hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    13 Feb 2013 Best
home   ask   best   6 years ago   
The Star Wars Route: Do a traceroute to network-tools.com
756 points by fpp  4 days ago   77 comments top 20
agwa 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is hilarious - though I wish they had more of an artificial delay between the hops to keep the suspense. If you're curious how you might implement this without actually needing a whole bunch of different hosts with routes between them, see this tool by Moxie Marlinspike:


You still need a big block of IP addresses though since you want the reverse DNS lookup for each IP address to return a different line from the scroll. Definitely a waste of IPv4 addresses; someone some do a IPv6 implementation ;-)

Edit: I just noticed http://beaglenetworks.net/ at the bottom of the traceroute - this was implemented by carefully setting up routing tables and VRFs on a Cisco router. fakeroute seems easier but not a bad way to keep busy during a blizzard.

qixxiq 4 days ago 2 replies      
The full text of the traceroute

  $ traceroute -m 100 | awk '{print $2}'
... cut ...

packetslave 2 days ago 0 replies      
There's a Star Trek version as well, but it only works if you're on IPv6.

  $ traceroute6 -m 120 tng.prolixium.com
traceroute to tng.prolixium.com (2001:48c8:1:137::32), 120 hops max, 24 byte packets
11 v6-seattle-ix.voxel.net (2001:504:16::745f) 209.28 ms 207.781 ms 207.18 ms
12 3890.te6-2.tsr1.lga3.us.voxel.net (2001:48c8::8c9) 277.482 ms 279.604 ms 277.079 ms
13 0.ae1.tsr1.lga5.us.voxel.net (2001:48c8::822) 282.205 ms 286.997 ms 276.887 ms
14 0.ae2.csr2.lga6.us.voxel.net (2001:48c8::82e) 280.187 ms 284.989 ms 277.817 ms
15 em0.dax.prolixium.net (2001:48c8:1:2::2) 277.495 ms 277.68 ms 277.61 ms
16 si3.starfire.prolixium.net (2001:48c8:1:1ff::1a) 311.417 ms 305.949 ms 305.109 ms
17 0.re0.ra.prolixium.net (2001:48c8:1:119::2) 307.72 ms 305.633 ms 305.915 ms
18 0.fx0.voyager.prolixium.net (2001:48c8:1:11f::2) 304.583 ms 303.806 ms 304.216 ms
19 . (2001:48c8:1:137::2) 307.199 ms 303.983 ms 303.874 ms
20 Space (2001:48c8:1:137::6) 310.575 ms 308.043 ms 307.941 ms
21 the.Final.Frontier (2001:48c8:1:137::a) 307.198 ms 304.489 ms 305.967 ms
22 These.are.the.voyages.of.the.starship (2001:48c8:1:137::e) 306.484 ms 308.383 ms 308.094 ms
23 Enterprise (2001:48c8:1:137::12) 305.924 ms 305.817 ms 307.77 ms
24 Its.continuing.mission (2001:48c8:1:137::16) 308.692 ms 316.396 ms 306 ms
25 to.explore.strange.new.worlds (2001:48c8:1:137::1a) 306.123 ms 307.447 ms 312.365 ms
26 to.seek.out.new.life.forms (2001:48c8:1:137::1e) 308.785 ms 309.842 ms 308.362 ms
27 and.new.civilizations (2001:48c8:1:137::22) 309.347 ms 315.072 ms 307.912 ms
28 to.boldly.go (2001:48c8:1:137::26) 309.336 ms 306.98 ms 309.354 ms
29 where.no.one.has.gone.before (2001:48c8:1:137::2a) 308.284 ms 311.138 ms 310.111 ms
30 . (2001:48c8:1:137::2e) 310.227 ms 309.217 ms 309.752 ms
31 EOF (2001:48c8:1:137::32) 309.623 ms 311.074 ms 313.958 ms

oliland 4 days ago 4 replies      
Don't forget to watch Episode IV in the terminal!

    $ telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl

When I was younger I went out of my way to get a V6 address just to watch it in color ;)

fpp 4 days ago 2 replies      
Use any traceroute site/program (not just the one in the link):

TraceRoute to episode.iv a.new.hope it.is.a.period.of.civil.war rebel.spaceships striking.from.a.hidden.base have.won.their.first.victory against.the.evil.galactic.empire during.the.battle rebel.spies.managed to.steal.secret.plans to.the.empires.ultimate.weapon the.death.star an.armored.space.station with.enough.power.to destroy.an.entire.planet pursued.by.the.empires sinister.agents princess.leia.races.home aboard.her.starship custodian.of.the.stolen.plans that.can.save.her

Trace complete

[update: additional hops ] people.and.restore freedom.to.the.galaxy by.ryan.werber when.ccies.get.bored ccie.38168 fin

yread 3 days ago 1 reply      
No wonder we're out of IPv4 addresses...
0x0 4 days ago 1 reply      
Works great with "mtr" (known as "mtr-tiny" in Debian?) - much better than with the regular traceroute :)
abitsios 2 days ago 1 reply      
Doesn't work for me... Strange.

I tried tweaking a few flags (such as much longer timeout: -w 30), still no luck.

$ traceroute -m 100 -e -w 30 obiwan.scrye.net

(...all normal here...)

8 core2-te0-0-0-4.faraday.ukcore.bt.net ( 6.795 ms
core1-te0-0-0-5.faraday.ukcore.bt.net ( 11.500 ms
core1-te0-0-0-4.faraday.ukcore.bt.net ( 13.669 ms

9 host213-121-193-129.ukcore.bt.net ( 5.964 ms 6.068 ms
host213-121-193-137.ukcore.bt.net ( 7.362 ms

10 * * *

11 * * *

12 * * *

(...and so on...)

nirgle 3 days ago 1 reply      
You haven't heard of the tracert? She made the kessel route in less than 30 hops
blowski 4 days ago 4 replies      
For the less technically able amongst us, how does this work?
josteink 3 days ago 1 reply      
In a period when people are complaining about IPv4 address-shortage, this seems a tad excessive.
tlrobinson 3 days ago 0 replies      
No wonder we're running out of IPv4 addresses!
sippndipp 4 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of what happens if you hack this in your terminal:

telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl

bane 3 days ago 0 replies      
in windows, this will get the entire thing tracert -h 100
matt2000 4 days ago 2 replies      
Hilarious - does anyone have any backstory or more info?
JMill 3 days ago 0 replies      
related: "Star Wars Traceroute - How I did it" http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5193725
pla3rhat3r 3 days ago 0 replies      
It's so simple but brilliant!
lucastheisen 4 days ago 0 replies      
that was a good chuckle... thanks for sharing.
I am under surveillance by Canadian agents, my computer has been backdoored nadim.cc
689 points by joshfraser  3 days ago   340 comments top 60
pg 3 days ago 7 replies      
"I'll be wearing a black suit."

That should have been enough to make anyone suspicious.

brownbat 3 days ago 4 replies      
Contact a lawyer immediately.

There are many actions you could take to mess with the investigation that might seem like fair game, but you should discuss each one with an attorney so you don't provide some arcane justification for them to arrest you (by hacking back, or even maybe "interfering with an investigation").

Once you get past that stage, the attorney can help you petition to stop the behavior or demand more information about it.

Legal advice is what you need now, not tech advice.

(Because the server is crushed, I'm only getting the basic gist - forgive me if you've already done this.)

Wintamute 3 days ago 7 replies      
I don't know you and I don't know the world you live in, but just from your worried tone, and the rate at which you're responding to comments in this thread, I just want to say: take a breath. Engaging in a wild HN thread, full of well meaning but varied techy suggestions/speculation might not be the best approach right now. Have some friends sift through it for good information and disengage. Seek legal advice, and take it slow.
orangethirty 3 days ago 0 replies      
Slow down a bit there. Whatever is happening, you need to slow down. Don't make any quick decisions. I know you may feel under a lot of pressure. Best way is to talk to someone you know and trust. A family member or a very old friend. These people love you and want the best for you. Contact them, and explain what is happening. Then with their company, analyze the situation.

I want you to do this. Your current position may make it not so simple. But you must slow down and regain your composure.

Such situations are better dealt with people who love you.

Postpone any harsh decision until you have met with a loved one and have explained the items.

Remember that there is always a way to work things out. Dont lose hope. I want you to remember that things get better. They improve. You just need to slow down and reason a bit.

I'm not doubting your points. But I want you to go to a safe place where you can get some rest. Tomorrow you may be able to think about this with a better understanding. You are a smart person. You always figure out hard problems. You need to rest a bit before you can tackle it. Go and stay with a loved one. They will welcome you and listen to the items you are talking about.

I am orangethirty. Have been programming for a long time. I live in the Caribbean, and you can read more about me on my github (github.com/orangethirty). I'm only interested in your well being. We all want for you to regain your inner peace.

If you need anything, then let me know by posting here. If you feel comfortable emailing me, then do so.I am not pressuring you to do so. Do it if you feel like it.

I want you to remember that tomorrow is another day. Things improve. There is a way to solve every problem.

- orangethirty

kjackson2012 3 days ago 5 replies      
It seems ridiculous that an "intelligence" organization would upload files to a server that identified themselves so blatantly like that. Could it be that it is some ruse of some sort? I don't doubt that someone broke in, but would it really be CSIS?
downandout 3 days ago 2 replies      
The interesting part of this to me is that I'm curious how, exactly, a computer owned by an undisputed computer security expert was successfully backdoored. Presumably he isn't clicking on spear-phishing emails and the like. If they physically accessed the machine, e.g. they sent Jason Bourne in to bug his machine, he's probably headed for some trouble at some point. In general that kind of thing isn't done just for the purposes of poking around.
0x0 3 days ago 1 reply      
Would be interesting to hear more details about which software he's using (OS, "Secure File Transfer desktop client", firewall).

Also, it would be interesting to see what one could find on a raw disk image clone (hidden files? rootkits?).

gnu8 3 days ago 2 replies      
This guy should widely distribute the SFTP creds being used by the backdoor agent on his computer. Then we could all be helpful by uploading useful data to the Canadian government's spy server.
asdlkfjgh 3 days ago 0 replies      
Disconnect computer from network.

Try to dump RAM image.

Image the drive, sign and optionally encrypt the contents, preferably file-by-file checksum and copy to multiple secure locations. Copy of checksums in additional secure location.

Get out of your house with your computer as soon as possible (as soon as you upload one or two images). Do not leave the computer, they will try to destroy or confiscate the evidence. Plan to store computer in secure location, preferably with 24/7 video monitoring and a heavy duty safe. Preserving the evidence is probably that important.

Try to be in the company of someone you trust so they can act as a witness and can protect you from physical intimidation or attack.

Assume phones are compromised including GPS on your mobile phone. Assume you are under physical surveillance. Assume your car is compromised.

Relatives and close friends will be known to operatives. May be a good idea to spend 1-2 nights in a motel with a friend without anyone's cell phone paying cash until you secure copies of your data and get advice on what to do next.

mrb 3 days ago 1 reply      
Magikarp, out of curiosity, why do you think the CSIS want to spy on you?

1) Because you are an anti-surveillance activist.

2) Because they want to eventually backdoor Crytocat in order to spy on the users.

3) Because the FBI asked CSIS to spy on you, and the FBI has their own motives.

w-ll 3 days ago 3 replies      
How did they get access to your hardware? No disk encryption?

Might be crazy, but when I travel I setup a webcam in my office to upload to a vps and then ustream 24/7. Highest quality (don't care about bw since nobodies home.)

dylangs1030 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'd like to know more information.

As it's written this seems to be a very confused article to me. What exactly is the author's point in writing this? And what is his next step moving forward?

What operating system does he use, what software under that operating system (specifically the FTP client), does he have a secure firewall, etc. etc.

dmix 3 days ago 2 replies      
If you need donations for any legal pursuits, set up a page accepting bitcoins or similar.

I'd totally support this.

Illegally monitoring a citizen has to about as bad as it gets in my books. Especially someone who has never done anything illegal and only received attention by building tools to help free speech/privacy.

X4 2 days ago 2 replies      
It is possible that someone is playing a bad prank on Nadim, or that Nadim made the story up to gain attention.

Please read on. If this is real, then I'm sorry and recommend you to consider all suggestions before deciding illogical.


If you watched the movie "Enemy of the State", I'd become paranoid, but not afraid. Stay calm and act logical.

I've looked at cryptocat two days ago, what's special about it? I don't see any reason for the Government to observe you, except that you would be a good fit into their Cyberwar Team. And that you have the wrong connections in the internet. I mean your friends are all hackers. It makes you appear dangerous too. Anyway, the government observes everyone, but with different priority and detail. I think only you might know why they observe you. No need to share the info.

Just as in the Movie: I'd replace all clothes, shoes and hardware with new ones and move to a different place. Acquire encryption software from a trusted source or compile it myself on a newly obtained Netbook and encrypt the hardrive+swap with a password and keyfile. Hide the keyfile. Put your hardware and new phone into a cool faradaybag.com. Stay in public, but personally invincible. Leak everything that isn't harmful for you using delayed transmissions with ifttt.com. Always have multiple copies of important documents, just for the case it's necessary.

Oh and I'd get a weapon and buy a bulletproof jacket (not vest). Avoid any contact to officials should be priority.
Use Tor and VPNs like spotflux, hide.io, ovpn.to etc. and inform close friends to guard you.

+Trust no one.

bahman2000 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm pretty sure that no legitimate covert service operative would identify themselves as such, nor would they brag about going to conferences.
wbhart 2 days ago 0 replies      
The Wikipedia article notes that the press attention garnered by Nadim after his prior tussles increased the popularity of Cyptocat. Now imagine an intelligence agency wanting people to make greater use of a system they have back-doored or which is vulnerable to attack by them. Perhaps they couldn't resist the urge to make Cryptocat more popular! (Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of Cryptocat or CSIS, and my comment is hypothetical speculation. Alternative hypotheses are that they are invading Nadim's computer to try to find a way to break Cryptocat or to spook its developer, or because they have Nadim under some sort of surveillance, for who knows what reason.)

I do have a question about the story though. Why would an intelligence agency want to "acquire" Cryptocat? What would that mean anyway? Purchasing it for internal use is surely not necessary. They can just use it or any one of a number of in-house products they surely already have access to. Purchasing it to take it out of circulation is a possibility. But is this actually feasible? It's Open Source. Purchasing it to stop the developer working on it is a possibility. But wouldn't others step up? Buying a controlling stake in it is a possibility. But I don't see why an intelligence agency would make an offer of cash to someone not known to be susceptible to that kind of manipulation. I actually just don't see them doing this full stop. They surely know Nadim is motivated by idealism, not cash. So I can't think of a reason to "acquire" Cryptocat that actually stacks up. To work out what is going on here, you have to put yourself into the mindset of the individuals and organisations involved. And that is not easy if you simply have their media persona to go by.

Like the rest of the population, these organisations tend to be filled with people of many different persuasions, from geeks and activists and hackers through ultra-authoritarians and rogue elements. It's impossible to know which group is responsible for this, or what their motivations might be. It might have even been an unauthorised operation! And it may just as easily have been someone spoofing CSIS, e.g. some hacker group angry at CSIS for some past grievance. If so, I bet it is baking CSIS's noodle just as much as Nadim's!

At any rate, one should never infer a conspiracy where simple administrative or bureaucratic incompetence is a perfectly valid explanation.

govcrypto 3 days ago 1 reply      
yet another cry for attention from this talented but misguided young man. First it was TSA and Homeland, now the Canadian CSIS -please! You yell and scream about silent circle, about Skype -you demean and disrespect other noted cryptographers when they get press....I work for the govt -your little Hello-Kitty plug in is akin to sugar koolaid. There are many senior experienced folks here that would make great mentors. Get a good mentor -but please stop with the high-school drama. its not reality. I am too old to placate this and someone needs to bring this young man under his wing. He has a future if he stops pining for attention.
wildmXranat 3 days ago 1 reply      
I may or may not have any comments about your situation. Nevertheless, anyone responding to these comments needs to know that there is no guarantee that magikarp is actually Nadim himself, whether the account is compromised and so on. Catch 22 is in full mode in this thread and I would hope that this is not simply paranoia kicking in.

Hypothetically, what is the benefit of airing out of all this information ?

adamnemecek 3 days ago 2 replies      
I'm somewhat surprised that the cryptocat project has been ruffling so many feathers (assuming that the story is in fact what it appears to be).
Geekette 3 days ago 3 replies      
Is the OP sure those were CSIS peeps? Just wondering based on how they bumbled through their attempts at making contact. Thought intelligence agents would be slicker than that.
drucken 3 days ago 1 reply      
For a hacker site, why are so few people interested in seeing his logs?

I hope Nadim does a full write-up, including these, soon.

In the meantime, all the best and keep your (thankfully already) level head.

evolve2k 3 days ago 1 reply      
What's the story with everyone calling each other 'friend' in this post? Is this some crypto community thing I'm not aware of or just coincidence?
st3fan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Since you have already published so much of this story. How about full disclosure and post the actual hostnames, firewall entries and that email you received?
unimpressive 3 days ago 1 reply      

  I have to wonder what you'd see
If you used style as ID.

Styles change from time to time
But style stays from line to line.

Names can change and faces too
But writing tells you who is who.[0]

Many say they are a crowd
But fewer do once lost their shroud.

Traps and snares one will find
Many more if kept their wits about their mind

Still plenty that you see
Hide their face behind IP.

Just a thought.

[0]: http://33bits.org/2012/02/20/is-writing-style-sufficient-to-...

[1]: EDIT: It seems to me that it is very possible that not all accounts here, though not necessarily in this thread, correspond to a single individual.

false_name 3 days ago 0 replies      
I find the idea that Nadim is under surveillance to not be unrealistic. I don't believe he would be under surveillance for his programming. Whether for his associates is another thing.

I don't believe the people he alleges he spoke with are intelligence operatives. Whoever they are, they were almost surely messing with him (but could still be conventional employees of an intelligence agency.) Whether or not they're for real doesn't change my first paragraph though.

I'm not able to give any advice except this: As long as you're on this road, there is no one you can fully trust. No one at all. You haven't fully internalized this yet.

fareesh 3 days ago 1 reply      
I am inclined to believe this is some sort of publicity stunt. This is based on the same amount of evidence that has been presented to the contrary :)
kefs 3 days ago 0 replies      
In case you're curious about who exactly we're talking about.. check out this CSIS Recruiting Video, complete with ominous, heart-thumping, background music.


more: https://www.youtube.com/user/csisscrs/videos?view=0

n3rdy 3 days ago 0 replies      
Is it possible that they may have used a type of hardware backdoor? Something that would be connected to the router, or back of the computer using the lan or usb port?

None of that would show up in any logs or files, and it would get around any password protection and encryption on the actual computer, the only evidence would be from monitoring router traffic. A usb bug would be something that would transmit via wifi, but it would need to be connected directly to your computer to work.

Also check inside the computer for anything unusual.

friendly_chap 3 days ago 1 reply      
If this is true - we live in a scary world.
If not, the guy has talent in marketing.
vy8vWJlco 1 day ago 0 replies      
Update found via Nadim Kobeissi's Twitter feed on Feb 11 @ 7:37 AM:

"Alleged CSIS Liaison Officer met me for coffee yesterday. Told me that Cryptocat is national security threat to Canada. That is all."


wyck 2 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds a bit like your friends are playing a prank on you, or CSIS is smart enough to make it look like that is the case.

The key here is your desktop and how did they access it.

amasad 3 days ago 1 reply      
This is the most trouble a browser plugin could ever cause anyone, and if all this is true then the Canadian government, the FBI and whomever else are after this kid are being very silly. That being said I can't help but think the author likes the media attention, and why wouldn't he, it must be bringing more exposure to his work.
samwillis 3 days ago 2 replies      
And now his server is down?
SammyGuergachi 3 days ago 2 replies      
Just looked at the update. "we have migrated Cryptocat's network into new servers inside a Swedish nuclear bunker" Holy Crap!
gamblor956 3 days ago 1 reply      
In other news, Canada's internal security agency is using "PG" to entrap people...(read the article for context)

I guess they read HN too.

guelo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Straight into the Supreme Court? That is way better oversight over executive branch spying than in the US!
spiritplumber 3 days ago 0 replies      
That'd have been an awesome trolling opportunity.
trevelyan 3 days ago 0 replies      
Go talk to your MP as well.
shocks 3 days ago 0 replies      
Umm, backup and format you computer?
matdrewin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Just curious how you are so certain that the servers were CSIS servers?

Pretty sure you would never be able to trace back a CSIS or CSE ip.

borplk 3 days ago 0 replies      
whatever you do make sure to document every single little detail, take photos, videos, audio recording, keep the emails, etc...
mikebrock 3 days ago 0 replies      
You should attempt to contact the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as soon as possible and protect the evidence on your laptop with your life.
HNC 2 days ago 0 replies      
I suggest you contact the CSIS and ask them directly why they've backdoored your computer.
cpressey 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm extremely confused by one detail. I'd like to know, what would be the point of describing oneself as a "Juror" or "former Juror"? Is there a particular court case involved with this story that I've missed a reference to? Is it some kind of slang in intelligence circles?
Raz0rblade 2 days ago 0 replies      
try a different computer for example android / linux or something exotic much harder to backdoor compared to windows
X4 2 days ago 1 reply      
codejammer 2 days ago 0 replies      
magikarp, could you please do a writeup on how did you notice the surveilance? Any extra info except i found a backdoor and noticed funny traffic would be more than useful to know.
triplesec 3 days ago 4 replies      
Canada has secret agents?
sanko 2 days ago 0 replies      
you should revise your TCP connections if you want know if it's a joke or not
kdazzle 3 days ago 0 replies      
Assange? McAfee? Is that you?
davebuster 2 days ago 0 replies      
IP logs or STFU
unclefucker 3 days ago 1 reply      
Hackernews captivated by a schizophenic...
csisagent 3 days ago 2 replies      
We are watching. Everything.
glamrock 3 days ago 1 reply      
What, no "C.I.Eh" comments yet? I'm... a little disappointed to be honest.
SODaniel 3 days ago 0 replies      
"Whats that abeut? Are they not your friends buddy?"
jscheel 3 days ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I wasn't reading this very closely and started to wonder what in the world pg had to do with Canadian government agents.
herge 3 days ago 0 replies      
Man, who could imagine such skullduggery in such a boring place as Conscordia's Reggies. Secret agents and illegal break ins oh my!

Although, I did have a palestinian friend swear that the Tim Horton's on Guy was a hotbead for the Jordanian security service.

jhprks 3 days ago 2 replies      
Well probably because you did something wrong. Turn yourself in and reflect on your wrongdoings. Put yourself together and stop causing harm to the society.
I'm Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. AMA reddit.com
561 points by taylorbuley  1 day ago   143 comments top 23
cooldeal 1 day ago 3 replies      
Why in the name of sweet Jeebus would someone flag this post on HN?


This is ridiculous, and proves that HN is filled with closed minded fanboys and hater zealots instead of technology lovers who otherwise have good karma.

Can anyone who flagged this post tell us why they did so?

If this is not moderator abuse, I don't know what is.

Reminds me of the Germany jury system that had to be abolished: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury#Germany

>Trial by jury was introduced in most German states after the revolutionary events of 1848; however, it remained controversial and early in the 20th century there were moves to abolish it.[34] The Emminger Reform of January 4, 1924, during an Article 48 state of emergency, abolished the jury system and replaced it with a mixed system including bench trials and lay judges. In 1925 the Social Democrats called for the reinstitution of the jury, and a special meeting of the German Bar demanded revocation of the decrees, but "on the whole the abolition of the jury caused little commotion".[35] Their verdicts were widely perceived as unjust and inconsistent.

dm8 1 day ago 3 replies      
Wow, Bill Gates thinks his portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley was very accurate (http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/18bhme/im_bill_gates_c...).

Even Woz had said that the film accurately portrayed all the personalities.

However, we should appreciate Bill for his honesty. He is not shown in good light in that movie.

bcoates 1 day ago 2 replies      
Bill Gates showing off his baller touchscreen is priceless: http://i.imgur.com/1JqrLVc.jpg
larrywright 1 day ago 2 replies      
Post-Microsoft Bill Gates is a much more interesting person. I'm not a Microsoft fan, but I have a huge amount of respect for how he's choosing to spend the money he made. Interesting contrast to Larry Ellison, for example.
kunai 1 day ago 0 replies      
I created a Reddit account simply for this moment.

Amazing. Bill has had his fair share of flak and has made some decisions in his career that I wouldn't approve of, and I am not particularly a fan of Microsoft, but his humility, modesty, and great work has made him one of my greatest inspirations.

He's a multi-billionaire with a heart that is worth so much more.

sukuriant 1 day ago 2 replies      
They've already said it on Reddit; but, he has to be the fastest Reddit AMA that I've ever paid attention to. He's responding to so much, so quickly; and a lot of the questions don't seem like ones he could pass off to someone else, not to mention the wording, etc seems consistent throughout.
dylangs1030 1 day ago 1 reply      
I just finished reading the entire AMA.

If there's anyone who doesn't want to dig deep into the comments, here's a cool thing:

Bill Gates intends to eradicate Polio within the next six years and then eradicate Malaria within his lifetime.

Kudos, Bill.

vijayr 1 day ago 2 replies      
Q: "Anything left on your bucket list?"

A: "Don't die..."

He has some humor too :P

danso 1 day ago 2 replies      
I wish Reddit implemented a more...un-arbitrary way of calculating upvotes. Gates currently has 6,211 net upvotes, with a total of 11,500 upvotes.

That's already almost half the net upvotes of what Obama got:

But Obama's IAMA got 239,221 upvotes total. Which means he got 225K downvotes...which I guess is feasible, but for all we know, that was just an arbitrary result Reddit's strange algorithm of adding downvotes to obscure the upvote count.

I guess it doesn't matter in the end, it just seems that upvotes should be a real reflection of how liked (or polarizing) a thread/discussion was.

grimlck 1 day ago 11 replies      
I really wish reddit had a better interface to see the questions and Bill's answers all at once without scrolling through random comments.

Why hasn't reddit's AMA been surpassed by a dedicated AMA site with a user interface designed for AMA?

dylangs1030 1 day ago 2 replies      
"Windows 7 or Windows 8? Be honest, Bill."

"Higher is better."

Probably the funniest part of this entire thread is the slew of comments now trying to establish an out of context quote in response to that:

"Higher is better."
~ Bill Gates

breck 1 day ago 0 replies      
I liked this question a lot:

> What's your favorite book?

> "My favorite [book] of the last decade in Pinker's Better Angels of our Nature."

Hadn't heard of that book before, but definitely going to read it now.

orangethirty 1 day ago 2 replies      
I just asked him the following question: Do you still program? I have always been incredibly interested to find that out.
adamnemecek 1 day ago 1 reply      
The fact that someone bought him Reddit Gold is pretty hilarious.
rikacomet 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is the 'fuck I shitted my pants' moment!

Really great to have him in public this way, I mean, most of the celebrities have help teams, that post for them, which is kinda boring, but there are always haters and weeners, that would fill up such pages with some meaningless crap, so my biggest concern is Bill Gates, getting err... unlovey to Reddit ? :( that would be sad

speeder 1 day ago 0 replies      
Whoa, that surprised me!

I hope people can get interesting information, Bill Gates III is seemly a interesting character.

gesman 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is cool and really nice of Bill Gates.
Would be nice to see well-formatted Q/A results after this ends.
potench 1 day ago 0 replies      
He has some pretty insightful responses in general, but I really enjoyed this gem:

Q: What's the cheapest thing that gives you most pleasure?
A: kids, cheeseburgers...
Q: where are you acquiring cheap kids?
A: the stork

orangethirty 1 day ago 0 replies      

    'Anyone good at QBasic?
'I haven't written it in years.

PRINT "Thank you for playing."

6thSigma 1 day ago 1 reply      
He should do an AMA here!
lifeguard 1 day ago 1 reply      
Someone ask him if it is true he thinks church is a waste of time (said this in an interview in the past I think).
codingblues 1 day ago 2 replies      
It been an hour and still no response from Bill, Obama was much more prompt with the replies
bdcravens 1 day ago 2 replies      
Looking at the AMA, the "verification photo", and the posted video, I see nothing convincing me it's real. However, the responses seem non-trolly, but I'm still not convinced.
Elon Musk calls NYT review of the Tesla Model S ‘fake,' citing vehicle log data thenextweb.com
554 points by sethbannon  1 day ago   481 comments top 51
iyulaev 1 day ago 4 replies      
There's an interesting thread from the Tesla Motors club, with lots of input from actual Tesla owners:


From actual Tesla owners, the performance seen by the NYT reporter appears to be par for the course. To date most all-electric vehicles have struggled in the cold. The Nissan Leaf has a terrible time of it, with the range decreased significantly. I was honestly excited to see how Tesla S card would fare in cold weather, and how the Tesla engineers got around this problem. Disappointingly it looks like they didn't, and (anecdotally) the problem may be even worse on the Tesla S than on the roadster or even the Leaf. Bummer.

To everyone comparing the cold weather performance of the Tesla to an ICE: yes, ICEs do get harder to start and less efficient in the cold. But for an ICE, that kind of cold is significantly under 0 farenheit - most of the U.S. is at a low enough latitude that temperatures like this are rarely seen and modern ICE cars will start happily without the need for block heaters and other measures. The reporter had significant trouble at temperatures around 30F which even an air-cooled car from decades ago will shrug off. We're talking about maybe 10% of the population having to take special measures during especially cold times of the year (block heaters for temps < 0F) vs >50% of the population (plugging in overnight, every day, for temperatures <= 30F). HUGE difference

Another blog post which sounds a bit more horrific than the NYT experience, although the Tesla owner really takes it with a good attitude:


Other interesting information gleaned from the thread - 120V is useless for electric cars, you really have to have a dedicated circuit for them. And did I mention they hate the cold?

I'm rooting for Tesla and for electric cars. But I do wish they were rated to perform at lower temperatures, and that everyone (Tesla and reporters alike) was more transparent about this. I'd rather see a few people turned off on electric cars and the rest informed and trained with the care and feeding of the cars during winter, than to see people stranded out in the cold because they weren't aware of their cars' performance envelopes.

cs702 1 day ago 13 replies      
I love this: Musk has promised to respond publicly to the negative NY Times review WITH DATA FROM THE CAR directly contradicting the assertions in the review. From now on, reviewers will be extremely careful about exaggerating the negatives of, or lying about, Tesla vehicles.
Eliezer 1 day ago 6 replies      
Naturally, on any occasion when it is actually possible to check a journalistic report against reality, the journalist will turn out to be lying. This is not absolutely universally true, but it is impossible to appreciate just how often it is true until you have been reported-on in a case where you know the facts yourself.

tl;dr of course they're lying, it's easier to make stuff up then investigate so why wouldn't a reporter always just lie?

jonknee 1 day ago 3 replies      
It was a bizarre piece, especially for the NY Times. It read like someone who got a car that had a 30MPG sticker on the window, put in exactly 10 gallons of gas and planned a trip of exactly 300 miles. In the snow. Any normal person wouldn't have even been in that situation, but the reporter then proceeded to use every opportunity to double down on his bad choices.

Tucked towards the end was a note about how the mileage estimate is indeed an estimate and that cold weather (or hot!) among other things can affect milage. Shocker.

Now finding out that the facts may not have been represented is even more curious.

michael_miller 1 day ago 11 replies      
I'm skeptical of Musk's claim that the review was fabricated. What motive would the author have to fake the review? He would lose all of his credibility as a reporter, essentially killing his carer if anyone found out. Seems like a really high price to pay.

That said, Musk also has a lot to lose by calling out a reporter for fabricating data. It's a pretty serious allegation, and he could get into hot water over it. Therefore, my intuition is that either: 1) Musk is not reading the data correctly, missing some important details, or 2) The data was recorded incorrectly by the car. My bets are on (2).

eli 1 day ago 5 replies      
Tesla previously accused BBC's Top Gear of airing a "phony" review and sued them. The case was thrown out by a judge who ruled that the review was essentially true and that no reasonable person would draw untrue conclusions from it. (my words)

I haven't read every last word on the case, but it seems to me that Top Gear gave Tesla a very harsh review... but that they didn't cheat or do anything really wrong.

IMHO, I would at least give the NYTimes a chance to respond before jumping to any conclusions.

Top Gear's take on the lawsuit: http://transmission.blogs.topgear.com/2011/04/02/tesla-vs-to...

Tesla's reply:

Article on case being thrown out for a second time: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/23/top-gear-libel-c...

Lazare 1 day ago 1 reply      
Tesla really does themselves no favours by their confrontational stance with the media. I hope - for their sakes - they are on stronger ground here than they were with their embarrassing lawsuit against the BBC.

Backstory: The BBC show Top Gear reviewed a Tesla, and gave it a glowing review, but noted that it was very expensive, that it would only last 55 miles if driven hard on a race track, that the brakes broke once during testing, that if you run out of charge you'd have to push it, and that at one point it overheated and suffered reduced performance. Tesla hit the ceiling and sued for libel over every negative comment in the review. But as even they eventually admitted, every single claim was absolutely true, and a judge threw the lawsuit out as completely groundless. Tesla's argument was that it may have been true, but it was misleading, but even in Britain the truth is an absolute defence for libel, as 30 seconds with Google would have told them.

Now they're going after another news organisation, again claiming that a review contained lies. If they can't substantiate this one either, they're going to look like idiots.

smackfu 1 day ago 1 reply      
Jalopnik has a response from the Times:

"The Times's February 10 article recounting a reporter's test drive in a Tesla Model S was completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred. Any suggestion that the account was "fake" is, of course, flatly untrue. Our reporter followed the instructions he was given in multiple conversations with Tesla personnel. He described the entire drive in the story; there was no unreported detour. And he was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla."


dave1619 1 day ago 2 replies      
For those interested, here's an interview with Elon Musk on CNBC this morning. He explains his reasoning pretty clearly.


