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Ray Kurzweil joins Google kurzweilai.net
129 points by dumitrue  2 hours ago   54 comments top 13
cs702 41 minutes ago 1 reply      
Thanks in part to the popularity of his books, movie, and speeches, Kurzweil now knows pretty much every AI researcher in the planet, and we can safely assume he's aware of even very obscure research projects in the field, both inside and outside academia.

Joining Google gives him ready access to data sets of almost unimaginable size, as well as unparalleled infrastructure and skills for handling such large data sets, putting him in an ideal position to connect researchers in academic and corporate settings with the data, infrastructure, and data management skills they need to make their visions a reality.

According to the MIT Technology Review[1], he will be working with Peter Norvig, who is not just Google's Director of Research, but a well-known figure in AI.


[1] http://www.technologyreview.com/view/508896/what-google-sees...

GuiA 2 hours ago 4 replies      
Saw him give a talk promoting his latest book last month, was heavily disappointed. Ideas are presented in a way to fit nicely together, but ultimately lack any depth or critical insights. I recall someone calling it "creationism for people with an IQ over 140"; it's a fair description.

It's a shame, he's brought many great contributions to our field, but I fear he has jumped the shark a while ago. Maybe going to Google will force him to work on solutions to problems of which the correctness can be more easily assessed.

brandall10 31 minutes ago 1 reply      
I'm somewhat surprised there are comments debating what use he could be to Google or what interest they might have in him - Google is one of the primary backers of Singularity University. They already have a working relationship. Now he's an employee. Don't get how this could be a stretch.

Singularity U as far as I understand is not really there so people can more quickly get to the point of uploading their brain to the cloud or anything - it's essentially for business strategists who want to have a better grasp of where things will be in 5-10+ years out. If the Goog believes strongly in the Kurz's ability to do this then it seems like a pretty nice score for the Goog.

waterlesscloud 1 hour ago 2 replies      
It's seemed pretty clear to me for some time that Google's real mission is AI/singularity oriented and everything else is just a step along that road. It may not be what the day-to-day view is in the trenches, but it seems like the high level plan.

A hire like this one certainly reinforces that perception.

I don't know if it's truly possible to accomplish, but it's fascinating to see a major company taking steps in that directions.

nealabq 6 minutes ago 0 replies      
What's Kurzweil's motive?

He's a visionary who can deliver a finished product. I think he must have some pretty specific ideas, and he wants to partner with Google.

A few guesses:

- New interfaces to replace keyboard/mouse/touch. Voice, gesture, face, brainwaves. Sign language with humming, blinking, and pupil pointing. Works with tablets, TVs, wearables, cars, buildings, ATMs, etc.

- SuperPets (r) that can pass the Turing test. And do the shopping.

- Surgically implanted Bluetooth. (It could literally be a tooth!)

- Hover skateboards.

- The Matrix. (Or the 13th Floor, which was a better movie in my not-so humble opinion.)

I don't think it'll have to do with life-extension though. That's just too crazy far out-there.

dhughes 2 hours ago 1 reply      
I think he's eying their massive server farm as a spot to park his brain. He just called shotgun for the Singularity.
6ren 1 hour ago 1 reply      
It's as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad. http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/douglas-r-hof...

I see what DRF means, and The Singularity is Near did seem mostly a perfunctory literature review, with important issues not discussed, just skimmed over. (For example, he doesn't discussed the causes of accelerating returns, doesn't support the causes with data, only the effects. Another example: is it necessarily true that we are intelligent enough to understand ourselves? We're effective when we can something decompose hierarchically into simpler concepts... but what if there isn't such a decomposition of intelligence? i.e. the simplest decomposition is too complex for us to grasp. Hofstadner asks if a giraffe is intelligent enough to understand itself.)

But I thought he supported his basic thesis, that progress is accelerating, compellingly. Really did a great job (seems to be the result of ongoing criticism, and him finding ways to refute it).

jonmc12 55 minutes ago 0 replies      
Given Kurzweil's age and stated goals, I'm thinking there is no way he is going to Google unless they are investing in life extension / prevention of death.

Read between the lines - "next decade's ‘unrealistic' visions" - is likely nothing less than brain computer interfaces with the end goal of extending life by storing the entire human mind on a machine. Certainly not far off from Kurweil's timelines on Law of Accelerating Returns. I can understand why the PR does not say this, but it seems clear this is where Kurzweil would want to invest his time.

michaelochurch 1 hour ago 2 replies      
I wonder how the blind allocation process will treat him. His domain expertise is AI, but he didn't do any of that At Google, which means it doesn't exist. So is he going to have to spend 18 months maintaining a legacy ad-targeting product while the 26-year-old Staff SWE next to him works on its replacement? How is he going to handle that?
ilaksh 2 hours ago 3 replies      
I wonder if this will be a wake up call for some of the people who think his predictions of super-human AI are a joke.

