      
I can't spot any flaw in the reasoning.

But one could sum up the essay as such:

"A man from the XXIst century said it it's impossible to leave the solar system"

Perhaps we should wait for what the man of the XXIInd century might have to say?

We'll need a couple of magic wands, but we've already built a lot of them.

Remember that in the early XXth century going into space was still science fiction.

hackermom 1 day ago 1 reply      
There's one great flaw in this article: the gross underestimation of man's potential, drive and constant progress.
wolfrom 1 day ago 1 reply      
I agree with the notion that no human society will purposely invest money in a trek to another solar system, but I strongly disagree with the notion that humanity is stuck in this solar system for eternity.

There seem to be two common misconceptions about the colonization of space:

1. People will colonize other planets. The notion that future generations will desire to burrow into other planets is as strange as expecting people to build a new city by digging caves in a cliff wall. Just as we now build apartment blocks and ranch houses, we will someday build custom habitats that aren't continually ravaged by earthquakes, tornados and spring floods.

2. Reaching the next solar system will be momentous. People will populate neighbouring solar systems just as our ancestors moved from Africa to other parts of the world... gradually from one generation to the next, each one drifting a little further into the Oort. One day a habitat that has its own artificial star within will move from the most recent piece of raw material to the next, not realizing that the one orbits our distant sun while the other orbits another star entirely.

Barring catastrophe at home, this future is likely. It's just the same story that's been happening since Lucy's family left the Great Rift Valley.

yaix 1 day ago 0 replies      
I remember an article here on HN a few days ago about the storage of antimatter for about half an hour.

In a few decades from now, the energy necessary for such a long distance space flight could come from half a ton of anti-hydrogen.

thematt 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm actually okay with humans never leaving the solar system. Our robotics and technology is advancing at a fast enough pace to satisfy my curiosity about what's out there. Look at the amazing stuff we've gotten back from a couple of Mars rovers, without ever having set foot on the surface. Let's just send robots out. It's much cheaper, comparatively easier...and can certainly be done much sooner.
syncopated 1 day ago 2 replies      
"That's the same as the yield of the entire US Minuteman III ICBM force."

So you're saying there's a chance!

Joakal 1 day ago 0 replies      
Interestingly, a non-profit [charity] foundation is dedicated to interstellar travel: http://www.tauzero.aero/

Brief article summary: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Breakthrough_...

civilian 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Lifeboat Foundation, http://lifeboat.com/ex/main is relevant. They're a (religious?) organization promoting humanity's colonization beyond Earth.
mkramlich 1 day ago 0 replies      
the points he made are old and well-known to anyone into space and SF and not too young
Apocryphon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I will take the man at his challenge, become a multi-trillionaire, and start building a domed city in the Gobi and a floating base in the North Atlantic.
apedley 1 day ago 0 replies      
Quantum entanglement, zero point energy, just to name a few things. While I agree these technologies might not be viable for a while, saying we are never going to leave the solar system is fairly short sighted. We always find a way :)
hsmyers 1 day ago 3 replies      
What was that limit on data transmission via copper again? 300baud? Or was it 1400? Nice the way science always ends for idiots like this...
Steko 1 day ago 0 replies      
Spoilers: his reasoning does not involve Vogons.
nazgulnarsil 1 day ago 0 replies      
don't care. give me a thorium reactor and a holodeck and I'll explore the universe from the safety of cave a mile beneath the earth's surface.

alternatively upload me and I'll put myself in a more suitable interstellar body.

Google: Les Pauls 96th birthday google.com
275 points by delinquentme  2 days ago   104 comments top 36
bfung 2 days ago 3 replies      
also has keyboard commands, across the rows:

  do re mi fa so la ti do re mi
q w e r t y u i o p
a s d f g h j k l ;
z x c v b n m , . /

Edit: If anyone cares to figure out the recorded encoding scheme, could probably "record" or program a tune. ex:

http://www.google.com/webhp?tune=<encoded song here>

ex, do-re-mi from Sound of music

ex: chopsticks

seems to be a big hash w/note+duration encoded. Would hack on, but need sleep & moving to SF in a couple days. G'nite HN!

tzury 2 days ago 2 replies      
The problem with those amazing crafts is that they disappear the day later, and you cannot get a cached version of them.

at http://www.google.com/logos/index.html you only have a static version of it, (see Martha Graham's 117th Birthday for instance).

Dear googlers on HN, is there anything you guys can do about this?

irahul 2 days ago 2 replies      
Google is one of the few companies who would invest in this sort of PR.

It's good publicity for them and also an ultra creative way to garner people's curiosity and attention. It must have been a hell lot of work(unless I am missing something) but it's totally justified.

nostrademons 2 days ago 0 replies      
Best viewed with sound on.

Also, you can save and share your compositions. I'm not quite proficient with doodle-guitar, but here's a couple seconds of noodling around:


magicseth 2 days ago 0 replies      
Talk about attention to detail: if you have headphones you can tell that the audio shifts from left to right, based on where your mouse is. Try different spots on the long string in the middle for the best effect.
51Cards 2 days ago 0 replies      
Adding another comment after my one below. I couldn't get the record button (just a keyboard button) and thought it might be because I am in Canada. To test I remoted into our server in Texas and opened the doodle from there... presto, a record button... on IE7 no less. Looks like Google is distributing different versions by region. Why? No clue.

Edit: This works on my Nexus One! Now THAT is cool.

BSeward 2 days ago 0 replies      
It looks like Alexander Chen played a large role in this. He was responsible for the NYC MTA conductor piece that made the rounds earlier this year: http://blog.chenalexander.com/2011/conductor-mta/

Cool to see how this concept and code have evolved into something new.

forgingahead 2 days ago 2 replies      
La Vie En Rose: http://goo.gl/doodle/gSAz

It stops recording after a bit - I had the whole song too! Haha this is great

*Edit: Last part to complete the song, because it was bugging me: http://goo.gl/doodle/aEl1

And, quickie Imperial March: http://goo.gl/doodle/D6ce

JonathanStanton 2 days ago 1 reply      
tudorizer 2 days ago 1 reply      
Something is not ok for me. On all my browsers, I can play the chords and hear the sounds, but I can not playback the recodings you guys shared. What gives?
jabo 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, they've put in so much work just to amuse people! Saving the composition takes this doodle to whole new level. It should be interesting to see if the links to compositions remain valid after the doodle itself is taken down.
mumrah 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ironically, can't play the birthday song due to a lack of B-flat (could be played in G, but not enough notes)
Mz 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have zero musical ability and was playing with this anyway. I think it is one of the coolest google doodles ever. (Possibly THE coolest.)
lostbit 1 day ago 0 replies      
Today (1 dat after) the record/play button started to work for me. I guess they decided to make it available in other countries too. I finally could listen to your compositions.
sahillavingia 2 days ago 3 replies      
Here's my attempt at Mary Had A Little Lamb: http://goo.gl/doodle/1tEs
brown9-2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Creating these full-time must be an incredible blast:
tintin 2 days ago 1 reply      
Looks like they were inspired by this: http://www.mta.me/ already mentioned on HN
wayneyeager 2 days ago 0 replies      
My attempt at Dueling Banjos: http://goo.gl/doodle/gsW2
evanrmurphy 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Rolling in the Deep", by Adele http://goo.gl/doodle/DCvZJ
zarify 2 days ago 0 replies      
I have to be the only person who just didn't like this. Trying to get a class full of teenagers to work when everyone was busy playing the guitar was a headache :P

Beautiful and creative, sure, but having what's essentially persistent sound in a web page just rubs me the wrong way.

tricky 2 days ago 1 reply      
betageek 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very nice but very frustrating that you can almost play "Happy Birthday" except for 1 note missing!
moioci 1 day ago 0 replies      
akaak 2 days ago 0 replies      
Simply brilliant. I am sure this doodle going to bring some good bit of PR and non-google search users (if there are any) to the Google home. They are marketing/pr geniuses in using the tech. In hindsight, the doodle patent (http://mashable.com/2011/03/22/google-doodle-patent/) looks very useful
Alterlife 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm late to the party :) .

Labamba: http://goo.gl/doodle/JQgc

somedude1234abc 2 days ago 3 replies      
Is this made with javascript?
x-sam 2 days ago 0 replies      
Recording and replaying sounds works only for US IP addresses.
Also Firefox 3.5.8 doesn't work.
dsims 2 days ago 0 replies      
Mary Had a Little Lamb http://goo.gl/doodle/3aEE

Works on my Android phone too, even the keyboard (Motorola Droid).
Can't press the record button though.

davidcollantes 2 days ago 0 replies      
It wasn't making any sound for me, then I realized it needed Flash. Very nifty.
oomkiller 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is excellent! You can really easily play "Ode to Joy" with it.
Bogdanp 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is great. Too bad recording/playback doesn't work for people outside of the US.

Here's the intro to "Redemption song" since I can't record it: a sd a fhgd asdg dgdas.

malingo 2 days ago 0 replies      
Automated Chopsticks:
mbongiov 2 days ago 0 replies      
anony_moose16 2 days ago 0 replies      
kprobst 2 days ago 4 replies      
It works on Chrome but not on Firefox. Interesting.
cma 2 days ago 1 reply      
If Moe's can be successfully sued over using dead people's likenesses, how can Google get away with living people?

Do they have to get permission for each one?

Advanced Computer Science Courses the-paper-trail.org
251 points by helwr  3 days ago   42 comments top 12
Darmani 2 days ago 1 reply      
One course I've been going through lately is the MIT course on Abstract Interpretation ( http://web.mit.edu/16.399/www/ ). Programmers tend to break execution into "cases" to reason about it; e.g.: when writing a routine to reverse a string, you might think about the cases where the string is of even or odd length. Abstract Interpretation lets you capture this kind of reasoning precisely, and thereby automate it.
shii 2 days ago 1 reply      
This[1] is much more comprehensive and useful, imo. Compiled by the good folk from 4chan's /sci/ board.

[1]: https://sites.google.com/site/scienceandmathguide/

phaedon 2 days ago 0 replies      
MIT's OpenCourseWare is a fantastic project. It's been a while since I was involved with it, but I contacted them a few years ago and helped TeX up some of the notes (for Physics courses, not CS). Anyhow, if you feel inspired or just want to learn a subject even better by reading its notes carefully enough to typeset them, consider contacting OCW and asking if they've got anything available. It's a good experience and it's nice to think about how many people benefit from it.
bhickey 2 days ago 0 replies      
Optimization Algorithms for Planar Graphs: http://www.cs.brown.edu/courses/cs250/lectures/lectures.html
senorres 3 days ago 1 reply      
Why does a HS/freshman-level discrete math course count as "advanced"? Same with that undergrad algorithms course at UIUC (though it does have great lecture notes).
BIackSwan 2 days ago 0 replies      
I had taken Jon Kleinberg's CS 6850 " Structure of Information Networks. (http://www.cs.cornell.edu/courses/cs6850/2011sp/)

Really brilliant course and very pertinent to interpreting and making sense of today's connected world.

ankrgyl 2 days ago  replies      
I'll add a couple of courses I've really enjoyed at CMU (http://www.cs.cmu.edu):

15-410 Operating System Design and Implementation:

15-251 Great Theoretical Ideas in Computer Science (webpage might be out of date):

timtadh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Some of these courses look really interesting. Having just passed my Algorithms Qual it is interesting to see the different ranges of topics covered in equivalent courses.
hsmyers 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nice, but seems to me that a thorough study of Knuth V-1-4 plus computational Mathematics might be a better approach. Then cherry pick the offered list.
crasshopper 2 days ago 1 reply      
A list of links, any of which is easily googleable. Why do people upvote these so predictably?
pravinkenator 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the info ..!
ataranto 2 days ago 2 replies      
I'm confused, not a single one of these courses covers Ruby?
Evernote Peek, The First iPad Smart Cover App evernote.com
246 points by bjonathan  3 days ago   55 comments top 17
nooneelse 3 days ago 1 reply      
It looks cute, but for a flash card app other interaction methods are just as quick and easy, maybe more so. Now, if something like this could be used so that a person could see, for example, their next appointment by peeking, but fully opening the cover activated the iPad normally, that would be cool.
forensic 2 days ago 1 reply      
why is evernote diverging so far from their core product?

there are other flash card apps that already do this way better and i dont see evernote catching up anytime soon

the peek thing looks cool but it's not a useful gimmick because

1. you want the ability to use longer questions as well as images and video in your flashcards

2. you want to be able to move on to the next question quickly without the carpel-tunnel implications of physically unfolding this cover

3. proper flashcard learning requires more complex interaction than this. Each time a card is finished one needs to indicate how well they learned the card (among other things) In order to do this people would have to use 2 hands here.

The evernote marketing team is at the top of their game, as are the UI designers. But this is just brand cannibalization -- leveraging the evernote brand to get sales in an unrelated market with an inferior product based on a gimmick.

eggbrain 3 days ago 2 replies      
Very clever use of the smart cover, but in the end I don't feel many people will use it.

Its cleverness relies on having an iPad 2 and a smart-cover, which segments it. Then, from a usability standpoint, I feel it would be more annoying to continue to lift up a cover than to tap the screen to reveal the answer.

lazerwalker 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is nifty enough, but Evernote has so many problems with its client UI design that I hate to see them spending front-end engineer development time on side diversions like this. I recently let my Evernote Premium subscription lapse and migrated my notes to another system because I was so frustrated with the painful user experience across their various clients, despite their core product idea being so awesome and their syncing/OCR/backend services working well.
daimyoyo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Very creative. I really like this. Well played, sirs.
kinkora 3 days ago 0 replies      
While the use of app + smart cover is ingenious, what I am more excited about is that this opens to a possibility of a whole slew of "smart accessories" + apps that utilises the magnets on the iPad screen.

Which got me thinking...what sort of really clever apps/accessories can one make that utilises these magnets?

I.e. Perhaps a puzzle game that uses "magnetic chopsticks" to interact with it. Or maybe an organizer app with "magnetic labels" where when you cover different parts of the screen, it pulls up a different functionality.

dshep 3 days ago 0 replies      
Cute, but flipping the cover back and forth is kind of low-tech right? I think this is a better product: http://ankisrs.net/docs/AnkiMobile.html
janesvilleseo 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is a very clever idea. This 'tactic' could be used with a lot of different apps too, maybe even a notification bar?
flurie 3 days ago 1 reply      
It's an interesting use of the Smart Cover, but can it be a serious competitor to other flash card replacement apps since there's no easy way to report success or failure by lifting/replacing the cover?
togasystems 3 days ago 1 reply      
Curious, how do the capture the event of the cover lifting?
droz 3 days ago 3 replies      
This is such a great example of excess.

iPad 2: 500$+
Smart Cover: 40$
Evernote Peek: 0$.


Pack of index cards: 2$

pacifika 3 days ago 1 reply      
Please someone create a bluetooth poker app like this! It would be a very expensive round of poker but imagine people sitting around peeking at their cards via their ipad. Brilliant.
deltriggah 2 days ago 0 replies      
All the people bitching against it wished they thought it first. Its a clever and simple idea. Good work.
AustinEnigmatic 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ingenious I think! A fun way to learn!
samyzee 3 days ago 0 replies      
awesome guys...really innovative!
poloiio 3 days ago 0 replies      
upwards of 50 million in venture capital for 500k in paid users. icloud killed more than just a few yesterday.
tealtan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Apple copies rejected app theregister.co.uk
240 points by Gupie  2 days ago   68 comments top 17
bradleyland 2 days ago 2 replies      
Hrm. Dan Goodin. I recognize that name. This is the same author who published an article on The Register with the title "Skype bug gives attackers root access to Mac OS X", which was factually incorrect. He corrected the headline after much hoopla, but it strikes me that Mr. Goodin is a professional link-baiter.