I'm sure Elon Musk and Tesla are glad that they have the data logs for the trip. In my view, this is going to be key. All you need to do is compare the account by the journalist with the actual data and see where the discrepancies are.

It might be too earlier to tell w/o looking at the data ourselves, by if I had to bet I'd bet on Elon/Tesla for this one.

imjk 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's easy to write off Elon Musk's attacks on Top Gear and the NYT as an overzealous founder defending his company or as a savvy PR strategy against bad press, but you also have to keep in mind the number of parties that want to to see Tesla fail and the huge amount of influence they have, namely the oil and traditional auto industries. Most "revolutionary" companies come under similar resistance. I'm interested to see what facts Musk lays out.

Also, it's interesting to note the archive of the article's author: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b.... Seems like he's a climate/energy specialist rather than an automobile specialist as I had assumed.

natural219 1 day ago 2 replies      
The length of the detour really matters here. Even if Tesla's claims were true, unless there was truly malicious reporting going on, I think even this kind of basic negligence is still a valid point against the Model S. Consumers might forget to charge their car properly, or not take into account detours/pitstops when planning for the Model S's range.

Note -- I absolutely love Tesla and I can't wait for them to prove everyone wrong, but that still doesn't make the initial claim entirely invalid. I want to see the data before I make conclusions.

newman314 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm looking at this from a different angle. Based on what I read from this article [1], Tesla is able to send data from a car back to the factory and on at least one occasion has done so without the permission and knowledge of the owner.

"In at least one case, Tesla went even further. The Tesla service manager admitted that, unable to contact an owner by phone, Tesla remotely activated a dying vehicle's GPS to determine its location and then dispatched Tesla staff to go there. It is not clear if Tesla had obtained this owner's consent to allow this tracking5, or if the owner is even aware that his vehicle had been tracked. Further, the service manager acknowledged that this use of tracking was not something they generally tell customers about."

"There appears to be no reference to Tesla having the ability to track a vehicle's location at its discretion in either the data recording section of the Roadster Owners Manual [Page 1-2, Column 2: PDF] or the addendum that covers the GSM connection [Page 9: PDF] "

AFAIK, Tesla has never addressed this publicly.

[1] http://theunderstatement.com/post/18030062041/its-a-brick-te...

cjensen 1 day ago 2 replies      
NYT takes facts seriously and they issue written corrections for even the most trivial inaccuracies. If the allegations by Musk are true, the article's author will be looking for a new job soon.
salimmadjd 1 day ago 0 replies      
Horrible reporting by TNW!
Musk claims, "NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake. Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn't actually charge to max & took a long detour"

If you read the NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/automobiles/stalled-on-the...

The reporter doesn't claim he had charged the battery fully in all occasions. He states how long he charged the car for and what the milage indicator provided.

I can argue Musk is trying to get ahead of the story and create doubt among potential buyers about the veracity of the story. That's all he needs to do.

Basically, Tesla will probably come out with data that shows the battery was not fully charged and hence why lower milage. However, the reporter says he only charged the car for the distance he thought he needed. Therefore, Tesla will be a head of the story and the headlines his PR will create is that the car was not fully charged. And most people, including readers of this site, will not do further investigation. Rest assure those who are still considering buying a Tesla will buy it not knowing if the battery might have a temperature range issue.

tokenadult 1 day ago 1 reply      
From the update to the submitted article: "Update: A New York Times statement as reported by CNBC


doesn't mince its words: 'Jan. 10 article recounting a reporter's test drive in a Tesla Model S was completely factual [...] Any suggestion that the account was "fake" is, of course, flatly untrue.'"

Well, that joins issue directly with what Musk is claiming. Now it will be interesting to check the facts.

Earlier Hacker News thread about the New York Times review:


AFTER EDIT: I wonder if the reporter had a GPS-enabled tracking device on his person while he was doing the reporting? Maybe, maybe not, but that would be one more way to establish where the reporter (and, thus, presumptively the vehicle) was at different times during the test drive.

cryptoz 1 day ago 6 replies      
This morning would have been a wonderful time to buy stock. TSLA was way down (due to this review?) and earnings are coming up soon. This makes me wonder if the NYTimes or this reporter had some ulterior motive; a conspiracy to discredit Tesla? A personal vendetta? Why would a reporter lie about the test?
codex 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a bit disingeious of Musk to propose that journalists repeat this trip, knowing full well that the problems reported in the original article stem from cold weather. The weather on the East Coast is getting warmer by the day. It is almost spring. Even if Tesla can tell each journalist to stop charging at Norwich at the same point they did originally (assuming they can determine that reliably), the battery state at that point, and going forward, will be different because of the weather.

The sensationalist part of this review is the bricking of the car. This happens shortly after the reporter claims that "after an hour they (Tesla) cleared me to resume the trip to Milford." So, any detour is only meaningful to the outcome of this review if it occurs after this clearance, because at that point Tesla HQ knows what the range of the car should be, and whether or not he will make it, and when to tell him to stop charging. Milford is a straight shot from Norwich. If a detour did occur in this critical period, it would reflect very badly on the author.

jusben1369 1 day ago 0 replies      
I admire Musk and love what he's doing in general. I think he's an inspirational entrepreneur. It makes sense that he's defending his company. Having said that I think this is an interesting tack to take. Firstly, this is the New York Times. I'm sure they take their integrity pretty seriously. Secondly, Musk has sued before so that would make them particularly sensitive to ensuring that they got their facts and figures correct if they're going to post a negative article. Thirdly, I'm not sure how much of an argument Musk is really mounting here. There are still a bunch of charges left unaddressed. That the charge dissipated much faster than it was telling the driver. That cutting things like heating and speed were solutions? That it didn't have a sufficient charge to unlock a handbrake etc.

Why does this matter? Well, we all know Tesla is a cutting edge technology. Those who buy that car understand that they're going to take on additional hardships and risks vs a gasoline vehicle. Culturally, what message is Musk sending by attacking the author and avoiding many of the issues raised? If you buy a Tesla and experience problems do you want a company that questions your honesty and integrity or one that says "Sounds like a horrible experience let's do everything on our power to fix it?"

jasonkolb 1 day ago 1 reply      
From the NYT:
"[The reporter] was never told to plug the car in overnight in cold weather, despite repeated contact with Tesla."

This sounds like a customer service failure to me.

codex 1 day ago 2 replies      
What is it about Elon Musk's companies constantly suing people? Tesla sued Top Gear for libel. SpaceX sued a safety consultant asking clarification about a rumor [1]. Now this tiff may well end in a lawsuit.

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/20/spacex_sues_consulta...

spikels 1 day ago 0 replies      
I used to take for granted that what I read in the NYT and learned from other highly regarded sources was factual and thoughtful. Then I read an articles about a subject I knew really, really well and the reporter got it completely wrong. Then it happened again and again. This made me worry about the quality of the information on subjects I don't know about.

I began to realize that journalists are not experts in all things or sometimes even one thing. Instead they are usually simply good writers operating under tight deadlines. And their goal is to write pieces that attract the attention of readers not simply provide accurate information. Lastly they are humans who make mistakes and have biases.

Take everything you read with a grain of salt. Think about how likely it is to be correct and not sensationalized or biased in some way. Check with others sources before you add what you read to your knowledge. The most dangerous thing is to think you know something that is either not known or wrong.

gdeglin 1 day ago 1 reply      
The NY Times article didn't pass the sniff test the first time I read it.

If you look at the map on the article, it clearly shows that the writer chose not to charge in Manhattan when remaining range read 79 miles and destination was 73 miles away (he barely made it). Later he leaves Norwich after only charging the car up to 32 miles of range remaining while the destination is 68 miles away... No wonder he ran out and had to be towed after 51 miles.


Oddly, some of this data is conveniently excluded from the article. The writer claims Tesla cleared him to drive from Norwich to Milford (68 miles). But he fails to mention that at the time the car reported 32 miles of range remaining (As indicated in the data on the map). Something is very fishy here.

smackfu 1 day ago 1 reply      
The main thrust of the article seemed to be that Tesla's charging stations aren't sufficient in the Northeast, being almost at max range apart. I doubt even Musk would disagree with that.
mongol 1 day ago 1 reply      
The review gave me the impression that the vehicle did not provide accurate (over a period of time) predictions of how much mileage was left. If that is the case, why should the vehicle logs be more accurate? If the car measures something wrong, the logs would reflect that.
stcredzero 1 day ago 0 replies      
Our culture is badly broken. When "the social contract" for broad swathes of society is so little regarded that lying is a matter of course, then we have already reached worrying levels of dysfunction, of the sort that historians point out when they discuss the fall of the Roman Empire, Czarist Russia, or the USSR. A point all of those have in common: The denizens came to assume public information was false as a matter of course, as a time and sanity saving measure. Large swathes of our society think of lying, even when deceiving large swathes of the public, as a kind of sport, and profiting from such lying as a kind of serendipitous fortune to be exploited without conscience, like finding cash on the sidewalk.

Such attitudes are shoved in my face when I see exclamations like, "Pictures or it didn't happen!" It's the same when big media corporations trade in innuendo and conspiracy theories and deliberately sabotage the dissemination of knowledge for their own ends. Such attitudes are so pervasive, that large swathes of the population actually disbelieve in any kind of objective truth, and accept mere social proof as its substitute and superior.

It's entirely possible that the journalist in question is innocent of deception and only guilty of poor journalism and/or poor trip planning and/or insufficient UI design. However, the issue with the review and that of the social contract are entirely related. In a world where reality itself is relative and subject to social proof, there is no need to double check your facts or to prove the null hypothesis. In a world where science is just another fabricated self-serving belief system, there's no need to apply one's scientific literacy or application of physics learned in school when doing things like taking a car trip in winter. One only need know enough to read the dials and gauges to be a good consumer, then complain loudly if things do not go one's way.

True competence, be it in programming or journalism or any significant endeavor, requires diligence with and prostration to the truth. Our society as a whole has forgotten this and our society as a whole is oblivious to the price it is paying as a consequence.

Another way to think of it: Our society as a whole doesn't have the epistemological foundation needed for the level of technical sophistication it has.

kmfrk 1 day ago 0 replies      
If anyone even doubts whether the NYT are going to respond to this (of course they are), you can ping their public editor @sulliview, who's an immense treasure to the paper. She'll report on it, no doubt.
abat 1 day ago 0 replies      
The thing about product reviews in mainstream publications like the NYTimes, is that their goal isn't just to tell you how good the product is. Most of the readers aren't actually on the market for a Tesla, they just want to be entertained and feel like they learned something new. To reach these casual readers, the reviews really need to be narrative stories. "Range anxiety" makes for a very good narrative because it adds a layer of suspense (ie "will he make it?"), so it makes sense that the reviewer would have a motive for faking the review even if his goal isn't to hurt Tesla.

That being said I have no idea if the allegations are true and am eagerly awaiting Tesla's full blog post with evidence.

ck2 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm curious if a private owner tried to sue Tesla for range claims if Tesla would magically show up with the logging data for the customer.

This will a be moot point with drones in the near future though, most vehicles will have a 24/7 travel log from the government, just like they track all phone calls domestically without warrants. It will be super easy for a cluster of drones to track every car from start to destination.

krschultz 1 day ago 1 reply      
I went to school in Newark Delaware and lived in Groton Connecticut.It's a long drive. There is almost always traffic somewhere.

I wouldn't expect an electric car to make it without a charge. I would usually fill up my gas tank twice. The fact that they made it close is great. The fact that the charging stations are that far apart sucks.

bobsy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is this a design problem with the Tesla? With my petrol car I know when the car is completely filled with fuel. It is obvious in Tesla?

Pure speculation. This could be a UI problem. The journalist thought the car was charged and ready to go but it wasn't.

mncolinlee 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is why range extenders will stay popular even as battery technology improves.

In ten years' time, I predict that straight battery-only electric vehicles will cost less than the gasoline equivalent and be VERY popular as commuter vehicles because gasoline prices will be over $6/gallon (especially if we build the Keystone XL pipeline to send more oil overseas).

One car in many households will likely require some kind of range extender, which increases the purchase and maintenance costs. There's a reason why SUVs are so rare in Europe: we've been spoiled by cheap gasoline in America.

martinced 1 day ago 0 replies      
I told you so right here on HN, just after the journalist posted his sensational article.

This is all too common from car journalists: some of them will try to fake any test they can to try to harm the reputation of an upcoming car many people do believe in.

I'm not saying that journalist did it: all I said is that you should always be suspicious of claims like that by journalists. Many of them are little attention whores so you have to read between the lines.

And wait for more tests, counter-claims, car owners reports, etc.

It's sad that the journalists (not this one specifically) lack integrity because you can never know if an article was honestly done or not (like in this case).

ChuckMcM 1 day ago 0 replies      
Challenging thing. I agree the NYT article read like a hatchet job but still. Nobody likes having their baby called ugly, the response though could be a bit more measured. Looking forward to Tesla's log analysis and their take on the situation.
mtgx 1 day ago 1 reply      
If this is true, then he should sue NYT or the author, unless the author admits it's true in another article. I've heard quite a few random people use the NYT article as an argument against Tesla/electric cars, and I think that article can have long term negative impact on electric cars (even if it won't be a complete deal-breaker for electric cars). So he needs to either get them to admit the review was not accurate, or sue them.
srlake 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm impressed that he doesn't hesitate to call out the NY Times. Musk clearly doesn't care about politics or tiptoeing around sensitive issues.
wcchandler 1 day ago 1 reply      

> "the tested Tesla was filmed being pushed into the shed in order to show what would happen if the Roadster had run out of charge."

Is this true? Is there no "emergency portable charge kit" that one could haul to anyplace with electricity and get a quick charge, possibly good for ~15 miles? If not then I smell a business opportunity.

solsenNet 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think we've proven that we don't need the East Coast for: the PC revolution, the Internet revolution and the Mobile revolution.

They can sit out the electric car revolution as well...

Who the hell wants to go to "Milford, Conn." anyways ;)

notdrunkatall 1 day ago 0 replies      
Tesla needs to pay gas stations to install 220v receptacles and include an adapter kit with every Model S that will fit all of the common plugs out there. That's all there is to it. Consumers aren't going to want to buy these cars en masse if they're scared of being stranded somewhere, and they're going to be scared of being stranded somewhere if it's 100 miles either way to the nearest charging station, regardless of how much range the car has left.

Are you reading this, Elon? Pay gas stations to install 220v receptacles, and map the locations of those stations onto your cars' GPS systems. Make the kit, and make a compartment for the kit. Make an announcement that you're going to start doing this, and start doing it NOW.

cardine 1 day ago 0 replies      
If you are rich enough to own a Tesla, you probably also are rich enough to have a second car or to fly. I've been considering getting a Tesla, and long distance doesn't matter that much to me because I'd take a 2 hour flight over a 7 hour drive any day.
taylorbuley 1 day ago 0 replies      
Forgetting to turn off the tape recorder: classic journalism trick.
hakaaaaak 1 day ago 0 replies      
Good for Elon. Every CEO should stand up for his product like that.
lectrick 1 day ago 0 replies      
I own a Chevy Volt and it gets about 20% less range in the ~32 degrees F temperatures we have around here in NYC environs right now.
Zimahl 1 day ago 2 replies      
Tesla blog coming soon detailing what actually happened on Broder's NYTimes “range test”. Also lining up other journalists to do same drive.

I'm not a journalist but I would be more than happy to test drive and do a write-up! I would think it would be pretty easy to find 1000 journalists willing to do this.

lotso 1 day ago 1 reply      
Even if the reporter fabricated parts of the story, aren't the concerns about driving in cold weather still relevant? Any Tesla owners want to weigh in?
Vinnix 1 day ago 0 replies      
Yeah I met an owner of one of these and not a single problem was with it...As enthusiasts we read articles to know about what makes something great.

FWIW, NYT is the last place I would go for a good car review ;)

rtrunck 1 day ago 0 replies      
NYT says the author drove the first 114 miles in 84 minutes (~81 mph avg)....
kennethcwilbur 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is silly. It's like buying a toaster and then complaining when it fails to make panini.

You don't get an electric vehicle for the purpose of driving from DC to New York.

I have always plugged my EV in on a 120 volt circuit. It gets about 50-60 miles of charge per night. My commute is 10 miles. The car is full every morning, no matter how cold it is.


anona 1 day ago 1 reply      
Based on Tesla's past claims against Top Gear (that turned out in favor of Top Gear in court), I would give the NY Times the benefit of the doubt here. Especially since Tesla hasn't produced any evidence yet.
ed_blackburn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Is it terribly smart picking fights with the media when you're in the consumer business. Good luck to him for taking it on.
mikec3k 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm willing to bet that guy was paid off by an oil company.
joering2 1 day ago 0 replies      
hmmm lets see: a journalist of media behemoth that major stake is in hands of the same people that have stakes in gasoline car manufacturers drafted a negative review for a company with a product that may forever shift the way we drive cars and how much we spend for this privilege...

> Tesla Model S was completely factual [...] Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake' is, of course, flatly untrue.”

Yes of course, CNBC never lied in the entire history of a written word! [1].

Also, my memory ma not serve well, but weren't the CNBC journalist send to take photos from camps in Afganistan and when it turned out that there were no camps, they found some fence and faked the story of a reporter being inside the "camp" by taking photos through said fence?

[1] http://www.imediaethics.org/News/3061/Cnbc_corrects__apologi...

I made $200K and PayPal locked my account
461 points by blasten  4 days ago   267 comments top 92
InclinedPlane 4 days ago 5 replies      
Wow, the sheer quantity of unhelpful advice in this thread is simply mind boggling. Hey, let's all hate paypal because they "steal" people's money. Ignoring the seriously thorny legal bramble that the OP has run headlong into with nary a concern. There is a bounteous variety of comments of the form "Paypal sux! {Use X instead!}" Where X may be stripe, or wepay, or whatever. Ignoring the fact that stripe wouldn't help in this case (it's US only), if you go read the terms of service of stripe or wepay you'll find exactly the same things there as are at issue here. You'll need an SSN or EID or tax ID with stripe too, just as you would with a WePay business account. There's a reason for that, and it has to do with the law.

There are maybe only half a dozen reasonable, substantially helpful, and actionable replies in this whole thread (which would put it at maybe a 4% SNR), almost all the rest is useless. If this is what HN is going to be, I don't want it.

As for my advice, it's simple. Go talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, you have a lot of issues that need sorting and a good lawyer is absolutely necessary to get through those issues, and they'll help to put you on the right footing to deal with paypal. It sucks that you have been acting in good faith and doing good work and have gotten tangled in the mess that is the many layers of laws, regulations, and corporate policies that make up our modern immigration, taxation, and financial systems. You have my sympathies for that and I wish you the best of luck, hopefully you'll be able to keep the proceeds of your excellent work without any serious negative repercussions.

gojomo 4 days ago 2 replies      
Concur with javajosh's recommendation to find a California/USA-based lawyer for help. Advice from semi-anonymous strangers in internet forums is worth what you pay for it.

Generally, in the search for a lawyer, you get to talk to many (without charge) for 15-45 minutes each. You may be surprised how widely their estimations of the issues vary -- the law is the law, right? -- but you'll learn something from each conversation, and perhaps find someone you trust with your concerns. Also, legal confidentiality means that even if you've messed up on some tax/immigration/work-authorization/business things, talking with them honestly doesn't mean you've made any admissions that get back to the authorities (unless and until with their advice you decide that's the best course).

If a student in the US, your educational institution may also have a legal aid clinic.

You can probably get an 'ITIN', the equivalent to a Social Security Number for non-domestic individuals/entities who need an SSN-like number for tax/financial reporting purposes. See...


...and the related IRS pages. And again, just getting the number isn't admitting to anything or any tax liability. However, it then will be used by financial institutions (like PayPal) to maintain their internal and government-required reporting requirements. Separate from just tax issues, amounts in the tens-of-thousands (and sometimes less) are subject to reporting to control money-laundering from large-scale illegal activities.

nlh 4 days ago 6 replies      
Sorry to hear about the troubles :(

If this wasn't the umpteenth time I've heard this story, I wouldn't say this so pesteringly:

To everyone: Stop stop stop stop stop using PayPal. This happens over and over again. For once, thankfully, there are viable alternatives out there -- Stripe & WePay to name two (both of which I've had excellent experiences with).

Not saying they're panaceas or that there won't be security/freezing issues from the new guys, but PayPal has a documented, extensive, and repeated history of freezing accounts with large amounts of money in them over short(ish) periods of time.

ChuckMcM 4 days ago 4 replies      
Sad story, I agree with folks who say you should seek out legal advice.


If you are going to receive funds with PayPal and they are going to exceed the 'occasional sale' guidelines (which some people interpret to mean the same guidelines at the rule for sending an IRS 1099 form which is < $600 annually.

First establish your business presence in the US, that means creating an LLC, getting an EIN [1] and establishing a relationship with a US based bank.

If you get hung up on those steps, don't start taking money with PayPal because their zealous anti-fraud/laundering/drug program fires on a hair trigger. It didn't help that the OP is a student from Venezuela which is not one of America's trading partners.

I expect you will lose most of this money in legal fees. However, if the business is durable, and you manage to establish your LLC (that lawyer you got can help with that) then you will make it back and PayPal will back down. As long as the money trail can be tracked and everyone in the path reports it to the Federal Government so that they are satisfied it isn't part of a laundering scheme[2], or if it was they can catch the folks involved, you will be ok.

[1] http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Taxpa...

[2] This is how the laundering scheme would work. Some criminal enterprise hires a bunch of third parties to buy your 'widget' for an inflated price, say $10,000 per copy. You sell the 20 copies, get the $200,000, now you go to a coffee shop owned by the criminal enterprise and buy a Double Vente Latte for $180,000 made out of hand picked coffee beans. The crook now has $180,000 of "legitimate" income from his coffee shop, you have $20,000 in "profits" on your amazing Javascript widget, and 20 drug dealers have a bit of software they just delete from their hard drive (if they down loaded it at all). Everybody "wins." So the US Government wants to be able to subpoena your customer list to track the money from the drug dealers to you and then back to the crooks. Paypal helps with that. If you make it hard for them to do that, they keep you money.

patio11 4 days ago 2 replies      
Apply for a TIN - taxpayer identification number. PayPal can use it in lieu of an SSN. This will take you six weeks. In the alternative, consult a local lawyer and have them nastygram Paypal for you.
dangrossman 4 days ago 2 replies      
From your comments, you had multiple PayPal accounts (disallowed), were in Venezuela, using a US PayPal account, then transferring the funds to a PayPal account in Venezuela, and can't provide a tax ID for the US account. At the same time, you went from zero to hundreds of thousands in payments in just a few months. To PayPal, you likely appear to be a criminal involved in some type of money laundering or tax evasion scheme. I don't know enough about student Visas and international tax agreements to say you aren't actually engaging in tax evasion, perhaps unknowingly.

It's not surprising they locked the account and asked for documentation. The tax code pretty much guarantees they would within a year in order to file the 1099-K on your account. This stuff is serious to them, both from a financial (the potential losses if this money disappears because it's not been moving legally) and regulatory fronts (US Patriot Act among others requires banks, like those underwriting your US PayPal account, to be able to accurately identify their customers). This might not be easy to fix.

sp_ 4 days ago 3 replies      
When you say you're an international student, do you mean you're in the US on an F-1 visa? If yes, you might be in violation of your visa terms. If you have not researched this, please start reading at http://www.justanswer.com/immigration-law/330cd-holding-f-1-...
droithomme 4 days ago 1 reply      
The comments here are good.

One point not addressed in the comments is that whether PayPal ever gives you the money back or not, OP has earned $200,000 in income while in the United States and he owes the IRS and possibly the state government as well full US income tax on this amount since he was in the US at the time he did this work. It doesn't matter what his visa situation is, that has nothing at all to do with if he owes taxes. He is required to file an income tax return this year, and pay the taxes, end of story. If he doesn't pay the taxes, he might go to jail and probably will get a felony record and be permanently banned from returning to the US after release.

So this is a pretty serious problem and requires a legal team, which undoubtedly will cost the full amount on deposit to untangle.

He can't just walk away from the situation and let PayPal keep the money, unless he can get the amount he owes in taxes from a relative and pay it, which then puts him into debt.

anigbrowl 4 days ago 2 replies      
You have $200k sitting in your paypal account? Don't you have a bank account? What country are you in? What exactly did they say to you? How you mean you 'don't know how' you made $200k - you didn't expect to sell so much, or you sold $200k in one go with no idea who gave it to you? This seriously needs more information.
richardjordan 4 days ago 0 replies      
Contact one of the Silicon Valley law firms that's used to dealing with these things. Don't go to some cheapo ambulance chasing lawyer who doesn't know what to do. Even if you cough up $20k in fees to a law firm it's worth doing. They'll help you set up a company for your product and steer everything through that to unlock your funds. A lot of advice on here is overly negative and misinformed. As someone who has had to deal with changes of legal status, setting up companies as a foreigner, and has dealt with the hell of PayPal account freezing, I can assure you this is fixable if you work with a reputable experienced law firm.
electic 4 days ago 1 reply      
I think there is a problem here. If you are saying you do not how how you made it then there might be truly something wrong with your account. It is rare for any open source project that is a js widget essentially to pull in 200k in six months. I think there is a bit more information at work here and you are leaving it out. I think what Paypal did was justified while they investigate what is going on.
blantonl 4 days ago 1 reply      
Disclaimer: I have a love hate relationship with Paypal. My organization runs most of our payment processes through Paypal.

With that said, some questions:

1) How were you able to process 30k/month through Paypal out of the gate without providing a government ID?

2) How much of the 200K were you able to withdrawal? If any? Do you have any of it in cash?

3) Did you experience an abnormal amount of chargebacks?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.....

JoshTriplett 4 days ago 2 replies      
First, before you do anything else, find a reputable payment provider and switch your payment mechanisms over to that, so you don't keep getting money sent into a locked account. And with your new payment provider, make sure you sweep all money you receive out of any account they have access to as soon as possible, up to whatever limits they have on how much you have to leave around for chargebacks and similar.

I'd guess that PayPal wants an SSN so they can report your revenue to the IRS for taxes. If so, they might accept an EIN or TIN instead, which you can obtain as a business (which you probably want anyway if you plan on doing that much business).

Alternatively, if you are not actually in the U.S. (you didn't say explicitly), you may need the local equivalent instead, though good luck getting PayPal to accept anything that doesn't follow their script.

In any case, the instant you get access to your PayPal account again, get all the money out of it before they change their mind, which they frequently do, and switch over to the reputable payment provider you picked in step 1.

Finally, next time you start doing business with a service, even a popular one, search for negative experiences with that service and take them seriously. You now know not to use PayPal ever again, but that still leaves quite a few other services out there to get burned by.

saumil07 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hey Emmanuel - Saumil Mehta here from LocBox, we spoke a few months ago on the phone.

I would urge you to simply hire an excellent immigration lawyer to figure out your options w.r.t. the F-1 before you move forward. I have a San Francisco-based firm that I can refer you to if you like. They are (somewhat) expensive but they do deliver good results and they are not a big faceless firm - fast, efficient, get on the phone quickly.

Email me if you want to talk more. FWIW, I dealt with our dysfunctional immigration system for a decade - once having to forfeit a well-paying internship after forgetting to file a dumb piece of paperwork - so I do understand the pain of getting the shaft after busting ass, primarily because of immigration reasons.

Anyhow, hope this helps.

JohnHaugeland 3 days ago 0 replies      
So, I'm going to hold an antithetical position here, because I've been on the other side of this, but rather than panicking and screaming "villain," I took the time to understand what was going on, and I got a reversal. I think you can too, but you'll need to discard the common contempt for PayPal and consider that they might actually have a reason for what they're doing.


"PayPal has closed my account because I don't have a social security number. It seems like I don't qualify for one because I'm just “an international student” from Venezuela."

I just don't believe this one bit. People from Venezuela do use PayPal quite a bit.

More likely what this is actually about is that you haven't done the minimum to do business in America, which PayPal told you up front that they expected you to do.

They're not actually able to do business with you, because you haven't taken the correct steps yet. If you say "oh my god they're punishing me for being from the wrong country," you're screwed.

But if you figure out the problem, you can fix it.

Here's the thing. In America, like in Venezuela and most of the rest of the world, you're expected to pay taxes on money transfer. It's an income stream.

The social security number is how Americans track these things in their private lives. Sure, you won't get one because you're not American, but there are foreign equivalents, and they're cheap. We do want to do business with you; you just have to be clean.

PayPal can't give you your money until you do what the US Government requires. It would be illegal. It would make them into a criminal money laundering organization.

I'm not really sure; I'm no tax attorney. But, I think what you want is an ITIN - an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. They are free, they're available online, and they only take a couple weeks to get.




It's very common in the tech community for people to hear "PayPal shut off an account? They're the devil!" But in reality, this is how America keeps its money from flowing to criminal organizations, and PayPal's hands are tied here.

If you took the time to talk to them, and said "listen, I didn't know there was a problem, can you help me understand what steps I need to take to get this turned around," it's very likely they'll actually help you, like they helped me.

The toxic Redditor behavior is getting out of control. Not every time a large company does something that seems punitive is it actually in the wrong, and in this situation, they're really just following the law. That's expected. That's correct.

Also, to put things in perspective, you seem to be frustrated that you have to wait six months to receive five years of an average American's salary. I mean, I don't think this is actually as bad as you're making it out to be, unless you've tied your entire life to taking money from the internet, and can't survive without it.

I think maybe you should consider the possibility of asking some of your users for a little spare cash through some crowdfunding site (full disclosure: I work for a crowdfunding site, which is why I'm not naming options right now, because it would be unethical.)

And then maybe just try to work with PayPal to fix the problem, instead of begging the internet to try to hammer-lock PayPal into breaking the law for you, because no matter how hard you try, that is never, ever going to work.

Try setting up a Google Voice account, and calling them on the phone. If they can hear your fear in your voice, the human will to do good and help will come out, and they will put in effort to assist. I promise. That's just how people work.

Also consider getting in contact with the American tax authority, the IRS. It's pretty common for people to hate and fear them, but they're actually wonderful people; their big job is to prevent rich people from cheating the system, and to support poor people, and your story is very sympathetic. Someone from the IRS will, if you just ask, put in hours and hours to try to help you, for free. That's what they do for a living.

You can choose to assume everyone's evil and out to get you, or you can choose to assume that you accidentally didn't get the rules right, and that fixing that could change things.

Which one of those assumptions you make will very significantly change the outcome you get.

There is a reason that people who expect good things from other people generally do well in life. They're able to ask for, and receive, more help. Bad things are fixed more reliably. Et cetera.

Just make a human appeal. "I didn't know I screwed up. I still don't know how. I earned this money legitimately, and I need it. Can you help me learn what I did wrong, so that I can fix it?"

Give them a chance to be good - maybe even a couple - and they will be good.

PayPal is not the evil faceless demon they're made out to be. International payments are complicated, and people from other countries often get domestic law wrong.

But I really don't think they want to cheat you; after all, they make their money by helping you do more business. Shutting you off doesn't do them any good.

Please consider approaching this like you might have made a mistake, because if it's you, and not them, then fixing it and changing this is entirely inside your power. Taking responsibility means acquiring power. Pointing fingers weakens you.

I hope the best for your situation. Please be safe.

rikacomet 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi, I'm not a expert on US laws, but given how it mostly works, yeah you are in the wrong, if they say so. But all is not lost I suppose.

You must find a lawyer in any case, a good one! though there is no guarantee it will work, but if something would work, it would be this or a clear provision/flaw you may find on your own (I take it that you won't be able to)

Three legal courses might work on broader terms, leave the actual litigation to the lawyer.

1. The lawyer may prove that someone, who is a US citizen, a family member preferably, or a family friend, is the real owner of the product, and you mis-stated your facts. (meaning, you didn't say under oath, that the said service/product was your and yours ALONE)

The lawyer would take his cut in all cases, and if anything, you should give your family member a cut as well, in this case. Its better than nothing out of 200k$!

2. You may establish a US company, preferably in a state where tax is low and norms are lax, based on strong advice of your lawyer, with preferably the same name as your product. The lawyer in this case would prove (or try to)
that the company would receive the money (being a separate legal identity), and a friend of yours who is a US citizen, would be the trustee of the company.

Similarly to above, lawyer will get his cut, your friend would do as well (unless he is the nicest guy on the planet, if he does not take any money, do PM about it on reddit@rikacomet).

3. The lawyer, may establish, that there was an error in your understanding of the US laws (which is clearly so), and since paypal allows for you to be a member of any country, you shall recieve it upon changing the credentials of yours, to your native one's. The lawyer, shall argue, that the payment made by your customers, would hold true, despite you changing ONLY your address details.

Alternatively, if all your payments were made by credit card (which might be the case), you may contact, all your customers, to initiate a cash back (where they will legally call back money from their bank, after stating that a huge flaw was made, and the original deal holds untrue) the bank would know its way with paypal, so no worries there, but what you need to worry about is bank making a case against you. So you would need a lawyer again over here.

Disclaimer: Always, talk to a professional lawyer about legal matters, mine is only mildly suggestive in nature based on laws existing in my country.

NOTE: Please be very careful, while finding a good lawyer, while you do, make sure to make it clear to him, that the payment, would be only a cut out of the 200k in question here, and not out of your pocket.