I mean even if you don't believe in the Singularity, you must believe in Google, right?

zephjc 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Google continues its move towards the ad-driven singularity.
nonsequ 2 hours ago 2 replies      
Can anyone shed some light on what 'Director of Engineering' might mean at Google? It sounds rather unassuming for a person of his stature.
scarmig 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder if his political/visionary/famous aspects played a positive, negative, or neutral role in the hire.
The Pinboard Investment Co-Prosperity Cloud static.pinboard.in
268 points by adulau  5 hours ago   78 comments top 26
tptacek 5 hours ago 4 replies      
I would like to take this moment to announce PICPC-VC, which is an automatic follow-on investment, structured as uncapped convertible notes, of $50 available to any founder accepted into the PICPC program.
pc 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Stripe will happily waive the first $37 in fees.
il 3 hours ago 1 reply      
"The project aims to draw attention to the fact that if you have access to technical labor, the startup and operating costs for an online project in 2013 are negligible. The biggest obstacle to creating something useful is finding the time to build it and attracting an initial pool of paying customers."

Good thing that in the brave new future world of 2013 labor and marketing are completely free of all costs, opportunity and otherwise.

danielpal 3 hours ago 4 replies      
It does seem like cost are negligible today, but on deeper analysis theres a lot of costs beyond simply hosting.

Just from memory for my startup (Authy.com), initial costs were:

Domain: $1000+

Design: $3000

Video: $3000

Hosting: $400

Depending on your skills this initial costs will vary. An although I agree you don't need external investment to cover them, you should at least plan to invest $10,000US to cover your initial costs.

wilfra 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I applied. Anybody have tips for the interview??? Can any alumni put in a word for me??? What if I use my product to deliver a 6-pack to one of the pinboard founders, will that improve my chances??? Please help!!!
mrkurt 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems like that might be too much money. You're in danger of having people coast along with no real hunger.
zdgman 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Thinking of applying as a single non-technical founder. All I have is an idea but I am sure with the $37 dollars I could hire an awesome programmer to put it together for me!

EDIT: Seeking technical co-founder to help build out idea. Must be prepared to sign NDA before equity can be discussed.

danso 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Before I joined it sometime this year or last, I thought Pinboard seemed like the silliest, most likely-to-peter-out trifle of a service. But now it stands alone from all the other pinning services I used to use, including Instapaper.

In other words, I trust this guy with knowing how to execute (and to the point, probably recognize) successful minimally-viable products.

programminggeek 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Ok, I'm in. I have an idea that will cost precisely $37 dollars to start. This is such perfect timing.
nthitz 4 hours ago 4 replies      
> Is this a joke?

It is not a joke.

> I have no understanding of the concept of humor...

So it is a joke.. Or at the very least tongue in cheek. (With some exceptions,) I doubt hosting is what most VC funding is spent on.

Edit: as he said, "The biggest obstacle to creating something useful is finding the time to build it and attracting an initial pool of paying customers." If you have access to those you probably have $37. I get that he is trying to say technical costs can be negligible for startups. I fail to see how Investment Co-Prosperity Cloud helps anyone in anyway. And thus, I think it's a joke (even if the funding is real).

tibbon 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Someone should start a similar fund, but instead of just throwing large amounts of money at the companies like PICPC, they should help introduce them to their vast network of highly engaged people... perhaps on Twitter.
rtfeldman 5 hours ago 3 replies      
My application: "I'd use the $37 to buy $20 worth of stamps and envelopes, then $17 for a disposable camera and photo development costs. I'd photograph myself putting the stamps on the envelopes and get the photos developed. Then I'd put the photos in the envelopes and mail them to you."
troymc 47 minutes ago 0 replies      
I would use the money to buy signals. Since they're a buck, I could buy 37 signals.
khet 22 minutes ago 0 replies      
We're in a bubble.
lucisferre 3 hours ago 0 replies      
> How is this different from other incubators?

> Participants receive almost no money, and are expected to do everything themselves.

So not really all that different than many (most?) incubators.

mmelin 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Watch out for the PICPC Mafia.
andrewcross 1 hour ago 0 replies      
To take this to the next level, I vote for crowd-funding at the end of it all. I'd put $20 behind my favourite startup from the class and cheer them on. Almost like fantasy sports, but for startups.
justhw 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Is there a get-together day to meet fellow applicants? Perhaps a dinner?
bobfunk 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Great idea :)

From Webpop we'll offer a free project and a startup template (http://app.webpop.com/themes/startup) for anybody accepted into the program.