The title has it backwards. Isn't WiFi sync a fairly obvious feature that Apple has likely had in the works for quite some time?

Based on what I've read, this sync app was only possible because of some low-level sync frameworks that were already present in iOS. The feature wasn't ready by Apple Standards, but Apple didn't want a poor implementation of what should be a system-level feature in the wild. One could argue that the rejection of his app was an act of protecting the user experience. This is something Apple does regularly. If you don't want the protection, you should head over to another platform.

Acting shocked at any of these facts just shows that you haven't been paying attention.

sambeau 2 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone here seriously believe that anyone in the Apple department responsible for Wifi Syncing will have ever seen this app and its icon?

Apple will have been working on Wifi syncing far longer ago than last May. I wouldn't be surprised if they had it working when they first launched the iPhone but held it back for other sensible reasons (not everyone had wifi, power usage, speed, reliability, no delta updates etc).

Like Authors are warned by their lawyers not to read or accept fan fiction, Apple's developers will be kept well away from reviewing of apps.

The concept is an obvious one; one that has had much discussion on the internet and on this site in particular.

The icon is the most obvious and clearest solution you can draw. I spend most of my day drawing icons and if you had asked me to create an icon for this I am 100% certain that I would have put a wifi logo into the middle of a sync logo. It is a completely obvious thing to do looking at the respective shapes and line thicknesses.

This is a non story.

pseudonym 2 days ago 4 replies      
I wish I was surprised, but this seems to happen with a lot of OS-extending apps on the iOS device. I've never heard of a game being banned from the app store, but as soon as it's something that Apple doesn't already have baked into the operating system...

It's been said before and it'll be said again: Playing in Apple's walled garden isn't a safe way to make a living.

alanh 2 days ago 1 reply      
1. The idea of wireless sync is so obvious that customers have been asking for it since, oh, half a decade ago when iPhone was introduced.

2. The icon, while similar in concept, is literally nothing more than Apple's standard “sync” icon plus Apple's standard AirPort (Wifi) icon.

3. (Bonus) After rejecting the app, which did perform activities not allowed in the SDK, Apple expressed interest in hiring the kid anyway.

Manufactured controversy. Snore.

yardie 2 days ago 1 reply      
I tried this app in the past. It was very....slow.

Which is why I think Apple rejected it. Their syncing protocol, even over USB, was painfully slow. Over wifi it was dreadful. Apple has a, "do it right or don't do it at all", philosophy.

They seemed to have fixed USB syncing in 4.3 because it takes me less time than before. I'm fairly confident that if he submitted his app after 4.3 was released it probably would have passed, but now that iOS 5 is on the horizon and contains the same functionality it has made his app irrelevant.

peteretep 2 days ago 3 replies      
So to get this straight: the guy who took Apple's icon for syncing and added a wifi symbol thinks Apple ripped him off taking their icon for syncing and adding a wifi symbol? Who'd a thunk.
tobiasbischoff 2 days ago 1 reply      
Easily the greatest bullshit i've ever read. This cydia tool was just a hack that activated functions already in place in iTunes and iOS. Just have a look at the 1st gen Apple TV wich had wireless syncing to iTunes since 2006.

I guess they considered it to slow and unreliable in the past to activate it for the iPhone, maybe the iCloud concept, faster processors and wireless networks led to their decision activate it in iOS5.

blownd 2 days ago 1 reply      
Ludicrous link bait headline and tabloid trash article from The Register.

Apple didn't copy the app, it sound like they were maintaining control of their interests; no one should be surprised by that given Apple's track record.

That's not to say Apple haven't copied others apps, they've positively trampled on a slew of third party apps with enhancements in Lion and IOS 5, but that's all part of the game at this point.

xedarius 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the more interesting story is quite how much money you can make via the jail-broken phone market place.
nphase 2 days ago 0 replies      
This seems silly to me. Apple knows its own product roadmap, so why wouldnt they reject an app that implements a half-baked version of a product line they're releasing themselves?
bengl3rt 2 days ago 1 reply      
Happened to me as well... over a year, when iAd first came out, a friend and I built an iAd gallery app. Rejected.

A few months ago I saw on Techcrunch that Apple had released their own iAd gallery that looked practically identical. Oh well.

shinratdr 2 days ago 0 replies      
As a purchaser of Wi-Fi Sync, fuck him. He's an extremely unprofessional developer who provides terrible customer service. Don't buy his app, even at $2.99.

He dropped off the map after promising a Windows beta for WiFi Sync 2, he won't refund purchases for any reason, and he used misleading language that he refuses to own up to when promising sync over 3G.

Apple's implementation will be way better anyways. It's already much faster and it syncs in the background over USB.

nhannah 2 days ago 0 replies      
Apple is setting themselves up for a Microsoft style lawsuit in the future. Everyone here seems very defensive of apple, and while I think a review policy does help a lot at keeping bad apps out, a move like this could easily be brought to court with a huge settlement having to come from apple. Actually trying to hire the guy could look pretty bad on them as it could be construed as trying to avoid a possible suit.
Osiris 2 days ago 0 replies      
In cases like this, do developers have any legal grounds to sue? Would the developer had to have patented some of the technology to gain a legal basis for a suit? If Apple can claim it was a clean-room implementation copying the same functionality, I assume he's just out of luck?
scelerat 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not saying Apple didn't blatantly rip off this guy's work. But. I'm having a hard time believing someone at Apple saw this submitted to the App Store in May and rushed to get it into the iOS 5 spec a month (or less) later. More likely the app was rejected because the feature was already planned. The rejection response was a cover lie.
dbaugh 2 days ago 0 replies      
There is nothing like free contract work. This is no different than the way Microsoft treated developers before the anti-trust hammer was brought down upon them.
allan_ 2 days ago 0 replies      
gaahh, all this apple shit, so 2009
Amazon ‘willing to be misunderstood for very long periods of time' geekwire.com
240 points by gspyrou  4 days ago   27 comments top 9
ChuckFrank 4 days ago 3 replies      
Why is Bezo able to take risks into new territories? Because "we can analyze quantitatively rather than to have to make intuitive judgments." What's so great about this type of business model is that it does not rely on luck throughout the process. It only relies on luck at the front end of the risks, minimizing the risk throughout the enterprise. Bezo is the current king of data driven decisions, and I think that over time it's enabled Amazon to not only pass it's many competitors (buy.com / half.com / yahoo.com / google products etc.) but also quickly overcome dis-advantages. Compared to the amazing roll of luck, insight, cunning, and high risks / high rewards culture of Apple, Amazon is really the company to emulate. Without Jobs, can Apply keep it's streak alive? No one is certain. It sometimes feels that with each not product Apple is betting the company. That's certainly what people were saying about the ipad. And that's what makes watching Apple so thrilling. Without Bezos, Amazon appears to be poised to continue it's great leadership. Watching Amazon might not be as thrilling, but the details are simply spectacular. While Jobs may get the accolades, I think think that Bezos deserves the crown.
stevenj 4 days ago 2 replies      
I find the product development strategies of the major technology companies quite interesting. I'm talking about Eric Schmidt's "Gang of Four". [1]

On the one hand you have Apple. Apple innovates as good as, and perhaps better than the other three. But it doesn't have very many products. And while I have no knowledge of this, I'd bet it doesn't start-and-stop products as frequently as the others. And it probably doesn't have as many "active" products going on at any one time. (Maybe it does behind the scenes, but I would be surprised if it did.)

It may take some iteration and prototyping to see that you could actually turn an iPhone into a tablet.

But I'm pretty sure Jobs "saw" the tablet long ago. In his mind, it was just a matter of when.

In the case of Apple, I see experimentation occurring as a result of the vision laid out by Jobs and other senior executives.

When it comes to the others, Amazon, Facebook, and Google all seem to implement the "fail fast" strategy. In this case, experimentation leads to vision. Instead of vision leading to experimentation.

What's interesting is that Apple used to be more like the others. It had many products and segments. And very little vision. But that strategy brought it close to death. [2]

Discovery is important to all of them. But the journey seems to be different.

[1] http://allthingsd.com/20110531/eric-schmidts-gang-of-four-do...

[2] I could see why Apple sets vision first because designing and developing physical products is different than organizing information and logistics.

mrschwabe 4 days ago 1 reply      
You have to admire Bezo's approach to new ideas...

"On the day you decide to give up on it (hypothetical idea), what happens? Your operating margins go up because you stopped investing in something that wasn't working. Is that really such a bad day?"

nathanb 4 days ago 1 reply      
> I can guarantee you that everything we do will not work

I suspect he means "not everything we do will work". Either that or he's hinting that it's time to sell AMZN.

tomkarlo 4 days ago 0 replies      
"By the time you are betting the company, it means you haven't invented for too long."

See: Windows 8?

rmason 4 days ago 2 replies      
What I was literally struck by was the fact Bezos seemed to echoing the book, Little bets how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries. I've stated before that I believe that is directly related to the concept of lean startups http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2475535
lwhi 4 days ago 1 reply      
Really great advice - I find it refreshing to read this kind of candid, straightforward talk.
forgingahead 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a great quote on vision and execution: "We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details"

That "Why We Do This" doesn't change (and hence it's important to have the Why instead of 'here are X cool features') but the execution can differ. Great stuff from a great business leader.

jackpine 3 days ago 0 replies      
I love the bit about making a lot of small bets early. You can always count on Bezos to drop some knowledge.
Hello Backbone.js - A step-by-step tutorial github.com
238 points by arturadib  4 days ago   47 comments top 13
arturadib 4 days ago 2 replies      
Feedback and contributions are always welcome. Feel free to fork it and send pull requests.
oscilloscope 4 days ago 2 replies      
This is exactly what it feels like to build Backbone interfaces!

Definitely would give someone a leg up learning for the first time, compared to the Todos app. Plus it doesn't have anti-patterns like `this.model.view = this`, a line which Yehuda Katz actually mocked at a recent SproutCore meetup.

huetsch 4 days ago 5 replies      
This is my first exposure to Backbone (aside from hearing DHH recommend it at RailsConf). It looks like it helps formalize a lot of what I'd already come to realize was a good way of doing large JS apps - MVC design.

However, I've found one of the most painful things I have to do when doing a lot of JS is dealing with HTML as a string. Escaping quotes is a pain in the neck, syntax highlighting is broken in my editors. The HTML here is pretty simple so it's not problematic, but sometimes you need to render larger, more complex blocks of HTML. HTML is just not as easy to work with in JS when you compare it to the templating systems provided by Rails, Pylons, etc. Does Backbone have anything to help this?

lapusta 4 days ago 0 replies      
There is a shortcut for finding items in current view: "$('ul', this.el)" - this.$('ul')
p0larboy 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good job arturadib... Most programmers(or rather lesser programmer like me) tend to walk away from teaching once they had grasped the new lanaguage.. I managed to struggled through Backbone for the last few days and I'm beginning to see the light of it.. Will try to come up with a tutorial if I find the time!
edw 4 days ago 2 replies      
This tutorial fails one of the basic tests of a good introduction as put forth by the recent article in Dr Dobb's (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2607303): it provides no motivation. What is Backbone.js good for? A basic tutorial might want to explain _why_ I should take the time to engage with it.
ryeguy 4 days ago 2 replies      
Don't forget about spine.js: http://maccman.github.com/spine/

It's essentially a fixed version of Backbone. It gets rid of the psuedo getters (you can do model.attribute instead of model.{set|get}('attribute')). It gets rid of "collections", and just adds them as class methods on the model.

It just makes more sense. It's getting a bigger following, and I hope it can reach the mass of backbone someday.

sujithrs 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nice tutorial!

I see few people asking about templates with backbone. I have been there few days back and have ported the TODO app to run on Rails 3.1 with view templates (using coffeescript ofcourse!)



theitgirl 4 days ago 2 replies      
Awesome tutorial. I have been experimenting with Backbone for a few weeks now. I did not understand the point of _.bindAll(this, ..) in initialize till now :)

It would help if the sections of code that you add in each step were highlighted somehow. I definitely like the step-by-step approach.

lamnk 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm learning Javascript and wish there are some Javascript tutorials like this somewhere :(
thomasdavis 4 days ago 0 replies      
I don't even know whats happening.


samdelagarza 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a nice tutorial, thanks @arturadib. btw, backbone.js has an unofficial google group at: http://groups.google.com/group/backbonejs
JGuo 4 days ago 0 replies      
I had made plans to learn backbone.js today. I checked out HN this morning and voila there's a fresh tutorial posted :) Thanks so much!
Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make with Stock Options gigaom.com
232 points by DanielRibeiro  6 days ago   61 comments top 16
grellas 5 days ago 4 replies      
Very nice piece.

A few technical points on tax (of course, check with your professional advisor for any real-world case):

1. IRC 83(a) sets the baseline: you are taxed on the value of property (stock) received in exchange for services as ordinary income. IRC 83(b) says that you do not receive such property immediately if it is subject to a "substantial risk of forfeiture" and that you will be taxed on it only when the forfeiture risk lapses and you truly own it. Thus, with restricted stock, you are subject to tax at ordinary income rates on the difference between what you paid for it and what its value is at each vesting point. If your 1M shares vest at 1/48th per month over 4 years, and you paid $.001/sh, you would have to pay tax on the "spread' at each vesting point as long as the price exceeded $.001/sh at that point. This theoretically could mean that you have as many as 48 taxable events during the 4-year period of vesting. All of this, of course, is done away with if you file a timely 83(b) election. In that case, you normally pay no tax up front and you pay only capital-gains tax on the stock as you later sell it. This is the optimum tax treatment for most startups but is normally made available only to founders.

2. Now what about options. The default rule here concerns so-called "non-qualified" options (NQOs, sometimes called NSOs as well, for "non-statutory options"). The substantive law rules relating to such options are the same as any other options and they are "non-qualified" only in the sense that they don't qualify for the special tax advantage of "incentive stock options" or ISOs, which are special types of options that get special tax advantages. To understand ISOs, you need to understand how all options are taxed apart from any special tax-advantaged rules.

3. With NQOs, you get a right to buy company stock at a fixed strike price exercisable as your options vest over a prescribed period. If your strike price is $.001/sh, and you exercise 1M options, you pay $1,000 to get 1M shares of stock. If the fair market value of that stock is $.001/sh at the time you exercise, you pay $1,000 for stock worth $1,000 and you realize no taxable income. If, however, the fair value of the stock is worth more (let us say, $.20/sh) and you exercise your first increment of (say) 250K shares at year one of vesting on a 4-year plan, then you realize $49,750 worth of taxable income upon your exercise. This is taxed at ordinary income tax rates and the amount is factored into your employment income so that you effectively pay all normal employment taxes on it as well (social security, etc.). Hence, with NQOs, you pay tax on the "spread" at ordinary income tax rates upon each exercise. When the transaction is done, you very likely will hold illiquid stock, you will have no cash from the transaction with which to pay the tax, and you are generally in a highly disadvantageous tax position. Once you make the exercise, any later appreciation on it is not taxed until you sell it and, at that time, you will be taxed on that subsequent appreciation at capital gains rates.