Take this on a legal document in WRITING, with his signature and official stamp heads, in presence of 2-4 witnesses etc. You really don't want to lose 200k, and then also pay a American lawyer out of your pocket!

btown 4 days ago 1 reply      
I've been testing turn.js v3 for personal projects and am seriously considering buying it for production use in a business; it's the only thing out there for dynamically-rendered flipbooks. Sorry to hear about your troubles. At that level of revenue, I'd seriously consider charging using something like Stripe or Braintree. Your target audience (developers) won't consider typing a CC number as such a huge inconvenience.

Another note - releasing the 4th release's source code under something like the Affero GPL (or a similar noncommercial license) could drive adoption of that version, since many people like to "try before they buy" - and would like to do so with the most feature-filled version.

lectrick 1 day ago 0 replies      
Next time, ask for payment in Bitcoin, and avoid these outdated clumsy troublesome international payment law troubles in their entirety.
ck2 4 days ago 1 reply      
So much for the kinder, gentler paypal.


I guess it was all talk.

Never, ever, keep more than $100 in a paypal account (or as much as you are willing to lose immediately, forever).

Also, if possible, close the bank account your paypal is tied to as they will draw from it as they see fit without your consent.

KennethMyers 1 day ago 0 replies      
Former administrator of an international student program, here. If you're an international student, you can work for the school (at least you could at mine). We used to give kids literally 1-hour careers sitting at a desk in our program at minimum wage so they could get social security cards. If you were to furnish Paypal with a valid ss#, could you then get your money? That's a lot of money. If your school won't do it, I'd work on tranfering your 1-20 to another school that will.
sinak 4 days ago 0 replies      
I highly recommend contacting executiveoffice@paypal.com. I've had many problems with PayPal in the past, but they were the only group able to make corrections to my account and release funds.
javajosh 4 days ago 2 replies      
Hi Emmanuel, I'm sorry for your troubles. Sounds like Paypal is being unreasonable - hardly the first time. I would suggest a two-pronged approach:

1. Find a lawyer who can advise you, definitely based in the US, and almost certainly based on CA, the home state of PayPal. As you (potentially) have $200k in cash, you'll have no problem finding excellent representation. Hopefully you can get away with spending only a few thousand.

2. Select a different payment processor. You can do this immediately. Stripe has a good reputation, but there are others as well.

3. (Optionally) Post your progress. Especially if the lawyer can give you good advice that is applicable to others in your same situation, you are potentially saving other innovators many thousands of dollars not to mention headaches.

Good luck.

jey 4 days ago 2 replies      
Where does PayPal ask for an SSN? That doesn't sound right.
Raz0rblade 4 days ago 0 replies      
Maybe make it work using a different bank system and IBAN payments IBAN is international, you might consider opening a IBAN acount in Venezuela. I'm in europe and i like Ideal much more then paypall. As "Ideal" is much more secure. Other options might be bitcoin, or maybe game dollars wich can be changed to hard valuta like lindendollars ...
shocks 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi there. Congratulations on your success, I'm very sorry to hear you're having problems.

The issue seems to be that PayPal are worried you're doing something illegal and are not going to pay tax. My advice would be to get a lawyer so you can do everything required to pay tax correctly. In the mean time, try to get some written confirmation from PayPal that your money will be safe while you are resolving this issue - that last thing you want is the money 'disappearing'.

dexter313 4 days ago 2 replies      
I was always wondering, if PayPal locks a 200k$ account, where does that money go?
StavrosK 4 days ago 0 replies      
Don't you have one in Venezuela? They were more than happy to accept my Greek id.
stickydink 4 days ago 0 replies      
You should talk to a lawyer immediately. You should also read up on just what exactly your visa allows you to do. Assuming you have an F-1 visa, you are pretty much (with some small exceptions), not allowed to work. This includes self-employment, freelancing, anything.

What you should have done (and this is still a legal uncertainty) is have the funds tied to a Venezuelan bank account, your Venezuelan personal and tax identification. It's a little late for that, however.

Best of luck retrieving your funds. I wouldn't be surprised if you got PayPal to release them (they are not themselves a government, so just require enough information to cover their own ass). But expect to be asked some very serious questions by USCIS. For that reason you don't want a regular lawyer, you main issue here will be trying to convince the US you weren't breaking your visa terms.

You need an immigration lawyer.

donohoe 4 days ago 1 reply      
codexon 4 days ago 0 replies      
Is anyone else amazed this guy made 200k with an open source js library like this?

What am I doing with my life?

eof 4 days ago 1 reply      
Find an american friend with a SSN? I am not sure this would really work, but it's definitely worth a shot. Of course your friend will have to count it as income; but honestly this will probably be a lot cheaper than hiring a lawyer if it works. I don't really see a downside to trying this method; since you can't really lose the money that's already gone.
logn 3 days ago 0 replies      
You can get a Taxpayer Id Number in about 10 minutes from the IRS with basically no questions asked (they want to make it easy to pay taxes, even for sketchy situations). The TIN might be a substitute for SSN.
sisk 4 days ago 0 replies      
These sort of things generally revolve around tax reporting. As an international student, you should be able to get an ITIN or TCN which, I believe, they also accept.
redact207 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why is PayPal's policy to wait until the account accrues significant funds and then lock it? If the OP doesn't have an SSN then why wouldn't PayPal block the account from being registered in the first place?
gamblor956 4 days ago 0 replies      
You need an ITIN, which is the equivalent of an SSN but for non-US taxpayers receiving payments from US sources.


purephase 4 days ago 0 replies      
This really sucks. PayPal is terrible for doing stuff like this, and I really feel for you. While I don't have any specific suggestions for dealing with PayPal, maybe you could setup a Crowdtilt or similar fundraising opportunity and link it on your site?

I love turnjs btw. Very slick tool.

webjac 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hey Emmanuel, long time no speak.

I would suggest you go to a lawyer as well, I know how hard it is for us Venezuelans out there. I had a PayPal block once as well and managed to solve, it takes time and a lot of documentation, however it was not even close to the ammount you're mentioning here.

There are alternatives like creating your own company and giving the info of your company to PayPal, that way everything will be as legal as they might need.

Let me know how it goes, best of luck bro

edouard1234567 4 days ago 0 replies      
First, I didn't know about turn.js, just checked it out, it rocks!
Second : You are probably breaking emigration laws. I'd recommend you consult with an emigration lawyer ASAP.
drucken 4 days ago 0 replies      
Get any job (#), including part-time and temp jobs, and you instantly get a US social security number.

That said, Paypal are acting like dicks, as usual, since you do NOT need an SSN to open ordinary bank accounts in the US.

(#) You may need written permission from your school to work.

Source: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10181.html

therandomguy 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you are on a student visa you are not allowed to get that money even if you had a SSN. You will be violating the rules of your visa. After you graduate, find a job and go on H1-B you still can't earn any money outside that job. No paypal, not adsense, no stripe. Eventually if you decide to apply for a green card these things will come up and you will have to leave the country.
anovikov 4 days ago 0 replies      
With any money transfer/payment service, DON'T keep money on it. Withdraw to cash every week, and spend or keep in a bank vault. I normally don't even put real mail address anywhere and ask different people to do ATM withdrawals. I am not doing anything criminal at all, but WHO KNOWS? It's always better to be protected especially when it doesn't cost me anything.
contentgorilla 2 days ago 0 replies      

Give him a call. He has handled cases for me with PayPal. He comes highly recommended, just search his name.

He can fix this mess without high expenses.

fastspring 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps FastSpring would be a good fit for you. Any country the US isn't banned from doing business with is applicable. Users pay in various global currencies and the order pages are translated. I'm the CEO. Funny that you mention Venezuela, my wife just got a grant to do art history research there so I may be visiting soon.
cjbprime 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sad to hear this, I've used and appreciated turn.js. Hopefully the tax situation works itself out as other commenters have described.
praz78 4 days ago 0 replies      
Emmanuel, sorry this happened! We can fix it... I sent you an email with my PayPal email address and my cell phone (call/email if you wanna understand what might have happened here). I have also sent his thread off to folks within PP who can help lift/adjust the restriction. Should be sorted in no time, dont lose hope :)
heldrida 4 days ago 2 replies      
Why do people keep using Paypal ? Paypal is always taking money from people. Always! It's interesting what's going to happen here. If he can't get his money, is Paypal going to have it ? Why is there the assumption this guy is in the US ? Even if this guy was not legally in the US, this is still his money.

If you are young and don't have a national insurance number yet, ask them to change your account holder to one of your parents and give them the NI.

I'd basically create a website reporting this issue to the general public and attach all emails and information you can get from them. Also, I'd change the payment method in your website to something else LIKE RIGHT NOW! You should never, ever trust Paypal! Like NEVER!

You should also report this to the media, they will love it! $200K is a lot hell of money!

mikecane 4 days ago 0 replies      
See what this poor guy is going through? There are a lot of bright people here. Sounds like a start-up opportunity for someone. He can't be the only person who winds up in this situation. Solving this could open the door for others who have the skills to make money like he did.
pbreit 4 days ago 1 reply      
Do you or your parents have bank accounts in the US or in your home country? I would suggest working with PayPal to switch your account to your original country and seeing if you can then get the funds withdrawn.
sturmeh 4 days ago 0 replies      
You'll get your money in a few weeks, PayPal are just enjoying the interest for now.
georgek1029 3 days ago 0 replies      
Have you tried?: How to Unlock a PayPal Account http://www.ehow.com/how_7657756_unlock-paypal-account.html via @eHow

Also, other comments have stated that if the lock msg. came via email it could be a phishing scam. Try to avoid supplying personal info if looks like a suspicious email.

More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PayPal#Criticism

linuxhansl 4 days ago 2 replies      
It boggles my mind how PayPal can again and again get away with this.

The ability of PayPal to be a bank and yet avoid being one legally is interesting.
If you hold somebody else's money you are a bank, whether you call yourself that way or not.

jonathanmarcus 4 days ago 0 replies      
You should contact David Marcus, Paypal's relatively new CEO. At least one other HN thread shows his willingness to help: http://ndy.gd/JJgB
marizmelo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry about what happened with you. The only why you could get the money is to had the PayPal account linked with one account in Venezuela instead of US. According with your F1 status (and mine) you cannot earn any money in US while studying, unless you get authorization from school to work out of campus (CPT), or after conclude your studies (OPT). Even under CPT/OPT you cannot earn money other from other place than the place you work on. Sorry, I wish you the best luck.
rafaelm 4 days ago 1 reply      
Maybe they have issue with the fact that you are from Venezuela? I've sen multiple venezuelan PayPal accounts being blocked because they know sometimes they are used for getting around CADIVI (currency exchange restrictions). Maybe your nationality and the fact that you made that much money triggered some flags.

From a fellow venezuelan, hope you get your money back. And congratulations on your success even in this unpleasant situation.

donniezazen 4 days ago 0 replies      
If you go to school here in US, you are allowed to work on-campus and that will make you eligible for a SSN. Check with your international center.
bambax 4 days ago 0 replies      
It seems turnjs.com is still using PayPal... At this point you should switch to another provider...
centdev 4 days ago 1 reply      
PayPal is not as crooked as people say they are. Just start a company with someone in he US. Payments go,to their company and they pay you. Assuming its a legit business "don't know how I made" 200k doesnt sound legit.
jc527871 2 days ago 0 replies      
What you could always do is apply for an international business licence that allows you to have a satellite office in the united states. The only problem that you would have with that is you would first need to establish a business in your home country. At that point you would be issued a EID or Tax ID number for your business which would enable the US federal government to take taxes out on any profit that you make with in the USA. Hope this helped and I hope you well in all your future en-devours.
heifetz 4 days ago 0 replies      
I would get a lawyer in the US. They might think that you're laundering money, until you can prove your id.
jonramz 3 days ago 0 replies      

If you get a job offer, such as a 5-10 hour a week job at your college, you are ALLOWED to apply for a SSN.

This is what I would recommend doing if you are just looking for an SSN. But do understand that working without permission is a huge no-no.

As far as applying for pre-completion OPT, you could do that... it will take 2-3 months to get approved and you will start using up the 12 months of OPT you get per degree level. If you choose to go this route, make sure you actually register your business with your local clerk's office and report it.

One other commmenter mentioned a STEM extension. The one problem with STEM is that you have to work for an e-verified company.

I hope I was helpful, I am an international student advisor, but I am not your advisor at your school who I would recommend speaking with.

rwanghacker 3 days ago 1 reply      
I don't know why people always use Paypal when it's had a history of screwing people over.

Use Google checkout for merchants, I've used it and it's really really easy to setup as well as safe.

unreal37 4 days ago 0 replies      
Apply for a TIN. That's equivalent to a SSN for tax purposes.
camus 4 days ago 0 replies      
question , why the hell would you let 200k sitting on a paypal accound for 6 months ? i dont understand. At least invest that money in obligations, life insurance or something ... even with 3/4% returns it is worth it, you could almost live without working in Venezuela ...
rgovind 4 days ago 0 replies      
Sorry to hear your situation.

For others: Assuming this problem is solved, in future, can an international student collect payments in his home currency? Will US govt allow full time students to do side businesses?

icedog 4 days ago 2 replies      
I'm flabbergasted by how 200k can be reached within six months with that product.
sidcool 4 days ago 0 replies      
Good luck buddy. I can only hope you get all the necessary help. That's because I am not in any position to help you.
WorldOfHacker 3 days ago 0 replies      
Call Paypal, Don't be stupid to email them, these are useless, when big money is involved. Call them, Talk to them, they will help you out.
dexter313 4 days ago 1 reply      
Were you lying about being an american student?
twanlass 4 days ago 0 replies      

I can't help you get back the money that PayPal has frozen, but I can help you keep selling it and ensure you keep what's yours.

Email me - tyler [at] simplegoods.co

NicoJuicy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I once saw a topic where the new CEO requested that people with problems contact him in person.

I thought it was david@paypal.com, i'm not sure.

Porphy 4 days ago 0 replies      
I wont be much help but I can confirm that PayPal does this often and it IS reported upon frequently. I, personally, have had thousands of dollars held (just above 20k USD) for 8 months (6 month hold and 2 months of furious phone calls to get a check cut).

I will never use them again as I believe they stifle innovation and are a harm to small businesses that are "making it".

PayPal is very much one basket for all your eggs...don't get duped! Get other baskets!

pknerd 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wish these companies could make Terms and Conditions Human Readable
judegomila 4 days ago 0 replies      
This happened to me back in 2007, contact me for tactics.
readme 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lawyer up. This is ridiculous.
iapi 4 days ago 0 replies      
Get a TIN its an alternative to SSN for non-us citizen who are doing business with United States
ll6068 4 days ago 0 replies      
INAL either, but I have gone through the ITIN process. If you follow this route you will need to send notarized documents(birth certs, passports). The difficulty is that the US will not recognize notarized by any one out side the US. This was not explicitly stated(a few years ago), after having ITIN applications rejected 3 times, we took the paperwork to the US consulate, they processed it and it was all good.
ForFreedom 4 days ago 0 replies      
Next time always remember to withdraw your earnings no matter how small the amount, once its in an account other than your bank.
darkhorn 4 days ago 1 reply      
Why you didn't pull your money from PayPal once every week?
plumeria 4 days ago 0 replies      
After you get your money back, dish Paypal and use Stripe.
puppetmaster3 4 days ago 0 replies      
Ha ha. Not PayPal Fault! Your fault for using them.
rodyce 4 days ago 1 reply      
You can get a social security number with you F1 or J1 visa.... I just did when I got my MSc. For example, if you work as a T.A. or R.A. you get a SSN.

Good Luck!

stch2 4 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry, they stole your money. This is a big advantage of theirs, they aren't regulated like a bank so they have no trouble taking money from marginalized people.
jfccohen 4 days ago 0 replies      
Use WePay.com
volandovengo 4 days ago 0 replies      
Paypal are bastards, as simple as that.
rorrr 4 days ago 0 replies      
vishalzone2002 4 days ago 0 replies      
i did suggest you ask this question at Quora too
bilyy 4 days ago 0 replies      
get a lawyer, get an accountant, get incorporated.
neo0oen 4 days ago 0 replies      
i've no idea.
But wish u good luck
StavrosK 4 days ago 0 replies      
That is extremely useful, actionable advice.
Mattbunner 4 days ago 0 replies      
wow, that's crazy? Holy crap
sharemywin 4 days ago 0 replies      
Do you have a cousin in Nigeria?
donnfelker 4 days ago 1 reply      
Use PayPal - get screwed. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Fabrice Bellard: Portrait of a super-productive programmer (2011) smartbear.com
452 points by Baustin  5 days ago   155 comments top 27
DigitalSea 5 days ago 9 replies      
My theory is that Fabrice is not human and most likely a creature not of this world. Seriously, how the hell can someone be so talented and amazing and above all remain such a nice guy? Fabrice is a down to Earth and amazingly talented individual who will go down in history; text books will reference him, heck he'll have a movie one day (maybe not). I don't care if this is an old article, Bellard deserves to be on the frontpage of HN multiple times, he's earned it.

For me, the LTE/4G base station running on a PC that he did is mindblowingly amazing: http://bellard.org/lte/

jgrahamc 5 days ago 2 replies      
I too think that Bellard has produced a ton of cool stuff, but bear in mind that the list given on that site spans 20 years of work. You can do a lot in 20 years. That's not to put him down in any way, but if you find yourself comparing your output to his make sure you consider the time span.
xentronium 5 days ago 3 replies      
He also authored jslinux[1] in 2011.

This guy is amazing and I am truly envious.

[1] http://bellard.org/jslinux/

yorak 5 days ago 10 replies      
The question from previous discussion remains unanswered. How does he finance his production of top notch open source software? At least for me, the day to day churn of my day job leaves me too mentally exhausted to chase the crazy ideas I get from time to time, let alone finish them.

Imagine a world where hackers, artists and artisans could follow their passions and could chase crazy ideas without a risk of losing the roof on top of their heads and butter over their bread. How many Bellards, we as a humanity, would have running around flinging great code, solving great problems and giving away the fruits of their hard work?

I think we could afford it if we really wanted. If the world just accepted that because of automation fewer and fewer people are needed to work in production (food, items etc.) a huge untapped innovative potential is waiting to be unleashed. In playing Civilization this would be easy, just a click and your society has changed the emphasis of it's production to sciences and art. But how to do this in real life?

I guess I just have to wait and see if the government of Finland gets around and issues citizen's income as propagated by the Green party. That would be a start and the consequences would be really interesting to see.

rayiner 4 days ago 4 replies      
For the sake of discussion, I'm going to throw some fuel on the "should you go to college?" fire. One of the things that's evident in Bellard's achievements is that he has a tremendous depth of domain specific knowledge, especially in signal processing. This is unsurprising, because he studied at Ecole Polytechnique, France's premier engineering school, specializing in telecommunications. See page 4-6 of this PDF: http://www.freearchive.org/o/55dfc9935a719fc36ab1d1656797273....
ishansharma 5 days ago 1 reply      
"If there's a secret to this superhero-level productivity, it appears to have less to do with comic-book mutation and radioactivity, and far more with discipline, confidence, rigor, and many years of practice."

This is one line that you should take away from the article. Most of us think that highly productive programmers are magicians but we forget that they are just like us, just hard working and disciplined.

stiff 5 days ago 0 replies      
One thing I miss is more very productive people like this sharing the way they work with the world. There are some nice screencasts at destroy-all-software[1], and there was a great screencast some time ago about writing a ray tracer in Common Lisp[2], but for the most time it is really hard to get a chance to learn from great programmers by directly watching them work at something, and that's a pity because it's one of the best ways to learn. If anyone has any more similar resources, please share. I am aware of PeepCode's PlayByPlay [3], but found it so-so so far.

[1] https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/

[2] http://rudairandamacha.blogspot.com/2012/09/writing-simple-r...

[3] https://peepcode.com/screencasts/play-by-play

barefoot 5 days ago 0 replies      
Looks like the first link to his personal website in the article is broken:


I was going to report it on their main website so I looked for a good way to get in touch with them and found a contact form which seemed to be geared towards sales and had a number of (unrelated to my task) required fields. I'm too lazy to fill out something that is going to get routed to the wrong place and requires me to enter my phone number, position, country, and area of interest on top of my email address and name.

So, I thought I'll just call them.

I called the main phone number and had no way to speak to someone there. The phone prompt simply diverted me to email sales. Heh.

There was a brief period of time where I wondered how a link could remain broken in an otherwise good quality article for over a year. That mystery has been solved.

kragen 4 days ago 3 replies      

Other programmers who seem super-productive to me include Julian Seward (bzip2 and valgrind), Larry Wall (patch, rn, and perl), Ken Thompson (Unix and substantial parts of Plan9 and Golang), Aaron Swartz (web.py, Open Library, Demand Progress), Steve Wozniak before his accident (Apple I, Apple II, Integer BASIC, a hardware video game, SWEET-16), of course Bill Gates (BASIC-80 and various other early Microsoft products), Niklaus Wirth (Pascal, Modula-2, Modula-3, Oberon), and maybe Darius Bacon, although none of his free-software projects are widely used.

None of them approach Bellard's level.

I think Bellard has another important thing going for him, beyond discipline and followup: he tackles important and difficult problems, things that are barely within anybody's reach. He's mostly not working on another text editor, another online chat system, or another casual game.

Who are your candidates?

steeve 5 days ago 2 replies      
To think that 99% of video on the web today is possible because of FFmpeg is mind blowing.
wazoox 4 days ago 0 replies      
The guy is also incredibly nice. I started using QEMU in 2003 and it was a huge relief in my work; so one of my colleague decided to send a "thank you" email to Bellard. Bellard replied very nicely on how happy he was that we found QEMU useful, and even gave us his phone number.
malkia 4 days ago 1 reply      
My personal programming heroes:

- Edi Weitz - http://weitz.de/ - Lots of Common Lisp libraries (cl-ppcre)

- Mike Pall - http://luajit.org/ - luajit off course

limmeau 5 days ago 2 replies      
hallowtech 5 days ago 10 replies      
> Bellard, born in 1972, began practicing his own coding techniques first on a TI-59 scientific calculator, at the beginning of the ‘80s.

I wonder how many people have started their programming experience on a TI calculator. I had the same way in with a TI-85.

logn 5 days ago 1 reply      
Awesome article.

I like the bulleted conclusions at the end, but this nugget in the middle is my favorite:

"While he moves every few years into new and fertile unconquered territory, he exercises patterns that have served him well over and over: cleanly-styled C, data compression, numerical methods, signal processing, pertinent abstractions, media formats, open-source licensing, and “by-hand parsing.”"

I think sometimes for me I tend to wander from one technology and field to the next, but there's definitely something to be said for focusing a bit more on certain languages/technologies and what you're interested in.

aninteger 5 days ago 3 replies      
Fabrice is awesome. I am also extremely impressed with the code written by a guy that goes by the name of Bisqwit. He has multiple videos speed coding here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Bisqwit
rehack 4 days ago 0 replies      
> "Bellard doesn't appear to promote himself"he politely declined to be interviewed for this profile"

In my opinion, that's the key.

Getting famous, comes in the way of a lot of people, whether they are a scientist or a programmer.

Read at some place, that many popular scientists, once they do something great and get popular, just have to interact with other people so much, that they don't get the time for doing something great.

Recently, on HN, there was a 'letter of note' by some famous author of why he was going to stop replying to reader letters. As that left him no time to write another novel/story[1].

Of course, for mere mortals (who don't taste that level of famousness) there are mundane hindrances like Facebook ;-)

[1] Discussion on 'The morning mail is my enemy' http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4409363

Update: Added reference

hobbyist 5 days ago 1 reply      
Old article resurfacing again on HN, neverthless he is everyone's idol
incision 4 days ago 0 replies      
On my shortlist of people who I read/think about any time I might feel complacent about my own development.
carlob 5 days ago 1 reply      
The link to his website goes to bellard.og instead of .org
thewarrior 4 days ago 0 replies      
Lets not just beat up on ourselves for being so inferior to someone like him . Its a hard fact to swallow but some people are just way better than can be explained away by any simple reasoning . Lets be thankful that we can live along side them ,reap the fruits of their labor and awaken ourselves to the heights of human potential .
gbog 4 days ago 0 replies      
Genuine question: all those comments focusing on Bellard's humble character, do they refer in negative to some hype developers, brogrammers, those who use only the latest fashionable tools, write blogs and rants and books?
fexl 5 days ago 0 replies      
I downloaded his pi computer from http://bellard.org/pi/pi2700e9/tpi.html and I don't see the source code for the "tpi" program there. Is that source code available anywhere?
notdrunkatall 4 days ago 1 reply      
Does anyone have a link to or know how he came up with his formula for the computation of pi in base-2?

I look at that and... I just want to know: how?

saosebastiao 4 days ago 0 replies      
But it doesn't say ninja anywhere on his resume...
bthomas 4 days ago 0 replies      
I'd love to see a list of projects he started that didn't work out. Amazing list, but he must've had some duds at some point.
supervillain 5 days ago 0 replies      
Fabrice Bellard is the man!
jQuery.payment stripe.com
434 points by Lightning  5 days ago   69 comments top 14
mey 5 days ago 5 replies      
There are several incorrect assumptions about this library

  Cards can be up to 19 digits
Bin ranges are constantly updated, so cardType in static code is a broken concept.
I expect in the future American Express will issues cards longer then 15 digits.
Minimun card length is 13 digits not 10

I don't feel like validating the luhn check, but historically I've seen systems that don't correctly handle the luhn check of variable sizes.

Edit: Reference material http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_card_number
If you are actually getting into credit card processing, please talk to your acquirer about data feeds of this type of info on bin ranges.

Edit 2: Wikipedia claims Maestro has 12 digit cards, but I've never seen one in the wild, I could be wrong about 13, but it's the assumption we've made processing international payments.

niggler 5 days ago 2 replies      
EDIT 2: appears that the issue was fixed: https://github.com/stripe/jquery.payment/issues/1

Original Message:
The card number is not linked to the CVV length:

343725117665768 is a valid american express number (generated from http://www.getcreditcardnumbers.com/)

Their CVV numbers are 4 digits, yet the inputs

12 / 21

seems to pass ...

EDIT: filed issue: https://github.com/stripe/jquery.payment/issues/1

lbarrow 5 days ago 0 replies      
kt9 5 days ago 2 replies      
The thing I love about stripe is that they're so focused on building the best customer experience and software that solves customer problems!
batuhanicoz 5 days ago 1 reply      
This may be useful with Node too. I wish it wasn't a jQuery plugin but a framework independent library.

(I'm aware I can use jQuery on the server-side, but why load jQuery only for a credit card number validation library?)

Other than that, this looks good. :)

borski 5 days ago 3 replies      
The JS load is failing on this page. :(

  Failed to load resource: the server responded with a status of 403 (Forbidden) https://raw.github.com/stripe/jquery.payment/master/lib/jquery.payment.js

Uncaught TypeError: Object [object Object] has no method 'formatCardNumber' jquery-payment:50

sethist 5 days ago 2 replies      
This looks nice, but I ran into an immediate usability issue. The Card Expiry requires a leading 0 for January. It seems like bad UI to prevent a user from enter 1/13 or 1/2013 in those fields.
nirvdrum 5 days ago 1 reply      
Supporting 4 digit years might help on the usability front. I'm probably a special case, but I forgot what the format was, as it disappears immediately upon clicking on the field, and naively went with a 4 digit format. There's no helpful error message on the demo page either -- the field just highlights in red.

I don't immediately how much is just how that form was constructed vs. what's done in the JS lib.

alpb 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is why I love Stripe, thanks for contributing bits and pieces to Open Source world!
jordan_clark 5 days ago 0 replies      
Very nice. They just keep making it easier and easier to use their service. Good job @stripe!
TazeTSchnitzel 5 days ago 1 reply      
The fields seem nice, but use the cursor keys to edit and they fall apart.
theycallmemorty 5 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't it bad form to add 7 functions to the jQuery plugin 'namespace' in a single plugin?
remear 5 days ago 1 reply      
No formatting occurs when input is pasted into the field. Is this by design?
fijal 5 days ago 0 replies      
any hope for us poor souls that dwell outside of the United States?
It's all who you know? sivers.org
429 points by duck  2 days ago   103 comments top 25
aresant 2 days ago 1 reply      
When I was in my early 20s I came across a charity auction for "Lunch with Woz".

As a "top ramen entrepreneur" at the time, I had no chance of winning but I contacted Woz's assistant via the website.

I said if there's any chance, anytime & anywhere of taking Woz out to lunch for a young tech entrepreneur to pick his brain please hit me back.

That's all it took - I found myself treating Woz to lunch at a greasy-spoon by his house. Gracious, awesome guy - huge presence and a transformative moment for me.

I'm glad I had an excuse to tell that story, because honestly there's not much more to add to Siver's excellent article - the plan he lays to engineering your own "who you know" is just that simple.

So now go do it.

Anechoic 2 days ago 11 replies      
The issue I have with his story is when he says "When I was 18, at Berklee College of Music" he's basically saying "When I was 18, at [the MIT/Harvard/CMU/Stanford of Music]" - that is, just being at that institution gave him the opportunity to meet a BMI executive. Now, how did he get to Berklee?

Yes, hustling is always a good thing and I sincerely congratulate him on his initiative, but "who you know" did play a small part in his success (not that it's a bad thing, it just is).

(BTW, in the off chance Derek is reading this - if you get a chance, please talk to the folks at The Record Co. http://www.therecordco.org/ - it was created by some Berklee folks as a way of providing low-cost recording studio services to artists who can't afford pro-studios and may need more services than can be offered using USB mics and Audacity.)

edit: grammar/typos

thewarrior 2 days ago 1 reply      
A Relevant story about the author of the book Liars Poker :

Michael Lewis was an art history student at Princeton University, who nonetheless wanted to break into Wall Street to make money. He describes his almost pathetic attempts to find a finance job, only to be roundly rejected by every firm to which he applied. He then enrolled in the London School of Economics to gain a Master's degree in economics.

While in England, Lewis was invited to a banquet hosted by the Queen Mother, where he was purposely seated by his cousin, Baroness Linda Monroe von Stauffenberg, one of the organizers of the banquet, next to the wife of the London managing partner of Salomon Brothers, in the hope that his intelligence might impress her enough for her to suggest to her husband that Lewis be given a job with Salomon Brothers, which had previously turned him down. As it turned out, the strategy worked, and Lewis was granted an interview and landed the job.

Lewis then moved to New York City for Salomon's training program. Here, he was appalled at the sophomoric, obtuse and obnoxious behavior of some of his fellow trainees, and indoctrinated into the money culture of Salomon Brothers and Wall Street in general.

From New York, Lewis was shipped to the London office of Salomon Brothers as a bond salesman. Despite his lack of knowledge, he was soon handling millions of dollars in investment accounts. In 1987, he witnessed a near-hostile takeover of Salomon Brothers but survived with his job.

However, growing disillusioned with his work, Lewis quit the firm at the beginning of 1988 to write this book and become a financial journalist. The first edition was published October 17, 1989.

Interview of Michael Lewis :


bhickey 2 days ago 1 reply      

    because they reach out to say hello to the people they admire

Amen to this. I'd go a step further and just suggest saying hello. No admiration necessary. My friends occasionally tell me that I'll talk to anyone, and it pays off.

One example of several: After moving to London I e-mailed a local HN user. He introduced me to some people and two weeks later I had a job.

xfax 2 days ago 0 replies      
"These people shaped the way I see the world. The people you surround yourself with don't just open doors. They change the way you think, and change your self-image of your capabilities."

Truth right here. And one of the things people ignore when they bash MBA programs. One of the most important things I'll take away from my program is the self realization and the change in the way I see the world. And of course, the people I've met.

apaprocki 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's always the little things.. Mike Bloomberg had a great anecdote in his Chris Dixon interview[1] about getting a friend to let him into the Merrill Lynch office back in the early 80s and he'd bring a bunch of coffee/tea, with/without cream and knock and go into random offices and give the person the drink of their choice and ask if they could talk. No one turns down a free coffee.

  [1]: http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/28/founder-stories-how-michael-bloomberg-got-his-start-i-brought-you-a-cup-of-coffee/

softbuilder 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Lyndon Johnson would take four showers a day and brush his teeth over and over again so he would be in the same room with a bunch of politicians and he could talk to them briefly and make good connections."


DrinkWater 2 days ago 0 replies      
It is all about who you know.

But even more than that, you need to have a goal, made out of concrete/steel in front of your inner eye. All major religions focus on an "ultimate goal", warfare, nationalism, professional life, "masterplans", "big pictures", the plots of the best movies and literature in human history, etc.

If you lack this goal, you will never know "who" you need to know. Randomly networking people will not help you in the long term.

krmmalik 2 days ago 0 replies      
Back in 2008, I found twitter to be really great for this. There was some successful people on twitter like James Schramko and Robin Sharma, amongst many others that I used to follow and they were great at answering my questions. I used to 'nag' them quite a bit and was surprised by how much they were willing to respond and communicate. I did this with almost everyone I followed. At one point I even got through to a producer for the BBC and he and I even chatted on the phone. It was that phone conversation that really made me understand what community engagement is really about and how it can help your product or business.

Unfortunately, I got dragged away from twitter due to work (no excuses really) and when I became active again just recently, i've found there seems to be so much more noise and people's willingness to have a conversation with a stranger is nothing like it used to be.

Still - I'm glad Mr.Sivers answers his emails. He's always been a great help in helping me to improve my mindset.

neeharc 2 days ago 0 replies      
Your story reminds me of how I got my first job. I was about to head home and right before the elevator I saw an older gentleman trying to dismantle a stall, the kind you see at job fairs. I stopped and offered help. He took me up on my offer and we exchanged a brief conversation. Then I left. The next day I had a job interview. And guess who was the interviewer. My good friend who I had helped was the VP of recruitment. My interview went well and that's how I ended up out here in California.