For some people this might be enough to completely skip the Linode and buy one more beer.

justhw 4 hours ago 0 replies      
If you get rejected, shoot us an email pinboard@funnelpanel.com for a forever free funnel analytics platform.
rdl 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Will you be offering $1.12 in expense reimbursement for the interviews? Will you do checks or cash?

($1.12 won't even cover the minimum BART or Muni or VTA fares now, I think, unless you're a child or senior or disabled or something)

obilgic 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I just sent my idea, let's see he agrees with me to spend my entire winter break just working on this idea... Mostly, because of motivational purposes
evv 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'll wait for the blog post inviting hardware startups too, followed by a post about how $37 gives founders too much runway, and half as much ought to do it.
ececconi 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Is $37 an ode to 37 signals?
geargrinder 4 hours ago 2 replies      
This is $1 less than it takes to sponsor a child for one month through Compassion International (an organization that supports 1.2 million children in the most poverty-stricken areas of the world). Would the money be better spent sponsoring a child or sponsoring a startup?
jfb 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I like the name. Too, I love the service.
Brython - Python to Javascript translator brython.info
125 points by toni  4 hours ago   34 comments top 14
mahmoudimus 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow! This is so awesome. This has been tried before, but I don't remember why it never succeeded.

I wonder if this can get the appropriate community to make it a decent alternative compared with TypeScript and CoffeeScript - or maybe I'm missing something here?

DanielRibeiro 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Repl.it has supported python on the browser for a while: http://repl.it/ an an interpreter, not as a translator, though).

It also supports ruby, scheme, lua and others[1]

What made it impractical was the slowness. Emscripten seems to work fine for clang[2], not so much for interpreted languages. Maybe the translator path can solve this issue.

[1] http://repl.it/#:languages

[2] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/demos/detail/bananabread

dbaupp 3 hours ago 1 reply      
This looks really nice! It seems like the other side of the Python-in-the-browser coin to Empythoned (https://github.com/replit/empythoned) used by repl.it (http://repl.it/).

(Ignore this...)The mime-type is wrong though, there isn't an authoritative mime-type for Python, so it should use a private subtype like text/x-python or application/x-python.

jachwe 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Looks really cool. And i love Python.
However, I think the Python Syntax will make it hard to minify the code, which is probably not that important anyway when not in production. But for production usage it would be cool to have a real compiler instead of an interpreter.

But yeah. Cool stuff.

GauntletWizard 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This is long overdue - The DOM is a great model of objects, but javascript is not the way forward. For all the admittedly great work that has been done to improve it, it's still a mess of a language.

Native support of Python would be my dream (I don't see why there's not 3-4 competing languages in the browser; though the complexity of such is a decent argument against), but this solution seems to be a great stopgap, as well as compatible with future in-browser python implementations.

tnuc 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Looks interesting. Certainly a step in the right direction.

Are there any specs as to the speed of using this? Javascript can be a bit slow on most days, does Brython make it worse?

ct 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Python needs to be natively supported as a scripting lang in browsers. Google, MS, Firefox - make it so!
javis 3 hours ago 0 replies      
This is amazing. I hope one day we'll have the option to use Python as a scripting language for the web.

I've messed around with Python turned on in Chrome, and I think it'd make a great alternative to JavaScript.

T-A 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Also worthy of mention in this context: http://pyjaco.org/about and http://pyjs.org/
1st1 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Good luck with compiling anything without having AST trees and proper parser infrastructure. In it's current state this thing won't fly.
asimjalis 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Very nice. Can this approach be generalized to embed Clojure, Haskell, and other languages into the browser? I love the pervasiveness of JavaScript but I dislike writing it. This is a very good tradeoff.
danjaouen 3 hours ago 0 replies      
While this is an awesome effort, I don't see myself using this without list comprehensions/generators/itertools/etc.
halayli 2 hours ago 0 replies      
No support for python classes?
awolf 3 hours ago 4 replies      
I think compiler is the wrong way to describe this. A computer program that translates between two different high level languages is typically called a language translator.
Google Disabling Exchange Sync for Free Accounts support.google.com
51 points by HaloZero  3 hours ago   42 comments top 16
cbs 2 minutes ago 0 replies      
This is why I tend to prefer the android architecture over the iphone's. If I still had an android phone and a not-google 3rd party provider stopped offering ActiveSync, I'd just use whatever their new thing is.

iPhone says I have to sync using the X Y or Z protocol, android can connect to Exchange and also offers up an api so I can download an app that hooks whatever-the-hell directly into my contact list (or other android system bits).