4. With ISOs, when you exercise your options, you are not subject to an immediate tax based on ordinary income tax rates and this is the special tax advantage that ISOs have. The idea is that, with these tax-advantaged options, employees should feel free to buy their shares by exercising their options whenever they like (once they have vested) and will only be subject to tax at the time they ultimately sell the shares. Having exercised and bought the shares, your holding period begins to run and, if you hold them for the prescribed period (which, in the case of ISOs, is 2 years), you pay LTCG rates - all in all, a huge advantage over the NQO tax treatment. But there is a clinker with ISOs and this is the AMT, or alternative minimum tax. With an ISO exercise, the spread amount is includable in your income for purposes of calculating your AMT and, therefore, even though you may not have to pay tax at ordinary income tax rates on the value of the spread, you may wind up paying a substantial tax under the alternative measure applied by U.S. tax laws. This means that, in a high-value company, you definitely need to check with your tax advisor to determine your tax hit prior to doing such an exercise.

5. ISOs granted with an early-exercise privilege (as noted in this piece) are taxed substantially the same as restricted stock and this is a huge advantage. However, startups do not normally offer this privilege for various reasons (mainly because it is a mistake to make large numbers of employees instant shareholders) and so it is not really a practical answer to most such situations.

6. Thus, restricted stock is near-ideal from a tax standpoint, avoiding most tax risks and positioning your holdings for LTCG treatment, but is normally granted only to a very few people (mostly founders). ISOs avoid ordinary income but may subject you to an AMT tax hit - in addition, they can be used only with employees. NQOs are least favorable, subjecting you to an ordinary income tax hit on any spread as of the date of exercise, but these are valuable for their flexibility (they can be used for contractors, directors, and others besides employees).

tptacek 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is good stuff, but I want to chime in with a warning.

The major thrust of this piece is that you should exercise your options as soon as you can to start the tax clock ticking on them. That's true, as far as tax optimization goes.

However, doing that costs money. You have to pay for the stock. Once you do that, you probably can't just get the money back.

Be sure you really trust the company if you do this; in fact, not just the company, but also the board. I have friends who bought shares in companies that wiped out the common stock in acquisitions and did retention grants to keep current employees. Anybody who had left got shafted, even though they had put their own money into the company.

(Full disclosure: I decided not to put my own money into shares of the last company I worked for, and that cost me a fair bit of money when they were acquired. I don't really regret the decision, though; I had a choice between investing in the company I was leaving and the company I was starting.)

Matt_Cutts 5 days ago 0 replies      
Great article. If you start or join a startup, you really need to educate yourself on this topic. When I started at Google, I bought a book called Consider Your Options: http://www.fairmark.com/books/consider.htm It's quite good.

I also have a copy of Piaw Na's book: http://books.piaw.net/guide/index.html An Engineer's Guide to Silicon Valley Startups) but I have to admit that I haven't read it yet because most of my finances are in order at this point.

gfodor 6 days ago 1 reply      
This is all 100% on the money and incredibly important. I'm actually kind of surprised in retrospect that something like this post has never come across my radar on HN before, as the tax implications of exercising stock options in the U.S. has a few common pitfalls that can make the difference between a windfall, a modest return, or bankruptcy, depending on when and how you exercise and if you remember to file your 83(b) at the appropriate time.
ScottBurson 6 days ago 5 replies      
We've got to get this AMT thing fixed; it's nuts that people owe taxes on money they never had. At the very least, when the stock in such a situation actually becomes worthless, one should be able to file a 1040X for the year in which the AMT was triggered, erasing the excess tax bill and turning any excess tax paid into a credit.

I can see wanting to tax people on paper gains as a way of closing loopholes -- but if the paper gain evaporates we should let them off the hook.

herdrick 6 days ago 1 reply      
Very good post, aside from this: "So if you join a startup and don't exercise, you should probably try to stick it through to an exit." No. If you're thinking of quitting, presumably an exit which will make you rich is not imminent. Hanging on to a job when you have better alternatives elsewhere so as not to lose the possible value of your options usually is a tragic case of the 'endowment effect' bias in action.
btilly 5 days ago 1 reply      
Forward exercising seems to me to be a horrible idea.

When you forward exercise, you're putting all of your financial eggs in one basket. This is the best way to get majorly rich in a hurry. It is also a good way to lose your shirt.

A large fraction of your income is already tied up with the success of the company. Standard financial advice is to seek to diversify at every opportunity.

msort 5 days ago 0 replies      
Great writing.

One issue with "Forward exercise" tough: by forward-exercising and converting to "Restricted Stock Unit", you avoid the high tax risk, but you also need to pay a substantial amount of cash in advance and bet on the future value of the company. Let's say you get $10k options at strike price $20, you basically need to pay $200K in advance to forward exercise. If the company dies in the future without anexit, you basically lose your $200k.

So perhaps the best strategy is to:
1) Forward exercise in several batches as you are gaining confidence of the company (but before the world has much confidence of the company...yet), and try to exercise before the next valuation increase.

2) Delay exercise as late as possible (closer to exit or IPO). But this usually works only if you join a late-stage startup, whose fate is more predictable.

If you are a startup, try issue Restricted Stock Units, rather than Stock Options to poor and hard-working employees. That will make your company more employee-friendly.

If you are looking for a startup to join, prefer those who issue Stock Units (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, which are not necessarily startups anymore though).

lpolovets 5 days ago 0 replies      
Does anyone happen to know the tax consequences of forgetting the 83b?

For example:
Jan 1, 2000: it's day 1 of a new job and you forward exercise 100k options at $.01/option (total price = $1000). You forget the 83(b) form.

Jan 1, 2004: you quit on your 4 year anniversary, and the (still private) stock you own is now worth $1/share, which means the FMV of your stock is $100k.

Jan 1, 2009: your company IPOs at $10/share, so the FMV of your stock is now $1 million.

What is your tax status? Do you pay capital gains on $1 million - $1k? Capital gains on $1 million - $100k and AMT on $100k - 1k? Something else?

jsherry 5 days ago 1 reply      
From my understanding (disclaimer: I'm neither a lawyer nor an accountant, but I have been thoroughly advised by both on the topic), there is an important distinction between ISOs (Incentive Stock Options) and NSOs (Nonqualified Stock Options) when it comes to tax implications for the employee.

First, ISOs are not taxed at the time of grant or exercise. Instead, they are taxed when the stock is sold. NSOs, on the other hand, are taxed immediately upon exercise on the difference in value between the fair market value of the stock and your exercise price.

Second, ISOs are eligible for long-term capital gains treatment so long as the employee holds the stock for at least two years before selling. NSOs are always taxed as income.

From the employer perspective, there are implications as well, but I'm less versed on that side of things. It has something to do with tax deductions for the business when issuing NSOs that are not received when issuing ISOs.

For more info on this topic, here are a couple of links, but I'd of course recommend talking to a lawyer or accountant if you're serious about the topic:




kirubakaran 5 days ago 0 replies      
Can you please give a non-scribd direct link to the embedded pdf?

Edit: Never mind, found it from an earlier post http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2574323 [thanks to http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2623292]

dweekly 6 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks for linking to this. The Guide embedded at the bottom has been on Hacker News, discussion at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2573970 - happy to hear your feedback on this!
caf 5 days ago 2 replies      
In section 4:

The next day, you forward-exercise your four-year option package and quit. The company will simply buy back all of your restricted stock, and you'll end up with nothing.

Isn't it likely that the company will actually leave you with your Restricted Stock until just before the vesting date, then buy it back (unless the company has completely tanked in the meantime, in which case they'll be happy to leave you with your worthless stock)?

X-Istence 5 days ago 0 replies      
I've got certain stock options as an employee incentive program, how do those compare? What is a strike price? What is an exercise price? They vested immediately and I can technically exercise them today does that mean anything for me?

As someone that is new to this (at age 23) some non-professional guidance would be helpful. I understand that a good CPA would be much better at advising me in my situation, but I really don't have the money for that (student loans are KILLING me).

cpg 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is nice. One thing I did to really learn assimilate all this was code it all in a big excel spreadsheet with all the meaningful scenarios I could think of for me and for the company.

It really gave me a great overview and helped me make a more clear decision to leave and start my own company.

dannylipsitz 5 days ago 0 replies      
But in most cases, common stock can only be sold if and when an IPO takes place. VC investors won't want common stock, thus the employee must sell on a secondary market, back to the company, or patiently wait for an IPO. The first two options usually feature inherently dubious pricing due to reduced liquidity. Are there any other possibilities?
The Go Programming Language, or: Why all C-like languages except one suck. syntax-k.de
230 points by jemeshsu  3 days ago   88 comments top 23
andolanra 3 days ago 5 replies      
Considering only pure language design, I have to say that I'd prefer D to Go. A lot of people who talk about Go use some variation on the phrase "small sets of orthogonal features""a phrase I feel applies to Go only by comparison with, say, C++"and D doesn't succeed in that regard, but I feel like D really fits a lot of the points on the wish-list much more closely (e.g. template metaprogramming, data structures, objects, &c. D's compile-time constructs are incredibly useful without the nastiness of the C preprocessor or C++'s templates.) One thing which draws me to D is the "you can, but you don't have to" attitude it takes towards certain features"for example, there is GC by default, but you can stop using it and do manual memory management if you feel like it's important.

The problem here, and the massive, massive thing keeping me from throwing my full recommendation behind it, is that D fails entirely on #7, because the community is small and so even installing libraries by hand can be tedious. I keep wanting to pull out D for personal projects, but then I come across some obscure, poorly-documented library with few/no alternatives, and after trying to build it for three hours, I give up and switch to something else. Recently, 'something else' has in fact been Go. I still feel like, in an ideal universe, I'd rather program in D than Go, but we do not live in an ideal universe, and of those two, Go is the practical choice. (And, despite my frustrations with Go, it is still better by leaps and bounds than Java and C++.)

Also, quick correction: any dynamic language worth its salt does the same short-circut evaluation with and and or, including Python, Ruby, Scheme, and Common Lisp, so they all have the property ascribed in this writeup to only JS and Perl. In Python, you can change whether instances of a class are 'true' or 'false' values by overloading the __nonzero__ method, which means e.g. empty user-defined data structures could be considered 'false' while non-empty ones could be 'true.' On the other hand, Ruby considers only false and nil to be false values, Scheme considers only #f to be a false value, and Common Lisp considers only nil to be a false value. Aside from individual quibbles about which values are true and false, all of these languages implement an or that returns the first true value it finds, and all of them implement an and that returns the first false value it finds.

EDIT: Lua also allows the short-circuit boolean operators to return values. The only widely-known dynamic language off the top of my head that doesn't do this is Smalltalk. This would be complicated to add to a type system, for relatively little gain, so as far as I know, no typed language allows it.

mycroftiv 3 days ago 2 replies      
This is a great article, although of course there are a few things to quibble about. One that stuck out to me was this: "One of the inventors is Ken Thompson of Unix and Plan9 fame, and he was indirectly involved with C as well."

I'd have to say that Ken Thompson was directly involved with C, not just indirectly!

shin_lao 3 days ago 3 replies      
Too bad the points raised about C++ aren't valid. Ok, I admit, I get easily upset by language bashing (C++ or another).

The problem is that when you notice something inaccurate in a document, you have the tendency to ignore the rest...

It is a superior alternative for classic application development, and some nice slim and full-featured GUI toolkits use its qualities well.

I would say C++ is the way to go for servers, not really GUI. As much as I love C++ I wouldn't recommend using it for writing a GUI.

dynamic_cast<MyData>(funky_iterator<MyData &const>(foo::iterator_type<MyData>(obj))

I get it's a joke, but it would be a better joke if it was actually valid C++ or close to something you would actually write.

contemporary C++ using STL looks like a classic case of the "If all you have is a hammer"-syndrome

I don't understand what it means. The STL is a very powerful tool to implement complex data processing and work on structure. Is this another case of someone using the containers without using the algorithm's functions?

johnfn 3 days ago 2 replies      
> So while C may be as lightweight as it can get, it's not really suitable for projects with more than 10k LOC.

What about the linux kernel? Or GCC? Both projects are on the order of millions of lines of code. The author's claim is simply not true.

parenthesis 3 days ago 1 reply      
C is a C-like language.
C++, being a superset of a language very similar to C, is a C-like language.
Objective-C, as a superset of C, is a C-like language.

But Java? and Javascript? They both have C-style syntax, but apart from that they are both very different from C (and from each other).

Please don't say `C-like' when mere `C-style syntax' is meant. (And please don't think that having similar syntax implies any other close similarity between languages.)

BarkMore 3 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a thread with comments by Russ Cox about the article: https://groups.google.com/d/topic/golang-nuts/bg7U2tD04Fw/di...
zvrba 3 days ago 1 reply      
Go is NOT C-like. The same semantics could have been achieved by making minimal changes to the existing C syntax. For me, Go seems to be suffering from the NIH syndrome -- they made many syntax and cosmetic changes to C just for the sake of change itself. (Using {} for compound statements is not enough to qualify the language as 'c-like'.)

I have no doubts that Go authors think that their syntax is superior, but they'll have a hard time convincing me that

  switch nr, er := f.Read(buf[:]); true {

is understandable (snippet taken from Go tutorial).

fauigerzigerk 3 days ago 0 replies      
Python does foo if bar else baz, which is a little more verbose but still okay. JS and Perl, however, rock with their boolean operators AND and OR not just evaluating to true and false, but to the actual value that was considered true.

Python does that as well:

  0 or False or 'Python rocks' or [] == 'Python rocks'

latch 3 days ago 1 reply      
I crossed a point in my life, I'm not sure exactly when, where reading c-style code is just difficult for me. I see something like (from a Google sample):

   func (f Draft75Handler) ServeHTTP(w http.ResponseWriter, req *http.Request)

and at first I have an actual hard time parsing it, and then I think, why can't this just be

   Draft75Handler.ServeHTTP(writer, request)

I partially regret this loss and partially rejoice in it. I'm sure it'd just take a bit of practice to pick it up again.

Edit: I know why it can't look like that (because it can't be dynamic), but its still what crosses my mind.

dkarl 3 days ago 2 replies      
I was disappointed not to see RAII on his list. I'd gladly leave C++ behind if I could keep my RAII and the well-designed STL (a great idea and implementation which is unfortunately uglified by C++-imposed verbosity.) Actually, I'd happily leave even the STL behind, but I always miss RAII.

Rust supports RAII, but it might be premature to include Rust in this kind of comparison.

stephen_g 3 days ago 1 reply      
This seems like a fairly poor article overall... His point about GTK is nonsensical - C is a very good language to use because it means that bindings can be made for pretty much any language any language - which is why you can use GTK in any language from C++, to Python, to C# and Java, PHP, Javascript and so on... And C is used on thousands of projects more than 10K LOC, so I don't see how it's 'not suitable'...
KirinDave 3 days ago 0 replies      
I generally liked this review, but I really had a hard time choking down the sections on Concurrency (which was"charitably"poorly written and confusing) and OO (which classically mis-defines OO).

It makes me wonder, why is concurrency really that much of a black art in 2011? I still see people confuse parallelism and concurrency and just the other day an article got upvoted here describing why JavaScript programmers don't need to learn about concurrency; as if the continuation-passing callback style of JavaScript isn't a concurrency technique.

Johngibb 3 days ago 3 replies      
I'm wondering why they don't mention C#? Is mono non-viable at this point, and he's only considering truly open source languages?
zitterbewegung 3 days ago 1 reply      
C isn't suitable for projects with more than 10k LOC? Ever hear about the linux kernel? Or even libc?
natesm 3 days ago 1 reply      
The author says that he doesn't particularly care about speed if development is nicer, but it's good to know anyways:


sigzero 3 days ago 3 replies      
What the Go folks are trying to do is get traction. Without traction the Go language won't be the "next big thing". So I expect we will see a lot of these "types" of articles coming out.
p0nce 3 days ago 0 replies      
> Well, actually there are semicolons, but they are discouraged. It works like JavaScript, there is a simple rule that makes the parser insert a semicolon at certain line ends.