Cheers to you mate. Good read.

murtza 2 days ago 0 replies      
The BMI record executive anecdote highlights that Derek had the situational awareness to see a problem and react in the right way because he knew there was a potential upside.

Situational awareness also applies to recognizing current trends in the world and reacting to them. Think about what Derek did with CD Baby: He realized that the internet had a lot of potential for selling music, so he sold music on the internet.

jiggy2011 2 days ago 3 replies      
Moral of the story, the more rich and important you are the more free shit people give you.
ronnier 2 days ago 0 replies      
Who you know and who you are friends with means a lot and can make your life much easier in many respects. That's one reason I see so many playing that social game at work. It really turns me off, even though I know it's important, I'd rather produce more and socialize less (at work).
unimpressive 2 days ago 1 reply      
Just an FYI, on my end your RSS feed doesn't work. Both akregator and firefox seem to agree that it's broken. That's a shame, because I really liked the article.

EDIT: Confirmed. http://www.rssboard.org/rss-validator/check.cgi?url=https%3A...

fduran 2 days ago 0 replies      
I recommend to everybody Keith Ferrazzi's book "Never Eat Alone", which is like a modern "How To Win Friends and Influence People".
codeonfire 2 days ago 0 replies      
Suggested title: It's all who you know if you work in a field like music.

For some people, burning bridges and telling people what they can go do to themselves is a cherished past time that they have earned. In my opinion the hard-line approach to success is far more satisfying. Imagine making an opportunity for yourself that no one can take away because they had no part in giving it to you. That's exhilarating to know that no one has any power or influence over you. If that's not your goal, then what's the point? You might as well go work at a grocery store or something.

antidaily 2 days ago 1 reply      
So do you want to know the people "who know everybody and everybody knows" or be them?
verroq 2 days ago 0 replies      
If sucking up to a company executive counts as buying pizza for a stranger.
joelmaat 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's all about who you know if you have no talent, or are decidedly average. If you are better than that, then who you know, while it still matters, doesn't matter as much.
brendan_gill 2 days ago 0 replies      
Its not who you know... its whom you know :)
nns357 2 days ago 0 replies      
My question would have to be, how do you surround yourself around people you want to be around? I live in the suburbs 30 minutes outside of Providence and Providence is hardly the type of city for start-ups or innovation. Boston is on the other hand, but say I spend an hour on the T driving up. What next?
10dpd 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's not just who you know, its who you know that knows that you know.
ycuser 2 days ago 0 replies      
not just this story, but every successful person grabbed the little window of opportunity and one thing leads to another. The key is being prepared and taking the initiative.
Mozai 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's not who you know -- but who knows you.
ilaksh 2 days ago 6 replies      
Wow. Its so easy to meet successful people and become their friends. Just drop them an email and a phone call and wham, they will give you a job.

I wish I realized that before. I will just write some emails tonight. Tomorrow I will be successful.

I can't stand this guy's smug face. He was just lucky.

Mercator Puzzle googlecode.com
387 points by fferen  5 days ago   89 comments top 31
sethbannon 5 days ago 1 reply      
This reminds me of this great segment from the West Wing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8zBC2dvERM
zokier 5 days ago 9 replies      
Does anyone know why Google insists on Mercator projection? I guess that it makes the implementation bit simpler, but on the other hand you'd imagine that if anyone then Google would have the resources to use some more reasonable projection for greater good.
fossuser 5 days ago 0 replies      
Solution: http://i.imgur.com/Odujjao.png

In case you're stuck on a piece.

trafficlight 5 days ago 0 replies      
I wish it randomized the puzzle pieces every time. And there should be a timer.
pavlov 5 days ago 2 replies      
As a Finn, I'm thankful for Mercator's contribution to improving Finnish self-esteem. It's an insignificant corner of Europe with less people than most Chinese cities nobody has ever heard of, but at least it looks big on the map!
ColinWright 5 days ago 1 reply      
Fantastic. As a bonus side-effect, people never believe me when I tell them Australia is bigger than Europe, and this will let them play and see it for themselves.
martinced 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wonderful: just spent quite some time playing it.

It would be amazingly lovely if you could also display simultaneously other mappings than the Mercator one. Say a sphere in 3D in the upper right corner, with the "figures" moving / showing on both mappings.

It's interesting to see that if you take the eight biggest countries by size (well, ok, Antartica ain't a country), they all are very placed in term of GDP:

Russia: 10th (GDP), 1 (size)
Antartica: ---, 2 (size)
Canada: 11 (GDP), 3 (size)
China: 2 (GDP), 4 (size)
U.S.A.: 1st (GDP), 5 (size)
Brazil: 6 (GDP), 6 (size)
Australia: 12 (GDP), 7 (size)
India: 9 (GDP), 8 (size)

You then have Argentina and Kazakhstan lacking quite a bit behind:

Argentina: 26 (GDP), 9 (size)
Kazakhstan: 49 (GDP), 10 (size)

sxp 5 days ago 1 reply      
It's crazy how much Mercator distorts the globe. I was playing around with various map projections via WebGL shaders [1] and the size problems really stand out when the map is recentered. With modern digital maps, we should really stop using old projections that were designed to work on limited paper maps.

[1] http://sxp.me/maps/ Select equirectangular as the projection and drag the crosshairs to recenter.)

artursapek 5 days ago 1 reply      
The morphing of those SVG shapes is mystifying.
kenbot 5 days ago 1 reply      
Bloody Mercator. Confusing generations of Australian schoolchildren since ...always. "But you said we were the biggest island!"
crap_cone 5 days ago 0 replies      
answers in the sauce :

var answers = {
australia: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(-45.379453600000005, 110.69313639999996),
new google.maps.LatLng(-8.571888000000001, 155.16969360000007)),
southAfrica: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(-36.73497648232876, 13.33984375),
new google.maps.LatLng(-21.010097985940735, 35.87890625)),
greenland: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(57.9905285, -75.1942745),
new google.maps.LatLng(83.97751860000001, -9.709575500000028)),
finland: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(59.21319690000001, 19.53808950000007),
new google.maps.LatLng(70.7889305, 31.90050659999997)),
mongolia: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(40.74287280000001, 86.85821429999999),
new google.maps.LatLng(52.641200000000005, 121.12602760000004)),
thailand: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(3.9541530000000003, 95.39209260000007),
new google.maps.LatLng(21.477918000000003, 106.6929963)),
peru: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(-19.255824000000004, -82.93600620000001),
new google.maps.LatLng(1.5, -67.99965480000003)),
brazil: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(-35.42974050000001, -74.69401470000003),
new google.maps.LatLng(6.5, -33.06445550000001)),
iceland: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(62.758218600000006, -25.764343499999995),
new google.maps.LatLng(67.1959161, -11.481647000000066)),
drcongo: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(-15.448980381203414, 9.3359375),
new google.maps.LatLng(7.485096269212087, 36.015625)),
ukraine: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(43.456458529383056, 20.234375),
new google.maps.LatLng(53.29973879045674, 42.34375)),
madagascar: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(-26.898128422978452, 39.5703125),
new google.maps.LatLng(-10.366188047247464, 55.3515625)),
saudiArabia: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(14.77959730788355, 33.41796875),
new google.maps.LatLng(33.68098354643421, 57.28515625)),
mexico: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(11.700047540913861, -119.90234375),
new google.maps.LatLng(34.264084202839264, -83.65234374999994)),
mauritania: new google.maps.LatLngBounds(
new google.maps.LatLng(12.387690937704622, -18.7890625),
new google.maps.LatLng(29.336753501211746, -2.3046875))

jessriedel 5 days ago 1 reply      
Slight bug: if you bring the piece low enough, the color invert.
niggler 5 days ago 0 replies      
There's a touch issue:

When you successfully match a country, the shape turns green. However you can move the shape once out of its position. It remains green after the move but you can't move it again (future attempts to move the green item are treated as panning the map)

Whitespace 5 days ago 3 replies      
I'm partially ashamed to admit that I got all of them but one: a piece that had straight eastern and southern sides. It looked like a Canadian or Australian state/territory (large and having flat edges), but I couldn't place it.

Also I had a hard time placing Brazil.

tzury 5 days ago 0 replies      
I cheated at 8/15.

Viewed source and got all rest of countries names.

bobdylan1 5 days ago 2 replies      
This I like. But why does moving the pieces up and down produce a sort of cylinder?
drbig 5 days ago 1 reply      
I would really like to see it with random selection of countries every time your reload the page - and then to see it in primary schools during geography lessons - that would be a killer!
205guy 5 days ago 0 replies      
I have been wishing for a long time to have an outline feature in Google maps (or any map tool for that matter). I always want to compare the size of things (partly because of the distortion of the projection), say is the city of SF larger or smaller than NYC? I was stoked when Google added city boundaries, so that means they know them. Now there just needs to be a way to select a city, state/province/department/whatever, or country and drag it somewhere.
dirkk0 5 days ago 0 replies      
And I was reminded of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuZYhFtSZsY

@puzzle: great idea!

stcredzero 4 days ago 0 replies      
Got it. Zooming is essential on a tablet, because of the "my fat finger is in front of my eyes" problem, which I've solved, by the way. As it is, you have to zoom in to be able to see and drag.

(I took down the solution. If someone knows their way around VNC, it will get posted faster.)

asaarinen 5 days ago 0 replies      
Just in case somebody's interested, here's a related experiment we made to generate and display map tiles in a "google earth-style" projection using CSS transforms:


smackfu 5 days ago 0 replies      
When this first came around, I was surprised how big Greenland is after all. It's not a small island, it's as big as the entire US East Coast.
Lambdanaut 5 days ago 0 replies      
I like that the piece for Australia starts above Greenland. That really puts everything into perspective right away.
aubergene 4 days ago 0 replies      
D3 has an amazing projection system for creating SVG maps from GeoJSON.


SCAQTony 5 days ago 1 reply      
That was boss, "only" took me a 30-minutes! Well done and great for learning geography.
halter73 5 days ago 0 replies      
Imagine how much harder this would be if you also had to rotate.
porker 5 days ago 0 replies      
I really enjoyed this! Like a good jigsaw puzzle only better...
guard-of-terra 5 days ago 0 replies      
The sad thing is that the set of countries is always the same.
hayksaakian 5 days ago 1 reply      
This freaks out on the latest chrome android beta. Wonky flashing over parts of the map. Nexus 7
thewisedude 4 days ago 0 replies      
Fantastic! I learnt something new today. I did not know that the world was projected using Mercator projection and the how that played a role in distortion of the land size.
kabell 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is an awesome UI concept that could be used to demonstrate other kinds of projections, too. It would be awesome to see similar apps related to perspective transformations, rectilinear vs. fisheye lenses, tilt-shift lenses, panorama stitching, etc.
Web Development: A Crazy World rubiken.com
372 points by cygwin98  1 day ago   190 comments top 51
rpeden 1 day ago 8 replies      
I've found that a large subset of programmers share the same trait as a large subset of photographers: they become so obsessed with tools that they lose sight of the fact that the end product is what matters at the end of the day.

For example: there are many people who spend thousands on cameras and gear, and still take terrible photos. There are many developers who spend a lot of time keeping up with what they think is the latest trend, and yet they never finish any projects that get used.

Then you have the photographers who take great shots no matter what gear they use, and developers who write and ship great code and products using Java and other unsexy languages.

Can better tools help you be more productive? Absolutely. But if you spend all of your time worrying that you're not using the latest and great tools, you won't get much done, and you won't be satisfied with what you do get done. I have 15 cameras and unfinished projects in 10 languages that demonstrate that.

My advice? Sit back, pick technology a couple of steps behind the bleeding edge, and focus on results. Choosing Ember over Backbone isn't going to cause your project to fail; building the wrong thing or failing to finish, however, will.

bpatrianakos 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think its so great that we have so many new toys and such innovation going on in the world of the web. I remember when I was first starting out as a developer (when I was 10, it was 1996, I wasn't very good) all we had was HTML and CGI scripting. CSS was the new hotness that no one understood and PHP was just learning to crawl. Those two technologies were all there was and I don't remember other developers ever going nuts like an adoloscent girl at a Beatles concert over any of the stuff that was coming out then. It really is nuts how we push all this latest and greatest stuff only to abandon it next week. I remember just about a year or two ago the HN community was in absolute love (like 'The Notebook' style, forever and ever, everlasting love) with Rails - even more so than now. There were endless debates over its merits and its pitfalls and I watched as the people who took those debates the most personally agonized over every small bit of the development process while those who didn't really care as much just built stuff.

It really is great that these new toys are coming out but what I see as the real problem is that we lose sight over one particular piece of the bigger picture. We forget to ask ourselves "Does this solve my or my users' problem(s)"? Even when we do ask that question we then get caught up over minutia like the elegance of code and performing between two competing tools.

That stuff doesn't matter yet! What matters is that you grasp the concepts the tool promotes and can use it effectively. Beyond that there's usually not much difference in the "elegance" or performance of your code between two tools and it usually comes down to subjective views and how you work. Even if you do choose the "optimal" tools you're most likely fucking up some other part of your codebase anyway. None of us write perfect code. That's why refactoring is a thing.

Are you stuck when it comes time to choose handlebars or mustache? Can't decide between Ember and Backbone? Is Rails or Sinatra better? CodeIgniter or Laravel? Thinking of using Django over... uh... whatever the competitor to Django is? Then you've got your head stuck way too far up your ass and focusing on the wrong thing. I don't mean to offend with that crack - I too have had my head up my developer ass many times before and all it got me was a 'Hello World' page in a project that was stalled before it even started.

So my point is that using the new hotness is fun and challenging and it can do you a lot of good but the moment you stop developing and start chasing the new hotness you've become kind of a tech groupie rather than a developer.

mattjaynes 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I love how YouTube approached this: Choose the simplest and most stable tools and use those.

It's a great strategy for developers that want to ship. Otherwise one can easily be lured by the siren calls of new tech.

I've certainly fallen victim to this temptation, but I've found that as I let go of the new pretty things and focus more on using the old boring workhorses of the interwebs, I get a ton more done.

Plain vanilla seems boring - but it's bad-ass in web architecture. We forget that YouTube had plenty of competitors that were well ahead them before they dominated.

They kept things simple and solid and that allowed them to scale. It's certainly not the only reason they won, but I'd bet it's a huge part of it.


For more on YouTube's stack, see: http://highscalability.com/blog/2012/3/26/7-years-of-youtube...

danso 1 day ago 2 replies      
I'm far from an expert coder compared to most on here...but...what's the big deal? Once you've grokked server-side code and framework, is it really that hard to move from Rails to Sinatra or even to Django? Once you know databases, how hard is it to switch from SQLite to Postgres or to even Mongo? Same goes with Javascript frameworks.

Now, I'm referring to the scope of what a web-developer needs to know to interface with these technologies...obviously, a database engineer is expected to dive deep and know all the quirks/limitations of NoSQL vs SQL.

Is the complaint that "Oh shit, I don't know if I can learn new syntax?" Or is it more, "The hiring market is segmented by too many technologies for me to claim to be an expert at?"

purephase 1 day ago 1 reply      
While some might complain or worry, this is what makes this field so fascinating. A myriad of options, toolsets and methodologies means that it is alive, open and thriving.

Imagine is Adobe, Oracle or MS had won the Flash/Flex, Java or ActiveX battles, where would we have been today?

As much as I use Chrome (and love it), I can't help but admire the work done by Mozilla to rescue the Netscape codebase and mould it into Firefox. I think they deserve a lot of the accolades that enables this zany ecosystem to thrive.

bane 1 day ago 1 reply      
It blows my mind sometimes, looking at a web page made of mostly simple text and a few images, to view the source and see page after page after page of CSS and javascript just to make something that looks only slightly better than


nahname 1 day ago 0 replies      
Learn technologies that are popular, such as jQuery. The community will help make this easy. You will use jQuery on almost every project, so this will be time well spent.

Master components that are core, such as JavaScript. You will use JavaScript on every project. A true understanding will be essential to everything you choose to do with it. It amazes me how many developers do web development without ever trying to learn how to write effective JavaScript.

Lastly, do something just for fun. Programming is fun, enjoy it once in a while. Try a new language you will probably never use. Use a new framework or library. Look into something old. It is amazing how many old things are new again.

Do all this and the web won't be such a scary place.

saltcod 1 day ago 1 reply      
Wow. Fantastic piece.

This is precisely how I see the ecosystem too. If I've learned anything:

1. Focus on something "Rails, Python, Javascript, WordPress, something
2. Learn to actually program " any language will do

raverbashing 1 day ago 3 replies      
Yes, this

The amount of 'meetoo.js' is amazing(ly bad)

Because of course everybody has to have "MVC responsive html5 cascading containers with chocolate covering"

Not to mention most of these are underdocumented, bug-ridden, too specific, etc

Need a js library? JQuery. period (and don't get me started with mootools, I need to ship, not swim around their docs figuring out how to do what in jquery is easy )

And focus on the backend, a competent backend development will eat your whatever.js "specialist" except for the most specific cases

cglee 1 day ago 0 replies      
The analysis paralysis on which tools to use really comes from lack of focus on which problems you wish to work on. Many people are either told what problem to work on (employees), or have an unclear focus (I just want a job, any job!).

Therefore, they feel they need to learn and use every tool so that they can be prepared for "choosing the right tool for the job".

The solution is to focus on projects of your choosing. When it's clear that your problem is a nail, you can tackle it with any tool that can pound with force: hammer, mallet or shoe heel will all work; frozen cucumber will not. In other words, there are clear wrong choices - get rid of those and pick one of the right ones. The paralysis melts away once you have a problem around which to frame your analysis.

Another beautiful thing about web development: you can learn to use a hammer (let's say, Rails) and you can use that hammer to pound a million nails.

It's a fallacy to think that you have to learn everything, every methodology, so you can be prepared for some ambiguous future project, in hopes of solving some unforeseen problem.

This approach has another great side effect: you won't be easily side tracked by the new shiny thing that promises async evented dilly every few months. If it doesn't solve YOUR problem, move on.

davidw 1 day ago 3 replies      
Most of the 'mess' I see is the current state of Javascript frameworks, which are in the Cambrian explosion phase of things.

I'd just use Rails as a default for most things I do these days, and if it's not a good fit, evaluate other technology.

anons2011 1 day ago 2 replies      
Quite amusing and very true. Just had a little look at Handlebars - writing 3 to 4 times as much to generate very little.

Also reminds me of this tongue in cheek site : http://html9responsiveboilerstrapjs.com/

lhnz 1 day ago 0 replies      
This has been my experience, too. But I think it's wrong to jump to the conclusion that because going too far and having to learn too much is a bad use of time that you should just stick to one or two things. This is black-and-white thinking and I think in this case, your response should be in the context of the problems you face and the career you are building.

We do need to move along with technologies if we want to stay relevant. But you need to know what's a fashion and what's worth adding to your skillset. After leaving University I mainly knew Java but I learnt PHP and JavaScript because I wanted a web development job; later on I felt that none of the cool startups were using PHP and all of its warts had become very apparent to me so I picked up Python which seemed a lot more elegant. (However this was more a case of fashion that gave me access to higher-impact and higher-salary jobs. My actual needs to code in a general-purpose language with nice libraries isn't a worthy goal in itself.)

Currently I am working entirely in Node.JS and I don't consider myself to be drinking the Kool Aid because it made more sense to stick to one programming language and I needed long-running processes. I do have to be careful to not add too many libraries, however. There is so much activity in the JavaScript world currently.

I say you should focus on your career and wherever you see that leading you. To a certain extent programming languages and libraries will come and go (they will coalesce on principles so this is worth paying attention to), but architecture remains the same, social structures and positions remain the same, and sales remains the same. Apply yourself where you can see the maximum potential for personal growth and personal growth that doesn't slip (as it will when you have spent 20 years programming using the library X and everybody else switches to Y.)

beefsack 1 day ago 1 reply      
Call me a masochist, but I love the huge amount of selection, I love how passionate people are about their own solutions meaning they rapidly improve, and I love getting my hands dirty with pretty much anything I can get my hands on.

It's great having too many tools in your toolbox.

artursapek 1 day ago 4 replies      
1. Go to Home Depot.

2. Pick the tools you like. Get a good hammer, saw, adjustable square.

3. Leave Home Depot and go get good with them.

4. If something breaks or doesn't perform a task you need, go back to Home Depot to supplement your toolbox.

tosh 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I like many of the state of the art frameworks, especially backbone.js and I'm really thankful for how much impact they had on making complexity in web apps manageable. That said I absolutely agree with you regarding the fragmentation problem which seems more like a stack problem to me.

For me personally it looks like what the web desperately needs is a common ground for how widgets work and behave. Web Components look like what we will get and I really can't wait to see that happen:

Here are some examples from Dart Web UI (web component polyfills for Dart) http://www.dartlang.org/articles/dart-web-components/

Also here is a great article about the web stack fragmentation that you might be interested in:

Exciting times,

Torn 1 day ago 1 reply      
As with all technology choices, you've got to draw the line somewhere - new and risky, or old and proven, or somewhere in between.

What matters these days is probably how well you and your team already know the technology, how good the documentation is, community size/takeup, how quick the devs are to respond to issues, and how mature and stable the API is from release to release. How popular/old the technology is also counts for more if you're looking to hire people with experience in it.

MVC on the client is becoming more and more important, once you start slapping a lot of js on a page it can quickly become un-maintainable. We went with Backbone as Ember was changing too quickly in backwards-incompatible ways.

MVC on the server (Django/Rails/Express/whatever) still has a place - you want something serving restful data / html skeletons and mapping urls to responses. In my day job that's Spring MVC because that's what people here know and it ain't broke.

Frontend language choice: Learning JS seems to be the natural choice here. Things that compile to JS e.g. CoffeeScript or DART might also work for you; I don't have experience with them but I'd imagine debugging problems in the resulting js would be a pain until browsers support them natively.

rsobers 1 day ago 1 reply      
Marco Arment gave a great talk at Webstock about how he uses PHP and MySQL because they're battle-tested and he knows them inside-out. I think many of us could use a dose of Marco's pragmatism. It's worked out really well for him.
kenkam 1 day ago 4 replies      
I agree and can see where OP is coming from. As a Chinese, I notice the difference in how we approach problems. Let me make an analogy:

Chinese and western dude learns guitar. The Chinese player will worry about the scales, the hammer on/off drills, chord drills, picking drills, and maybe practice a song and focus on technicalities; western dude would pick a guitar, learn a few chords to play a song, realise that to play more songs he/she must practice hammer ons, etc, but everything is so that he can play more songs. They have never had to worry about drills. It's a means to an end.

Web frameworks are just drills to choose from. Pick the one you need and move on. With experience, you'll be able to tell what is good and what is not.

Why worry about which framework is "best"? It doesn't matter. If WP template and jquery solves the problem then why is he even talking about Haskell?

SonicSoul 23 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't agree with this rant. Just becuase 50 libraries exist doesn't mean you have to be an expert in all of them or even use all of them.

I think it's great that so many frameworks are sprouting up, and once you've been around long enough, it shouldn't take more than a weekend to try one, see the benefits, and use it or learn from it and move on.

Since when is having more choice bad?

I've been out of web development for a number of years, and it is delightful to have all these options now. I am loving working with knockout.js and looking forward to trying ember next.

OldSchool 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe part of the problem is that "design" has been forced to merge with "engineering."

That and everyone seems to want to discover a language or framework like it's an Indy band. "I was using _____ before it became popular." That credential and $5 gets your coffee at Starbucks.

Let's face it. If the high-paying gig comes along and, god-forbid, demands .net or PHP, you're not going to argue, you're going to quickly adapt and get it done right? That's because all these things solve basically the same problem and it's a problem that you're used to solving.

readme 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I hope that there aren't any actual web developers who think like that on a daily basis and that it's meant as humor. You don't need to use technology invented yesterday to write good software. Infact, most of the "blue chip" technology out there: Java, Python, Ruby, PHP, and the relevant frameworks used in those languaes (Spring, Django, Symfony, Rails, etc...) is being updated all the time.

Another advantage of not using the latest, hottest, tech, is that there will be several gigs of mailing list archives out on the net of people's past problems (also, stack overflow will be filled to the brim) with answers, to your common pitfalls.

Go with X.js + HipsterDB and you're gonna have a bad time when you run into a problem, because it's just so new that you're likely one of the first to run into it.

The article ended with "I just used wordpress and copy pasted some jquery" -- I approve.

The bottom line is getting shit done, not being a hipster.

mephju 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Yeah, lots of technologies out there.

Personally I consider learning a technology as an investment. And with my investments I prefer them to be low risk.
That's why I only choose technologies which are definitely going to last a while. Sometimes it's hard to decide if a particular technology will persist. I usually look for support and endorsement of big players in the industry and sufficient user adoption.

Right now I am contemplating using angular.js. I think it would be low risk to learn since it will probably last a while because of Google's involvement and already wide usage.

Other safe options include Twitter Bootstrap, Node.js, Android and jQuery and ?

I would like to read a blog post about what Hacker News considers to be safe options to learn. Anyone interested in writing one?

42tree 1 day ago 2 replies      
This piece first appeared as a comment on this page in ENGLISH in July 2012: http://www.zemanta.com/blog/i-bet-you-over-engineered-your-s...

while the author claimed to have it translated from Chinese back to English, surprisingly almost exactly the same as the original English version. I guess English-Chinese-English translation has reached an amazing stage!

blablabla123 1 day ago 0 replies      
The original post shows definitely one thing: decision making is an important skill.

Obviously every framework has its pros and cons. But always focussing on the cons and restlessy looking for even hotter solutions makes you more worry about technology choice than about your code. It makes you worry more about whether you did a sane technology choice than it makes you solve actual problems.

At the end of the day it is better to focus on one chosen technology and get the most out of it. If its cons matter, one will see soon enough and learn how to circumvent. This gives deeper understanding of the technologies and give tools to solve problems.

timonv 1 day ago 3 replies      
Web Development is fine, it's the Javascript, and especially the frontend world that's the problem.

Why do we bother with a language that's inconcise, lacks so many common, useful functions (enumerals, strings, etc), and general doesn't do what we want it to do? In spite of fundamental problems, people try to address them with custom solutions. Those are inherently very PERSONAL solutions - because everyone wants to do it well and better - bound to raise discussion and competition at some point. That's what's happening. People are trying to fix something broken with their own, idealistic ideas.

There's nothing wrong with that, don't get me wrong, but I think we all know that we can do better on a more fundamental level.

chrismorgan 1 day ago 1 reply      
As you can see, he hadn't heard of Python.
gfodor 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Not only can you waste time over-analyzing the number of choices, you can waste time discussing the choices. Like this thread. Back to work!
davedx 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been wanting to use one of the new JavaScript frameworks on a new project, after dabbling with backbone and getting lost very quickly trying to clean up zombie views/events. My latest project is a front end site to a JSON API, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity, but after discussing it with my client we both decided not to.

Because I know what I'm doing best in PHP. So the site is going to do REST queries, but on the backend. We still have the ability to use the API in other clients, and we could in the future use shinyFrameworkOf2013.js, but for now we're building something we know will work.

thewarrior 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thats the reason why its more important to learn the fundamental ideas behind the frameworks and not just the syntactic sugar . A deep understanding of any one will help in easily picking up any of the newer ones.
DodgyEggplant 1 day ago 0 replies      
any human (or even nature) domain knowledge is enormously detailed rich, with countless sub-domains, methodologies and references beyond the scope of a single person. And thanks god for that.
octix 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Adopting new technologies doesn't always mean you try to follow trends or be cool. There are plenty of reasons that new ways of doing things come up all the time(be more productive is one of them). You may start slowly, but with time it pays off. I mean teams that can evaluate new trends and see if they get any benefits or not...

I personally think "just ship the damn thing" is BS, I'm pro delivering often, but good quality of product/service starts in back-end, again I'm not saying it should be perfect, but it MUST be open for new changes and be ready to scale... no one wants to wake up and be impotent with number of users they have, if you don't expect to scale, why are you doing this in 1st place?

jakozaur 1 day ago 0 replies      

Pick technologies which are most suitable for the job, not the most "hyped" ones. Also don't forget that sometimes the latest technologies comes with innovation tax, you may be the first to solve some issues, because of the small ecosystem.

yjh0502 1 day ago 1 reply      
Maybe this post is the original one: http://tilomitra.com/the-crazy-world-of-code/
arbuge 1 day ago 0 replies      
He left out Basic. Bill Gates is still using that one according to his Reddit AMA yesterday.
ChrisArchitect 1 day ago 0 replies      
I like this because it demonstrates the complexity that can possibly be involved with some serious web development projects.
Also, I think it is the skill/ability to make the decision between these tools and platforms and know that you only need some etc - is what separates the good educated developers from the rest.
indubitably 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is evidence that we're in a golden age of web development. It's the opposite of monoculture, and it's awesome.
jccodez 22 hours ago 1 reply      
To quote Jamie Zawinski: "At the end of the day, ship the fucking thing! It's great to rewrite your code and make it cleaner and by the third time it'll actually be pretty. But that's not the point"you're not here to write code; you're here to ship products."
mipapage 1 day ago 0 replies      
Recently redid a WP site a neighbor had for his small business. Single page flat html using bootstrap. What fun that was! So refreshingly simple.
nej 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Architecture is not as important if you're building an app that will scale slowly. But if you're betting on scalability to make money, then the story is very different.

Relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rV_GIGzXrvA

pkorzeniewski 1 day ago 2 replies      
Just choose the right tool for the job. Beside that, variety is a good thing, isn't it?
BigBlueSaw 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I tend to pick the environment/framework/library that has the functionality already written that I happen to need at the time.
tterrace 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would try explaining those concerns to a client to see just how silly and nonsensical they are.
metaperl 1 day ago 0 replies      
qooxdoo solved all the problems of web development long ago in a single simple uniform complete way.

As long as you arent forced to use apologetic strap-on technologies, I see no reason to look elsewhere.

the1 1 day ago 0 replies      
W in Wordpress stands for web scale.
snake_plissken 1 day ago 0 replies      
fvckin A+ on this.
adamors 1 day ago 0 replies      
Living in a bubble.
klodolph 1 day ago 0 replies      
Tshinghua University is in Beijing. "BBS" and "forum" are approximately synonyms.
waltz 16 hours ago 0 replies      
how about copy a line?
Google Fails the Turing Test plus.google.com
365 points by d2vid  22 hours ago   159 comments top 30
calinet6 20 hours ago 11 replies      
Why is it that Google gets a free pass on customer support?

We somehow implicitly trust that they're doing good in all other areas, but there is absolutely no circumstance in the entire company where a customer can reach a person and receive true support.

Why do they get to do this, and no other company can?

alanctgardner2 20 hours ago 0 replies      
This man has far more faith in Google than I do... I ordered on day one, and gave up after about 6 weeks. While the Note II isn't perfect, I could buy one in a store right away.

On the robot CSRs: it honestly seemed like they had been given about 4 hours of training, which consisted of madlibs-style repetition of whatever you said. I got a bit hyperbolic in a later support call, and one of them honestly said:

"I understand it can be a bit frustrating when, uhh, companies play with your emotions and lie about when your Nexus 4 device (tm) will arrive."

This wasn't a text chat. This was someone acting like a 80's AI over the phone. After they parroted my complaint, they would immediately escalate me to a specialist. Once I talked to a manager, who escalated me 'differently'. I have no idea if any specialist ever replied; I got a few follow up emails which basically said 'Thanks for calling! Keep on keeping on'.

Cancelling was actually the best, easiest thing I did with Google. Ordering was painful, waiting was aggravating, but telling them "I don't want the damn thing" went over surprisingly well.

driverdan 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I ordered an item from Amazon with free 2 day shipping (prime). The tracking never said anything more than that the label had been created. I waited about a week and contacted Amazon. They immediately sent me a free replacement. Eventually the lost package came as well.

This is how customer support should handle this type of situation.

josh2600 21 hours ago 3 replies      
This sucks.

Google is an engineering company, but one has to believe that they wouldn't purposefully engineer a robot to be this foolish. I have to believe it's actually people you're dealing with, people who have been programmed to behave like computers (YOU MUST PASTE THIS AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH EMAIL).

It's frankly too banal and too non-sensical to be a robot programmed by Google; but in a way, a programmed customer service employee in a call center is a bit of a robot.

We should consider the impact repeated nonsense has on a persons ability to deal with situations in a fashion beyond rote memorization. We should consider the impact of dehumanizing folks in call centers. Google should try to understand how unique human interactions can make a contact center/email experience that much easier, instead of dehumanizing these moments for the sake of expediency.

mullingitover 20 hours ago 2 replies      
I've worked in customer service, and the reps use 'canned text' all the time for common issues. I assumed this was common knowledge. Not doing so would be a recipe for RSI within a couple weeks.

The problem with canned text is when it's reused on the same person, which leads to anger on the part of the recepient (or suspicions that they're being serviced by a robot).

recoiledsnake 20 hours ago 1 reply      
A lot of responses here seem to say that support for cheap/free phones is not profitable. That's not a good excuse. Amazon doesn't really make much money on the Kindle hardware, but the support is amazing.

That raises the question, why didn't Google just let the factories ship to Amazon and let Amazon handle sales and customer service(related to shipping, not technical)? I guess the Play Store was an attempt at branding similar to Apple store, but the customer experience seems to be damaging the brand.

rryan 20 hours ago 1 reply      
I know using a phone is so 20th century but Google Play actually has a dedicated call center for providing support. When I ordered a Nexus 7 back in July I was wondering when it would arrive so I called. Within 2 minutes of waiting I was talking to a friendly human.
sergiotapia 18 hours ago 1 reply      
> 10 weeks of waiting

Absolutely unacceptable. I would have issued a chargeback immediately after three weeks of tardiness. At that point what Google has done is fraud, especially if you couldn't reach an actual person on the phone.

pja 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I was recently asked to fill in a 'customer experience report' for my Nexus 4 purchase by Google. Lets just say, that whilst the service I got wasn't quite the clown car special that this guy was given, it wasn't great either. Not that I expect them to take a blind bit of notice of my carefully worded response.

At this point, I wouldn't advise any of my friends or family to buy physical hardware from Google Play: the customer service is just atrocious & if anything went wrong I'd feel responsible.

badgar 21 hours ago 4 replies      
Story is probably 100% true. Won't argue with any of the substance, which will likely be discussed in other threads.

But this writing reeks of Microsoft astroturfing. Especially the "I got #googleplayed" dig which sounds just like their "Don't get scroogled" campaign and failed #droidrage stunt. It's not like Mark Penn would have any trouble bringing back their famous astroturfing policies to earn his keep at MS.

qohen 17 hours ago 2 replies      
One point I haven't seen anyone discuss yet in the comments below: the author mentions that, after seeing that the phone was sold out, he kept refreshing the browser till he got a copy of the webpage that allowed him to buy the phone.

I'm wondering if perhaps that copy of the webpage was an out-of-date cached page from a server that hadn't been updated recently enough (or that the page was created based on a copy of data in a cache that hadn't been updated recently enough) and that buying from such a page somehow led to a phantom purchase being created -- since there were no actual phones left to buy -- which got pushed through the system to the point of creating a UPS record for a non-existent phone.

Obviously, one would hope an ecommerce system would catch issues like that so spurious purchases would not be allowed through in the end, but -- in any case -- should the buyer perhaps have realized (in retrospect, at least, if not at the time) that there might be a problem if all his previous attempts to load the webpage were telling him the phone was sold out?

Afforess 21 hours ago 5 replies      
Google customer support is notoriously bad. Support for their flagship products, gmail, google docs, etc is non-existent. For example, gmail filtering + email forwarding have been broken for over a year, with no fix in sight. So I'm not surprised to see that support isn't good in other area's either. It's really a shame because Google is a great company, with great products and a great vision, and it hurts to see sloppy execution.
TillE 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Copy and pasting the same snippet of generic polite text is excusable, but what can possibly explain the lack of context? Surely you'd only need to glance at the past activity on the ticket (ie, your own emails that you just sent a couple days ago) to avoid giving the same stupid, useless response.

It's either a poorly-programmed robot, or a human acting very much like one.

mmuro 19 hours ago 0 replies      
It's a cop-out to call Google an engineering company like they are still the small company that is just a search engine.

If they want to be a consumer electronics company, they should probably start acting like one and have actual humans deal with these problems.

dendory 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Google sucks at customer support, news at 11.

Honestly reading this, nothing surprised me. We all know Google is incapable of decent customer support, and even if we do pay money for something like a phone, the very corporate nature that reigns in this company still sees us as products of free services. Here's a thought, instead of hiring outsourced help for their Nexus sales crew, why not use their AdWords support staff? Those people are obviously the only ones trained to deal with humans.

pserwylo 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder how this fits into Australian Consumer Law (ACL) [0]. We have a relatively robust set of rules that govern how a business selling a product/service interacts with their customers.

For example, if you purchase something and it is not as described, or it is faulty, or certain other conditions then the business must be able to remedy the situation. I fail to see how you could satisfactorily comply with the ACL if you're only form of customer service is AI bots.

[0] http://www.consumerlaw.gov.au/ (overview at http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/963190)

patejam 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Cheap products, great products, and good support. Pick two.
damian2000 14 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're parting with hard earned cash to buy something, there's no reason you can't expect good customer service from the seller, even if some of their service is automated. They really need to take some lessons from Amazon.
webwanderings 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Not making a whole lot of sense. You gamed the system by having three different browsers place an order (imagine how it must have been like?) and then you complain? Where is ethics of placing an order online? Wouldn't you have been better off following what your single browser screen said the first time?
baby 19 hours ago 0 replies      
That's the problem with Google. There is NO customer support. I had a website back in the days that was bringing me good money. A spam alerts from google tells me that I have to delete some spam pages of my website (which is generated by user content) in the 3 next work days otherwise they'll ban my account. I look through the pages and CAN'T find anything spammy, I decide to mail them something along those lines "I'm sorry but I can see no reference of what you want me to erase, can you please provide more informations?". No answers and 3 days later I was banned from Google Ads.

Twist : My website was in multiple language and the page they sent me was in a different language, I had not think of that.

acqq 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Daavid, I really enjoyed your writing! Near the end I laughed out loud. Although, thinking about your experience... I could see how frustrating that could be :)

I agree, with such an experience, Google cars don't seem like a good idea at all.

YZF 12 hours ago 0 replies      
UPS has just delivered my Nexus 4 today here in BC, Canada. I shouldn't have rewarded Google with my business but there is really no competition for this product. If there was I would have taken my business there.
swalsh 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Can you imagine how much we would accept google into our lives if they had an equal amount of engineering, but awesome customer service?
cardine 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I've had my own horror stories with Adwords. Google has by far the worst support of any company I've ever had to deal with in my entire life.
triplesec 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Google sucks on this support. This makes me shy away from their phones and buy Samsung's. Which is practically the same hardware anyway, but with a vaguely human company behind it.
pilooch 17 hours ago 0 replies      
The last two paragraphs are hilarious, thanks for taking the time and writing this! Like anyone else I had my share of ridiculous shipment problems, but this guy remains playful (and cheerful!), wow :
3327 20 hours ago 0 replies      
This post is scary. I have been operating under a new set of rules. I refuse to by goods/services from customer service deficient firms. It has been working great and dealing with small teams and companies that provide fantastic service makes your life easy and efficient. Not to mention building great relationships. I make sure to buy a service from a startup, e.g cloud storage rather than for instance Amazon.
jordanbaucke 21 hours ago 1 reply      
What is UPS's response? Seems you should talk to the carrier if it's stated that it's "on truck for delivery" and ask for their explanation?
matthuggins 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Upvote because Google CS sucks, plain and simple. I've experienced similar troubles with AdSense.
obilgic 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Problem loading Google+

There was a problem loading the Google+ CSS. Please double check your network connection and try reloading in a few minutes.

Next Time Your Mom Says Don't Go Out in The Rain, Spray Yourself With This npr.org
321 points by Jaigus  4 days ago   138 comments top 33
marvin 4 days ago 15 replies      
What no one seems to think about is the potential health consequences of this application of nanotech.

This is basically something made with particles that are much smaller than your cells. The material can probably get into your body by osmosis alone. Will the materials affect your body? Cause cancer? Get stuck in your lungs? Do something else that we don't know? There has been very little research on this area, and the little research that has been done is worrying. Putting this in consumer products is a very large and uncontrolled experiment.

We should be careful of starting to use materials like these with no further study or testing. There is a risk we might end up looking like the guys who brushed their teeth with radium or used a portable x-ray video machine to examine their kids' feet at the shoe store.

iamshs 4 days ago 0 replies      
Well this concept is based on superhydrophobicity. I do not know the working of this coating particularly, but it seems to be superhydrophobic. A superhydrophobic surface(SHS) is one where water has very high mobility i.e. an extremely water repelling surface. Is is due to a surface having low surface energy and a textured topography. They hold very high commercialization potential. Lotus leaf is one natural occuring example of this phenomenon. The research into this field started extensively in 1997. SHS can be employed in variety of applications theoretically i.e. cars, windshields, toilets, ketchup bottles, kettles, phones, power lines, preventing ice accumulation, on boat hulls, on shoes in rain, fabrics, solar cells, around sinks, shower curtains... the potential is unlimited. Many researchers are working on making it possible, and they are very good ones too.

So after you have been primed about the subject, what is preventing their wide spread usage? Durability. Not a single one of them is able to sustain mechanical duress. And one of the most widely used chemical is Teflon, which is expensive. Hence, reapplication is not possible time and again. Many researchers are working on it, but a solution remains elusive until now. These sprays are nice such that they open the field, but much more still needs to be done in this field, since these sprays have been in market for at least 5 years now.

aaron695 4 days ago 5 replies      
This stuff seriously seems like a game changer. Could be all hype but if it's legit I think it'll be huge.

Never having to clean the toilet again in itself would be amazing. Cost reductions in business here alone is significant.

Anti graffiti capabilities would make it huge for government applications. On park benches etc keeping communal equipment from ageing. The whole cleaning industry could be changed.

Waterproofing electronics.

Hygiene in hospitals might save many, many lives.

I do like living in the future.

tomkinstinch 4 days ago 1 reply      
For those curious about the composition of the hydrophobic coating, the FDA and USDA guidance docs talk about the constituents:


It looks like it is fumed silica in carrier solvent with polyurethane adhesive. The fumed silica is branded "Aerosil", and made by Evonik:


Interestingly, it looks like Avon has a patent that covers applying hydrophobic Aerosil to keratin fibers (hair):


anigbrowl 4 days ago 1 reply      
The demo at about the 1:50 mark with the liquid gathered in the center of the glass pane is mindblowing. The firs thting I thought of was using the hydrophobic stuff as a mask for pcb fabrication using a copper sulphate solution for the hydro part. That's probably pointless for the purpose, but it seems like this would be an insanely useful manufacturing technology.
jkat 4 days ago 2 replies      
Was curious what happened if you inhaled it. Nothing specific on their site, but it does say:

    The coating has been found to be safe for use in nonfood contact areas 
of food processing plants. The coating meets FDA and USDA regulations for those
types of applications.

Still curious.

josscrowcroft 4 days ago 0 replies      
Watching the video one wonders whether they sprayed the "untreated" side of the tests with a hydrophilic coating, to actively attract more liquid. Some of those looked a bit too sticky.

Guess we'll never know :)

troymc 4 days ago 0 replies      
This reminds me of that spray you can buy at the shoe store. It does work, for a while. Also see "LiquiGlide":


leeoniya 4 days ago 5 replies      
Useful for surfaces which only come in contact with liquids. Not so much for a lot of stuff they demonstrate though, like hammer, gloves, boots, or generally anything where the coating would rub off in less than half a day's work.

Also, how many construction workers are concerned with keeping their work boots and gloves free of dirt stains? lol.

goblin89 4 days ago 0 replies      
For reference, there's also NeverWet[0] (I recall seeing their ad a few years ago) and MIT's ‘non-stick coating' (has an HN thread[1]).

Apparently a few superhydrophobic coating solutions exist already. On the first sight it looks like Ultra Ever Dry beat everyone in getting their product to consumer market, though.

[0] http://www.neverwet.com/

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4010762

lubos 4 days ago 1 reply      
atarian 3 days ago 1 reply      
If someone were to spray themselves with this and fall into a body of water (pool, lake, ocean) wouldn't they drown? I would imagine that it would be very difficult to swim.
danmaz74 4 days ago 1 reply      
Something like that has been available for years in Germany. I'm wondering why it didn't have the success I expected it to. http://en.dienanoexperten.de/
bambax 4 days ago 0 replies      
I so much want this...

The site the OP links to is called "Global Industrial" but the only country available on the checkout page is "United States".

(Why they call themselves "global" is beyond me; why they need a select box for only one option is further beyond.)

gyom 4 days ago 2 replies      
Spray this inside your computer everywhere except at key places requiring cooling (like on the top of the CPU). Flood the computer with water. Passive silent cooling !
Evbn 3 days ago 1 reply      
So, we don't know what it is, how it works, or if the ad is fake, but this is worthy of the NPR banner? It's like they use the label "blog" to mean "BS link bait crap".

We expect better from NPR.

JonahBraun 3 days ago 0 replies      
The comment about painting the boat reminds me of supercavitation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercavitation used to greatly increase speed of some torpedos.

You could probably retain stability of the boat by painting stripes from front to back. They would act similar to fins.

Qantourisc 4 days ago 0 replies      
Wear, tear and abrasions is what will certainly reduce the possible area of deployment.
Unless this materials happens to be very resistant to abrasions.
darrenkopp 3 days ago 2 replies      
I wonder what that would be like on a car... Would you never have to clean it again? How much water would that save in the U.S. from being wasted?
saalweachter 3 days ago 1 reply      
No home-owners in this thread? I'm thinking roof and gutters.
cbsmith 3 days ago 0 replies      
Superhydrophobia is way cooler than hydrophobia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabies
chemmail 4 days ago 1 reply      
I see a version of this every year. Still never seen it released commercially, or even non commercially.
ashokvarma2 4 days ago 1 reply      
I guess this is what it might have felt like when people first saw plastics.
Evbn 3 days ago 0 replies      
Headline directly contradicts safety advice in the article. Bad NPR.
jonlarson 4 days ago 3 replies      
Like the article mentioned, coating a boat seems like it could be awesome. No drag, zip through the water. If it does work like that, I'd imagine we'll also start seeing it in competitive swim suits.
ch 4 days ago 0 replies      
Clark Griswold would be impressed.
Tautologistics 3 days ago 0 replies      
When they stuck the work gloves into water, the effect of the treated glove looked exactly like Magic Sand. I loved playing with that hydrophobic stuff when I was a kid:


yangyang 3 days ago 0 replies      
Reminded me of this: http://liquidglassshield.com/, which looks very similar.
dakimov 4 days ago 0 replies      
That's amazing.

Finally such a thing has been invented. That's the future. I'm looking forward for other incredible nanomaterials.

tekromancr 4 days ago 2 replies      
I want this on all of my clothes! How cool would that be? Never sweaty!
thomasrambaud 4 days ago 0 replies      
Very interesting technology, known since more than 10 years now and widespread in 2007-8 on the WWW.

I guess many applications will be found in every day life.

usaphp 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is how Michael Phelps won his Olympic medals?
khet 4 days ago 0 replies      
Can someone buy this and do a comprehensive review?
Surface Pro versus MacBook Air: Who's being dishonest with storage space? zdnet.com
315 points by CrankyBear  5 days ago   233 comments top 37
callahad 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is frustrating. The Surface Pro has a 128 GB option and goes down from there to 64 GB. The Macbook Air has a 128 GB option and goes up from there to 512 GB.

Edit: this is factually incorrect. There is also a 64 GB MacBook Air model on offer; I forgot about it. I apologize.

~90 GB of free space on both 128 GB models seems reasonable. Stepping down to just ~26 GB free on the 64 GB model seems unreasonable: the usable capacity is less than half of the advertised capacity.

I feel similarly about the recovery partition discussion. If you remove the recovery image, I presume you will not be able to recover the Surface Pro without additional media. The Macbook Air, on the other hand, will allow you to do a fresh re-installation of OS X over the Internet with a completely blank disk: it's baked into the firmware. Therefore, removing the recovery image results in a feature disparity between the systems. Grumble.

InclinedPlane 5 days ago 4 replies      
Yadda yadda yadda, doesn't matter.

When people buy a laptop they expect the OS will take up a good chunk of the storage space. When people buy a tablet they don't have that expectation.

More importantly, when the free space is significantly less than half the advertized storage and there is no warning that's the case people are going to be surprized and upset, and rightfully so.

In a Macbook Air the worst you get is a reduction to about 70-75% of the listed storage capacity (in the 128 or 64 gb models), which is annoying but not crazy. In the Surface Pro 64 model you are reduced to about 1/3 of the initial capacity, which is ridiculous and definitely deserves some sort of warning on the packaging, I would think. Expecting a reduction by 1/4 is reasonable common sense, experiencing a reduction by 2/3 is surprising.

cooldeal 5 days ago 1 reply      
The Ars review of the Surface Pro has more details on disk space:

Unlike Office in Windows RT, this Office is fully uninstallable if you don't like it. Doing so will liberate about 2.3 GB of disk space. Even if you keep Office, you'll have more disk space than Microsoft claims.

How much? The 128 GB Surface Pro has a formatted capacity of 119 (binary) GB and change. A total of 8.4 GB is used for recovery data, of which 7.8 GB can be reclaimed if you prefer to keep your recovery image on external media. This leaves 110.5 GB for the main partition. On a brand new Surface Pro, about 89 (binary) GB are available. Occupying that 20 GB are 3.3 GB of hibernation file, 4 GB of pagefile, 2.3 GB of Office 2013, 10.4 GB of Windows, built-in/default apps, and so on and so forth.

Presuming the sizes of the applications remain comparable on the 64 GB model (with its 59 binary, GB formatted capacity) one would expect to see about 29 GB available by default. Take off Office and the recovery partition and there will be close to 40 GB available.

grecy 5 days ago 2 replies      
> And with one minor tweak that doesn't affect the system's capabilities in any way

If that were the case, why would that feature even be included? Obviously it does impact the capabilities, when things go wrong.

Also interesting to note they call it a "minor tweak". What percentage of tablet (or laptop) users even know about a recovery image?
I small fraction, I'd wager.

incongruity 5 days ago 1 reply      
I think part of this comes from the abstractions used for tablets vs. "traditional" computers. (With the surface being viewed as a tablet by most consumers, vs. the air being seen as a traditional laptop).

In tablets, the trend seems to be to abstract away/hide the OS as much as possible " it isn't something that runs on the machine, it is the machine " if that makes sense. Compare this to the laptop world where we're all engrained to conceive of the OS as something that is installed on the machine and in most/all cases is able to be swapped out (insert plug for your favorite Linux distro here, etc.)

So, given that, most consumers willingly accept the space the OS takes up as a given on the laptop yet the same people see the listing the tablet storage including the space required for the OS as disingenuous.

When you want to abstract away something, if your abstraction leaks, it usually hampers the user experience or user perception of the offering " as this case illustrates (IMHO).

beagle3 5 days ago 4 replies      
tl;dr: On the 128GB models (Surface Pro vs. Macbook Air), they both leave ~90GB free space.

The problem for Microsoft is that they are competing at the same time against laptops and tablets. For someone who's looking for a tablet, it loses badly to an iPad (the free space sticks out, but it is by now means the only place an iPad wins). For someone who's looking for a laptop, it loses to many laptops (in price, performance, ergonomics - whatever it is you care about, there's something that handily beats the Surface Pro).

Are there any people who are looking for something that's sort-of-a-tablet and sort-of-a-laptop, and are willing to get a device that is not competitive as either? We'll soon find out.

My own experience leads me to believe that until you have perfected a niche (neither laptops or tablets are there yet), extreme specialization always wins against generalization.

rbn 5 days ago 3 replies      
This is for people who want tablet + laptop but dont want carry+charge+pay for 2 devices. It's really not that difficult to understand, I dont know why HN has such a hard time understanding this.

"But the iPad is a better tablet!!!", yeh but the surface is a full system.
"But the air is better laptop!!" yeh but the surface has tablet capabilities.
"Buy an Air + iPad!!" I dont want to pay extra plus its a hassle to carry + manage 2 devices

drivebyacct2 5 days ago 0 replies      
I'm so embarrassed. A week ago I defended that people could be reasonable about Microsoft, their products and the Surface. The comment threads here today have been pathetic. If this is the biggest issue to bitch about regarding the Surface then the Surface Pro 2.0 should be an easy target to nail.

Jesus there are people writing rants in this thread that don't even understand that the Surface Pro is specd similarly to the macbook air (except the surface has a much better screen)

DannoHung 5 days ago 0 replies      
The numbers reported for the 128 version weren't what people were griping about.
Tloewald 5 days ago 0 replies      
So having "proven" Windows 8 has no advertising (by somehow claiming the apps with ads weren't really part of Windows 8) Ed Bott turns to proving the 128GB Surface has more storage space than the Macbook Air by deleting tons of stuff from the Surface and nearly freeing up as much space as the latter has by default.
comex 5 days ago 0 replies      
Note that the OS X recovery partition is only 650 MB, since it downloads the actual installation image from the internet on the fly.

Are you sure that the Surface Pro's disk actually offers 127.90 GB of block device? To my inexpert ears, that seems to imply that it's actually larger than 128 GB, which sounds wrong.

ari_elle 5 days ago 1 reply      
Nitpick (and most likely even considered OT):

- Mac OS shows storage space the right way, because it shows capacity in KB/GB (which is base 10 by definition)

- Windows OS shows storage space the wrong way, because while using base 2, it still claims to show you space in KB,GB (but actually it's GiB)

To what is generally better:
Well for the common user GB might make more sense, since every storage device is marketed with GB in mind.


And people who feel cheated because of less storage space seem to ignore the fact that this tablet is running a full Windows Operating system.

I guess it's just the mindset of many to think of tablets as "big smartphones" instead of compact full-fledged computers.

_debug_ 5 days ago 1 reply      
Again, the top comment on an HN thread involving Apple is one that supports Apple by digging up some "fact" or the other that makes Apple look OK. This has always been this ridiculous.

At least AAPL investors are pricing in a future loss of earnings as everyone except the hardcore fanboys move to more open platforms that are priced at 75% to 50% of Apple products and allow you to plug in USB and play along well with other manufacturer's hardware by implementing open protocols like DLNA.

Anecdote : I bought an LG TV and discovered without doing any additional setup, my Samsung phone now shows a TV icon on the photos, and when I clicked it, I was surprised to find the photo pop up on the TV. As I swipe my finger on the phone, the photos scroll on the TV. Voila! I honestly don't know whether this is some kind of PnP broadcast, DLNA, WiDi, or what!

Next : my HP laptop has an Intel WiDi app on it and the TV has a "Wifi Screen Share". Hmm, let's see...bang! Laptop screen now wirelessly mirrored on the TV. LG TV, Samsung phone, HP laptop. I bet Apple products would not work with anything other than Apple this way.

Dylan16807 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is ridiculous. The complaint was always about the 64GB model. 75% is fine. 35% is not. Very simple.
mattbee 5 days ago 1 reply      
Wow, and I thought Disk Utility was only a piece of shit for hiding partitions from me :-)

We've had at least one dispute with a customer who didn't get the "advertised" storage space when buying hosting - it's easy to you say this server has 8 x 500GB drives in a RAID10, but we've had a customer unhappy when 1.9 binary terabytes of data didn't fit onto that after RAID metadata, filesystem overhead etc.

So the new product (bigv.io) expresses storage and RAM in binary gigabytes, and I'm thinking I might convert all the dedicated server storage specifications away from lying drive manufacturer sizes, even if that means advertising a 465GiB disc. (or should we advertise size after ext3 overhead arrrggghh).

nicholassmith 5 days ago 1 reply      
Interesting he mentions removing the Windows recovery partition, but not the ML one which is hardly top secret knowledge.

Apple is no better, but none of the other manufacturers are. Storage space is one of those wonderful facts which turn out not to be as factual they could be.

adnrw 5 days ago 1 reply      
> Microsoft has been pummeled by critics this week over supposedly inadequate storage space in its new Surface Pro.

It wasn't about the inadequacy of the storage space in and of itself " 25/64GB or 90/128GB is not decidedly inadequate for all users, and is (as the article explains) in the ballpark of usable space for comparable laptops.

There's a separate issue regarding the advertising of storage industry-wide that has merit, but this issue is about the amount of usable storage space in the context of the rest of the tablet market.

Sure, the Surface is comparable on storage space to competing laptops including those offered by Apple, but it's not even in the same ballpark as competing tablets.

Microsoft is pitching the Surface as a competitor to both tablets and laptops, separately and together. It therefore needs to compete against features of both, and it seems it can't when it comes to this specific feature.

wtallis 5 days ago 3 replies      
The author wrongly dismisses the impact of the SSD's spare area on usable storage:

> "The parts about wear-leveling blacks and bad blocks are just part of how SSDs work. On a new SSD these numbers should be very small."

This is absolutely wrong. Modern SSDs reserve a significant part of their NAND even when new. For example, the Micron C400 used in the Surface Pro has 128GiB of NAND and reserves 6.8% as spare area, and thus presents to the OS as a 119.2GiB block device. An Intel SSD 525 with the same 128GiB of NAND reserves 12.6% spare area, so it presents 111.8GiB to the OS. The author's MacBook Air seems to have about 11.7% spare area. They're still fundamentally the same amount of storage, but drives with smaller spare area will generally perform worse when they are nearly full, and having less spare area can also reduce the longevity of the drive.

S_A_P 5 days ago 0 replies      
The difference is in expectations. The Surface Pro may be slightly immune to that, but when someone buys a tablet, they are buying a media consumption device, so that they can download and read/watch/listen to files at their leisure. There is little file system access, and it is largely abstracted away.

A PC is a general purpose device with full access to the file system and the ability to do much more than a traditional tablet. If the surface is a touchscreen laptop it should be marketed as such. I cant believe that we are all having the discussion around what a megabyte or multiple thereof is. PCs smartphones and electronics have always been so specific as to their tech specs I dont understand who decided it would be a good idea to have a conversion factor between megabyte and a "million" bytes. At the end of the day, however, its just tech press and people with too much time on their hands complaining about a small aspect of a device. Articles like this make me grumpy...

rickdale 5 days ago 2 replies      
I recently purchased a 4TB external hard drive. It was the first hard drive I have ever come across that had exactly 4tb of free space when I opened it. Usually its a little bit less. I can remember my 80gig hard drive I spent all summer saving up for back around 2000 only have 66gigs and being totally bummed out.

I know with flash memory the units are more exact, but are they getting better with the spinning hd's with the space accuracy?

rjempson 5 days ago 1 reply      
The fact this conversation is taking place is very droll. Articles are being written, comments and forums are running hot just because so many people are effectively saying "How dare someone say that my favourite vendor's computer has less disk space than another (obviously inferior) vendor"
beagle3 5 days ago 1 reply      
This thread seems to be full of good advice about laptops, so maybe I can get help on something slightly unrelated: Anyone have recommendation for a tablet (or laptop that converts to tablet) that has outdoor readable screen? Not direct sun, but sitting-in-the-car-on-a-sunny-day readable.

So far, HP EliteBook with its "outdoor readable screen" option (extra $100 and 2 week wait) is the best I've found, and it's not very good. Lenovo's outdoor readable screen comes close, but is not as good.

I'm sure this is a solved problem - but I can't find a decent solution. Help, anyone? Some special ipad case/screen sticker? Some screen technology I'm unaware of?

jiggy2011 5 days ago 0 replies      
Is the disk in the surface interchangeable (without performing a surgical procedure)? What about the MBA?
el_cuadrado 5 days ago 2 replies      
I think the author is missing a point here: Macbook Air is a full-blown computer (I run several VMs on mine), while Surface is a freaking tablet.

I am ok with 'wasted' space on a computer, because first, I expect OS to have a substantial footprint, and second - I can see, touch, and actually 'consume' the OS files.

I am not ok with wasted space on a tablet, because to me it is a glorified book reader/mp3 player; I expect to use all the available space for storage.

Wait, you are saying Surface is actually a computer (although a shitty one), not a tablet? Well, then MSFT completely failed to communicate this message. Which is pretty regular problem for MSFT.

Uchikoma 5 days ago 0 replies      
Wow, such a long article, about essentially nothing.

About the 2 or 10 base, yes I think it's stupid (living 30yrs with the 2 base) but thats the way it is. MS reports GiB and Apple report GB, so it's wrong to claim both Apple and MS report their capacity in GB.

"The measurements are just expressed differently, in a way that makes Apple look generous and Microsoft look stingy."


bdcravens 5 days ago 0 replies      
Desktops and laptops have already reported drive capacity like this: total capacity before OS + apps. Tablets and smart phones, as they've existed in the marketplace since 2007, advertise available space. Most people think of the Surface as the Windows version of an iPad, not a new form factor for a traditional laptop. As such, they need to be marketed like their cohorts.
bad_user 5 days ago 1 reply      
I've got a Thinkpad on which I replaced the hard-disk with a 128 GB SSD and installed Ubuntu on it (using fulldisk encryption with dm-crypt / LUKS).

I've got about 100 GB of usable space after having installed a shit ton of apps, libraries and utilities I needed, stuff like Emacs, OpenJDK (with sources), IntelliJ IDEA, RVM with dozens of Java/Scala libraries downloaded through Maven/SBT, dozens of ruby gems, dozens of Python libraries, MySQL, RabbitMQ, Memcached, Gimp, Dropbox, GCC, many header/dev packages, some games and the list can go on.

I should mention that I'm not using a Swap, because I've got enough RAM and as long as I've got Suspend, I don't care about Hibernation.

But I'm talking about Ubuntu 12.10, which is probably the most bloated Linux distribution I ever used. What the hell is in Windows or OS X that takes so much space?

forgotAgain 5 days ago 1 reply      
Love the first graphic and how it twists itself to show the recovery partition on the right side of the graph so the green bar can be as far left as possible. The article lost all credibility at that point.
JuDue 5 days ago 0 replies      
Everything comes back to Balmer's disdain for the iPad as being an overpriced netbook device that nobody will ever use.

MS is furiously trying to merge tablets into fully fledged PCs.

I can almost guarantee that by Windows 9 they will have some success with this, and hardware will get better and better.

But that's not to say the tablet space doesn't have enormous potential as reduced and simplified user experiences.

Microsoft is betting a lot of its chips on pushing full Windows onto smaller devices.

One key detail is that Office 365 seems to completely misjudge expectations of tablet computing.

stephengillie 5 days ago 0 replies      
This is stupid. This is like asking which car cabin has the most air volume, and finding that Toyota's larger seats mean its cabin can't hold as much air as Honda's.
justinhj 5 days ago 2 replies      
One differentiator is that Macs come with iLife suite that are a pretty extensive and popular addition, whereas windows comes with office which is easily replaced for most people with free and/or cloud offerings.
gabriel34 5 days ago 1 reply      
This is a bought arcticle if I ever saw one. Two wrongs don't make one right.
nakovet 5 days ago 0 replies      
Basically the article says: Microsoft lies to you, Apple lies to you and basically everyone is lying to you when it comes to store in hard drives, pen drives, SSD, etc.

At least our bandwidth limitations follow the base we are expecting too, can you imagine you have 100 GB / monthly but for real is 9X something?

The industry is laughing on us.

ryguytilidie 5 days ago 3 replies      
Why is this being compared to the macbook air and not the ipad?
merinid 5 days ago 1 reply      
who cares about storage space when you can keep everything in the cloud. my computer is as commodity as my jeans, friends. Access over dependence.
someotheruser 5 days ago 0 replies      
TL;DR: Both. Pointing your finger at someone doing something worse doesn't make what you're doing right.
jedmeyers 5 days ago 3 replies      
I am curious if the author checked out what's that thing called GiB is before he started ranting about Microsoft vs. Apple disk size discrepancies?
CSS 3D Clouds clicktorelease.com
286 points by pawannitj  3 days ago   44 comments top 25
mmastrac 3 days ago 0 replies      
Great demo and presentation.

This is apparently based on the WebGL clouds demo, which is equally as amazing: http://mrdoob.com/131/Clouds

endianswap 3 days ago 1 reply      
I'm impressed that not only did this run on my Android phone in the stock browser, but that it was relatively smooth (hitching infrequently but for probably 300ms when it did).
mistercow 3 days ago 3 replies      
As beautiful as this is, it still saddens me that the best we have for efficient cloud effects is drifting camera-facing billboards displaying pre-rendered poofs.
rolleiflex 3 days ago 0 replies      
I remember seeing this a year ago. It's awesome how smooth it has become" last time I checked, it was choppy on my machine whereas now it's butter smooth. Browsers are sure improving rapidly these days.
chewxy 3 days ago 1 reply      
I like how Michael Bay was an option. Also very surprised it works so well on my Nexus 4. Touch screen rotation is a bit weird tho, but wow.. no lag.
blowski 3 days ago 0 replies      
Amazing demos. Are there any real-world applications using something like this?
United857 3 days ago 0 replies      
Looks great -- only tweak would be to add proper depth sorting to avoid the "popping" effect (more visible with the darker textures).
shmageggy 3 days ago 5 replies      
Hmm, on Chrome 24.0.1312.69 on 64 bit Linux the depth effect is missing. When rotated, it looks like a picture of a cloud painted on an invisible wall. No problem in Firefox.
rasur 3 days ago 1 reply      
I was expecting it to be a complete horror-show on my G5 mac, but it was actually really smooth (once it had settled down of course..). Really nice work. Well done!
jstalin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome on chrome on Ubuntu 64-bit, buggy and slow on Firefox.
darkstalker 2 days ago 0 replies      
Very slow on Firefox 18.0.2, linux
Johnyma22 3 days ago 1 reply      
Look great but the title "CSS 3D Clouds" is not truthful.
compilercreator 3 days ago 0 replies      
Works great on my blackberry z10.
alexsb92 3 days ago 1 reply      
It seems that if I get all the options to "a lot" I get at least one or two clouds replaced by a white box icon. I imagine it's not loading them properly?
drstewart 3 days ago 0 replies      
The speed is excellent -- really smooth.
zopticity 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is really awesome! Add it to twitter bootstrap for kicks!
camus 3 days ago 0 replies      
the cloud animation could use a little bit of easing. It looks a bit choppy right now on mouse move.
rwanghacker 3 days ago 0 replies      
If the explosion micheal bay effect happened in real time it would be sick
chii 3 days ago 0 replies      
it does look pretty good. I m quite amazed such a technique is doable via css
iwaffles 3 days ago 0 replies      
This is very well done. I especially love the Michael Bay option.
PhilipA 3 days ago 0 replies      
It is simply amazing, also the speed is quite good!
jpinkerton88 3 days ago 0 replies      
Love the Michael Bay
omnitj 3 days ago 0 replies      
speed is very good compare to WebGL
yeonhoyoon 3 days ago 0 replies      
this is seriously cool.
webbruce 3 days ago 0 replies      
Mathics - A free, light-weight alternative to Mathematica mathics.org
278 points by ColinWright  3 days ago   84 comments top 15
nswanberg 3 days ago 4 replies      
As others have pointed out, Mathics is missing features relative to Mathematica, so it is an alternative provided you can work within Mathics' subset of features. So if you are doing anything but tinkering it is still best to buy Mathematica.