I find it ironic that this "feature" is #1 in the list.

itsnotvalid 3 days ago 0 replies      
I thought the ideal language he was talking about is Haskell.
jannes 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm not a C++ programmer. Does anyone know how C++0x is coming along? Does it address some of his issues with C-like languages?
daitangio 3 days ago 0 replies      
Some objections are questionable.
The writer regret ObjectiveC for the lack of a GC. Then blames Java for its size.
Then he exalts GO for the GC.
You can find disavantages in every programming language, but are the advantages which drive the choice.

You can also squeeze java a lot, running in less then 16MB.
So have I miss the point, or the writer is a GO-addicted?

silon 3 days ago 0 replies      
Ceylon looks to be much better C-like language than Go. Go simply has too divergent syntax.
briancray 3 days ago 0 replies      
I really like this comment regarding C-oid languages vs. scripting languages: "Premature optimization is usually not worth it."
jasonjackson 3 days ago 0 replies      
tdlr: C < Go < Lisp
How to replace 30 laptops (and $10,000) with 150 sheets of paper ruk.ca
230 points by alxp  1 day ago   89 comments top 16
chime 1 day ago 5 replies      
At my old programming job, people would come up to me all the time asking if I could write programs to automate business processes. One day someone called a meeting to discuss a new software system that would help prevent incorrect box labels from being stuck on finished goods. She explained that the problem was that label designs change frequently and sometimes older, expired labels get used instead of the new labels. Mistakes like that are expensive to rectify and though we have many failsafes in place (lot tracking with expiration, multiple QC inspection stages etc.), the only surefire way to prevent errors would be to compare the customer-approved "Master" label for each production job with one of the printed sticky labels before a job starts.

Her group's suggestion was that I build a simple system that maintains an electronic catalog of all the Master labels for all the production jobs, and before each job is run, a production employee would scan in a sample of the printed box labels. Then my system could do its magic and let the employee know if the Master label matches the printed label. If so, they can continue with production.

As I listened to their request, cogs were already starting to turn in my brain: CRUD system to manage Master labels, versioning for each label, preassigning Masters to specific jobs based on customer approval, scanning labels from the manufacturing area, graphical diff. with auto-orientation matching, and documenting/validating this entire system. Hmm. Let's see if there is an easier way.

Me: Why can't the production employees compare the labels by just looking at them?

Her: Because sometimes it's just a few sentences or design elements that change. It's easy to miss and has happened a few times.

Me: Who provides us the Master labels?

Her: The customer. And we make it a part of the production paperwork well-in-advance and get it approved by the customer so there is never a mixup on the Master itself.

Me: Sounds logical. How are the sticky labels printed?

Her: Depends. We may print them ourselves if it's just a few hundred or get them printed by label vendors for large quantities. We may reuse them in multiple jobs and so may warehouse them for future use.

Me: So before every production job, someone goes to the warehouse, looks for a stack of printed labels in the racks by Item# / Bin#, and brings them back to the production room?

Her: Yes. And that's when errors happen. They might bring back the wrong version of the label and not realize it. Or people in the previous shift might have returned unused labels into the wrong bin etc.

Me: OK. So just to recap, our production team can get the correct Master label every time because it is part of the paperwork already approved by the customer, but errors happen because there could be 10 very similar versions of the same label in the warehouse and the employee might pick the wrong one.

Her: Correct.

Me: One way to prevent such errors would be to add Version# to every lot of every label item we have in the warehouse and have the barcode scanners block movement of incorrect versions, however that requires a tremendous effort of data-entry, programming, and training.

Her: Absolutely. That's why we just want to compare the Master with the printed samples automatically.

Me: What size are these Master labels in?

Her: Centered on regular 8.5x11.

Me: And the printed labels are also centered on 8.5x11 and same size as the Master labels?

Her: Yes.

Me: What if the prodution employee photocopies the Master label to a transparency sheet and overlays it on the printed labels? I know we have copiers in the area.


everyone looks at each other and nods in agreement

Her: That'll work. Thanks everyone. Let's get some lunch.

F_J_H 1 day ago 4 replies      
Reminds me of this story:


A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timings so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time. Small variations in the environment (which can't be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down the supermarket don't get pissed off and buy someone else's product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project, in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem, as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra effort.

The project followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution " on time, on budget, high quality and everyone in the project had a great time. They solved the problem by using some high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box weighing less than it should. The line would stop, and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, pressing another button when done.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results! No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share. “That's some money well spent!” " he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out, the number of defects picked up by the scales was 0 after three weeks of production use. It should've been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren't picking up any defects, because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before it, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.
“Oh, that " one of the guys put it there 'cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang”, says one of the workers.

orangecat 1 day ago 2 replies      
The building I work in installed a kiosk as the office directory. Normally there's a screen saver running; after touching the screen you get a static list of the 10 business occupants and their floors. I'm not convinced this was the best use of resources.
T-hawk 1 day ago 7 replies      
The professor for my software engineering course in college posed a problem with a non-tech answer similarly.

You have a cabin in the woods, with electricity and a freezer. You go hunting and bag a deer with much more meat than can be used in one visit, so you freeze it for use on a future visit. But you want to know while you are away if the electricity fails for any length of time so that the meat may have thawed and spoiled.

After the class spent most of a period arguing over remote monitoring systems and temperature sensors and the like, the professor revealed the simple answer. Freeze a block of ice in the freezer and mark its height. If it is shorter when you return, the power was out so some of it melted.

ctdonath 1 day ago 0 replies      
Worth recalling "The Breakfast Food Cooker" http://www.ridgecrest.ca.us/~do_while/toaster.htm
jtchang 1 day ago 3 replies      
It's refreshing to see a non tech solution every now and then. As technologists we have to learn when and when not to apply technology solutions. This just happens to be one of those cases.
dhughes 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good idea, not everything has to use a computer just because we have them.

It's only 150 sheets of paper too it's not like it's reams of the stuff (it's just about 1/4 of a ream) otherwise people would be tempted to use a laptop to be 'green'.

Local guy makes it to HN. And I'll be voting in October.

mkramlich 1 day ago 4 replies      
paper & pencil can handle exceptional cases and ad hoc formats much better than software, that's for sure. one reason I still love notebooks like Moleskine, and blank scrap paper. Old tech: it's cheap and Just Works (tm).
lwhi 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Isn't this how most polls work?

At least, AFAIK, they work this way in the UK.

orofino 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting, reminds me of a practical exam we had in intro to programming class that was taught in Java. We were asked to implement a FIFO data structure class with methods push and pop (something along these lines).

We'd just learned about OO principles and extending classes the week before. After reading the task for the practical I nervously raised my hand, "Would it be acceptable to just extend array list and create methods just named as described but using the existing methods?" The teacher kind of looked at me blankly and said yes.

I was the first person finished, no one else apparently thought of that approach. I'm not a programmer, but given that we'd just discussed this days before it seemed like an obvious solution...

zwieback 1 day ago 0 replies      
Oregonian here - all our voting is by mail, no technology needed to route voters.
romaniv 1 day ago 0 replies      
This goes to show that a good designer or engineer is not just someone who "solves the problem", but someone who considers alternate solutions and solves the problem in the most efficient way that is practically feasible.

Unfortunately, it's often the case that no one thinks about it until the "default" way of solving the problem becomes pretty much impossible to use.

daedhel 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is true, unless the move to technology was a way to control the results of the poll...
chopsueyar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cannot wait for the IPO.
jcarreiro 1 day ago 1 reply      
Why not just have everyone vote on their iPhone?
Bud 1 day ago 0 replies      
Whoa. That paper stuff could really catch on! Perhaps someone could print a Bible on it.

(editing this comment after downvoting to add content, and my apologies for being sarcastic and content-free):
Effective data presentation, graphic design and such are technology. Showing all the data at once is often much more effective than hiding it in an invisible database.

I moved to Singapore sivers.org
230 points by sivers  6 days ago   230 comments top 41
kylec 6 days ago  replies      
I'm surprised at his choice of location - Singapore is quite a nanny state, and the punishments are sometimes quite severe.

"Singapore society is highly regulated through the criminalization of many activities which are considered as fairly harmless in other countries. These include failing to flush toilets after use, littering, jaywalking, the possession of pornography, and the sale of chewing gum."

"Singapore has one of the highest execution rates in the world relative to its population, surpassing Saudi Arabia."





cletus 6 days ago  replies      
I love Singapore, except for the climate, which is oppressive.

There is amazing hawker (street) food everywhere and, thanks for strict enforcement of health regulations, it's pretty cheap too. At least it was. It's been a few years since I was there.

I kinda view Singapore as the Zurich of Asia. Zurich (and Switzerland in general) is very regulated (although Singapore more than Zurich; there are no rules against chewing gum in Zurich). Both cities are clean, almost sterile, safe and they basically work (public transport and other infrastructure).

Some people chafe against what they feel is an intrusion. You see those same opinions about New York where I now live. Some feel that NYC has lost a lot of the "grit" or "character" that it once had (back when, you know, muggings were common). One wonders at the psychology of danger and character going hand in hand.

For those who think Singapore is overly-regulated, which it is, you have to remember that English-speaking countries are pretty much an outlier. In continental Europe there are rules about everything, from how to throw out the trash to have to register with the government every time you move and what kinds of window treatments you're allowed to use.

When I worked in Zurich a colleague once described it succinctly: in England (and, by extension, the US, Canada and Australia) you can do whatever you want except for those things that are banned. On the mainland (of Europe) you can't do anything unless it's specifically allowed.

While not true in the strictest sense, that delineation that is tantamount to blacklisting vs whitelisting does, at least in my experience, embody a lot of the cultural differences between English speaking and non English speaking developed nations.

That guy's wife is Finnish and she found it unnerving in England. She wanted that structure of essentially being told what to do and how to do it (within limits).

The only thing I don't really like about Singapore (apart from the weather)--and this is probably true of most Asian countries--is the importance of face time at work. You're expected to be at work a lot even if you're not doing anything. That whole "appearance of work" thing and regimented approach to work in general (ie being very much concerned with the process rather than the results) is something that I've always chafed against.

frossie 6 days ago 4 replies      
The whole stay-abroad until you see "their" point of view is admirable. The flip side is that after that, you can never really go home. I mean obviously you can physically, but you give up your ability to fit in with your own people. This may or may not be a downside for you, but something to be aware of.

Anyway, congratulations on your move.

[edit in response to questions below: there is a big difference between living abroad for a few months a year or a couple of years and doing what the OP is suggesting - living abroad for long enough that your adult life is permanently established abroad. There is a turning point (in my experience around 15 years) at which point you have lived away from your family and old friends (which is what I meant by own people) that your different experiences come to overshadow your old similarities, especially if there are significant cultural differences. For an academic example imagine a woman from Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed even to drive living and working in the US for 20 years integrated in normal US life. It is unlikely she can ever return home and slot back as if she has never left. Americans are not exempt from this phenomenon - as can be reported by expats living in Europe going home to visit their families and ending up in epic arguments over US foreign policy. I live surrounded by expats (not short term visitors) from many countries and they would all report various degrees of this. Basically, once you become a citizen of the world, any one country and culture can come to be seen as parochial).

jasonkester 6 days ago 0 replies      
"we took one carry-on bag each, and went around the world"

Reading that just makes me smile. Well done.

So many people say they want to do exactly that. So few do it.

Of the people who don't do it, so many regret not having done it. Of the people who have, I've never met a single one who regretted it.

I hope your story serves as inspiration for somebody here to pack that little carry-on and book himself a one-way flight.

brisance 6 days ago 0 replies      
Singapore isn't perfect, but no place is.

These are some issues that Singaporeans face:

1) Rising cost of living through inflation.
2) Expensive housing.
3) Lack of financial liquidity. Singaporeans are asset-rich but cash-poor.
4) Apathy amongst the populace about social issues, legal and political process although this is changing, albeit slowly.
5) An extremely ingrained and fearful sense of failure. If it's not been done before, the default answer is "No".

Some good things going for it:

1) Public infrastructure is generally good but facing challenges from an increasing migrant population.
2) Personal safety. Women can walk home alone at night and not be assaulted.
3) Racial harmony. You don't read about hate crimes, skinheads etc. Some forms of implicit racial profiling and discrimination exists, but they are not widespread. i.e. there are always assholes of any color.
4) Low personal income tax.

quant18 6 days ago 0 replies      
Congratulations on the move! Asia is a great place to be. And a great environment for doing business. I'm in Hong Kong --- in several cities around the region including here, SG, KL, and Jakarta I see lots of latent entrepreneurial energy starting to manifest itself.

One warning: since it seems you plan to majority-own some local startups I hope you have an excellent accountant to help you with Uncle Sam. (yep, Americans living overseas still have to file with the IRS. whole mess of complicated forms. can even end up having to pay tax on undistributed corporate profits if you're not careful ...)

jacques_chester 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've played footsie with moving to Singapore if I get a startup bubbling. Here's why:

* Low regulation

* Low company tax

* No income tax paid on dividends

* No capital gains

It's also a market capital for Asia. Singapore and Hong Kong are the New York and London of the Asia-Pacific region. Very deep pools of capital.

Plus it's 3.5 hours from my home town and about 5 hours from where my parents live.

bemmu 6 days ago 1 reply      
I would recommend against putting a scan of an identity card online.
david927 6 days ago 2 replies      
Whenever I go to a new place, it takes about a year to really understand the true "costs" of living there. (The benefits are usually obvious on the first day or two.)

I have a friend who lived in Singapore for many years. The biggest "cost" for her in living there was that it is not fully subscribed to the principals of the Enlightenment.

I know this is like saying, "Yes your new girlfriend is cute and smart, but you should know she's also occasionally batshit crazy." You won't believe me and you'll be more inclined to shoot the messenger, but I thought you should know.

nihilocrat 6 days ago 1 reply      
Do you learn the local language every place you live?

I would suppose that's a pretty herculean task unless you already know several fluently and spend a considerable amount of time daily studying and practicing.

tlrobinson 6 days ago 1 reply      
What's the cost of living for a foreigner in Singapore like? Obviously there can be a big range, but I'm curious what your experiences are?

More generally, is there some resource for comparing costs of living of various places?

ido 6 days ago 3 replies      

    Race: Caucasian

Maybe it's cultural bias, but I was really surprised they'd list something like that on an ID card!

matimateo 6 days ago 0 replies      
First post here - long time lurker.
I was transferred to Singapore for work from Tokyo. Here are my impressions.
-housing is extremely expensive, food is generally cheap, air quality is nice

-streets are not as clean as expected, especially compared to Tokyo, which is a much larger city. I lived in Chinatown in the People's Park Complex with 6 mainland Chinese (I'm American), which was an interesting experience.

-the expat community is dominated by the finance community, which can tend to limit the crowds you will run with if you're not in with the locals. I tried to befriend the locals, with limited success.

-it doesn't feel like the police state it's made out to be, don't worry about being arrested for chewing gum (I saw some T-shirts with a "Legalize It" theme referring to gum).