But Mathics is great for exploring the concepts in the Mathematica programming language, a language that does not get the attention it deserves. If you are not familiar with Mathematica as a language and and are curious, see this comparison of Mathematica with other programming languages such as C, APL, and Lisp, from the first edition of the Mathematica book: http://reference.wolfram.com/legacy/v1/contents/4.2.html this fourth section was dropped from the second edition and beyond).

Aardwolf 3 days ago 8 replies      
Why use the Mathematica syntax, and not a better one? It's rather annoying syntax, Matlab and Maple are much better for this. Mathematicians don't use square brackets for functions, most programming languages don't either, but Mathematica, a mathematics language ffs, does. And sin and cos with capitals, meh.
willscott 2 days ago 5 replies      
I am an avid Mathematica user. Not because I need to evaluate that much math, but because I really like its wysiwyg notebook structure for note-taking. It's great for keeping up with lectures and including decent looking equations and tables when they come up (which is fairly often in technical classes). The export to latex is a nice added bonus.

As far as I know, there aren't great alternatives to the Mathematica front end - I'd love to be proven wrong, through.

lispython 3 days ago 3 replies      
This topic already mentioned on HN before http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4066826

And an interesting point is that, the core developer of Mathics is also a Kernel Developer at Wolfram Research. Jan Pöschko's website http://www.poeschko.com/

How could he build a free product compete with his company's product?

niggler 3 days ago 1 reply      
Bessel functions aren't supported (and even Excel supports them!)



On mathematica I get

    $ /Applications/Mathematica.app/Contents/MacOS/MathKernel 
Mathematica 8.0 for Mac OS X x86 (64-bit)
Copyright 1988-2010 Wolfram Research, Inc.

In[1]:= BesselJ[1,2]//N

Out[1]= 0.576725

In excel, `BESSELJ(2,1)` is the same to 5 significant figures.

yread 2 days ago 2 replies      
There's also free alternative to Matlab, the GNU Octave
jimktrains2 3 days ago 1 reply      
How is it different from SAGE[1] and Maxima[2]?

[1] http://www.sagemath.org/
[2] http://maxima.sourceforge.net/

tokipin 2 days ago 0 replies      
http://mathematica.stackexchange.com is a good place to look if you need mathematica-related help
chetanahuja 2 days ago 0 replies      
Years ago, I wrote a very rudimentary tutorial on Mathematica to get undergrad chemistry students started on it. http://www.cem.msu.edu/~cem883/mathematica-instr.html

The good thing is that mathics make very nice plots (at least for simple functions I tested). The bad news is that it stumbled on a simple NIntegrate.(*) It certainly has potential though...

[ Edit: Hmm looks like Integrate[] does what NIntegrate in my example was supposed to do. I take the "bad news" back.]

Mitt 2 days ago 0 replies      
Guys, also don't forget: what we currently see is a snapshot in time. Right now Mathics offers the features X and Y and lacks Z. But this may change over the next years.
frozenport 3 days ago 2 replies      
Heres a little incompatibility. The following code is valid Mathematica code, but the on-line parser rejects it


scottfr 3 days ago 1 reply      
Looks, very nice. I tried some basic Mathematica functions (D[], Plot[], ...) and at least that subset all worked as expected.

I couldn't find a full table of compatibility with Mathematica though, anyone know where one is?

hackerkira 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm using SAGE right now for calculus. The point is to have the computer do the tedious work. But until I learn python, I end up spending my time fidgeting around with the syntax instead of actually learning calculus. I'm all for programing integrated with academia...but we need better software (like Mathics!
anuy 2 days ago 0 replies      
As several posters said, nothing will beat matlab with its long list of tool boxes. It would be nice if there is more open source work in building more tool boxes for Octave(octave is open source compatible to matlab).
benbro 2 days ago 0 replies      
What's missing for IE9/10 support?
Herd Immunity Demonstration op12no2.me
277 points by wwkeyboard  4 days ago   58 comments top 11
noonespecial 4 days ago 7 replies      
This is excellent. I'm going to add it to my little bag of arguments for those times I encounter anti-vaccine types.

Its futile to argue with them that vaccines aren't (statistically) harmful, they've already made up their minds. So I agree. All medical interventions are harmful in some cases. Instead, I simply ask them what makes them special that they should be allowed to avoid the small risk of the vaccine as opposed to everyone else. After all, if no one was vaccinated, there would be polio epidemics, which most will concede are worse than the risks posed by vaccines.

Asking them why they are exempt from preventing polio while everyone else must shoulder the burden often turns a mindless stream of conspiracy jargon into an almost stunned pause.

I'd pay for an app that runs this simulation just to make this point sharper.

JumpCrisscross 4 days ago 0 replies      
I found Vynnycky & White's An Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling [1] fantastically interesting to go through. I know games are the traditional "fun" way to learn a programming language, but simulating a Resident Evil or 28 Days Later apocalypse is, for me, far more interesting :).

[1] http://www.amazon.com/An-Introduction-Infectious-Disease-Mod...

danielford 4 days ago 1 reply      
These simulations are wonderful. I'll be showing some of them to my microbiology class later this semester when I discuss vaccines.

I wish there was a simulation for ring vaccination though. It would be a nice visual aid for explaining how smallpox was eradicated.

SoftwareMaven 4 days ago 0 replies      
My wife works as a pediatric nurse. It is sad to see the impacts as parents make idiotic decisions and more and more kids are gettings sick with potentially life-threatening diseases. I think we have dropped below the level of herd immunity.
csense 4 days ago 0 replies      
It would be interesting to run the freeloader situation with 1% freeloaders, 2% freeloaders, ..., 99% freeloaders, each 1000 times, and plot the probability that more than half the population are eventually infected as a function of the number of freeloaders.

I'm thinking the graph will show a sharp spike at a critical transition probability because it's a similar model to percolation [1].

In fact I may write my own simulation for this.

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

marcelsalathe 4 days ago 0 replies      
This is a cool visual demonstration of the concept.

The concept of herd immunity, and how it breaks down, especially due to personal opinions, is my main research interest. I've published a couple of papers over the years, for those who are interested (all are open access):

The effect of opinion clustering on disease outbreaks

Assessing Vaccination Sentiments with Online Social Media: Implications for Infectious Disease Dynamics and Control

Complex Social Contagion Makes Networks More Vulnerable to Disease Outbreaks

ChuckMcM 4 days ago 0 replies      
Nicely done.

Now if they could add freeloader tipping point as a function of population mobility it would really drive the point home.

fnordfnordfnord 4 days ago 0 replies      
As pointed out by a commenter at the site, the simulation doesn't address mortality rates of disease outbreaks. Nor does it address the risks associated with vaccination. If taken seriously, it's likely to leave some with mistaken perceptions.
tomkinstinch 3 days ago 0 replies      
As an aside, red and green are poor color choices for things like this where color perception is necessary for discrimination. I'm colorblind and cannot differentiate the "infected" squares from the green ones. Black would be a better choice than red. In fact, everything could be grayscale.
TazeTSchnitzel 4 days ago 0 replies      
OT: Surprisingly, I was able to use this in the Opera Mini mobile proxy browser. The fact the server preserved page state and streamed page updates meant it actually worked surprisingly well, albeit with a low framerate.
billpg 3 days ago 1 reply      
Remember, some of those green squares don't just turn blue, they die.
The Importance of Excel baselinescenario.com
271 points by DavidChouinard  2 days ago   195 comments top 57
breckinloggins 2 days ago 10 replies      
We software guys complain about this all the time, but Excel completely permeates the corporate world because it:

- is universally available (who in an office building DOESN'T have an Office license?)

- can be "Programmable" to the extent that it needs to be. You don't have to start with code. Formulas and conditionals are great for most things. People usually ease into Macros gently.

- produces a format that is sharable. People "fork" Excel spreadsheets all the time. It's not pretty but it works.

- gets the job done. You want data entry with some calculations and maybe a few if-then rules here and there? What's better than Excel?

In a corporate environment, often the best way to get things done is to circumvent the official software and just write something that works. When we do it, we call it an elegant hack, but when guys in suits who went clubbing last night do it, we call it a terrible, amateur travesty that should be replaced by PROPER code as soon as possible.

And you know what, eventually that happens. Very rarely, an incredibly useful Excel spreadsheet will be replaced by an even more useful (and reliable) piece of custom software that also adds tons of value to both the users and the organization. But I've worked in corporate consulting for years; can you guess how often this happens? I'd wager it's less than 40%.

No, what typically happens is that an analyst or software dev notices someone's cool spreadsheet and says "hey, I can make something that does this job, but it'll be a LOT faster and I'll put the data up in the cloud and multiple people can access it at once and..."

And that sounds great, so they get a little budget and a project is born. Most of us who have been there and done that know what happens next: higher-level stakeholders get involved, broader objectives get defined, more team members are brought on, timetables are established, results are "metricized", paradigms are going to be shifted, etc.

Rarely does a piece of software escape from this process that is as genuinely useful as the spreadsheet which spawns it. Often, rather, it gets delivered 6 months late. It crashes all the time. What used to be one simple input field is now a whole page with checkboxes you have to check and sub-objects you have to define. The end result might look a little prettier but that cool Infragistics graph is locked inside the program and can't be shared like the old Excel report because no one hooked up the "export feature". People are getting upset. Everyone hates this program. But we have to use it, it's mandated by corporate.

Meanwhile, a talented new guy comes on the team and notices what a bloated piece of crap this software is. He wonders why no one has written a little Excel sheet to get around it and REALLY get some work done...

I know I'm being cynical. And look, I GET that rogue spreadsheets can turn into productivity-damaging unseen business risks. But until the corporate "software project" culture understands why it happens and why people are often far happier with their clunky spreadsheet than with your shiny WPF app or web page, I don't think this problem is going to go away.

danso 2 days ago 3 replies      
One of the amusing/annoying things I've learned when working with business/finance people is how the spreadsheet seems for them to be a freeform tableau with which to conveniently display an assortment of calculations, as opposed to a structured data format.

For example, I'm inclined to list financial data in this somewhat-normalized format in an Excel spreadsheet:

        Apples	1/10/2013	40	$50
Oranges 1/12/2013 12 $200
Apples 1/15/2013 30 $80
Oranges 2/1/2013 10 $40
Pears 2/2/2013 50 $100
Pears 2/9/2013 20 $40

However, people I've partnered with, and who most definitely (I think) have a better grounding in financial math than I do, might structure their spreadsheet like this:

    Apples  1/10/2013   40  $50     Oranges 2/1/2013    10  $40
Apples 1/15/2013 30 $80 Oranges 1/12/2013 12 $200
Total Apples: 70 $130 Total Oranges: 22 $240

Pears 2/2/2013 50 $100
Pears 2/9/2013 20 $40
Total Pears: 70 $140

(you can imagine the bespoke text-formatting/cell-coloring that also ends up as part of the spreadsheet)

While I understand that their priority is to not care about data processing...not only is this format extremely annoying to machine parse, but it seems unwieldy for any professional use case. When you want to add more rows to each category, you're going to run into layout problems, for one thing. And at some point, your wrists are going to get a nice dose of carpal tunnel syndrome from all the clicking-to-navigate that you end up doing.

guylhem 2 days ago 2 replies      
Why exactly should you be afraid when a turing complete language is used to do computation by people who do not understand more complicated languages?

I do not see the point of the article.

In fact, we should instead celebrate that excel is used for so many things that can be better automated - just think about the business opportunities!

EDIT: and yes I read the article, and it specifically points to a coding mistake. When I work with excel (sometimes I still do!) I create references to the cells holding the formulas, and feed them some known input and compare the results to what I expect - if the computations do not match the formula may have been overwritten so I print a "ERROR DETECTED" in a special "TEST" field next to the cells holding values.

Congratulations - you have a test suite!

And that's just one way. Sometimes when I have to do a different implementation I just keep the previous implementations of the same algorithm somewhere on the sheet, use the same input and substract the results - any non zero value should get you worried enough to display an error message. This is interesting for new edge cases that your test suite could miss, and especially useful if the initial algorithm was vetted in some way.

Congratulations - you have added regression !

All this is easy to do, just a copy/paste special away. Even better- you can teach that process to non coders and they will see how useful it is, because anyone who has used excel for non trivial things has been exposed to such problems and is weary of excel limits.

The tool is not the problem. Software development is a process, and if you do a poor implementation, without tests, without regression testing, guess what it will bite you - but it would be the same in C, perl or python if you try to do without at least tests.

TLDR : There are many ways to make excel more robust. Maybe the "experts" are not really experts if they have never been exposed to copy-paste induced errors and never had to take care of such errors.

robomartin 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is a very interesting article, but I do find it very one-sided. The problem isn't Excel, it's those who use it from a foundation of ignorance or carelessness. No doubt, human error does creep into every human activity. Even so-called experts fumble. It happens to all of us. Blaming the tool or the tool maker is pure nonsense.

I have used the tools mentioned in this article, Excel and Powerpoint, extensively. And I have used them for engineering and business purposes. And, yes, I have made mistakes that have cost me money. Funny enough, never when used for financial applications but rather for engineering.

Over time we developed a rather complex (probably a nearly a hundred columns and two-hundred rows with data and formulas) Excel workbook used to calculate timing parameters and counter reset values for a complex timing and synchronization circuit inside an FPGA. After one crank of the wheel this spreadsheet would output a table of hex values that would get plugged into Verilog code to setup the circuit. Everything worked as expected, or so we thought.

Then, a few weeks later, as the code was being run through test-benches (unit tests) we discovered that a corner case was broken. Being that it was hardware we immediately thought that the problem was the circuit. The code was checked and re-checked, simulated and re-simulated. After about six months of hard debugging work we discovered that the Excel spreadsheet was the culprit. We had used the ROUND() function in a calculation, when, in reality, we were supposed to use ROUNDUP(). Only one of hundreds of formulas contained this mistake. This cost us six months of engineering time and, therefore, lots of money.

Having suffered through something like that I still could not bring myself to blame Excel for the problem. We made a mistake. No, in this case, I made a mistake. And that was that. Blaming Excel or Microsoft would have been nothing less than moronic.

I have used Excel to design polyphase FIR filters, maintain state machine code, produce complex lookup table initialization values for a variety of languages, prepare data for EDA tools, process sensor data and even generate G-code to machine bolt patterns on a Haas CNC mill.

Oh, yes, also invoices, purchase orders and financial analysis.

It's a great tool. And, if you use VBA you can really make it do some amazing stuff.

Powerpoint is another interesting tool. Of course, the most visible application is to create slides for presentations. However, you can also access its automation layer via VBA. And, yes, Visual Basic isn't the most elegant of programming languages, but, who cares, this is about getting a job done, not about authoring monuments to computer science. Anyhow, the most interesting application I found for this was the creation of a full simulation of the physical control panel for a device. The simulation included buttons and even a pretty good simulation of a dot matrix display. It was used during a training presentation in lieu of having the actual physical device there. The menu code was pulled out of the state machine that ran the menu on the actual device (written in C but easily translated to VB). It was really cool.

What surprises me is that financial folks, as related by the article, don't seem to have a system in place to create "checks and balances" on spreadsheets that might actually be used for very serious financial decisions. That's odd, but I can see it happening. Startup opportunity? Maybe.

pinaceae 2 days ago 1 reply      
Excel is an incredible product, especially if you look at its UI.

- Performance is astounding. Sorting thousands of rows by color? No problem.

- The formula Editor. I edit the cell which holds the formula and it highlights, in color, the data ranges that provide the input for the formula. I can copy the cell, which moves the formula. I can, through drag and drop, expand the data area for input.

- All the little things. The Sum, etc helpers in the status bar. Autoexpand of number ranges.

If you sat down now and tried to replicate it, you would tear your hair out. Best piece of software ever done by MS.

That being said: Powerpoint is the exact inverse. What an amazing piece of sh*t.

anigbrowl 2 days ago 3 replies      
The fault is not in Excel, which is an excellent piece of software. All the problems identified are the fault of poor math.

After the London Whale trade blew up, the Model Review Group discovered that the model had not been automated and found several other errors. Most spectacularly,

“After subtracting the old rate from the new rate, the spreadsheet divided by their sum instead of their average, as the modeler had intended. This error likely had the effect of muting volatility by a factor of two and of lowering the VaR . . .”

It's not like programmers are immune from making such errors. You can put the wrong equation into a page of C or Java as you can onto an Excel spreadsheet.

kenkam 2 days ago 4 replies      
Traders don't care. Traders are the profit-generating people. They are the rockstars in banks. Programmers are tools to help them achieve their goals. When traders want something that helps them make money, they want it now. Try explaining code maintainability to them. If they don't like you, you're gone and another keen programmer with an interest in finance will take your place.

I find that most people that program excel are most likely quants that just want to get the job done, do something to allow the bank to generate bigger profits.

Disclaimer: I work in one of these banks.

DanBC 2 days ago 2 replies      
Raymond Panko has some interesting writing about spreadsheet errors.


The European Spreadsheet Risks Group has some 'horror stories' (http://www.eusprig.org/stories.htm)

It's an interesting field of research, and you could probably make a bit of money if you can audit unintentional human error; deliberate human deceit; or software errors.

fiatmoney 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excel is fantastic if you picture it as the World's Best Visual REPL. There's no doubt that it's overused, but it does occupy a very particular sweet spot. In fact, I think one of the best use cases for something like Light Table is to act as a spreadsheet killer.
ajuc 2 days ago 1 reply      
My wife was analyst in a company that was took over by international corporation. It was hell of two mismatched systems (SAP and internal oracle based system).

They "solved" it so: each morning one person imported the data from both systems into huge excel spreadsheet (file had almost 100 MB), then she send the file to person that know how to correct all the duplicated and missing data in a few columns (it wasn't turing-complete process, it was heuristic, cause systems used different subdivisions and codes for same things, some data required to be sure how to integrate them was missing, and some data was changing without reflection in the systems - like the ingredients used to make one unit of product could change every day, and NOBODY KEPT RECORD of when and how it changed, only some people in production knew how they make the product today).

Then that person send the file to the next person, that knew how to fill the next few details. And so on, close to 15:00 file was supposed to be ready to send to the management. Sometimes it took till 20:00 (hours after 16:00 wasn't paid). When somebody important was on leave, nobody knew how to fill the details.

That spreadsheets had almost no formulas in them, cause people "cut and pasted as values" all data after calculating it (my wife was told it's to "protect the data from accidential changes"). I think it was to prevent people from seeing the errors.

Everybody knew that the data is all wrong. Nobody knew how to even get the correct input for most fields, it was all fuzzy (for example - one person in production knew which labels are bought in 100s, 500s, 1000s, etc. He was sent the file to fill that details, nobody could check that, and there was always some contradictions in the last pages of the spreadsheet. Most of the work went into massaging it untill it seemed OK. The file also crashed half the time, even on computers with 4GB of ram and 64bit windows.

I wonder, how they managed to stay in business (they are still around, and have quite big marketshare).

sverige 2 days ago 2 replies      
Regular person here who learned to code using VBA with Excel and Access to build spreadsheets and "dashboards" (oh the suits love "dashboards"!!) to track sales for what grew to be a half-billion dollar book of insurance business. The problem with all the "professionals" is that they take forfuckingever to get anything useful and usable to you when you're trying to run an actual business. Plus, you have to sit on endless conference calls trying to explain to some "professional" why you want to see the data the way you want to see it, not the way that's easiest for them to program. And building out the specs. And following their painful changelog process. And waiting some more. And know they're getting paid more than you even though a lot of the time they leave at noon on Friday.

If you want people to use your "professional" code, learn something about how to get it done now. The people who are making it happen right now don't have time for all this. Not everything needs to be engineered - not even the small chunks of the global financial system I have dealt with.

DigitalSea 2 days ago 1 reply      
As far as I am aware, the business world has been using Excel for a lot of things for quite some time now, why is it suddenly something we should all be worried about? Excel in capable hands is a strong and multi-purpose software application that is proven to work. It's not merely just a spreadsheet application, Excel allows spreadsheets to be shared around and viewed by people who don't even own Excel.

Should we be worried about driving cars and flying in planes because they're so complicated internally errors are easily hidden? A bad mechanic will always blame his tools. There is nothing wrong with Excel and just because errors are easily hidden doesn't make it a bad program to use. I'm sure error rates are pretty low anyway.

smtddr 2 days ago 3 replies      
Say what you will about Microsoft, but Excel is amazing.

I'm no genius, but during my corp years in $LARGE_PHONE_COMPANY the excel macros I was able to write, interfacing with SAP-HR/BW and HP's Quality Center, was a great time-saver and made a lot of things very stream line and less error-prone. All the COM objects that are available to VBscript create crazy possibilities that, really, you could start a whole company just writing macros to stream-line work for other corps.

I really should look into that kind of thing in Open/LibreOffice now that I'm more at home in Linux.

kjackson2012 2 days ago 3 replies      
This is why I strongly believe that regular people should not learn how to code, despite all the "you should learn how to code" articles.

Excel is a really good example of how easy it is to get up and running, and how easy it is to get yourself into a lot of trouble. You might not need to program per se, but you do need to know how to DEBUG and TEST your programs as well. This is something that most people are loathe to do. It requires a great deal of discipline, and even though in finance you're supposed to test spreadsheets during internal auditing, most auditors aren't trained in proper testing/coding, so it ends up being ad hoc. In fact, it's scary how much intermediate financial statements are rubber-stamped/robo-signed by people in the finance, usually because they are pressed for time.

rossjudson 2 days ago 0 replies      
Spreadsheet verification and type systems have been studied extensively by the rather terrifyingly productive Martin Erwig. See http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~erwig/papers/abstracts.html, and scroll down the page.

"Software Engineering for Spreadsheets"
"Automatic Detection of Dimension Errors in Spreadsheets"
"Type Inference for Spreadsheets"


ig1 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excel has far worse problems in the financial sector than this. Among other things Excel's thread-safety is flakey, which when you're importing a realtime price feed into excel turns out to be fairly important.

Most of the time your spreadsheet even if it has perfect logic will fine, until some weird race condition gets hit the price being loaded gets transposed and you model gives you a wildly wrong answer which you then trade on.

Terry_B 2 days ago 0 replies      
Working in the aerospace industry for a number of years, I've seen and created all types of crazy spreadsheets to design aircraft and ensure they are safe to fly.

The good thing about the engineering industry though is that all those spreadsheets get checked by someone more senior than you.

The problem is though, thanks to the increased usage of finite element analysis and more detailed models, the amount of data being pushed around in spreadsheets has grown exponentially.

Far beyond the ability of someone to reasonably check it all.

ColinWright 2 days ago 1 reply      
Posted yesterday, although it attracted no comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5193999
gruseom 2 days ago 1 reply      
The thing that leaps out at me from this thread is how high-status spreadsheets are socially"many spreadsheet users have high social/business status; and how high-status they are economically"huge value flows through Excel; yet how low-status they are technically"many programmers hate them, and they have received surprisingly little serious research attention. There is an enormous market inefficiency in that gap. The question is how to exploit it.
apaprocki 2 days ago 1 reply      
A lot of work goes into engineering native code Excel add-ins that supply realtime market data in complex ways to spreadsheets. The Bloomberg Excel add-in is almost an entire application unto itself. On top of that, there is an entire team of people whose only job is to help customers develop custom spreadsheets using the data. On top of that, even more tight integration is available, allowing live charts and other components to be embedded into the spreadsheets. There are many who develop really complex "apps" in Excel and would not consider themselves programmers.
ams6110 2 days ago 2 replies      
there's no easy way to test spreadsheets

Sure there is... you set up a spreadsheet with a known test data set, and make sure your formulas compute the expected results. Just like testing any other software.

tokenadult 2 days ago 1 reply      
From the interesting submitted article, "After subtracting the old rate from the new rate, the spreadsheet divided by their sum instead of their average, as the modeler had intended. This error likely had the effect of muting volatility by a factor of two and of lowering the VaR . . ."

This astounding story is a really nasty example of why "always comment your code" is a good idea--but only if someone else with knowledge of business logic reviews the code.

Kurtz79 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very interesting article, but I belive one of the main assumpion is "Excel makes it easy to mess it up" because it's so easy to use that most non-technical people can use it, in a non-professional, careless way.

My question is : would the error in the model have been caught if the model would have been written in a more technical mean, say an R script ?

Excel does not give any feedback if the "error" is conceptual, but so it happens with more technical programming languages and environments. Excel puts out "errors" if you write a wrong formula, the equivalent of a syntax error for a programming language.

On the other hand, one would think the "on your face" presentation and ease of use makes it easy for other (non technical, but skilled in finance/math) people to review the numbers and calculations.

I agree with the author that I the fault lies in too many people trusting blindly the model, without reviewing the numbers/calculations, but I'm not sure Excel can be pointed out as the culprit.

antirez 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excel is the best tool non programmers have in order to write code, that's why it wins. This is one of the problems startups should focus on in order to change the world, because making non programmers more able to program really changes the world, as Excel did, but is possible to improve over it of course.
ilaksh 2 days ago 0 replies      
Dont blame Excel. Those people were running a scam. And from my experience with people who run banks, its actually not even a little bit out of the ordinary to have completely bullshit calculations spitting out numbers that look good.

The problem is that economics is not a science, and finances are designed to enable power plays. We need to apply real science and technology to problems rather than letting a bunch of suits run around scamming everyone.

mifeng 1 day ago 0 replies      
I used to build structured credit risk models at JPMorgan and other banks. A few observations:

- Excel models are usually built on a pre-existing template, probably created by someone else. Any errors/hidden assumptions carries through. This is he biggest source of errors.

- Any large model usually has a tab devoted to reference tables and assumptions based on external sources, a la dependency injection. Usually you have to use static numbers since you need to email the model around (you don't want your boss seeing a bunch of #NAs due to missing links. Keeping this data updated is another huge source of errors.

- A sanity check is your best defense. I'm positive that every CDO model I've ever built has contained at least one error, just like every large software application has at least one bug. The difference is that models have fewer output parameters, which allows you spot incongruities more easily.

- People who use big Excel models are not software engineers and will never be. In my opinion, solutions that implement concepts like testing, diffs, commits, etc are a waste of time, because it creates extra work and learning curve.

jussij 2 days ago 0 replies      
Many years ago I did a short contract at a FX trading bank and my job was to create a trading report.

While I was there I found out why the report was needed.

The bank had managed to misplace a couple of million dollars in a missing trade.

They did an audit, trying and find out what happened to the missing money and came to the conclusion someone had accidentally deleted a row from the spread sheet being used to record the trades.

mattmcknight 2 days ago 1 reply      
The popularity of Excel speaks to what most common enterprise software lacks- flexibility and programmability. It's hard to construct what-if scenarios in most software.

In some ways, what has been the evolution of Excel in our company has been to switch to Google Spreadsheets, where you get the audit history, sharing, and version control solved, you can build web forms in less than five minutes to have people submit data, you get a decent amount of programability and web service API.

Tomino 2 days ago 0 replies      
I personally am not fan of Excel, even though you can do a lot in it, I prefer other programming languages. But I can see its huge popularity among the "cool" office workers. Learning the functions in Excel its pretty easy and powerful at the same time.

Take my uncle for example. He is mediocre office worker, selling lawn-mowers for living. He took the time and learned some advance excel functions and created few cool spreadsheets for his office, and everyone loves it. His reputation grown a lot with bosses and e is known as the guy with solutions.

ejdyksen 2 days ago 1 reply      
I have a probably untestable hypothesis that, were you to come up with some measure of units of software output, Excel would be the most-used program in the business world.

Outlook would like to have a word with you...

mgkimsal 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not a huge TDD person, but do appreciate the value of tests around software. This may be a dumb question, but are there any testing tools for Excel? I don't think people would write tests before adding/modifying data and such, but... are there any testing tools that allow you to ensure that your macros and data do what you're expecting, even after changes?

I do not by any means write enough tests for my code, but I have some projects where I've got tests around parts of code, and occasionally I catch regressions when I make changes because of a run of the tests (if I had more tests I'd probably catch more over time).

I've never seen anyone writing custom functionality in Excel that even understood the idea of tests or test/sample data. That is probably a bigger issue with Excel - it encourages people to just throw stuff together and 'start hacking' - with live data, often the only copy of said data - and not understand the potential consequences. Of course, you've usually got a backup of yesterday's data because it's sitting in your inbox, because often Excel files are just emailed around to people, which perhaps encourages yet another sense of 'security' around the process.

Too 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think a big problem is reviewing, debugging and editing spreadsheets since they mostly refer to random cell-addresses instead of well thought through variable names and formulas can be hidden anywhere in the massive grid of cells. Which error would you spot by simply skimming through the code: ´E64 / B2´, or ´rateDifference / rateAverage´.

Most of the time you wouldn't even see the code, just a bunch of numbers on top. Being able to switch back and forth between the code and the resulting data would be a huge help. I like what Bret Victor said in his learnable programming series where he tries to build on this principle http://worrydream.com/#!/LearnableProgramming Great read btw if you haven't read it already.)

    > One of the all-time most popular programming models is the spreadsheet. A
> spreadsheet is the dual of a conventional programming language -- a language
> shows all the code, but hides the data. A spreadsheet shows all the data, but
> hides the code. Some people believe that spreadsheets are popular because of
> their two-dimensional grid, but that's a minor factor. Spreadsheets rule because
> they show the data.

JosephHatfield 2 days ago 1 reply      
At one time, the Excel team at Microsoft were considered some of the sharpest programmers at Microsoft.
jccodez 2 days ago 1 reply      
Have you ever worked outside of a start up with engineers at a fortune 500 company? Excel is crack for engineers.
james1071 1 day ago 1 reply      
I had the misfortune of working for a firm where there were lots of actuaries.

Every day the team leader would ask a junior to run his pricing model for a structured product.

The junior would duly press F9 and the macro would commence, with the screen flashing away like a strobe light.

24 hours later the macro would stop and the boss would return to find out the answer, which was usually wrong by an order of magnitude.

jgalt212 2 days ago 0 replies      
Excel and Bloomberg are the only reasons our FinTech shop has a few Windows boxes in our office--the rest are Linux. If MS Office becomes available on Linux, as rumored, we will have even fewer.

Quite simply, the financial world runs on Excel. For this reason we make sure all our APIs work just as well when being called from VBA as they do from Python, JavaScript, Perl, etc. It's Excel's world, we just live in it.

codegeek 1 day ago 0 replies      
I work on Wall st. As many others have already pointed out, excel is the bread and butter of many in investment banking and finance. The power and flexibility of excel cannot be underestimated. At the same time, with all the new regulations/Dodd Frank blah blah, there is a lot of discussions about adding "control points" around these mega spreadsheets/macros/VBAs that are used by Traders. I personally work with traders who use an Excel based addin to push trades into downstream systems.

Few days ago, I built a very simple VBA utility that queries an oracle database to give me relevant transaction information. They love it and I am the superstar already. Reason: this requirement was discussed with IT teams, sent to priority queue for months. After building this macro which took me 2 hours, traders got what they wanted without going through an IT budget.

richardlblair 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you doubt the power of Excel, try to do the same thing in Numbers... I'll just wait here.
Toenex 2 days ago 0 replies      
One limitation of the spreadsheet approach to rapid application development is that, in typical use* your code and data tend to be tied together. This creates a testing problem where you tend to confirm results in just one scenerio. I prefer to think of spreadhseets as electronic squared paper.

*while you can structure things to pull data in from other sources, in my experience people evolve a spreadsheet around existing data.

mr_u 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Have moved on to other software pastures now, but spent many years building large-scale LOB applications whose sole presentation layer was Excel. Seamless federated data sources, powerful multi-dimensional calculations, easy (re)formatting and charting, and very, very fast delivery, usually around 5-10% of that of some "killer app" from a team of developers the client couldn't afford. And around 5-10% training time, too, because say what you want about their idiocy level, users GET Excel, quickly. It is ultra-intuitive, to the extent that any technology/business tool can be.

Those who sanctioned trading on VaR models built on pasted data were obviously not qualified to hold their jobs. Neither are those who over-glorify or over-promote the virtues of "it ain't real unless programmers built it", and I say that as a programmer. I work with other UI tools now, but I have yet to work with a better or faster-adopted one. The ubiquity of Excel in the workplace is well earned; the poverty of its many implementations is no different from all the other ubiquitous human poverties.

protomyth 2 days ago 2 replies      
I've always wondered why someone hasn't done a Excel->C# or Excel->Java cross-compiler.
mathattack 2 days ago 0 replies      
The scary reality is most of Wall Street and The City is built on Excel. It's universal, and non-CS quants can understand it. Of course QA on these sheets is near impossible.
saosebastiao 2 days ago 0 replies      
It isn't bad when they push the limits with Excel. That is normal, people tend to push the limits of the technologies they are comfortable with and use often.

What is bad is when they think Excel is a superior platform than some other more suitable technology simply because they have seen what it can do. I can excavate tunnels with spoons, but there is a reason we use TBMs for big projects.

yslguru 20 hours ago 0 replies      
As a DBA/Developer working in the Property/Asset Management Industry for decades I can tell you that Excel will NEVER go away so long as the executives are making the decisions. When it comes to the typical executive and even high level accountant/controller/comptroller, the knowledge level and understanding of things computer related is highly restricted outside of Excel, PowerPoint And Outlook with Excel being the big daddy app among this group.

In my experience the typical executive user would prefer spending hours or even days working on a spreadsheet then spending even a few hours learning how to properly use some other task specific software regardless of whether or not it's better suited for the task at hand. It's not so much that the executives don't understand the issues with using Excel so much as how Excel lets them do what they need and more importantly, want to do and all without having to learn a new system. The Excel model (how it works using rows & columns ) is intuitive to one with an accounting mind. I've had executives ask me before why can't our really expensive <fill in the blank> Enterprise Ready Application Do X when Excel can do the same thing and easily? This is especially true when dealing with what I term JCL, Judgment Call Logic. Unlike programming structures (If/Then, CASE, etc) , JCL is perspective based and results in a different value based on who is assessing it. This is why its “judgment” logic and not natural logic. Excel users don't understand how you can't code JCL into software.

That said there is certainly a need in the software world to do things better, smarter. The world of software engineering needs more byte artisans and less bean counters. Too often short term decisions are made with negative long terms effects, all done in order to meet some artificial deadline that has more to do with someone getting a commission for meeting a deadline then for delivering something of quality.

memracom 2 days ago 3 replies      
There has been an annual conference in London for quite a number of years all about spreadsheet mistakes and how to avoid disaster. A few years ago, some entrepreneurs from resolversystems.com built a better spreadsheet named resolver-one specifically to address the problems of the financial services industry. Essentially what it does is write code while you build a spreadsheet model. Then, when you recalculate, it runs the code. Once a model is built, it can be passed on to professional software developers to QA the code, document it, refactor it and build proper unit tests. However the spreadsheet model still appears to end users just like a normal spreadsheet model. I think this is the real solution to this problem. Use Excel to play around with numbers and do one-off analyses, but for serious business rely on a tool like Resolver One.
nostro 2 days ago 0 replies      
Models which are at best a charicature of some reality as a sole pretense for actions are the problem and distract from the issue of what sorts of controls are appropriate in finance like position limits. Allowing banks to create their own risk models shows whose pockets regulators are in - the Banks pockets. So we talk about Excel and models and don't notice models are distractions that allow banks to do what they please until a trader blows up, when then they can blame the models instead of a lack of controls they don't want in the first place. Get real.
Eric_Wells 19 hours ago 0 replies      
The problem isn't Excel.

The problem is that those who are developing complex Excel models are not necessarily taking into account the need for solid design, rigorous testing and model validation. The quant generally building an Excel model is generally thinking "how can I get this model built and running as quickly as possible?" Whereas, a software developer who is used to bugs, and the negative impact they cause, might take a more guarded and gradual pace - with the realization of the importance of testing.

Neither Excel nor the quants that use it in a fast, ad-hoc basis are going away. And so I believe the solution involves application of good design, QA and validation to the Excel modeling process.

tragomaskhalos 2 days ago 1 reply      
The most egregious Excel abuse I have seen was an application that had a "database" embedded in it, i.e. a hidden sheet containing lines of data that was added to, and (linearly!) searched by, macros hanging off buttons in the "app" part of the xls.
panko 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Spreadsheet error commission and detection rates are almost identical to those in programming, mathematics, and writing. And professionals make about the same number of errors as novices. What is different in spreadsheet development is the amount of testing. At companies like Microsoft, 40% of development time is spent in testing, and their usually is one tester for each Dev. In spreadsheet development, professional testing is rare. Here is a link on human and spreadsheet error. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/20338447/WhyThinkingIsBadPublicCopy...
helloamar 2 days ago 0 replies      
The cost of an ERP is the main issue to stop the SMBs from using excel.
BackStar 2 days ago 0 replies      
Check out the concept of 'enterprise spreadsheet management' as a different way of thinking about the issue of Excel in critical business environments.

This perspective recognises that nothing beats Excel as a source of financial innovation and 'can-do'. The problem is that few want to recognize this essential role. The large software vendors need to demonize the issue to sell licences to their replacement solutions. The result is denial at every level.

Much better to appreciate the core strategic value that Excel offers and not confuse it with the essentially tactical value that an individual spreadsheet offers. (Though a tactical spreadsheet can be valuably tactical for 10 years).

The answer is transparency. Once one buys in to wanting to know what is going on then enterprise spreadsheet management can really help.

SeanLuke 2 days ago 1 reply      
Wherefore art thou, Lotus Improv?
vijaykumar13 2 days ago 0 replies      
MS Excel is the largest Database in the world ;-)

I saw a power user who would put reference values in the lower cells and would change the font color to white to hide the values.

pegas123 2 days ago 0 replies      
Aren't there any tools to generate documentation from an existing excel mixture of formulae and scripts?

This might be a great opportunity for new product.

vincie 2 days ago 3 replies      
I make a good living replacing Excel for small businesses.
OneorAnother 18 hours ago 0 replies      
So I have read all the comments and POV in this discussion and have resisted posting this link. But there is only one way to solve this problem. Accept that Excel and Spreadsheets are here to stay, you are never going to impose the controls the IT guys would like the world to live by and put in place a technology that transforms Excel into a true, secure, Enterprise application. Here is the link: http://vimeo.com/user13359040/review/48949438/7d482fb814
martinced 2 days ago 2 replies      
"The world runs on Excel, and we should be afraid"

Ah. No SQL. No Java. No C#. No webapps. No JavaScript. No IT economy (Apple, eBay, Google, FaceBook, Oracle, SAP, etc.: they're all running on spreadsheets producing what? Spreadsheets of course).

Corporate drones use Excel. The corporate world represent less than % of the GDP. Hence:

"The world runs on Excel, and we should be afraid".

Perfect linkbait title. Well done. I'm sure the spike of trafic thanks to HN has been noticeable.

75-year-old soybean farmer sees Monsanto lawsuit reach U.S. Supreme Court rawstory.com
257 points by mehrshad  3 days ago   209 comments top 20
cduan 3 days ago 6 replies      
So here's what I gather, after having read the lower court opinion and several of the briefs.

Monsanto owns a patent on certain soybean seeds. They sell 1G seeds to farmers, allowing the farmers to grow them into 2G seeds. The farmers are not licensed to plant the 2G seeds. Bowman bought some 2G seeds and planted them, and Monsanto sued.

Bowman says that the planting of 2G seeds is permitted under the doctrine of "patent exhaustion." According to that doctrine, if a patented physical object is sold under proper license, then a patent lawsuit involving that same physical object is not permitted, even if the object is sold to someone else.

The lower court said that patent exhaustion doesn't apply to the 2G seeds, because Monsanto only granted a license on the 1G seeds. The 1G seeds are not the same physical object as the 2G seeds.

At first I thought this was a simple case, but Bowman is making a very interesting argument in the Supreme Court. It is based on an old case called Quanta.

In Quanta, the patent was directed to a certain computer process, and the patent owner sold computer chips with circuitry for performing that process. The chips themselves were useless, of course, but they just needed to be combined with some standard hardware and turned on to work. Did this mean that, by adding the extra hardware, a new physical object had been made that could be the subject of a lawsuit? The Supreme Court said no: because the chips "embodied" the patented invention and only required standard hardware to be added, the chips invoked patent exhaustion, so lawsuits based on their further use were barred.

Bowman's argument: the 1G seeds "embody" the invention (by having the DNA and biological machinery to produce 2G seeds), and only "standard hardware" (soil, watering, etc.) needs to be added to get the working invention (the 2G seeds), so therefore the 2G seeds fall under patent exhaustion.

The main counterargument is that in Quanta, the original computer chips were still present and intact, whereas the 2G seeds do not include the 1G seeds intact. This requires a narrower interpretation of Quanta, and I could see the Supreme Court going with either this narrower reading or Bowman's broader one.

(For fun, you can try to come up with hypothetical cases that are in between: what if the patentee in Quanta had sold semiconductor masks for making chips?)

nlh 3 days ago 3 replies      
I've been thinking about this a lot since I first read about it yesterday. Here's what I think is _fair_ (throwing out doctrine, etc.). IA(definitely)NAL.

Monsanto has every right to get a patent on the 1G seeds. They have every right to sell those seeds -- they put money and effort into designing a (theoretically) improved product and should be rewarded for their investment.

Once they sell the 1G seeds, however, that's it. If the resulting plants produce equal-quality 2G seeds, then so be it. Once the farmer has purchased the 1G seeds (presumably from Monsanto), that's the end of the road for Monsanto. They've produced a product, sold it, and made their money.

What's happening here is that Monsanto is using the courts to compensate for a bad business model and a flaw in their design. If they want to continue to get farmers to purchase seeds from them year after year, then what they should have done is engineered the seeds to "expire" after a generation: The results plants should produce 2G seeds that are in some way inferior to the 1G seeds.

That way, farmers have a natural incentive to keep purchasing 1G seeds year after year. No lawsuits or restrictive license agreements needed. If farmers want the best, they buy from Monsanto. If they are ok with the inferior 2G seeds, then they can harvest their own and keep planting.

If it's not possible for Monsanto to engineer the seeds as such, well, too bad. The buck stops there. They need to charge more for the 1G seeds then. But farmers won't pay if the cost is too high? Well, again, too bad. Their job is to convince farmers that buying 1G seeds at 2-3x the price is worth it because of the improved product. If not, well, back to the drawing board.

This comes down to Monsanto trying to use a license agreement and the courts to compensate for a flaw in their product design, and that isn't right.

DigitalSea 3 days ago 5 replies      
Don't get me started on the evil company that is Monsanto. For those of you who aren't aware of the history of this company I strongly suggest you do some reading if you have the time. We're talking about a company more aggressive and protective of its patents than Apple or any tech company anyone has ever seen before.

History has proven that the courts aren't exactly all too good at delivering fair, unbiased and swift justice when it comes to a Monsanto vs (insert rural farmer here) cases. I hope Bowman wins this case, it'll hopefully set a precedent and example that Monsanto can't walk over family farmers trying to make an honest living. Most of the prior cases Monsanto has brought against farmers usually end up being settled because the defendant runs out of money to keep fighting and ends up losing everything they own.

It's companies like Monsanto that are ruining family farming. If this continues farming as we know it will cease to exist in the traditional sense as we all know it and eventually the only farms that will exist will be corporately owned ones.

dangrossman 3 days ago 4 replies      
IANAL: Why isn't patent exhaustion a solid defense to Monsanto's suits?

The anti-GMO documentaries I've seen have covered the "their seed blew into my field" and "I bought seed and signed a contract to only sew it one season then breached it" type lawsuits, but not this --

He's buying seed, from a third party, without signing any agreement with Monsanto. That seed isn't even necessarily Monsanto's product, but from plants that descended from those seeds. It may contain the patented genes, but those genes only got there from the original authorized sale of seed to whoever owned the elevator.

The exhaustion doctrine says that a patent holder's rights end at the point of an authorized sale. Once Apple sells you an iPad, you can do whatever you want with that iPad, including selling it to someone else, and aren't infringing the underlying patents the product implements.

So, why can Monsanto claim damages here?

rtpg 3 days ago 4 replies      
> Monsanto says that if it allowed Bowman to keep replanting his seeds it would undermine its business model, endangering the expensive research that it uses to produce advanced agricultural products.

I didn't realize that having a bad business model gave you a valid case.

meric 3 days ago 3 replies      
If Monsanto patent a method of genetically modifying my child's genes (so that he is more resistant to cancer, for example), does that mean my child cannot have children without paying a license fee to Monsanto, otherwise he/she is liable for patent infringement?
anuy 2 days ago 0 replies      

Killer Seeds

The irony is GM seeds have not been effective in India and the consequences are not as rosy as what Monsanto had promised to deliver. Scathing reports of mass suicides of Indian farmers broke out as recently as three years ago when scores of farmers took their own lives in order to escape the burden of high prices and failure of Monsanto's GM seeds.

Monsanto offered its GM seeds to the farmers of India with hopes of reaping plentiful crops. Plain and mostly uneducated farmers thought Monsanto had come to provide a “magic” formula that would transform their lives. They had no idea what was coming.

Monsanto's seeds in India did not produce what the company had promised and farmers hoped. The expensive seeds piled up debts and destroyed farming fields. In many instances, the crops simply failed to materialize. The farmers were not aware that the GM seeds required more water than the traditional seeds. And lack of rain in many parts of India exacerbated the crop failure.

dragonbonheur 3 days ago 0 replies      
Q: What does it take to make a multi-million company and its over-qualified employees forget that the purpose of life is to SPREAD?


El_Mariachi 3 days ago 2 replies      
You don't patent things, you patent methods. Monsanto has patented a method of inserting and manipulating certain gene sequences in soybeans. Growing offspring of existing modified beans is not the same as performing the modification.

If they wanted their seeds to have an expiration date they should have engineered that in there too. Soybean replicants.

lifeisstillgood 3 days ago 1 reply      
To me this raises interesting questions of wider infrastructure regulation. The supply of gas to homes is heavily regulated in every country - but regulations over who owns a seed? No one ever thought such a thing possible.

The same goes for Internet search - if Google goes broke or looses its backups or charges 1 pound a month subscription what happens?

Do we need a law of innovation-to-infrastructure? Once a company achieves some innovation that is sooooo part of the world that it seems like infrastructure, do we prevent it from monetizing the same in some counter productive manner? Do we produce a oversight committee

I squirm inwardly at half those words - but then again my gas supply works, at a affordable rate.

Qantourisc 3 days ago 0 replies      
What happens when a bag falls of the transport, and grows a patch ? Next the seeds drop and make a bigger patch. Who needs to pay the patent fees mother nature ?

Another scenario: cross-breeding with other crops due to bees. Your strain could get copied to the field next door: NEW problem.

And for all the evil corporations out there: make as many seeds as you can. Next put them in an airplain and spread them EVERYWHERE you can. Wait 3 yeas for the strain to spread and sew EVERYONE.

In essence you a selling a self-replicating machine not under your control ... And they don't see an issue here ?

A better way to "reward" these companies (if we want genetic mutated strains) let them prove the worth they create and pay it off by the government, since they serve the entire community. (And hope there is no corruption or abuse on the system.)

falcolas 2 days ago 1 reply      
To me, the following is the worst part of this entire story:

"... it is ironically Bowman's own lack of cash that has seen the case end up at the supreme court."

Why does it take someone being bankrupt and having "nothing to loose" to get a case like this brought forward? It seems like a perversion of the concept of the court systems.

rfugger 2 days ago 0 replies      
The Supreme Court of Canada heard a similar case 9 years ago:


(Spoiler alert: Monsanto won.)

mattmcknight 2 days ago 0 replies      
Why this link from "rawstory" instead of the guardian? http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/feb/09/soybean-farmer-mon...
tarr11 2 days ago 0 replies      
This guy needs a kickstarter campaign. He can send us some 2G soybeans from his farm if he wins the case and we can all plant them in our gardens.
shill 2 days ago 0 replies      
My question is, will Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from a case involving his former employer?
pingou 3 days ago 5 replies      
I hate Monsanto as much as everyone else but I agree with them in this case.
If farmers are permitted to replant seeds then how are companies making the seeds supposed to make money ?

I believe GM are a chance to humanity, with the potential to feed more and more people.

But why develop it and spend millions on R&D if everybody can copy your product for free ?

And as far as I know, these seeds allow farmers to use massive doses of roundup, if this guy used some roundup on his crops it's fair to say he perfectly knows these were gm seeds and that he wasn't allowed to use it for free.

If you don't want to pay for it, don't use it and do like farmers always did, with standard seeds.

coditor 3 days ago 0 replies      
The argument not being made here is this: why should you be able to patent DNA sequences? Sure Monsanto is patenting the method to create the sequences, but enforcing the end result of the method (seeds) doesn't make any sense as a patent. It's like patenting a machine that makes widgets, then suing people who don't use the widgets the way you'd like them to.
coin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Unrelated, but their mobile version of the page is utterly unusable on my iPad 1. Wished they just served up the non-mobile version.
newsmaster 3 days ago 0 replies      
Funny I just watched a documentary a few days ago about Monsanto and how some GM crops strip the lining and the gut causing a myriad of health problems. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnlTYFKBg18 Not sure how much of it is fact though.
Why Discourse uses Ember.js eviltrout.com
255 points by EvilTrout  2 days ago   70 comments top 19
tomdale 2 days ago 3 replies      
Great post.

Client-side web applications have come a long way in the past year. In the comments I read when Discourse was released, many people dismissed out-of-hand rich JavaScript apps based on stale information.

For example, they assumed that infinite scrolling would mean you would lose your place when hitting the back button. They also assumed you would not be able to command-click a link to open it in a new tab.

Surprisingly to many, both work just great in Discourse; try it out if you don't believe me.

Many people also held on to the belief that JavaScript apps are fundamentally incompatible with assistive software; that one is also a common misconception that's just not true anymore. Steve Klabnik wrote up a great overview of it[1].

[1] http://words.steveklabnik.com/emberjs-and-accessibility/

A lot of people pan client-side apps as being slow and bloated and overloaded with JavaScript. Surprisingly, they don't have more than your average full-featured, server-side web application[2][3]. And I think Discourse proves that you can build large apps that feel lightning-fast.

[2] https://twitter.com/tomdale/status/300653212472598528

[3] https://twitter.com/tomdale/status/300653225785311232

If you investigated building apps like this in the past and didn't think it was ready, now is a great time to give it another shot. The tools are maturing rapidly, and while still not perfect for every use case, we're knocking down limitations every day. I'm excited for all the cool stuff people will build in 2013.

crazygringo 2 days ago 0 replies      
The only issue I take with this is:

> So maybe we add another data-liked="true" attribute. ACK! Just typing this all out is giving me a headache!. Congratulations, your code is now spaghetti, your data is strewn out in the DOM and your logic is tied to a particular layout of HTML elements.

For certain super-rich highly complex webapps, sure -- and believe me, I've done those.

But most of the time, it's actually quite a reasonable way to go about things. Most of the time, your DOM/HTML/code is tightly coupled, and uncoupling it just adds complexity. And it's only spaghetti if you let it be -- there's nothing inherently spaghetti-like about using data- attributes with jQuery events and simple DOM manipulation, if it accurately and intuitively reflects user actions and site usage. It's really only when you get to multiple views of the same data, and data that changes in real time, that the game changes.

The kind of blanket assetion that "congratulations, your code is now spaghetti!" really comes across like a bad case of "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Or maybe just big-time exaggeration...

meric 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you use Ember.js, and store the JSON data in the HTML body, how will search engines crawl your site properly? In the codinghorror blog post on Discourse, it says the author found out forums were valuable because he frequently stumbled on them using search engines.

Try go to a thread now. Not the list of threads, but actual forum thread on the meta.discourse.org forum. (e.g. http://meta.discourse.org/t/welcome-to-meta-discourse-org/1/... not sure how long this link will last) Search for some text from the forum post in the HTML source. It isn't there! How can you find this information on search engines then? Can search engines be reliably expected to run javascript now?

EDIT: EvilTrout has a good response:

"Actually we aren't using server side handlebars rendering for the Google aspect, although that's something we considered! We're using it for more boring stuff like our Oneboxes.

Our site is indexable by Google and it doesn't do much fancy. On certain URLs, we generate a small HTML view of the content in the <noscript> tag. You can see this by viewing source or disabling JS in your browser. It's just a simple ERB template in Rails, and uses the same object graph that we serialize via Active Model Serializers.

Google can see it and index it, we've confirmed by searching post launch.

As time goes on we'll probably work more on it to make the SEO even better. As you can imagine it was tough to do when we were in stealth mode ;)"


eksith 2 days ago 4 replies      
The bigger question, I hope someone will answer is : Why Discourse?

Not putting down the software, but I did look at the about page and didn't get much convincing. Also, even though I'm not mainly a PHP dev, the assertion that "ancient, legacy PHP/MySQL code bases" doesn't apply to bbPress or Vanilla (or at least I hope not, I haven't really looked at the code in a while).

Also, and this may be what sells it to me, can I use it comfortably if I'm disabled? I've built some discussion forums for sites that cater to people who have difficulty navigating cluttered environments (some have suffered strokes or other brain injuries) and some who are legally blind. Can they replace their forums with Discourse?

Other forums, even the crappy legacy code ones, still have real HTML links that can be browsed. Can I use it while having JS disabled (let's say I'm some privacy freak)?

Should have read the FAQ first ;) So my Lynx and text-to-speech users are out of luck.

mrgordon 2 days ago 1 reply      
"Yehuda Katz has done amazing work on Rails 3 and Bundler. When he tells me that he's not going to abandon Ember.JS, I believe him, because he has a track record proving so"

Uhhh nothing against Yehuda but I strongly object to this as someone who got burned badly with Merb. I've also seen his Rails.app Kickstarter project languishing and how many versions of SproutCore/Amber/Ember have there been that are now completely obsolete? I love a lot of his work but to say he has a track record of not abandoning projects goes against the facts.

cleverjake 2 days ago 1 reply      
Its rather odd he mentions the docs on ember, I have actually found them to be much less useful than the angular docs. Especially compared to a year ago, when the project was begun.

Does anyone else have experience with both frameworks?

mck- 2 days ago 2 replies      
Thing I didn't like about Ember is how vastly different the 1.0 prerelease is from the previous version, resulting in a lot of SO solutions that only work if you have the right version. Guides and tutorials out there are rather scarce, despite the size of its community.. Perhaps that has changed in the last few months?
wheaties 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's interesting to read a different perspective. I found AngularJS was more in tune with how I think and like the way they decouple the code from DOM manipulation. I'm also a big fan of \HTML based templates and having to not touch code when I want to enable/disable some feature. That's the kind of thing I like about small libraries like garlic.js and such.
seivan 2 days ago 2 replies      
Yeah, the Ember docs have been given a huge boost, all that is missing is how to glue them, I've noticed ember-rails is broken for instance.

I prefer Batman.js, but have recently been looking for leave. Slow development, crappy performance, and generally slow on accepting pull requests. Barely works well on mobile.

stevewilhelm 2 days ago 0 replies      
We have an Ember based application that includes a report display with about the same amount of data as the Discourse topic list.

We have found giving users the ability to sort on each column to be very slow. I noticed the Discourse doesn't have sort or filters. Was this due to performance reasons?

patrickaljord 2 days ago 0 replies      
Eric Bidelman explains why emberjs is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to templating while AngularJS is doing it right by implementing the html5 web component spec, you can watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v...
someone13 2 days ago 1 reply      
Small nit: the link to the ember.js guides actually goes to the AngularJS guides.
melvinmt 2 days ago 1 reply      
The big question (for me, at least) is: why not Backbone.js?
jweir 2 days ago 3 replies      
The criticism of Angular's Transclusion is spot on. I like Angular, but the concept and description of Transclusion is very confusing.
jongold 1 day ago 0 replies      
Great post.

I think it's unfair picking on Angular for obtuse docs when Ember has the same problem though.

The PeepCode Ember video was a big step towards Ember being accessible to all; it's still really difficult to use compared to Backbone etc and I don't think experienced devs close to the framework appreciate this enough.

Also, Discourse is a phenomenal learning resource, thanks so much for that :)

robotmay 2 days ago 0 replies      
The greatest thing I've gotten out of Discourse so far is the fully functional, real-world Ember app that I can use to learn Ember. So many frameworks seem to think that a to-do application is enough of an example, but it isn't.

I decided to start transferring an app over to Ember.js this morning, and I've made more progress by looking at the Discourse code than I have via the official docs.

ft_ 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very interesting post!

"Additionally, we do some server side rendering, which is much easier with string templates because we don't have to boot a whole PhantomJS environment."

Does it mean that google is able to crawl a discourse page even when it's using client-side mvc ? Can anybody tell me how it works ? Thanks.

atomical 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm all for Ember apps but the experience on your site is jarring because the content appears and disappears so quickly.
jaequery 2 days ago 1 reply      
trying out discourse, pretty cool. but how do you get to the admin? and what are the default credentials?
Flat Pixels sachagreif.com
252 points by jmduke  1 day ago   68 comments top 24
newishuser 1 day ago 2 replies      
There is no debate between skeuomorphism and flat design. There are people who think that there should be a debate and thus spend 5 pages spewing personal opinion, but in the world of business and making products there is no debate.

There is nothing wrong with either and both can be over done. The reality is you have to meet somewhere in the middle, and most importantly, you have to do user testing for your specific application. Reading every blog post ever written about skeuomorphism vs flat design isn't going to help you build a more usable product, or a product that sells for that matter.

And for god's sake there's no such thing as "visual realism". The Internet and mobile phone apps are "real". This is what skeuomorphism is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeuomorphism . Anytime anyone feels compelled to define it, don't. Just link to the wikipedia page.

TLDR: Blowhards and drama drama drama.

dwyer 1 day ago 5 replies      
Skeuomorphic realism certainly didn't start with the iPhone. Anybody who has dabbled in music production knows it's been around since the 90s. Here are some pieces of software I've been using for the better part of the last decade:



Unlike apps for the iPhone, these virtual knobs and sliders don't benefit from a touch screen. No keybindings. No tabbing between them. Just reduced functionality and wasted screen real estate for the sake of looking ``cool'' to people with crappy taste.

For this reason, I've come to despise so-called realism in technology. Even the tried-and-true desktop metaphor seems like an outdated crutch for helping old people understand computers. How does imagining manilla folders help the next generation of computer users understand directory structures when they've seen more computers in their time than file cabinets? It's time to can the metaphors and let computers be computers.

melloclello 1 day ago 1 reply      
Seems to me like people are agonising over skeuomorphic details as basic as using drop shadows and gradients to make a button look 'real'.

In recent months I've come to realise that (excluding so-called 'flat' design) such processes have sublimated and that we have actually converged on a new visual language for communicating a control's affordance.

Let's look at the basic button: we no longer make a button look like a button, per se, so much as we simply add contrast to the control's edges (according to taste), and perhaps overlay a low frequency over the entire control (otherwise known as a 'gradient').

Then, when a user activates the control, we rotate the phase of the control's spatial frequencies through 180º to communicate its state (equivalent to reversing all shadows and flipping the gradient).

I think flat design sucks because it effectively excludes you from using visual frequencies this way - it's a bit like asking someone to record a song, but they have to run everything through an extreme high-pass filter, or a bitcrush, or something (I dunno, someone help me out with this metaphor here).

aaronharnly 1 day ago 4 replies      
As many of you may remember, one of the earliest Apple forays into both skeumorphism and what the post terms "realist visual design" was QuickTime 4:


"QT4, in contrast, presents a “player” that mimics the appearance of a real-world object " a high-tech Sony Watchman, say."

It became notorious quickly, gaining the attention for example of Bruce Tognazzini[1] and of the Interface Hall of Shame[2]:

[1] http://www.asktog.com/readerMail/1999-06ReaderMail.html

[2] http://web.archive.org/web/19991012163338/http://iarchitect....

Most notoriously, one controlled the volume not with a slider element, but with a rotating dial that appeared to require a circular motion to operate, not an easy feat with a mouse; only with experimentation did one learn that a linear motion also worked.

sgdesign 1 day ago 1 reply      
I also wrote about why and how I wrote this essay here:


Basically it was a good exercise in responsive design, and was also a chance for me to try out publishing a book on Amazon.

And since this is just static HTML, it was also nice to write something completely free of the constraints of a blog layout and see how the content shaped the design.

In fact, I'm now thinking I might reuse that layout for my blog itself.

rjd 1 day ago 2 replies      
Is anyone else entertained by the fact we finally have decent support for rounded corners for web design, and everyone is moving towards right angles? :
a_p 1 day ago 0 replies      
Now that computers are ubiquitous in the our culture, I think that people have forgotten how non intuitive graphical user interfaces can be. Twenty years ago, an "introduction to computers" class or video would focus on how to interact with menus, open and close windows, and how to use a mouse with more than one button. If you want a good laugh, search YouTube for introductory videos to Windows 95.

I've found that people that are uncomfortable with computers have problems with flat design, often because it is harder to for them to find buttons. It seems like a trivial thing to people who are comfortable surfing the web, but for those who are not, it makes for a frustrating experience.

On another note, I found it curious that the author didn't mention Microsoft Bob and the other contemporary "real object" graphical shells.

ctruman 1 day ago 1 reply      
"Flat design also forces you to really care about typography and layout, two areas where web design has traditionally lagged behind its more established print cousin.
And on the mobile side, flat design can make it easier to focus on animation and interaction design, as apps like Letterpress and Clear have shown us."

This bit is a good summary. I think flat design on mobile really frees designers up to look into animation and interaction design. Letterpress definitely proves that. It also frees designers up from focusing on detailed effects and stylized UI. Focusing on typography and layout will create much better and more usable applications.

brownbat 1 day ago 3 replies      
Soulver seems mindblowing; I wish the article included more examples of radical divergence from dominant UI trends to reach something even more usable.

Mostly I wish Soulver was available on Android or PC...


tubelite 1 day ago 0 replies      
Excellent article.

I recently read three books: one on the Kindle iOS app, archive.org's PDF scan of a real book, and finally, a real, printed-on-paper book.

I used to dislike skeuomorphism as exemplified by Apple faux leather. So it came as a surprise when I found I enjoyed the PDF scan much more than the Kindle version. (The paper version came out way on top, because it was an old book much enjoyed by bookworms of human and insect types, and was a pleasure to hold and smell as well as read)

I now appreciate that natural variations and noise inherent in paper and other real-world materials have a calming aesthetic effect, while ultra-Spartan black-on-white is perhaps _too_ antiseptic for comfortable human consumption.

The design tension then, is between

- being true to the medium, in the sense that the design should do its job within the abilities and limitations of the medium, rather than gratuitously imitating and importing look/feel from previous mediums just for the sake of familiarity.

- being human, respecting the human aesthetic sense, honed over millenia of exposure to fractal and noisy nature.

Extreme skeuomorphism results in campy, tacky faux leather. Extreme minimalism results in bland, "inhuman" interfaces. At the golden mean lie things like "noisy" linen backgrounds, subtle shadows, which assuage the human need for variation without imitation of real objects and grandfathering in their functional limitations.

I agree with the author - Google has found its design feet, and they're not bad!

batgaijin 1 day ago 0 replies      
In my opinion skeuomorphism is only there to give people who don't normally use new products the confidence to play with them.

Honestly, most people are scared of computers.

rgrieselhuber 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here is another perspective that I found enlightening:


alexfringes 1 day ago 1 reply      
Regarding the iPhone's role in all this: in the early 2000s, Apple's OS X HIG used to make the distinction somewhat clear when to use the "more" skeumorphic/realist brushed metal style and when to stick to the core Aqua interface with its realist textures, yet abstract meaning. The developer was supposed to ask herself/himself the question that this post is invoking as well: is this specific interaction more easily understood if it maps to a physical object? They used QuickTime as an example, since it related to a real world object: a VHS deck/DVD player.

Then Apple started breaking with its own HIG. The Finder was the prime example, once it adopted brushed metal.

The main shift, however, came not with the iPhone but two years earlier: Dashboard widgets were encouraged to have extreme visual richness, independent of whether there was a real world equivalent or not. Take the Weather widget, for instance. Previous to the slight adjustments in iOS6, the Weather app spoke the exact same visual language as the 2005 widget. You even got the grey linen when you flipped widgets to get to their settings.

Of course, iOS devices were the factor with enough impact to proliferate this style into so many designers' visual language, but this distinction in the timeline slightly takes apart the nice logic behind Apple's decision to push this type of design. Mobile devices had less to do with it than Apple's desire to create a wow factor in their UI. The touch target argument doesn't apply to widgets, neither does the "device becomes the software" point, and of course Apple was completely fine with having 100% inconsistent, heavily colored, heavily textured interfaces be on screen side-by-side, since that was the whole point of putting these widgets together on a Dashboard: they all came and went at once.

Now, I am actually not saying this to criticize the style. In my opinion, it showed guts, curiosity, and showmanship. And it worked.
Nor do I want to attack the article - lots of great points in there. However, I thought it would be interesting to underline the typical Apple manner in which this stuff came to be.

(Of course, if anyone really wanted to stick to their guns, they could point out that Cupertino was already working on the iPhone at the time Dashboard came around. Maybe they were just giving the style a test run with full knowledge of its role in their future. The timelines only overlap sparsely from all we can tell, but it's possible. Still. That doesn't invalidate the wow-focus its implementation in Dashboard implies.)

dfox 23 hours ago 0 replies      
What surprises me is that many people see Microsoft's Flat/Metro/whatever design aesthetic as something of a recent development. Just look at UI of essentially anything from Microsoft around the turn of the century (Encarta, Office XP, what was called .NET UI then and so on, and importantly: Pocket PC). One would say that it is return to old roots after short detour into land of gradients and semi-realistic textures.
homosaur 1 day ago 0 replies      
WOW, that old-timey Finder on OSX is horrific. Almost as bad as the current Finder.
shurcooL 1 day ago 3 replies      
I think in the end it comes down to this:

People like (eventual) change.

No one wants to be using the same app for 10 years. Or the same UI guidelines for 10 years. So naturally, there's always going to be some direction that people tend to flock towards.

I don't think it's always primarily for the better, although that is usually the goal. It's better and different. I'm sure in the vast open space of design, there are quite a lot of different equally good directions. Most of them just require people growing used to them.

That's why it seems we've made full circle in design. Simple flat colors, sharp lines -> fancy transparent effects -> complex -> back to minimalistic yet functional.

hjay 1 day ago 2 replies      
Just an issue I have regarding the first question you asked in that post: "Which one of these two calculators feature a skeuomorphic design?"

The answer you present is both, but in that case, the question is misleading and prompts a response picking only ONE of the two calculators.

The text under those 2 images seem to be a more accurate question: "Which of these two apps is skeuomorphic?"

cooop 1 day ago 0 replies      
This generalisation of interface visual styles being either 'flat' or 'skeurmorphic/not-flat' concerns me.

I've experienced interfaces both good and bad that sit at either ends of the spectrum. It's hard to say which is better than the other because in reality most interfaces seem to land somewhere in the middle.

I find the whole debate rather shallow. As designers we should be educating others that a style is the result of a variety of factors such as branding, fashion, originality, time constraints, content, function, hardware, software etc etc.