Overall, Singapore seemed sterile to me. That was part my reason for quitting my job and moving back to Tokyo in April. I like Singapore, but not my cup of tea. Maybe that's just because I'm a huge fan of Japan.

chailatte 6 days ago 0 replies      
Strange, considering Singapore is a pretty musically desolate place. Then again, Imogen Heap was just there, so I guess you'll get the occasional rain.

Try restaurant andre.

bina 6 days ago 2 replies      
Congrats Derek.

This favors a trend I've noticed. White men moving to Asia or marrying/dating Asian women. It seems like half or more of the engineers I work with are married to Asian women, which is how I noticed this (I am also). It's an interesting trend. It's increasingly harder to find a white woman who will marry and have kids, let alone even talk to a man with geeky characteristics. Combine that with the lack of white women in science and engineering degrees...

cageface 6 days ago 2 replies      
Singapore seemed a little to squeaky-clean and expensive, so I did the same thing, but in Vietnam instead. Internet infrastructure here isn't great but other than that I haven't regretted it for a second. The U.S. and Europe just seem so boring now when I go back.
louislouis 6 days ago 1 reply      
Did you ever consider Hong Kong as one of your possible locations to migrate to? And what made you decide against it?
sidwyn 6 days ago 0 replies      
I grew up and lived in Singapore all my life, and am glad to hear you moved over!

One thing to note though, you should remove your Identity Card No. from your blog post. They can be used illegally and is best kept private.

Have dropped you a mail, let's meet up sometime!

lzy 6 days ago 2 replies      
While Sivers is obviously an awesome guy, why is this post about him moving to Singapore hitting the frontpage?

Just curious.

(Congrats on becoming a Singapore citizen btw!)

noelsequeira 6 days ago 0 replies      
Here's wishing you all the best on this latest leg of a journey we've so enjoyed reading about.

Singapore is 3 hours from India

You must visit way more often - you now have no excuse not to.

iantimothy 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hello from Singapore! And welcome to the family. Hope to meet you at echelon2011.
whow 6 days ago 0 replies      
Singapore reminds me of Apple.

A very focus country on being the most successful country in SEA and it's built on the vision of one man, LKY. However I do fear the day LKY pass and the government is lost.

sashthebash 5 days ago 0 replies      
"She can do this from anywhere"... that's often the problem.

I can work from anywhere and I'm currently single, so I'm traveling the world and living in different places (currently Buenos Aires), but a partner would make this much harder as they are usually not as flexible.

Startup idea: Have a dating site for location-independent individuals, I'll be your first customer :).

nikcub 6 days ago 0 replies      

you should totally blur your national ID number, though

and I had no idea they do the old 'race on national ID' thing

fookyong 6 days ago 0 replies      
I just moved to Singapore too! (been here one month exactly now).

It's ace. I'm loving it.

yzhengyu 6 days ago 0 replies      
Welcome to Singapore! I'm a native and I am glad you are enamored of our little island so much so you applied for permanent residency. :)

On the flip side, if you stay long enough and pay more attention to what goes on around you, I hope you will realize under the facade of shining steel and glaas, our society is also very dysfunctional.

d99kris 6 days ago 0 replies      
Having set up a similar goal many years ago - to stay/live in a big number of countries - it's interesting to see that we both settled for Singapore.
shmulkey18 6 days ago 2 replies      
Are you enjoying living in a police state? Seriously.
jrockway 6 days ago 2 replies      
Ah yes, Singapore... the one developed country with harsher laws than the US.
PaulHoule 6 days ago 0 replies      
cool for you. i'd rather stay in one place and get a chance, in my lifetime, to learn how a forest grows myself.
webmonkeyuk 6 days ago 0 replies      
I've got to wonder how much of a good plan it is to publish your ID card including ID Number and DoB.
flocial 5 days ago 0 replies      
At least Singapore's upfront about it. America has a shameful proportion of its population incarcerated and what of the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies encroaching on your liberties? Or how the TSA strips you with a more radiation than Fukushima just to travel?

Of course, there are valid critiques of Singaporean society in the comments but for the average person these draconian laws might be minor trade offs for a safer, cleaner urban life.

charlesbarbier 6 days ago 2 replies      
Why is this post get so many vote? I understand that this guy is famous for some of the stuff he did, but hey... hacker news is news for hacker, right? not news about hacker?
BadassFractal 6 days ago 0 replies      
Pretty amazed that you got permanent residency in under 8 months. That'd be amazing in the US.
FrojoS 6 days ago 0 replies      
nithyad 6 days ago 0 replies      
Hope I visit you in Singapore before you move out to another part of the world!
donaq 5 days ago 0 replies      
Welcome to our sunny island!
arvin 6 days ago 0 replies      
Nice! I also moved to Singapore just 7 months ago. Great country to work in. Loving it here too.
seymores 6 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, where do you hang out?
johnnyjustice 6 days ago 0 replies      
You are my hero Sivers. Very few people are bad ass and contribute. Thank you showing me it can be done.
lotusleaf1987 6 days ago 0 replies      
Your favorite subject is always yourself.

Why should I care about this? Was bitcoin in the headline earlier?

Lessons From a Coffee Entrepreneur geekatsea.com
222 points by kirillzubovsky  5 days ago   86 comments top 15
jpadvo 5 days ago 7 replies      
> To fix the conversion rates, John moved the "cash only" sign inside, and on top of that started accepting checks, foreign currency, and even the I.O.U's.

In my mind, this is the highlight of the article. If you carry out your business in a friendly and unique way you can win customers and do things that are very difficult to pull off otherwise.

jonnathanson 5 days ago 1 reply      
An important side lesson here is not to take common industry practices at face value. (In this case, it was the conventional wisdom that 'All coffee shops are expected to have baked goods, and they sell baked goods at a loss').

In any business, big or small, tech or otherwise, there are hundreds of strategic and tactical levers we can pull on a daily basis. Many of these levers we don't even realize exist, because we're so used to thinking of them as fixed in place.

scottporad 5 days ago 1 reply      

One of the coffee shops I frequent also accepts IOUs, plus they do one other thing: you pay as you leave, not when you get your coffee. Now, this has two benefits:

First, means that the barista has to keep track of things...they have to actually have a relationship and interaction with the customer. That's very positive.

Second, it means that I often go get a second cup, or a pastry, because I haven't closed out my bill yet.

haberman 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have bought these donuts before, and definitely did not care that they came from Fred Meyer (I remember him mentioning it, slightly apologetically).
railsjedi 5 days ago 1 reply      
Nice post that reminds us that customer development techniques are not new to the tech community, and we can learn a lot from watching traditional brick and mortar stores use these same techniques to enhance their business.
napierzaza 5 days ago 3 replies      
Sounds like his business is dying as he cuts parts away. If he could get the right amount of pastries ordered, why would he not make money? You sell half, so order half. It just sounds like he wasn't paying much attention when he wasn't in financial trouble.

Sounds like a pretty reactionary guy. I might agree that credit companies exploit small businesses, but a bakery too? Everyone is out to get this guy.

I just hope he doesn't get his own ATM in his business instead of taking credit cards.

colson04 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good article, but the most interesting part of the story (for me) was casually summarized in one sentence. What amazes me is that he decided to start his first business at the age of 61 - wow! Major kudos to this guy for finally deciding to take a leap at an age when others are merely contemplating if their savings will be enough to fund retirement - that takes serious balls.

Sure, John made some great changes and saved his business, but that's what good entrepreneurs do - adapt and move on. He certainly deserves the credit for that, no doubt.

wyclif 5 days ago 1 reply      
There's a typo: "Steady" not "stead" under Lesson 1.

EDIT: Actually, this piece has quite a few spelling errors and typos in it. This needs a once-over by an editor.

aviel 5 days ago 1 reply      
His deck is also the best place to work in the Summer in Seattle IMHO.
sib1013 5 days ago 0 replies      
Good story about the power of experimenting an making decisions quickly.
bluekite2000 5 days ago 0 replies      
My lesson as a coffee entrepreneur: hire cute asian waitresses with big boobs (working exclusively on tips) and have them wear nothing but pasties http://www.ocregister.com/articles/says-126730-nguyen-coffee...
languagehacker 5 days ago 10 replies      
Being a cash-only business is an annoying disservice to your customers. It's a sign that you're not interested in the value of convenience. It's a regressive attitude to lean on cash, and oftentimes a sign that you're not interested in keeping honest books.

If you're not willing to pay what is almost universally accepted as an operating cost in modern society, you're setting yourself up to be left in the dust, and quickly. People are about to start paying for everyday transactions using their phones! If you have a problem with payment processors biting into your margins, then pass the buck onto your customers (even as a credit card usage fee), but never take away a payment option.

adaniali 5 days ago 1 reply      
I like to have an IOU iphone app.
redrussak 5 days ago 0 replies      
The Seattle tech community rocks!
vnorby 5 days ago 6 replies      
Are we sure these are lessons we want to take? Forcing a user to pay with currency (let alone foreign) makes accounting harder, and renders their shop useless to compete with other shops that do have card readers for a very large percentage of people. Then he moved the cash only sign inside instead of realizing that customers want to pay with their cards and adapting to his customers' needs. Lastly, he decided on taking the easy, low-quality route with his baked goods. Is that really future proof? I don't think he's acquiring any new customers by reselling boxed donuts - and his margins are very low. Why is he getting into the competitive baked goods market in the first place? Why not partner with a local bakery that produces high quality food stuffs as a barter?
Richard Dreyfuss' dramatic reading of the iTunes EULA cnet.com
214 points by iwwr  3 days ago   53 comments top 12
DanielStraight 3 days ago 0 replies      
The "termination" one highlights a particularly absurd aspect of the EULA. You are supposed to do something specific on termination of the license, but they aren't required to tell you it's terminated?
leftnode 3 days ago 1 reply      
There's a recent South Park episode parodying the length and absurdity of Apple's EULA's and terms of agreement. The whole episode is great and does a pretty good job of goofing on Apple fanboyism.
peterwwillis 3 days ago  replies      
Can you imagine if companies did this regularly? If people actually "listened" to what they're agreeing to when they use common software? They might actually look for alternative software.

New idea: A table on Wikipedia of software and the rights you give up by using it, compared to Free software and the rights you retain.

pornel 2 days ago 2 replies      
I do not want to accept iTunes EULA, but I feel like I'm blackmailed to do it: if I don't, I'll loose ability to synchronize/activate/restore my phone, I won't be able to update or download any applications for it. With cable-free iOS5 it looks like there isn't even a choice " you either accept iTunes EULA or you won't get past Welcome screen.

I'm locked-in and I have to perpetually "agree" to whatever Apple comes up with.

edkennedy 2 days ago 1 reply      
I find the link at the end of the article most interesting of all. http://www.thedreyfussinitiative.org/
dave84 3 days ago 1 reply      
I imagine this is what Wil Wheaton hears in his head when he's reading EULAs.

With that out of the way, would it be possible to represent EULAs in a simpler manner while still satisfying a company's legal department?

cpg 2 days ago 0 replies      
Hilarious. What we need is Shatner reading it, with bongs and all, a la Palin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpbSwSlP4Yc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mLvzARScak
pama 3 days ago 0 replies      
Excellent! This is the best answer to the question: "Who reads the EULA?"
napierzaza 3 days ago 0 replies      
Does he take requests, I'd like to hear him do the "Think Different" ad again.
michaelfeathers 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm aching for someone to put a dub beat behind this, bongos, or some Greek Bouzouki.
itswindy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Stop bashing Apple if you are using a MAC. Read its EULA, you agreed not to say anything bad about Apple when you first bought your Mac. :)

God knows what I agreed to when I installed XP.

danssig 2 days ago 0 replies      
So when is he doing one for MS, Adobe, Oracle, ....
Done, that was easy. Keep your money, we do it for the lulz blackbergsecurity.us
212 points by kevinburke  2 days ago   41 comments top 11
dsl 2 days ago 1 reply      
A bit of background for HN: Most security folks consider Joe Black (of Black & Berg) to be a total joke and snake oil vendor.

See http://attrition.org/postal/asshats/joe_black/

Joakal 2 days ago 1 reply      
If LulzSec had accepted the money, it's likely to become a money trail. "According to Richardson and Lyon, the NHTCU encouraged Richardson to wire two [DDoS] extortion payments of a few thousand dollars each to separate Western Union offices in Eastern Europe. The NHTCU wanted to nab anyone who showed up to take the cash. (NHTCU won't confirm this; the spokeswoman said the unit does not discuss investigative tactics.) [0]"

[0] http://www.csoonline.com/article/220336/how-a-bookmaker-and-...

rdoherty 2 days ago 3 replies      
Honestly they were asking for it. Kudos to whomever hacked them and took the high road.

Are there any security firms that actually know what they're doing? I'm beginning to think there isn't.

eck 2 days ago 1 reply      
Everyone here seems sure that "Black & Berg" is an actual security company that issued a challenge and actually intended to pay someone money. Does anyone have any independent sources on that?

Just from the look of the site, it seems so much like a farcical joke on HBGary-type companies, I wonder if it's not a viral marketing campaign.

arkitaip 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is this still up?! Now that's embarrassing.
prayag 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is not even worth the time it takes to click and wait for the god awful page.

Attention is what this guy wants. Why are we even bothering about this on the first page?

clark-kent 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think Joe Black is a parody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ywUK2Jat5k
JackDanger 2 days ago 1 reply      
That domain name is running an open FTP server. I'll bet a dictionary attack against the 'root' or 'admin' user was all that was necessary.
tribeofone 1 day ago 0 replies      
These LulzSec guys are GREAT
bitwize 1 day ago 0 replies      
"Done. Hacked."
Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions macrumors.com
214 points by whiskers  2 days ago   158 comments top 22
cpr 2 days ago  replies      
Why is everyone assuming Apple's being evil here?

Not that they're perfect by any means, but the pattern seems pretty clear: they start off with a restrictive situation, see how it works, and then adjust. (Sometimes they restrict more, then relax; sometimes they stay more restrictive.)

They're engaged in a learning process, folks. Nothing quite like the App Store has been attempted before on this scale, and you know they've gotta be rather conservative at each step. You would if you were in their shoes.

Yes, they're trying to make money, but I see lots of signs that they're also trying to accommodate the needs of users first, then developers.

Never assume malice when it could just be incompetence (i.e., learning from mistakes), etc.

(I'm not shilling for Apple. I didn't even attend WWDC this year for the first time in many years. ;-)

statictype 2 days ago 2 replies      
Is it possible that Amazon was playing 'chicken' with the Kindle app, and finally at the last moment, Apple relented and Amazon won?

On an episode of The Talkshow, Gruber was speculating that this would come to a head in early June and that something had to happen either way: The Kindle app gets pulled or Apple makes some kind of exception to the rule.

jarin 2 days ago  replies      
Essentially Apple wanted to see if they could get away with being greedy, and when it didn't work out they abandoned it.

It's similar to what they've done with app approvals, features, terms of service, signal strength bars, location data, etc.

pieter 2 days ago 2 replies      
The problem with in-app purchases was always that Apple HAS to use the same 30% fee. If they use another percentage, developers just create free apps and make 'premium' features available for the same price as their paid app would otherwise be, thereby handing over less money to Apple.

Because Apple's in-app purchases don't distinguish between features and content, Apple can't use different pricing schemes.

I think Apple may try to change this situation with their News Stand system in iOS5. The content appearing there are still normal apps, they're just grouped together in a special folder and feature automatic downloads.

My guess is that content purchased in those News Stand apps will be less taxed than other in-app purchases, for example just 10%. That way Apple will keep some of their most important 'partners' happy.

schrototo 2 days ago 0 replies      
It makes perfect sense now that they have Newsstand in iOS 5.
Netflix, Amazon Kindle, SaaS apps and what-have-you can do what they want subscription-wise and still provide immense value to the platform, while magazines and newspapers will want to be part of Newsstand and will give Apple their 30% without much of a fuss. Everybody wins.
guelo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know how it is you're supposed to build a business on top of Apple's platforms. I'm staying as far away as I can.
pseudonym 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm pleased that they've made at least this change, but saddened that so many good services that used this functionality have already disappeared.
sylvinus 2 days ago 2 replies      
Looks like Apple is (successfully?) copying Facebook's policy strategy... Two big steps forward, then one little step backwards!
silverlight 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, this could not have come at a better time, since I was just wondering the other day if our companion app to our SaaS offering would be approved. Very pleased to see them reversing their position on this, and further clarifying that even this guideline excludes SaaS subscriptions (which I think is why they specifically spell out audio, video, etc. as the types of content). Thanks, Apple!
pdenya 2 days ago 0 replies      
Planned the whole time?

1) Apple introduces a strict requirement for using IAP with a deadline

2) All the devs who were planning to comply to keep their apps in the store have likely done the work integrating IAP already

3) Apple reverses policies

4) Devs have the option to drop IAP in their apps but it's not likely that many will IMO

whiskers 2 days ago 0 replies      
The key difference between the old policy...

"provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app."

...and the new...

"that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app"

Now it appears that it's fine to show content that is subscribed for outside of the App Store ecosystem (but you may not link directly to your payment pages).

MatthewPhillips 2 days ago 1 reply      
Probably their lawyers got to them. They have a near monopoly in legal music downloads (market share at 70%), so if their app store policies led to Rhapsody or Rdio going out of business it would look pretty bad in the eyes of regulators.
sambeau 2 days ago 2 replies      
I would like to point out to people who say that Apple is being greedy: until they came out with their 30% deal it was normal for Phone companies to ban all software from their phones except for their own. When phone companies did include outside developers software, deals of 90%+ were common (as they still are in the games' industry
lini 2 days ago 1 reply      
Does this mean that people like iFlow (https://www.iflowreader.com/Closing.aspx) can start selling eBooks again now? Or is it too late for them already?
davidedicillo 2 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder if I can use In-App subscriptions to subscribe to a service instead of content. And, if not, if I can link to the external site.
Qz 2 days ago 0 replies      
That is, these apps can't have a "buy" button that takes users to an external subscription page.

I can't see how this is good for the user at all.

dageshi 2 days ago 2 replies      
I truly don't understand why apple does this, I can only assume its because they have nothing but contempt for the people who develop apps for their platform.
codiist 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think this also has to do with the in-App Patent trouble. Now Apple can say, hey, we did not force you to offer in-App purchase in your app, you can sell your subscriptions just outside the store; in the end, you as the developer of the app are responsible for any resulting legal trouble.
hnsmurf 2 days ago 0 replies      
The logo certainly makes Apple guilty of a trade dress infringement. This guy will have no shortage of IP attorneys willing to take his case pro bono.
Straubiz 2 days ago 1 reply      
Is it confirmed?
alecco 2 days ago 0 replies      
IMHO, they probably freaked out everybody is eyeing HTML5 as a viable cross-platform app alternative.
MatthewPhillips 2 days ago 1 reply      
What does this mean for Readability?
Apple's iCloud will automatically store, sync data for free appleinsider.com
213 points by sandipc  5 days ago   197 comments top 25
ender7 5 days ago 6 replies      
In general the service seems really neat, but I have to admit I find their storage and pricing system a bit confusing. How is the average consumer going to react? I can't imagine explaining this to my parents...


So...it stores all my files?

Yes. Well, sort of. If your apps use the iCloud API.


Nevermind. Yes. It stores your files, and sync them across all your computers.

What does it cost?

It's free.

Awesome. And I can access them any time?

Yep. Except photos. Those are only stored for 30 days. But the copies stick around on your devices. But only your PCs - your phones only keep the last 1000 photos.

Oh. But what if I want to look at older photos on my--

Put it in an album. Then it's always available.

Oh...kay. I guess that makes sense. What about music?

If you buy it from the iTunes store, then it syncs automatically to all your devices!


Up to 10 devices.

Eh, that's fine, that seems like a lot of devices. What if I don't buy it from the iTunes store?

You can sync that too!


It costs money though.

Wait. I thought you said it was free.

Non-iTunes Store music costs a yearly fee to store ($24.99). Although you're not really storing them. See, iTunes will scan your music and try to guess what music you have, and then grant you access to the iTunes Store copies of it. Unless it gets confused and thinks your Bob Dylan is Jimmy Hendricks. But that probably won't happen.


But you can "store" an unlimited number of songs!

Unlimited? That's a lot!

Yeah, you can also store things like mail, documents, and backups on there too!

Are those unlimited too?

No, those have a max of 5GB. Except for Apps, iBooks, and iTunes music. Those don't count. Oh, and neither do photos. The ones that we store for 30 days.

What happens if I use up all 5GB?

We're guessing that most people won't.

You should see my inbox.

We'll probably have a plan where you can pay more money to get more storage.

Ah, okay. So...


It's free. Unless I want to upload my non-iTunes store music, in which case it's $24.99/yr. And it has unlimited storage for App backups, iTunes store music, and iBooks, and a 5GB limit for documents, e-mail, and "other stuff", and a 30-day cache of all of the photos I've taken. And it happens automatically in the background, provided whatever App I'm using is correctly hooked into the iCloud service, which may or may not be apparent at the time.




My parents have started to use Dropbox ("put stuff you want in the folder") and really like it. I'm not sure they'll understand how this service works, if they understand that it exists at all.

nlawalker 4 days ago 2 replies      
"iCloud" seems to be an obvious name to those that have been paying attention to the current state of technology, but if you think about it for a second, it's actually pretty genius. Taking the name "iCloud", as opposed to "iSync" or something else that more clearly and directly describes the service, is a masterstroke.

Why? Because up until now, "cloud" has been a vague term whose value is extremely difficult to explain to consumers (trying to explain that gmail or Skydrive or Facebook are all kinda-sorta "cloud" in a few different ways will just get you "oh, so it's just the internet!"). By tying it to a clearly-defined product or service that has real value for regular people, Apple now owns the term "cloud" as used in general discourse.

It's like how in the 2002-2003 timeframe, every non-Apple MP3 player was "a different-looking iPod", but this is in reverse. Every mention of "cloud" or "cloud computing" will evoke "oh yeah, you can get your phone pictures on your PC without hooking it up!". They've given a buzzword-bingo term a real definition that a lot of people can relate to.

Contrast with Microsoft's "...to the cloud!", a desperate attempt to get back into the consumer space that shows just how firmly they are trapped by enterprise thinking. It'll make your kids smile! It can edit photos! It will give you movies to watch when you're bored! Even the masses won't fall for something that vague - they need clearly defined products. "To the cloud" reminds me of the first couple years of "the .NET initiative": wind and stars that would do everything from control your house to drive your car and make the world happy again.

As someone interested in technology, I despise that Apple has further conflated an already massively overloaded term, but I have to give them recognition for their marketing skills. I can't wait to see how much more difficult it's going to get to explain "cloud computing" to a CIO who has spent the last week enamored that cloud computing means that he can get his music on his iPhone and his Mac.

powrtoch 5 days ago 5 replies      
I'm curious to see how well the iTunes Match feature works. Naturally it will have to use audio fingerprinting rather than just trusting user-supplied metadata. The catch is that this technology is probably based on Lala (who Apple bought out), and Lala's software was extremely dodgy. I had records where <50% of songs were correctly identified, the others "matched" to seemingly random tracks from completely unrelated genres.

If Apple has not earnestly dug into and improved on this software, users will be completely mystified and the whole thing will be a big embarrassment for Apple.

extension 5 days ago 2 replies      
I was hoping they would have something to say about privacy/security, but they didn't so I guess there isn't any. That's too bad because I don't think I can live with all my photos being instantly sent to Apple. Probably some other document types too.
starnix17 5 days ago 4 replies      
Coolest news for developers, there are APIs for this for use with third party apps.
dsplittgerber 5 days ago 10 replies      
A little arbitrage idea:
How about going on an illegal downloading-binge and getting every album one possibly could ever like from the past, I don't know, 30 years? Then when you've got your several thousand albums, you go legalize it all for $29.95.

Sounds like value?

MatthewPhillips 5 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting service. I really like the cloud APIs. I know that this was available in past versions of MobileMe, but so few used MobileMe so it wasn't a big thing for developers. If people are opted into iCloud you can pretty much assume that your users have an account and plan to store on Apple's dime instead of yours.

It almost seems too good to be true. I wouldn't be surprised if some developers abuse this by storing massive amounts of data in iCloud and Apple sets up some limits.

As for the music stuff, my consumer perspective is that if "anywhere" doesn't include a web browser, you're not really offering it any where. I don't expect you to build a separate client for competing platforms, but a web player I do. Google and Amazon are already doing this. I don't always use Macs and iPads so I need a way to access my music when I'm away from those.

pilif 5 days ago 2 replies      
It's a real shame that there's still no real podcast support. Granted, now the devices can sync via WiFi, but what if I'm away from my main machine and I just want to download all new episodes of the podcasts I'm subscribed to?

Something like this CAN'T be that hard to do - at least it shouldn't be.

craigmccaskill 5 days ago 3 replies      
A concern I always have over services like this, is that they tend to back up at the most inopportune times. Holding a VC and your call suddenly drops? Playing an FPS or RTS game and things start to become unresponsive? Uploading your latest project files, wondering why it's going so slowly while a is client clamouring for it yesterday?
Chances are one of your many automatic backup services just kicked in. With devices like the iPad and iPhone being 'always on' and connected to the wifi in the background, I can see this becoming a problem. When these sorts of services were confined to a desktop or laptop, you could always shut them down with a simple right click on a task bar/menu icon. Now you have multiple devices that could potentially be bogging down your network, how do you easily diagnose where the network drain is coming from?
zoul 5 days ago 2 replies      
“Music features are available only in the U.S.” Sigh.
MatthewB 5 days ago 6 replies      
Shouldn't dropbox be a little nervous?
upthedale 5 days ago 0 replies      
The music matching service does sound genuinely interesting, though I am unsure about how it works as a yearly subscription. Surely once you've matched your songs, that's it (until next time). Would the pay per use model not make more sense?

But as for TFA, the non-music sync features of iCloud seem underwhelming. At the risk of playing the "other-phones-already-do-it" card, Windows (both Phone and PC) already does this with the Live services and Skydrive. Contacts, Calendar, Office documents and Photos can all be synced automatically. In addition, you get 25GB of space - no silly 30 day limits as with photos in iCloud.

What's the current state of play for Android?

redler 5 days ago 1 reply      
It seems like the music part of this offering amounts to Apple cutting a deal with the music labels that, in part, allows billions of bad old BladeEnc rips downloaded from Napster to be "laundered" into legitimate AAC tracks. Apple pays the music labels a hundred million or two, so the labels have retroactively turned the old downloaders into paying customers, of a sort. And for these laundering services, each of them reimburses Apple to the tune of $25 per year (storage and sync notwithstanding).
funkdobiest 4 days ago 0 replies      
So if I have music that I wrote and have the copyrights to and give a copy of it to a friend and they then use the iCloud service. How would Apple then handle the licensing, as it seems they have some sort of deal with the big record labels to give them a cut of this 24.99, what about independent musicians?
inthewoods 5 days ago 1 reply      
Anybody surprised that there was Twitter integration but no Facebook integration? I know they probably don't want to get in bed with Facebook, but it's strange to me to have one and not the other.
6ren 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sounds like dropbox, but one step closer to the user: instead of interfacing at the directory level, it interfaces at the application level.

Also underlines dropbox's tremendous success, to be casually mentioned by Jobs to define the problem/solution.

stashdot 5 days ago 5 replies      
Itunes Match service seems mind blowing. "Even 20,000 songs" will cost only $24.99 per year it seems.
bennesvig 5 days ago 0 replies      
But I don't care about owning music. I only want access to it. Rdio still seems like the better option for music, despite this being a step in the right direction.
dr_ 5 days ago 0 replies      
I love my iPhone but I'm sticking to dropbox.
Ill probably limit icloud to music I've purchased via iTunes
mrvc 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is great, but can cell networks handle the load? They're already struggling from a significant lack of investment and this could well be a straw that breaks the camels back.
joe24pack 5 days ago 0 replies      
err ... no thanks. I'll keep my data local ... and private.
maercsrats 5 days ago 1 reply      
Syncing with things can happen over 3g. Being transparent can be nice but not with unlimited plans gone from carriers. I'm wondering if there will be an option to say not to sync over 3g unless you are on wifi.
tvon 5 days ago 1 reply      
A less than ideal setup for non-iTunes music, but IMO that was to be expected.
xbryanx 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm just not that excited about pointing all my devices at a big metal cloud on the wall. Wonder if I can paint it.
hnsmurf 5 days ago 1 reply      
Meh. I still can't go PC-less on my iPad. I have plenty of music that didn't come from updates and isn't for sale on iTunes, and I don't see anything about OS updates OTA. Exchange and Gmail already do most of the rest for me.
My life in Accenture before startups swombat.com
211 points by swombat  2 days ago   117 comments top 24
edw519 2 days ago 8 replies      
My typical day working for a Big 5 firm:

   7:00 - drive to client in Redlands
8:00 - arrive in Redlands
8:42 - client arrives for 8:00 meeting
8:51 - client leaves for emergency
8:52 - review project with programmer - still 18 months behind
9:15 - daily email to 6 bosses about dire status
9:38 - take call from boss #4 - debate "strategic direction"
10:20 - coffee, snack, & bitch session with lead programmer
10:45 - drive to client in Century City
12:20 - arrive in Century City, everyone at lunch already
12:30 - have hot dog at sidewalk cafe, look for Christina Applegate
1:15 - meet with client for daily status
1:22 - client leaves for emergency
1:28 - review project with programmer - still 18 months behind
1:40 - daily email to 5 other bosses about dire status
2:15 - take call from other boss #3 - debate "strategic direction"
2:28 - referee dispute between contract & employee programmers
3:20 - coffee, snack, & bitch session with lead programmer
4:20 - drive home
5:50 - arrive home
8:10 - take calls from 4 other bosses debating strategy
9:20 - end day knowing tomorrow will be exactly the same
Total work done: 0

My typical day working for an enterprise:

   7:30 - drive to work
7:50 - arrive at work, turn on Windows workstation
7:51 - get coffee, greet co-workers
8:10 - workstation finally up, check overnight logs
8:15 - check email
8:30 - resume programming on current project
9:15 - take calls from 6 customers, changing scope
10:00 - go to daily status meeting
10:12 - everyone else arrives at daily status meeting
10:48 - drop current project, work on daily emergency
12:10 - go to lunch at mall foodcourt
1:00 - check email
1:10 - resume programming on current project, drop daily emergency
1:40 - take 4 calls, give project status
2:00 - go to Special Planning Session for Project #127
2:12 - others arrive at Special Planning Session for Project #127
2:48 - candy bar break, bitch with other programmers about code review
3:10 - resume programming on current project
4:00 - go to daily stand-up meeting for project status
4:08 - others arrive at daily stand-up meeting for project status
4:45 - email project status to 8 bosses
5:10 - drive home
5:45 - day ends
Total work done: 2 hours

My typical day working for a start-up:

   6:00 - code
8:00 - breakfast at desk while coding
10:00 - coffee break outside
10:10 - code
12:00 - lunch at desk while coding
2:00 - break outside
2:15 - work on everything else except coding
4:00 - review & print code
5:00 - exercise
6:00 - dinner with SO
7:00 - visit mother, watch Jeopardy & Family Guy with her
8:00 - code
10:00 - turn off monitor, review code, plan next day
Total work done: 8 hours

fbnt 2 days ago 5 replies      
I left Accenture (Italy) this january, after 3 years, and just like you I was hired right after graduation thanks to my 'mad' java skills, after about 1 year I wasn't writing much code anymore and SQL, Word & Excel became my only daily companions.