I've already been asked by clients for "flat design" and it makes me cringe every time.

seivan 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I did agree much with that the article said, and i've been leaning towards a more minimalistic approach recently.
A nice font, some decent shadow, and maybe a gradient with a border.

That being said, I'm a strong believer of "you want a design? Code it"

It's not enough being able to sling it on photoshop, you have to learn the code to make it happen.

boomlinde 1 day ago 0 replies      
For the people arguing over how long skeumorphism has been around in software design, all based on different thresholds of levels of "realism": Any graphical interface you can think of has skeuomorphic properties to some extent. Even a bare terminal window is (even if for purely practical reasons) analogous to the strip of paper pushing out of old printer terminals.

The bare concept of a buttons, mouse pointers and icons are all analogous to physical objects, which makes sense from a usability perspective since people mostly relate to new things metaphorically.

The idea of shaded and highlighted buttons on a leather textured surface, however, makes no particular sense from a material or metaphorical perspective. I recognize it as an aesthetic choice more than anything, and an ugly one to boot.

bartligthart 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think Propellerheads music producing software Reason is one of the biggest examples of Skeuomorphic design


blt 1 day ago 1 reply      
One thing this author didn't mention is the reduced computational effort of rendering flat design. Is there any data showing a meaningful difference in battery life?
JulianGarnier 1 day ago 0 replies      
I agree on every points of this article.
Great summary.
Meet Kirsty Nathoo, Y Combinator's Secret Financial And Operational Weapon techcrunch.com
247 points by leahculver  3 days ago   60 comments top 19
pg 3 days ago 3 replies      
Secret weapon is the perfect phrase to describe Kirsty. She handles everything to do with money and investors at YC, and the situations she has to unravel, dealing with early stage startups, are often appallingly complicated. Considering the number of startups we fund, I bet there is no one in the world who understands more about the intricacies of early stage startup finances.
monsterix 3 days ago 1 reply      
A few months back I was sort of afraid to write to PG/YC directly. We were putting in our first submission on HN (our web app) when we found that the domain name we held was somehow in HN's blocked-list.

After some hesitation I wrote a short mail (with etiquette of writing to busy people) on YC's email address and within seconds Kirsty replied to me. It made me feel good when she told us that "if it is blocked, avoid posting it again on HN. Have patience, PG will unblock it in a few minutes."

After sometime I received an email nod from PG too. From that point I just fell in love with Hacker News.

pbiggar 3 days ago 1 reply      
Totally deserved article, Kirsty is amazing.

There's a story in the article about Kirsty meeting a founder with a wad of cash at SFO. She did exactly the same for me when I arrived: waiting at the airport with a check so I could pay rent my first day in MV. Except this was on New Year's day, and my flight was delayed two hours. Thanks Kirsty!

breck 3 days ago 1 reply      
> Nathoo tells us that the last of the Sequoia money was used in the Summer 2012 class. Now Y Combinator is completely self funded through the money the incubator has made through its investments in startups (i.e. exits)

This sounds like an amazing accomplishment! Was this seen as a big milestone for YC?

kposehn 3 days ago 2 replies      
Kirsty rocks, for the record.

What surprised me is the claim "Y Combinator and most investors will only invest in companies that have been in incorporated in Delaware, and many founders don't know this."

This was quite surprising. PG: is this actually a criteria instead of a just preference? Or did TC get it wrong?

leahculver 3 days ago 0 replies      
Kirsty is the best. She's helped so much with the worst part of startups - the paperwork.
nowarninglabel 3 days ago 0 replies      
I like Kirsty's quote: "I was shocked at the amount of trust that was being placed on me at first." It reminds me of how when I started at my current job, our head of engineering gave me logins and passwords for every piece of software we had. In my first meeting with her and my manager, my manager says, "Woah, I don't even have access to half this stuff." It was really inspiring to know they trusted me enough with the keys to the kingdom, and it made life so much easier than the previous companies where I had to fill out a form for access to just about anything. More companies could do well to place more trust in their employees like this.
swampthing 3 days ago 0 replies      
As my cofounder and I like to tell people, Kirsty is one of the world's foremost experts on startup formation / founder issues. It's hard to imagine finding someone who helps more startups with as wide a range of issues as she does. This article is definitely spot on and well-deserved!
danielpal 3 days ago 0 replies      
People often underestimate how important the "back office" things are and how much help you get from an incubator. Apart from Kirsty, we've gotten a great amount of help from Jon Levy (YC lawyer) on legal stuff and of course Kirsty who's always sending us e-mail reminding us of taxes etc.
rdl 3 days ago 0 replies      
Kirsty is amazing. I was surprised to learn (when she became a partner) that she wasn't always a partner.
eduardordm 3 days ago 1 reply      
And she still has time to break our heart with that rejection email.
codebaobab 3 days ago 1 reply      
"Another role Nathoo takes on with founders and startups is an accounting advisor. She'll ensure that every company incorporates in the state of Delaware, and if they haven't done this, she'll help with that process. Y Combinator and most investors will only invest in companies that have been in incorporated in Delaware, and many founders don't know this. Nathoo says that of the current class of 47 startups at Y Combinator, only one company's incorporation documents were problem-free when joining the program."

If Kirsty were willing to publicly share any part of her accumulated knowledge in this area, I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one to appreciate it.

argumentum 3 days ago 0 replies      
I advise anyone starting YC to listen to Kirsty, in fact to obey Kirsty.

It will make your life so much easier.

rdl 3 days ago 0 replies      
I wonder who the Kirsty character is at 500 Startups, Tech Stars, AngelPad, etc.
tonyx 3 days ago 0 replies      
Kirsty is one of the most amazing people I have met while at YC. Low profile, high impact.
hzay 3 days ago 0 replies      
Way before I read the last line of the article I was convinced that she had one of the best jobs in the world - she's surrounded by [presumably] really smart and passionate people, solves problems of varying nature and challenge, and has immediate impact. It's weird because I always thought of accounting as an uninspiring and crushingly boring field, but obviously I've been wrong.
Havoc 3 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that every organisation has 2-3 people who keep all the balls in the air. The company I work at certain does. They don't rank highly job title / power wise...but if they get hit by a bus...heaven help us. e.g. We've got one person coordinating about 300 people's schedules.
jasonwilk 3 days ago 0 replies      
We had the pleasure of being in the first YC class when Kirsty started. She was very helpful throughout the entire process of the program. I think she even has her own office hours now!

Congrats on such a praising article Kirsty.

TheMakeA 3 days ago 0 replies      
I am constantly being surprised by YC. They are moving quickly and I love it. A few months ago pg talked about trying to fix some of the scaling woes and you can already catch a glimpse of some of that work in articles about YC.
Realtime Responsive Typography Based on Viewing Distance via Webcam maratz.com
243 points by tblancpain  2 days ago   58 comments top 31
Wintamute 1 day ago 3 replies      
Cool experiment! But maybe I'm not understanding something. When a human can't see an object in sufficient detail they lean forwards to increase its apparent size in their optical field. This breaks that fundamental interaction. When you lean forward it stays the same size. Argh! In other words if your eyes are good enough to read the large text, they'll be good enough to read the small text when you lean in - nothing has changed, the system maintains the text's apparent size. If on the other hand your eyesight isn't good enough to read the large text leaning in won't help!
fredley 2 days ago 1 reply      
Great idea, a couple of small improvements would make it even better:

* Use a moving average, to avoid flickery transitions

* Animate the text to the target size rather than changing in steps. This would mitigate the flickering problem too.

mjn 2 days ago 0 replies      
Neat, clicking through the attributions, Headtrackr (https://github.com/auduno/headtrackr/) by auduno of Opera Software looks quite useful. That's in turn based on ccv (https://github.com/liuliu/ccv), which I knew about, but Headtrackr looks much nicer to use if you just want headtracking out of the box. It does some trigonometry, based on some assumptions about field of view, to provide the 3d coordinate estimates needed for demos like this, whereas ccv focuses on object identification/tracking within the 2d image (and is much more general, so more complex to use out of the box).

The Headtrackr guy also put up a demo of a game controlled using head movement: http://www.shinydemos.com/facekat/

DoubleCluster 1 day ago 2 replies      
Neat, but this completely ignores the real reason people have trouble with small fonts: bad eyesight. The size the font needs to be is a factor of distance and eyesight. The real solution is to just use the default font size and have users adjust that to their preferences.
daralthus 2 days ago 0 replies      
Great idea, however you should use a transform rather than font-size, so the line breaks won't change.
gojomo 1 day ago 0 replies      

Does the emerging browser camera support allow requesting permission for a single snap (to calibrate distance) as opposed to constant-video?

columbo 2 days ago 1 reply      
I don't have a webcam installed on this machine so I can't test the implementation but what a BRILLIANT idea. This is exactly how cellphones should work; judge distance and then resize the reading pane to accommodate.
lifeisstillgood 2 days ago 0 replies      
And this is the answer to the "race against the machine" - how will automation that is destroying jobs provide value no-one ever thought of.

Total "cat-flap" moment - its not something you ever think of, but once you see it, its obvious.

edent 2 days ago 2 replies      
Brilliant! Couldn't get it running in FF, but works like a dream in Chrome.

Very useful for interfaces which may run on, say, a TV. Knowing the physical size, or the viewport dimensions, doesn't tell you how far away the user is.

bluetidepro 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is really awesome, although a bit spastic at times. I'm not sure if this is the proper way to use this concept, but I could see how this concept could be used in similar fashions for setting settings. Like set it once, and then have that size apply to whole site or something. Either way, never clever idea, and well done! :)
worldsayshi 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm mostly impressed by the image analysis. Performance and the fact that it runs on javascript. Well I've heard of ccv.js before but not seen it's capabilities for pixel analysis. Now I have even less excuses to reimplement that broken real time image analysis app that I made for my bachelor thesis.

Hmm, there are no explicit licence terms in the repositories of ccv or headtrackr though. :/

AUmrysh 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. The algorithm seems to have some trouble with glasses and headphones, but works pretty well otherwise. It's such a simple idea, and with the new web technologies becoming widespread, I expect that we will see more of this sort of thing in the future.
burpee 2 days ago 1 reply      
Cool, another potential tool against poorly readable sites.
I just created http://cantheysee.it/ for web developers to (roughly) simulate and test for users with poor eyesight.
Skoofoo 1 day ago 1 reply      
The face tracking didn't work well at all for me. Maybe I have an odd face.
brianbreslin 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is pretty cool! does something like this exist for eye-tracking? i.e. have it zoom areas of text you are looking at? could be great for people with poor vision
zekenie 2 days ago 0 replies      
That's so cool! I wonder if anything like this will ever be standard. I imagine people would be creeped out if their webcam was always on, but its a really cool concept.
mcintyre1994 1 day ago 0 replies      
Cool experiment! It works especially well if you substitute a face for an optical illusion poster (http://www.popartuk.com/g/l/lgpp0906+cogs-twisting-cogs-mind...)

In all seriousness, it seems to lock onto that poster quite often.

mlader 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is very neat!

The main issue I could see implementing this is that you'd have to constantly get permission from the user to use their webcam. I'm not sure I'd trust a site to just use my mug for improved readability.

Could be great for games though!

jastanton 1 day ago 1 reply      
I took it one step further and integrated rotation into the mix:

check it out.

too far?

maratz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hi everyone, thanks for your feedbacks! :)

More ideas https://twitter.com/markodugonjic/status/301013228463476736

mrdub 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice, I built something similar with a buddy using a kinect a couple month ago. Think poster not website.


trumbitta2 1 day ago 0 replies      
Nice experiment...

If only my laptop-mounted webcam wasn't next to me instead of in front of me together with my laptop 'cause I always use it with external monitor, keyboard, and mouse :p

jhgaylor 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is really slick. I think it'd be great as a browser plugin so I could use it almost like an accessibility tool on sites with horrid typography. It seems better than cmd++.
sciencerobot 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is an impressive demo however I usually move my face closer to the screen because the font is too small.

It would be neat to see a demo of parallax using a webcam.

MrDrone 2 days ago 0 replies      
Cool idea but it just blew up the font to an unreadably huge size for me. Using an external camera mounted on the monitor in front of me.
gregwebs 2 days ago 0 replies      
very neat. Perspective bug: nodding your head down or up or turning it to the side makes your face appear smaller to the camera which will increase the text size.
kumarharsh 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow! Just WOW!!! Although, of course, there is a lot to improve, like jittery zooms.

Love the idea though!

synor 2 days ago 0 replies      
What do you have to assume about e.g. user monitor ppi and webcam field of view to make this work?
FraaJad 2 days ago 0 replies      
how does one enable webcam for this to work?
bliker 1 day ago 0 replies      
oh please, someone make a extension for chrome so I can scroll just by nodding.
Thank you!
Uchikoma 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just wow
Write More Classes pocoo.org
226 points by someone13  1 day ago   141 comments top 30
haberman 1 day ago 2 replies      
I think the real point the author is trying to make is: use modular, layered designs of composable components, instead of monolithic APIs that only have a single entry point. The single-entry-point model imposes costs and decisions onto the application that are hard to work around.

I think this is a good point. I think that it's hard to get from there to "more classes are always better" though. More classes don't always make a design more flexible. You have to consciously design for flexibility and reusability, and even then it takes a lot of deep thought and hard work to get your interfaces right, such that they are truly reusable in practice.

contingencies 1 day ago 4 replies      
Write no classes!

Joe Armstrong: "I think the lack of reusability comes in object-oriented languages, not in functional languages. Because the problem with object-oriented languages is they've got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle. If you have referentially transparent code, if you have pure functions-all the data comes in its input arguments and everything goes out and leaves no state behind-it's incredibly reusable. You can just reuse it here, there, and everywhere. When you want to use it in a different project, you just cut and paste this code into your new project. Programmers have been conned into using all these different programming languages and they've been conned into not using easy ways to connect programs together. The Unix pipe mechanism-A pipe B pipe C-is trivially easy to connect things together. Is that how programmers connect things together? No. They use APIs and they link them into the same memory space, which is appallingly difficult and isn't cross-language. If the language is in the same family it's OK-if they're imperative languages, that's fine. But suppose one is Prolog and the other is C. They have a completely different view of the world, how you handle memory. So you can't just link them together like that. You can't reuse things. There must be big commercial interests for whom it is very desirable that stuff won't work together."

- Peter Seibel, Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

Locke1689 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is a bad article.

First, write nothing. If you can solve your problem without writing code (or even better, by deleting code), that is the best solution.

Next, write code which fits your architecture. Sometimes functional composition is the best system for representing your computational structure. Tree operations, for example, are especially amenable to recursive function-based computation.

Sometimes, when you are writing a state machine, for example, an object is the best possible representation. Objects are entirely focused around hidden-implementation finite state machines, and thus mirror your computation almost exactly.

Funny how most people who have only practical training in a handful of languages and no programming language theory at all tend to advocate for the one style of programming that they know well. When all you have is a hammer...

Note: The small paragraph at the end of this article seems to hedge by agreeing with me and essentially calling the reader to disregard what he previously wrote. If he had followed my step one he could have avoided writing the entire article. Think of the complexity saved!

10098 1 day ago 1 reply      
No. Don't write classes. Write useful abstractions. It doesn't matter what the abstraction is (a class, a function, or something else you programming language supports)as long as it fits your current architecture and can be easily modified for possible future extensions.(I will agree with the author that one giant monolithic function is probably a bad abstraction).
viraptor 1 day ago 2 replies      
I really don't like the way this was presented, even if I may agree with the idea underneath. It's not about classes at all. It's about better design, but even the examples are strange.

Just from the JSON example:

- Why do I need a class for streaming JSON - Python's got a perfectly good `yield` for returning tokens in such situations.

- Why would I ever design the JSON library to be extendable at the tokenizer level? If you need serialiser / deserialiser, why not just provide a map of types to callbacks / callback as a parameter? Do you really want to extend JSON format itself?

- The 2GB JSON example is just weird. If you care about such use cases, you a) most likely have a limit on data size at webserver level, b) use proper formats for handling that size of data (I really doubt there's no better data representation once you get to GB sizes).

I see his point of view, but he's arguing for one single "hammer" solution, rather than arguing against the monolithic design. His story seems to present some weird back-story really: "I needed to make my data easier to handle, so I started automatically serialising objects into JSON, then they became huge so I have to start streaming them otherwise just parsing of them takes way too long".

Uchikoma 1 day ago 1 reply      
As Java was mentioned. The Java API is very nice, but there is a layer missing on top. The Java API was written with a early 90s mindset and got most users after 2000. This goes for most Java APIs. IO, Swing, ... The idea is to have LEGO building blocks (BufferedReader) you can plug together. But you need to plug them together all the time. The missing layer e.g. is IO.readIntoString(file). Apache IOUtils, StringUtils etc. fill in this layer for many Java APIs.

The one API that is not powerful enough is Collection. There you have the top layer without the LEGO building blocks. Compare this to the Scala collection API which has the top layers and the building blocks.

For a good API you need both, building blocks to tailer to your specific need (20% of the time) and an easy top layer (80%) to prevent writing the same stuff all the time.

fab13n 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's a fairly effective rule of thumb: classes--or more accurately objects--are a way to cleanly encapsulate state. If you rely on a mutating state, you probably want an object/class. If not, a function is often better.

Now you can bundle related functions together in a structure, but this structure is morally a module, not an object, let alone a class. Some languages will force you to encode those modules as classes / prototypes / singletons, but that's just a design pattern to circumvent a limitation of the language.

wyuenho 1 day ago 1 reply      
People don't talk about this anymore for some reason, but I think both Jack and Armin are really just approaching API design in 2 different ways - top-down and bottom-up. The problem is, most people stick with the same approach through out and end up ignoring that programmers are mere mortals too, and they have human needs.

Expanding on Armin's dichotomy, top-down designs like Python's open() or jquery plugins start with giving 70-80% of users APIs that are as simple as possible for their most frequent use cases while shielding them from the sausages underneath.

Bottom-up designs like Java's standard library or POSIX start with LEGO building blocks that solve the most fundamental pieces of largely academic computer science problems and just give them out to their end users and expect them to be able to assemble Tower Defense by solving this LEGO puzzle first.

The problem with sticking entirely to their 2 approaches is that you end up either ignoring power users or making healthy adults with normal IQs feel stupid. There is no reason you can't serve 100% of your user base by incrementally evolving your API approaches and provide 2 sets of APIs within the same library, with the top-down easy one shielding the bottom-up sausage factory that takes care of the meat grinding for you. Most API designers don't realize this and won't ever go there. Extremists and egoists with lots of opinions will spending hundreds of man years to promote their One True Way of doing things. They'll say things like "no leaky abstractions!" or "these enterprise people are just making things too complicated to create jobs!", when the simple truth is probably just that they don't understand how people think.

Make your libraries easy to do things that are easy, but make hard things possible too.

chewxy 1 day ago 2 replies      
You can do the same with python's msgpack as the C# version

Try this:

    packer = msgpack.Packer()
serialized = packer.pack('stuff you wanna pack')

unpacker = msgpack.Unpacker()
print unpacker.unpack()

I had originally used this, but then as my API scope extended to more than just using msgpack, having a common API interface for json (i.e. the .loads() and .dumps() method) was found to be more useful.

And while I agree with most of the article, I don't think writing more classes is a one-size-fits-all solution. Classes IMO, only makes sense from a heavily OOP point of view.

dakimov 1 day ago 3 replies      
The programming industry walks around in circles and there is no beacon in this darkness of ignorance.

There is no professional culture and new generations of developers successfully forget all the experience previous generations have accumulated.

Also, some piece of advice from a seasoned programmer to the web-programming-children: if you are not really a serious developer, if you write your freaking websitee on Django, or whatever a framework there is, you don't really need a methodology, because you are doing an easy task, you can write in whatever language/style/paradigm you like, even on Brainfuck. But please don't extrapolate your humble experience to the entire industry and don't tell people working on large complicated (real) projects how they must write code, because they have some experience you don't have.

splicer 1 day ago 0 replies      
Personally, I find it more natural to use closures when parsing in Python, not classes. BTW, my day job frequently involves writing parser in C.
cwp 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Is there anything to this debate that doesn't boil down to style? Python has a pretty decent object system. It also has first-class, nested functions with closures. You could write good OO code or good functional code according to your taste, and python libraries don't seem to strongly prefer one style over the other. I'm not terribly interested debating OO vs. functional in the general case, but I am interested in the pros and cons of each style in specific contexts.

For example, Python's lack of variable declarations sometimes leads to bugs involving scoping. (I've run into this a couple of times myself). Does this quirk become more of an issue in heavily functional code? Are there other language quirks that become troublesome in heavily OO code? In what circumstances might one style be preferred over another?

comex 1 day ago 2 replies      
IMO, the Flask example is pushing it - considering how large a job rendering a template is, the number of customization points is probably appropriate, but at some point you're going to get lost in a rabbit hole of wrapper functions that call wrapper functions and end up with three equally appropriate levels you might hook into because the code was written to keep you from having to duplicate a single line of code from the library in your alternative implementation-- never mind how confusing that makes things to the casual debugger (who wants to get to the actual meaty code to see what's wrong with it). Flexibility is useful, but it must justify the loss of simplicity.

But yes, in the JSON cases, having more flexibility than a single 'loads' is clearly justified.

notallama 1 day ago 5 replies      
if classes didn't have such a terribly verbose syntax in basically every language that has them, i'd be less opposed to using them.

in java, c++, or c#, to add a variable to a class, you have to repeat its name 4 times. once to declare, once in the constructor parameters, and once on each side of the assignment. why am i writing the same thing 4 times for what should be a core part of the language?

in haskell, you write it once (i'm not saying haskell's records are nice, but they got that part right). same with rust.

and with a function, you write it once.

jerf 1 day ago 0 replies      
In Python, the distinction is less strong than it is in some other languages. Since a class can implement __call__, allowing instances to be directly called like a function, even if an API specifies a function, you can pass a class instance in with a suitable __call__. So using functions doesn't have to tie to to it being a function forever and ever in the future (or breaking reverse compatibility, the way it does in most other languages. This isn't a perfect answer to the objections, but the objection is at its most weak in Python.
cgopalan 1 day ago 0 replies      
By default, I go with the inclination to put code in functions when I tackle a project, because most of my projects are just products and applications without a public API and testing or debugging the flow in a functional paradigm is much simpler. I can take a function and plug it in the interactive interpreter (in Python) and run it without needing to instantiate other state that's needed for the test.

However, in certain cases, like where I need to write a public API, I have found that having classes as wrappers to the functionality helps it a bit. So really, the "stop-writing-classes-unless-you- absolutely-need-to" guideline still holds true for me.

jakejake 1 day ago 1 reply      
I must be way out of touch because I had no idea there was an anti-class movement for which the OP has to argue for more classes?
INTPenis 1 day ago 0 replies      
A good example of classes in Python is the dnspython library.

It's tasked with returning records from parsed zones and every single record is a class. I like it and I don't understand the first sentence of this blog post.

Try not to put too much weight on what others tell you, make up your own mind. It's a classic human issue.

ankitml 1 day ago 0 replies      
The discussion on the thread has rotten to much extent, the article doesnt address different languages or paradigms, he just mentions about classes being better than block codes in python. Something more rudimentary, a valuable piece for quick-fix programmers, for hobby programmers. Classes are one way of abstractions.

So he asks for using abstractions instead on no abstraction (block code) but if you have other ways of abstracting code, please go ahead. THis article is good for people with few / no tools, people who are still learning

benatkin 1 day ago 0 replies      
I find that I like it when classes store configuration that's known at load time, rather than state. That way it's a lot like a Common Lisp program, except multiple programs can run in the same process, have different configurations, and communicate with each other.
mafro 1 day ago 1 reply      
Can anyone explain the statement about simplejson for me please?

  Some libraries manage to skip the token part. (I'm looking at you 
simplejson, a library that even with the best intentions in mind
is impossible to teach stream processing)

pyeek 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think there is an aspect to this article that won't be understood unless you're really part of the Python community. For a while now, one of Python's selling points to users from other languages has been "you don't need to write all that code" (most likely directed at Java), more specifically you can simply use a function rather than having to define a class just to define static methods etc. Over time, this has grown into the mantra of "You don't need a class just use a function/module". A lot of people seem to follow this viewpoint blindly, so much so that they consider it to be "Pythonic"; the way you "should" write python.

I think Armin's post is somewhat in line with the following post from the google testing blog.

redangstrom 1 day ago 0 replies      
Seems like he's asking for modularization so we can make special-case adjustments to libraries without completely monkey patching or rewriting them. Seems like a reasonable ask of a mature library.

On the streaming verus resident working set argument... Most of what most programmers deal with doesn't have to scale to deal with huge streaming datasets, so it doesn't get the attention.

quasque 23 hours ago 0 replies      
I must have missed something in my reading of the article - what is the relevance of "Condoms for Onions" to the essay?
Offler 1 day ago 0 replies      
Could not agree more with the idea that people should write more well designed, OO code. This exact same issue is prevalent in JS land and it leads to people saying JS can't be used for real development, when in fact the problem is that the code they write is a mess and that's what's holding them back.
Ingaz 1 day ago 0 replies      
I could not understand how classes can help with JSON-example.

It looks the same as XML SAX vs DOM: you feed NN-Mb to DOM-parser (SQLServer xml-datatype for example) and you have problems. No matter: classes or functions.

ehutch79 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the original video this is a response to, was really just saying 'A class should not be one method, that's a function'
iso-8859-1 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Java would have been prettier if he had used the new try-with-resources from Java 7.
akaru 1 day ago 1 reply      
Jesus, learn how to write before, you know, writing so much.
leppie 1 day ago 0 replies      
So in Java, a parameter named 'filename' is automatically aliased to 'path'? Doh...

static String readFirstLine(String filename) {
try {
BufferedReader br = new BufferedReader(new FileReader(path));

So people writes this everyday, yet still fail to do it correctly...

Also, this article was written 1 day in the future. The future looks bleak to me...

Bitcoins can now be used to pay for Domino's Pizza digitaltrends.com
220 points by elleferrer  1 day ago   187 comments top 16
patio11 1 day ago 16 replies      
Bitcoin: a currency for which capability to buy pizza is noteworthy, required custom programming, comes with a 10% novelty tax, and is incapable of maintaining a single price for 24 hours.
mseebach 1 day ago 3 replies      
This is not in any meaningful sense "paying for pizza with bitcoins" anymore that hauling your TV to a pawnshop, they buying pizza with the proceed is "paying for pizza with TVs" - it seems to exchange bitcoins for USD, then it buys a pizza for you with the USD.

From the narrow perspective of a BTC-miner, yes, it's relevant, but for subscribers to the lofty goals of a central-bank-independent/anonymous currency it's pointless.

crdoconnor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Fed #1: Look, we've got all of these transaction details for people who have bought and sold marijuana. How do we chase them down, though?

Fed #2: Well, 1) we'd need to give the stoners something they love dearly. 2) that thing would need to come attached to their address.

SlipperySlope 1 day ago 2 replies      
Has any other bitcoin news media event happened in the last few hours? Not the pizza deal because that is somewhat old news - but this HN post? The price jumped up from 24.5 to 25.5 and I don't see any other trigger!

Back in 2011, I learned about bitcoin mining from HN and solved two blocks myself with a CPU miner. Those coins are worth several thousands of USD today. Thank you HN ...

axusgrad 1 day ago 1 reply      
A few years ago, someone bought a pizza for 10000 Bitcoins. https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=137.0
redthrowaway 1 day ago 1 reply      
This would be far more impressive if Domino's now accepted bitcoin. As it is, it's just a very expensive exchange service.
SlipperySlope 23 hours ago 2 replies      
Bitcoin has the potential to disrupt current payment processing. The main advantage to merchants is fraud reduction. Bitcoin transactions cannot subsequently be reversed by the customer once received by the merchant.

Additionally, bitcoin transactions have lower transaction fees than credit cards, wire transfers, cash couriers, and so forth.

No wonder that more startups are developing bitcoin applications.

jauer 17 hours ago 0 replies      
"However, it's unlikely that the customer would be able to actually track the order through Domino's online order tool."

Actually, so long as they have your phone number for delivery issues/to give the driver directions you can track any Domino's order by phone number on their web site (https://order.dominos.com/en/pages/tracker/#/track/order/). Last time I looked they were passing json around or something and it was easy to scrape.

sams99 1 day ago 1 reply      
Bitcoins can be used to purchase marijuana, Bitcoins can be used to buy Dominos Pizza ... coincidence ... I don't think so.
camus 1 day ago 2 replies      
you can now convert your drug money into pizzas , neat!
mercurialshark 1 day ago 2 replies      
Bitcoin mining can pay for sustenance (in theory). The future is here and it is delicious!
bfwi 1 day ago 3 replies      
The exchange rate between USD and BTC is quite volatile. Either they have to constantly change the bitcoin price, or your pizzas will frequently get quite a bit cheaper or more expensive.
majmun 1 day ago 2 replies      
there will be order pizza API in future

if( dateTime.Now == friday )
orderPizza(pizzaType, pizzaSize);

ravenp 1 day ago 4 replies      
Doesn't that defeat the purpose of anonymity? With coins being hard to get in the first place and a large fee, I can't see anyone using this.
mongol 22 hours ago 2 replies      
How is an income of Bitcoins taxed?
return0 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder how dominos lawyers will feel about their brand name being used in connection with bitcoins, which so far are useful mostly for illegal trades.
Steve Heymann Should Be Fired tarensk.tumblr.com
218 points by aangjie  5 days ago   112 comments top 12
twoodfin 4 days ago 4 replies      
Heymann saw Aaron as a scalp he could take. He thought he could lock Aaron up, get high-profile press coverage, and win high-fives from his fellow prosecutors in the lunchroom. Aaron was a way of reviving Heymann's fading career. Heymann had no interest in an honest assessment of whether Aaron deserved any of the hell he was being put through.

Is there any evidence for any of this seeming mind reading?

gyardley 4 days ago 4 replies      
The comments on this post are depressing.

Whatever your attitude about the White House's goofy petition site, the efficacy of 'online activism', or what-have-you, Aaron Swartz's grieving partner thinks signing this petition will help shed a little light into the circumstances that led to his death.

Maybe she's right, maybe she's wrong, but either way, it only takes a second to do - so just go sign the damn thing.

driverdan 4 days ago 6 replies      
I'm so sick of these useless White House petitions. Yes, they can bring a small amount of attention to issues but otherwise they accomplish nothing other than making people feel good for "signing" a petition.

Has there been a single White House petition that resulted in anything other than an official comment?

jmodp 4 days ago 5 replies      
The death of Aaron Swartz is a loss to his family, his friends, and to society. The focus on the prosecutors, however, makes me uneasy. I can support a review of the conduct of the prosecutors but I can't call for their firing. From what I have read, the conduct of the prosecutors was close to standard procedure. If it was wrong of the prosecutors to make an example out of Aaron, it is equally wrong to make an example of the prosecutors. This should not be about revenge although such feelings are understandable. However, it is the whole judicial system that needs review (and reform).

The focus on the prosecutors takes the focus away from other discussion we should be having such as the following.

Why should these cases linger for so long?

Why is our justice system so dependent on plea bargaining?

Why can't we create have a hacker legal defense fund that would keep cases like this from bankrupting defendants?

Why should expert legal advice be only available to those who can afford it?

What should we tell a friend who is planning to commit a crime on behalf of a cause?

Was Aaron's cause worth anyone's life? This should be a question for everyone, not just prosecutors.

Is any middle ground possible in the conflict between rights holders and advocates of free information?

corporalagumbo 5 days ago 4 replies      
Why not lynch him? If we're going to do mob rule, we should do it right, no? Pitchforks and torches and all.
wisty 4 days ago 0 replies      
I've been spamming this opinion on just about every AS thread: Plea bargaining should go.

It's a SCOTUS issue, but I can't see how it's even constitutional to punish a person for demanding their constitutional right to a trial. And yes - it's a punishment, as the expected outcome of a jury trial tends to be much harsher than a plea bargain. I really doubt under 10% of defendants would demand a trial if there weren't effectively a penalty for doing so. (Aaron never would have gotten 10 years, but even 12 months would still be much harsher than the 6 months they offered).

The only reason to plead guilty should be to save time, costs, and establish contrition (sorry judge, I did it, and I feel bad ... can you give me a slightly lower penalty?)

I understand that public prosecutors and judges are underpaid and overworked, but if they can't do their jobs there's no shortage of law grads out there. It would cost a little more, but if you're locking someone up for 6 months and can't afford give them a day in court (Aaron's case may have been a bit more than a day, but I doubt the average court case would take much time at all) then you shouldn't be prosecuting them at all.

I guess there's not as much scope for corruption though. Privatised prisons are a massive money maker. Public prosecutors and judges probably don't bribe (sorry ... support) their representatives nearly as much as prisons.

qschneier 4 days ago 1 reply      
FYI the petition link is here https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/fire-assistant-us-...

To me signing the petition is simply to let others know my attitude, and to let those who hold the same stand know that they are not alone.

idm 4 days ago 0 replies      
I finally created an account so I could sign this. I didn't sign for Ortiz because I thought she may have had a distant relationship to the case. However, as Heymann's direct supervisor, I thought she erred in that role. Heymann, on the other hand, really does sound like he has a history of throw-the-book-at-them antics, and I think there's a strong need for greater scrutiny of his career and trajectory.
sylvinus 4 days ago 1 reply      
she mentions 11k signatures but the current count is 2,737. What happened? Did they remove duplicates?
geoka9 4 days ago 0 replies      
Do I have to be a constituent to sign?
gattis 4 days ago 0 replies      
This sounds like an excellent way to prevent another suicide... oh wait...
gavinlynch 4 days ago 0 replies      
I hate to be so flippant but: Petitions are one of the most useless forms of expression I've come across.
       cached 13 February 2013 16:11:01 GMT