Negatives/things I didn't like during my experience in Accenture:

  - Working 10-14 hours a day (^). If you were to leave at 6pm your supervisor 
would joke about it ("hey, did you get that part-time thing?").
It's alienating and can be done only if you're young & single.
You are supposed to immolate yourself for the company.

- Procedures & timetables to fill: I were required to follow the
most cumbersome procedures even for the simplier tasks and file every
single small detail of what I've done in a form somewhere for monitoring
While this is a good practice in general, what was going on there
was beyond absurdity. I spent more time reporting what I was doing
than working on the actual task.

- Dressing code = compulsory business attire, Suite + tie (!)

- Managers overlydramatic speeches. Laughable attitude.

- Strong pyramidal scheme. If your non-technical supervisor closed a deal
with the client on a specific feature, it didn't matter if it was technically
unfeasible and risked to put in jeopardy the whole system, you were -ordered-
to do it. obey. Reworking was then very common.

- What matter isn't the quality of your work, it's the amount of time
you spend on it. You're consultants and your company charges the client by
the hours you do. The more you stay in the office, the better is for the company.
Optimization? who cares.

- Most of my coworkers there were really, really, really bored.
Their life was sucked into the office, and the only thought they had on a
typical monday morning was how to make it through the next weekend.


  - I found some truly talented people, and I learned lots of both technical 
and people skills.

- You get to learn some self-discipline, especially when it comes to schedule
your time to reach specific goals.

- On a professional point of view, I grew up a lot, it's a good 'gym',
an eye-opener.

Anyway, in all honesty, I'm glad I've been working there and I do not regret it at all. If I were to run a startup right after university, I would have bit off more than I could chew, probably.

(^) I don't mind working 10-14 on my own stuff, things that I'm crafting with my hands and that I find exciting. Pretending to work 14 hours on a bi-monthly report just because you've got to leave at the same time as everybody else is another thing.

cubicle67 2 days ago 1 reply      
I spent a number of years working as an employee of one of the big IT outsourcers on a Australian government department (better not say which one) contract. During this time I was required to assist a team from Accenture who had won a contract to write some software that needed to be integrated with a number of systems.

Accenture had "all their best people" on the job. This meant almost an entire floor of staff; managers, project managers, BAs, god knows what else. Oh, they also had two young devs, you know, to actually do the work. These two guys were nice, seemed pretty smart, but fresh out of uni had no experience at all and were just so far out of their depth it was embracing. I tried to help them where I could, but didn't get much opportunity.

Accenture originally gave a timeframe of three years for this project, but when I left they were two years in and still not even a working demo in sight. I have no idea if it was ever completed or what happened

ben1040 2 days ago 1 reply      
A few years ago I quit my job in academia to go work as a field delivery consultant for a large ERP firm. This whole thing was a ridiculous culture shock to me. I quit because I wanted to try something different -- it was different, all right.

For the first year or so I was doing some development work on the client side as well as requirements gathering and dealing with integration. I was cool with this, because I was doing something technical but wanted something that would flex my people skills as well.

At one point I was tasked with requirements gathering for a customer who wanted some custom work done to their installation of our product. They bought two weeks of my time to draft a spec, and no development -- my deliverable was basically to draft the SOW for the next consultant who was to write a technical design for someone else who was to write code.

I finished the spec, in spite of a client who really was extremely hard to deal with. The client sat on it for a few months and decided they wanted to revisit the issue, so I got on a plane again and spent two more weeks trying to tease some answers out of them so I could revise things.

The final specification amounted to approximately 95 pages including screenshot mockups. The spec went back to the home office, where our development team reviewed it and quoted something like three or four months' time to develop it, test it, and hand off back to the customer for acceptance testing. They planned for the invariable back and forth on that as well. This was in February of that particular year; they were looking at taking the feature live on January 1 of the following year.

The feature they requested? Four simple web forms, the code to validate their input, and a report generator to dump back out what was put into the form.

After we finalized the spec for this I turned in my two weeks and went straight back to academia, where four web forms and a report is something you write, wrap automated tests around, and deploy before lunchtime.

Lewisham 2 days ago 0 replies      
I remember when I was at university in the UK (a Top 10 one, and Top 5 for Computer Science). One of my graduating friends got hired by Accenture. When he told on of the (well-respected) professors, the professor literally laughed in his face.

I decided not to apply to Accenture.

wallflower 2 days ago 3 replies      
I know a few friends who worked for Accenture (back when it was called Andersen Consulting). I always thought the most fascinating thing (aside from the instant credibility of having the company on your resume) was their training program which was designed to take mostly liberal arts majors and teach them C programming (with unknown long-term success but at least enough to not totally drown at a first client engagement). The training program was very intensive and immersive, and I wonder what became of it and if the basic principles of the program could be applied to retraining willing liberal arts graduates.
localtalent 2 days ago 0 replies      
My story is nearly identical (US, NY). I left after 5 years. No kool-aid drinking here.

Accenture is a culture you either fit into or you don't - a very 'up-or-out' mentality.

Some of the problems that commenters have noted are definitely attributed to the internal culture: an over-emphasis on face-time, long hours with no real work to do, and occasionally selling work that was undeliverable (technically unfeasible, impossible delivery schedule, etc).

Some management was good, a lot of it was poor, and generally the focus was on selling and looking good rather than delivering a viable product. At all levels, you're ranked against your co-workers for a very small number of promotion slots, particularly in recent times. This creates a strange dynamic: you're both trying to work with people at your level to create something useful for a client and prove that you're better/smarter/faster than your peers, some of whom are on the same project and most of whom you've never met.

Many of the complaints, however, are an effect of having large numbers of stakeholders on a complicated project. Clients are often unpredictable, and incented by a completely different set of goals. There's generally a lot of money and a lot of management involved, and people have their careers staked on these projects - disagreement is normal. Rework was extremely common due to constant spec changes, and I had to go to bat for my developers numerous times.

It's not a great work environment. Low and mid level people are generally dropped into a project with no background and the client has been told that they're experts on whatever giant, 30-year-old legacy system that the client is running. They fake it and learn on the job. There's often a hostile reception from the client employees - the perception is that you're a highly paid consultant coming to take their job or fire them. Travel is the norm, and you're expected to work long hours since you aren't going home to a family - just a generic hotel room.

Ultimately, what drove me out was the lack of interesting and rewarding work, the internal politics, and the isolation. Wish I had left sooner, but I hadn't figured out what I wanted.

binarymax 2 days ago 1 reply      
I can vouch for this. I never worked for any of the big 4, but worked with them on many occasions, when I was a consultant with a much smaller firm (<50 employees when I started, >200 when I left).

Consulting really is a great way to learn the ins and outs of business while earning a good salary and getting to travel. Combine it with writing lots of code and its a fantastic real-world education for a multitude of endeavors.

tekp2 2 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting discussion here. A few things spring to mind:

- Consulting training still has an element of programming, but I suspect that will go when Core Analyst School moves to Bangalore later this year. The value is not that those guys will ever code, but to give them a feel for the types of problems that the engineers face.

- Solutions delivery (offshore or on) has pretty much taken development work off the plate of a consulting analyst.

- Consulting recruitment is swinging to favour engineering and technical disciplines more than it has historically.

- This group naturally favours high risk/high reward, deep technical competance, and engineering as a craft. This is antithetical to firms like Accenture that favour low risk (imply your own corrollary), relationships and business knowledge, and engineering as an industry. This is also favoured by our clients, which is why it's a very successful business.

- I've seen some projects in pretty dire straits, and I've seen over-committments. I've also seen some very effective cross-discipline teams dealing very well with difficult client situations. I've met a lot of very impressive people, and I've learnt a great deal from them.

- It's a truism that Accenture wouldn't be there unless there was a difficult business problem that the client felt that they couldn't solve on their own. Sometimes they couldn't have, but more frequently, in my experience, they could have done it themselves if it weren't for a paralysing fear of change.

- Internally, the firm changes org structure most years. This results in a very strong culture of personal network above business organisation. People are astonishingly willing to help someone they've never met, even when they are on the other side of the planet, and there's absolutely nothing in it for themself.

- I've never seen behaviour that I would regard as remotely unethical.

- The comment about NHS is right - Accenture UK took a massive financial hit, which resulted in a promotion freeze, and pay rises of less than inflation that year.

- My feeling at the moment is that Management Consulting will become much more distinct from Technology, which in turn will become more like a "normal" technology company.

Finally, it strikes me as a bit ironic that no one has yet highlighted the similarities between a "classic" Accenture project team and a startup. Both arrogantly believe that they can change things for the better by working very hard, learning a lot as they go and blending a variety of hard and soft skills. Sound familiar?

gaius 2 days ago 1 reply      
but which I saw I could now do with almost all subject areas.

Mmm, but you can't tho'. No-one can. What consultants do is fake expertise, then actually learn it on the time the client is paying for an expert. Not that that isn't a skill mind, but don't confuse it for something it's not.

kitsune_ 2 days ago 3 replies      
My experience (off and on-work) with Accenture was horrible.

A small anecdote (out of many):

I visited a good friend of mine, a true math and programming genius, who was in the middle of his PhD at the ETHZ. An acquaintance of my friend started to tell bullshit stories about his "heroic" job at Accenture. An untalented money whore if I ever saw one. If you know nothing and have the moral integrity of a human trafficker, it looks like you end up in consulting @ Accenture.

Buzzwords. Check. "Play the game or get lost" mantras. Check. "People making less than 100k are lazy bastards". Check. "All companies are rotting from within, our external consulting work is basically a gift of god". Check. Blah blah blah. He got a hard on from riling us up, the "naive idealists" we are.

Get real, son.

brendino 2 days ago 3 replies      
As a current Analyst (1 year out of college now) at Accenture, I have a few points to add:


- Accenture greatly helps develop one's people skills and networking skills which can help prepare you for a startup. Building these skills in college is difficult, so jumping into a professional setting right after college helps.

- The work enables you to understand real-world problems that clients are facing, so you have a better base of ideas upon which you can launch a startup (see http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2634665)

- In working with enterprise software, you gain an appreciation of how complex (and how messed-up) some of this software can be. Enterprise software is incredibly different from typical software created for the masses in some cases. It is also rarely user-friendly. Compared to consumer software, enterprise software has much less documentation and support available, so you learn to figure things out with missing information.

Negatives (or "Deltas" in Accenture terminology):

- The work is not always interesting and engaging. Since it's consulting, you sometimes have to work on the boring, but necessary things, and to deal with several levels of managers. Furthermore, working for someone else (vs. your own startup) makes inspiration or dedication hard to summon at times.

- Change is slow in enterprise software. Unlike a startup where you can think of a new feature and implement it in a day, it can take months or years to go from inception to roll-out for a new feature or innovation. There are so many stakeholders that must be satisfied, and so much red tape to break. These restricitions can stifle your personal creativity.

- Working hours are inflexible and excessive. Management sets the expectation that you must be in the office and working before the client arrives and long after the client leaves. This leaves little room for work-life balance, which gets very frustrating. On a positive note, however, everyone at Accenture in the consulting workforce (in the US at least) gets five weeks of paid time off per year (on an accrual basis).

Overall, Accenture is helping my professional growth and positioning me to later start my own startup company. It's certainly a worthwhile experience and a useful precursor to entreprenurialism.

patja 2 days ago 2 replies      
My two favorite quotes about Accenture are:

"Accenture is a great place to be from" <-- not a great place to be at long term, but your learn a lot, you get to see how the enterprise world works, you make connections with other smart people who will help you for the rest of your professional career, and it is great on a resume.

"At Accenture the great employees leave, the weak are fired, and the mediocre become partners"

astrofinch 1 day ago 0 replies      
As a college student, I've been thinking about working as a consultant so I can survey a variety of different businesses in a variety of industries and see how they operate. Seems like it might be a good preparation for being an entrepreneur. (See this comment of mine for further justification: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2635564.)

Does this sound like a good plan? What would the best consulting firm to work for be? Ideally I'd like to see as wide a variety of businesses as possible, and ideally they'd be well run businesses I could steal ideas from. But even, say, seeing a bunch of poorly run businesses seems like it could be really valuable.

americandesi333 2 days ago 0 replies      
This post really hits home for me. I have friends in consulting and I join a small tech company in bay area instead. I cannot believe when I hear about their experiences with consulting and how miserable they are in their jobs.

The struggle with consulting is that you never get to 'own' any decisions. There is not much accountability between conception, design and implementation. From my experience with big three consulting firms, they are brought in by execs to either 'validate' a path that was already determined or to get contract work done for short-term. In both cases, there is very little impact you can have on the overall business.

In my experience, if you want to be a good entrepreneur, get a job where you can own decisions and implementation. You will make mistakes, but you will learn from them and can implement those learnings in your startup.

bengl3rt 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've looked into consulting as a potential career, not with a behemoth like Accenture, but with smaller more specialized boutique shops (Art & Logic) or mid-size ones (Thoughtworks).

All I really want is a wide array of domain experience in different verticals, and travel to lots of different places.
However, everyone I've interacted with has painted the services business as a cruel and hierarchical (and underpaid) place.

That coupled with the fact that they seem to be so disorganized they never even get back to you has left me pretty discouraged about the space.

punchfire 2 days ago 0 replies      
ok so this is in Asia, i can't say how we operate in the bigger offices: i feel that Accenture's one of the few companies that can provide you with maximum exposure and experience in the shortest amount of time...there are ups and downs but on the whole if you work well, you'll see great results...
jlees 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm glad you wrote this, Daniel! I applied to Accenture three times, in my final year of undergrad, a year after graduating and then again when I was doing my Master's. I only got to the final stage of interviews once, and apparently cocked it up simply because I didn't exhibit my listening skills (despite, as I was coached, being the whiteboard monkey in the group exercise).

I was devastated - I had felt challenged by the recruitment process and was excited at the prospect of working there. Somehow now I feel a little better about taking a different path in life. :)

blueplastic 1 day ago 1 reply      
I work for Accenture R&D in San Jose, CA. Everything I've read here is very different than my typical work day. We're hiring analysts (entry level) and consultants (experienced hires) to work in our research lab. Both on the Research (typically PhD) and Development (typically BA/MA) sides. Click on my username and you'll find my email if you'd like to apply.

The people I work with are doing things like studying NoSQL databases (Cassandra, Riak, HBASE), MapReduce (Hadoop, Cloud MapReduce), cryptography, biometrics, language/sentiment analysis, data visualizations, cloud computing (Amazon, Rackspace, VMWare) etc. We're not like the typical consulting arm of Accenture. We're also not like a typical theory focused research lab.

We're a fun bunch. Recent company sponsored trips have included sailing the bay, indoor skydiving at iFly, snowboarding in Tahoe, white water rafting, wine tasting, hiking, a vegas trip and behind the scenes tour of the SF Giants stadium. We're also known to throw some pretty wicked happy hours.

dartland 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great post! I came from consulting into start-up world also (although I'm non-technical) and while you definitely have to re-learn many things to adjust to building a company, there are many many valuable lessons from working in that environment that entrepreneurs are all too quick to dismiss.

But the bottom line of your post is definitely the right summary: Do what feels right when it feels right, and you'll be fine. You can't lose when you're choosing between multiple interesting options. And as soon as your current path becomes uninteresting, look elsewhere.

Thanks for posting.

sfard 2 days ago 2 replies      
Seriously, since when is Accenture considered Prestigious? It's not even a top consulting shop.


44Aman 2 days ago 2 replies      
"The height of absurdity was reached, I believe, when I was asked to prepare the proposal for the preparation of a plan to produce a proof of concept for a module of a tool the client was implementing."

Wow, that sounds pretty inane.

rs3123 2 days ago 3 replies      
Interesting post. What was that bit about the three heads?
peachananr 2 days ago 0 replies      
For Google, iCloud Is Annoying; For Microsoft, It's A Humiliation sfgate.com
209 points by sandipc  1 day ago   171 comments top 27
ChuckMcM 1 day ago 5 replies      
I have to agree with the Chronicle's basic point which is that Microsoft has talked about "cloud computing" for a long time and not delivered anything. Even a bad anything.

Its a very good example of the Innovator's Dilemma [1] in action, you've got some smart folks who see a future problem, and start creating interesting technology and vision around that problem, and then the reality that the company doesn't "need" it now gets in the way of pushing it from concept into the product stream. So it never gets to the 'commit' point where everyone is on board with shipping it to customers and trying to support it.

Why? Because that is "risky" but just tweaking the current product stream and adding a few features or targeting an adjacent market is much lower "risk."

As Clayton points out in his book innovation always loses in the 'risk' evaluation. So companies that are 'managed' always strive for optimum returns, and since you can't predict the future they are risk averse. Companies that are 'lead' on the other hand have the capability to ignore the risk in order to get to the rewards on the other side.

Startups have the risk meter pegged so it doesn't enter into their management decisions, instead they are focussed on execution and they flame out or succeed as they will and when they succeed they clarify the risk around their idea (if it flops the managers can pat themselves on the back for avoiding that land mine, if it takes off the managers wring their hands and wonder if they should have been able to forecast that success.

I think Apple may have combined some protocols and services into a useful adjunct to their product strategy. We won't really know until later when we see how it fairs. From the presentations and markitecture that Microsoft has espoused it seems like they could have done something similar but they didn't. It does reflect badly on how they are being managed, and that buck does stop at Ballmer. So it will be interesting to see how this affects his future there.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0060521996

ezy 1 day ago 3 replies      
Microsoft killed their own brand.

Through their own efforts, Microsoft means Office, which means corporate. Unsurprisingly, their best consumer success is only tangentially associated with their name. "Microsoft Xbox" sounds like "Accounting Bouncy-house" to most people. There's a little bit of a dissonance when you remember that, yeah, Microsoft made this game system.

Even Windows, which is used by a majority of consumers today, feels like using a work tool at home, rather than something more personal. The way it communicates with you is like a colleague, not a friend. There are features that are the same as equivalent features on other operating systems, sometimes better, sometimes worse. But they are designed to make you "more productive", not to help you. Even when the mechanism is the same, it feels off as a personal device...

So, it's unsurprising that M advertises the Cloud heavily and it just feels like a "team-building" video, whereas A takes advantage of M's "to the cloud" ads building awareness to do a small press push and a brief description in a presentation and it's perceived as the second-coming.

And here's the thing, the "to the cloud" idea as marketing is a great idea! It's funny, and totally memorable -- but the Microsoft brand just kills it dead.

paulitex 1 day ago 5 replies      
Does anyone else feel like the cheers of success for iCloud are a little premature? It's amazing that since it's Apple we automatically believe the "No, really I mean it this time!". Shouldn't previous performance be taken into consideration (.Mac, MobileMe)? Boy who cries cloud?

Until iCloud is launched (not til the fall), all we have is old broken promises, vapourware, and some very expensive data centres.

I want iCloud to live up to the hype as much as anyone. But at this point the only thing we should be calling a success is the awesome power of the Jobs Distortion Field. He's the tech equivalent of a superstar athlete in their prime and the top of their game - evidenced by articles like these.

JunkDNA 1 day ago 3 replies      
The problem for Microsoft is that they continue to serve two masters: consumer users and corporate users. Corporate IT shops, especially within certain industries, can be exceptionally wary of anything that moves data outside their walls. Consumers are in general not nearly so picky. Corporations are MS's biggest customers and for years have had considerable influence on product direction. It's just not in Microsoft's DNA to ruffle the corporate customer feathers too much (whereas I get the sense Google and Apple almost take pleasure in it).

The biggest issue for MS isn't just that iCloud might be an embarrassment. It's a full on attack on the Windows monopoly. Apple telegraphed this in the WWDC presentation when they showed the stats on the numbers of people who don't own a personal computer (either Mac or Windows) in different countries around the world. The combination of iCloud + iPad means that the iPad can be a standalone device. This could potentially be huge in markets like China. How many SharePoint licenses does MS have to sell to make up for ceding a significant portion of the untapped Chinese PC market to the iPad?

programminggeek 1 day ago 1 reply      
You know, the funny thing is that as nerds we tend to look at iCloud and say, "well I can already do that with Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Player". It's not revolutionary to us.

Yet, can you imagine how many sales Apple will be able to take from Microsoft just by saying, "all your files are backed up and synced automatically between your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Mac devices." No more worrying about backups, losing your photos, or losing your music.

Up until now GeekSquad and other computer repair businesses made a killing just on moving files between machines when you replace them or recovering lost files.

Apple is getting this right because it helps them sell more devices. Microsoft is getting it wrong because it would cost them a lot and wouldn't sell more copies of Windows or Office.

jasonkolb 1 day ago  replies      
I don't know that anything Apple is doing is that revolutionary, the difference is that Apple and Jobs are phenomenal at presenting the idea so that people actually get it.

I'm sure there are a lot of Microsoft execs right now that are saying "we already do that with product X" and pretty pissed off that they were never able to sell product X over 5 years the way Apple did in an hour.

The bottom line is that Apple knows how to sell products to consumers, and Microsoft doesn't. Microsoft and Google both suffer from the same disease, they try to sell a product, not address a need. They might be the same thing in the end, and Microsoft might have even gotten there first, but Apple really gets marketing.

napierzaza 1 day ago 1 reply      
MS has been humiliated by Apple for over a decade now. Bill Gates wrote an entire book about the home of the future. And how digital devices would rule it. Who came across and actually did that? iPod, iPhone, iPad and the AppleTV are all very successful and the "digital hub" is basically the same thing that MS has been saying.

MS has been doing a lot of catch-up "also-ran" devices trying to do what Apple has done. It's unfortunate that they could never leverage their huge lead to make it happen.

6ren 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Microsoft makes money from the desktop. The cloud threatens this, the current incarnation of the internet.

Over 10 years ago, the internet was supposed to undermine Microsoft, lead by Java. There was even a set-top box, that downloaded everything from the network (sound familiar?)

There was a joke about Java's ideal "write once, run everywhere", as "write once, debug everywhere". A similar joke about network-based computing's ideal of "access anywhere" is "no access anywhere". It's interesting that Apple's approach is not network centric.

    1. The network is reliable.
2. Latency is zero.
3. Bandwidth is infinite.
4. The network is secure.
5. Topology doesn't change.
6. There is one administrator.
7. Transport cost is zero.
8. The network is homogeneous.


Of course, Java has basically achieved its aim. And, one day, the network will be good enough - when it's as reliable as the bus in your PC (or, more accurately, as reliably as it needs to be for specific tasks).

woan 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was going to say something about this being flame bait, but I went back to MS's marketing material and it does seem like their vision marketing is at great odds from their execution: http://www.microsoft.com/softwareplusservices/software-plus-...

Unless by services they means software updates, CDDB updates, and downloading Office templates...

hussam 1 day ago 1 reply      
Good god! Isn't it too early to prejudge iCloud? It will likely get a lot of users (it's mostly free and automatically integrated into their products after all), and it will likely succeed given mobility trends. But it is also too early to judge the future success or failure of Microsoft's cloud offering (though from what I'm seeing now, I guess it is likely to succeed as well).

At this point in time, Apple's success in the "software+cloud" model is the same as that of Microsoft (in that neither have seen mass wide adoption).

The use of "humiliation" in the title is an obvious exaggeration. But I guess without such title, that article wouldn't end up on the front page of HN.

flamingbuffalo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Seems like this just is echoing Gruber from earlier this week:

"But Google's vision is about software you run in a web browser. Apple's is about native apps you run on devices. Apple is as committed to native apps " on the desktop, tablet, and handheld " as it has ever been."


dkl 1 day ago 1 reply      
The only thing, as an Android user, I drool over is the ability of iCloud users to have their music "uploaded" for free (without transferring any data). I signed up for the Google Music beta, and 20 minutes later deleted my account. Why? It was going to take several weeks to upload my 60GB of music, during which time I wouldn't be able to seed my torrents as easily. And, saturating my upstream kills my downstream bandwidth.
gallerytungsten 1 day ago 1 reply      
Google is providing facsimiles of applications in the web browser, along with remote storage.

Apple is providing smart remote storage that works with local applications.

Browser apps are clunkier than web apps, at least for now and the immediate future, so Apple has the apparent edge.

recoiledsnake 1 day ago 6 replies      
Microsoft has a marketing problem, they have a lot of cloud services like Skydrive, Live Mesh etc. but are not able to grab the attention of consumers or media like Jobs is able to, on stage.

However, Windows 8 seems to be coming with a ton of integrated cloud features so I don't know about the humiliation part.I just don't see that their marketshare is affected more than 1% specifically due to the cloud services in Lion.

kefs 1 day ago 0 replies      
>> All of the cloud computing services Google offers to consumers, like email, word processing and spreadsheets, happen within the browser.

Factually, this is incorrect. All of the services are available within the browser, but there have been native mobile apps available for gmail/docs/calendar for quite some time now.

Splines 1 day ago 0 replies      
Microsoft had a shot at this with Hailstorm[1], it's too bad that it was killed.[2]

[1] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb263932(v=vs.85).as...

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/11/business/technology-micros...

ajennings 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yes, "the cloud" is a vision that Microsoft has proclaimed and never been able to implement. It really required re-thinking the operating system. Microsoft's operating system was just too big and unwieldy to be re-engineered in this way. If Apple truly has pulled it off, a large part of the reason is that their OS was much more malleable and could handle this kind of thing.

But I think iCloud is more than "annoying" to Google. It shows Apple is competing with them head-to-head for cloud customers. And if there are network effects and permanent lock-in, then this is a very, very important battle.

Google really has written an operating system where you can take your data and configuration with you wherever you go. But you have to switch to a new computer and operating system and a completely different way of thinking!

Apple hasn't truly re-written the operating system the way Google has. They have made some important strides to helping people get their most important data into the cloud. Then they announce iCloud, over-hype it, and hope that the reality distortion field does the rest.

The big advantage that iCloud has, though, is Apple can leverage their entire installed user base. Millions of people can begin to use iCloud NOW, for $29! That's orders of magnitude simpler than having to buy a new computer. It's not a complete cloud solution like ChromeOS, but it might be good enough for now. And with Apple, the transition will be gradual and the learning curve will be easy.

So I think Google should be very worried about iCloud...

Yhippa 1 day ago 0 replies      
I feel that if Microsoft had taken Bill Gates' book "The Road Ahead" and implemented a lot of the ideas in the book they could have preempted Apple and Google by several years! What's amazing to me is that the book is over 15 years old and just now a lot of what he mentioned in there with respect to the cloud is being implemented. Not by his company but Apple.
5h 1 day ago 1 reply      
the word cloud appears 43 times on that page ... Larry Ellisons rant (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOEFXaWHpp) is more apt then ever.
tct 1 day ago 0 replies      
Microsoft have released some great products in the last few years; Xbox and Windows Phone are a couple. Xbox has obviously done extremely well and WP is only going to grow with their partnership with Nokia. Correct me if I'm wrong, but these were both the result of starting from scratch with a smaller, more agile team who have permission to do something different and new. This works; even for Microsoft.

I also feel that maybe similar to Marco Arment's comments on the benefits of the new features in iOS on Instapaper, this may be the case for MSFT. If Apple can pave the way to making consumers' understand or at least appreciate what the cloud can do for them, then Microsoft and Google and others will have an easier time talking about their products. Before the iPhone came out, people couldn't see why and didn't want a "smartphone". Now everyone wants one, whether it's an iPhone or Android (and in the next few years Microsoft).

Microsoft does have some great products in this sphere I believe, Mesh and Skydrive being two. I haven't used either, but from what I've heard they do have some great potential. If off the back of Apple's announcement they can make them look good and continue developing on them, they will be able to sell it, even if its just by saying its the same as iCloud, but made by us. Apple does have a reputation of creating beautiful, easy to use products, but they are also seen as expensive and sometimes unneccessary. Android has taken off by being an alternative - Microsoft have the potential to be that alternative to iCloud. They have the pieces and experience shows MSFT does much better when they are the underdogs (Xbox and WP).

Just my two cents.

nhannah 1 day ago 0 replies      
Microsoft does poor advertising. Office 2011 has a pretty sick cloud integration although you need to be running windows to use it properly. http://explore.live.com/windows-live-skydrive Skydrive. And Office 365 is even further along apparently although I am not a Beta user. I would argue M$FT is ahead of both apple and google, if you run windows and have a win7 phone your integration is pretty insane at this point, toss in an xbox + live and everything is integrated really well. It's just not so cool to talk M$FT as it isn't as shiny. I have a Mac now and have for 6 years, for the 4 years before that I went to a high school with all macs, just trying to point out I am not biased. People just seem to want to love apple and hate msft and as a user of both I don't get why other than "apple's cool."

On a similar note, many people buy macs because they "don't have viruses" which has to do with market share not that they aren't vulnerable as we all know. Am I the only one who believes the Mac App Store is just the beginning of them closing off the system so that in the case they reach a substantial market share they can avoid virus control by making sure you download directly from them? If M$FT told dev's you can only put software on our machines if you give us 30% ppl would go nuts.

Just saying, the fanboyism keeps many users from being critical, in the end they are a company, question every move they make as with google and M$FT.

Apocryphon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would be that guy who says "Who on a non-Mac platform would bother using this?" but then six months down the line we'll find out that Apple has some secret plan to port it and appeal to Windows-using iPhone/iPad owners and boy my face would be red.
westajay 1 day ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of when Microsoft was hyping touch user interface features in the run-up to the Windows 7 launch (without anything tangible in the field). Then Apple released multi-touch gesture pads on their laptops and furthered the reach of iOS.
sganesh 1 day ago 0 replies      
My girlfriend's first reaction to "iCloud" was "Is Mobile Me free now?". Its indeed fascinating to watch , a branding exercise & marketing effort doing it's job with the media & the bloggers to sell an under used platform with a bad rep.
dynosaur 1 day ago 0 replies      
Ubuntu One, while not possessed of all the bells and whistles that Apple likes to hang on things, has already been hard at work in the cloud.
alphadog 1 day ago 0 replies      
Google is the "cloud".

Apple gives the "cloud" branding and a logo.

jccodez 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think iCloud will be great for Microsoft, they are including vista and windows 7 in icloud. I know lots of people with PCs and iphones/ipads.
       cached 12 June 2011 02:11:01 GMT