Its the same for sharing. I click the share button on android and I get a list of all the applications that can take my android.content.Intent.ACTION_SEND intent. On iPhone, I can pick any service I want as long as it's twitter.

benguild 1 hour ago 5 replies      
Um, what the hell?
Isn't Exchange the only way to get true "Push" email and events in the iPhone's Mail + Calendar clients?

I've been using Exchange exclusively instead of IMAP for Calendar and Mail "Push" since I switched to iPhone....

This is absolutely outrageous.

j45 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Everytime I hear about Google starting to charge for something, or taking something away, I remember the time someone just told me to use Google because it was free, and easy.

I should have noted that they hadn't been on the internet in the 90's when Microsoft did the same with Hotmail, and others.

Ultimately, nothing is free.

Still,I can't help but wonder if ads in emails didn't generate enough cash so now it's tiem to charge.

michael_miller 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Does anyone know if Google is paying royalties to Microsoft for use of the Exchange protocol? If so, this may be a sensible move, especially if Google is paying the royalties on a per-account basis.

Also, I'm doubtful that this affects the majority of users: on both major mobile platforms (Android and iOS), Google has a push solution with nearly identical functionality to Exchange.

WrkInProgress 9 minutes ago 0 replies      
While I think this is more a shot across the bow of Windows Phone (no support for cardDav and calDav, and no GMail app from Google), I don't think iOS users get away scott-free either.

I was under the impression that GMail uses their own version of IMAP? The built in iOS mail client does not provide push e-mail via IMAP but instead uses P-IMAP for push e-mail via iCloud.

blhack 1 hour ago 2 replies      
Was there a recent major managerial shift at google or something?

This kindof stings.

joevandyk 1 hour ago 2 replies      
How will calendar syncing work with iOS devices?
BryantD 1 hour ago 0 replies      
IMAP and CalDAV will still work, so non-Android users are not going to be left out in the cold. Contacts can be synced with CardDAV. I get occasional errors syncing with CalDAV but I haven't tried to debug them or anything so it could easily be my stupid.
rdl 1 hour ago 2 replies      
Wow, Google really hates people using Google Mail now. I wonder why -- is this to get people to switch to the premium service (and thus revenue), or to move them to Android?
tomflack 45 minutes ago 0 replies      
Windows Phone needs to support cardDAV and calDAV already.
mahyarm 1 hour ago 2 replies      
This disables contact syncing for iOS devices. I hope this gets solved before the cut off date.
pidg 37 minutes ago 0 replies      
I use the little sync app to sync my work (Exchange) calendar with my personal (Google) one. Is that what they've broken? I'm assuming so, since the download link has disappeared from the page.

The one that used to go to https://tools.google.com/dlpage/gappssync/thankyou.html .

tlrobinson 27 minutes ago 0 replies      
Does this include Gmail, or just Google Apps?
Terretta 26 minutes ago 0 replies      
But, but, we're the product!
simplexion 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Good. Hopefully it will help create a decent open protocol for groupware.
rlu 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Moravec's paradox wikipedia.org
86 points by kristiandupont  5 hours ago   23 comments top 14
tgflynn 4 hours ago 2 replies      
It's an interesting observation and certainly something one needs to be aware of in thinking about intelligent systems but I'm not convinced that the notion that perception is intrinsically harder than logic is quite true. I think the difficulty of a problem is highly dependent on the representations and models used. Computers were developed based on logical and mathematical principles so it makes sense that they are, in some sense, "good" at these kinds of problems. On the other hand traditional logic is incredibly inefficient at dealing with probabilistic and perceptual problems.

It's also not clear that there's really a valid comparison here. In order for computers to recognize objects we need to program them to learn recognition on their own (because programming them explicitly to do it would be far too hard). When we program a computer to solve a logic problem the computer isn't learning to solve that problem, it's the programmer, not the program that "knows" how to solve it.

Trying to teach a neural network to play chess is probably much harder than teaching it to recognize images (at least my very limited experiments suggest this to be true).

jpdoctor 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Funny thing: I was a peon in Rod Brooks' group right at this transition. The robot I worked on was a small monster, which would beam data offboard to a lisp-machine for analysis (machine-vision problems, etc). Just after I left, Rod decided to go down the path of having small simple FSMs connected together, which it turns out displayed some pretty complex behavior. Then Colin Angle showed up.

Boy did I leave at the wrong time. :)

saulrh 4 hours ago 2 replies      
Roboticist here. This is actually a huge problem in robotics and causes all sorts of problems for real robots. For example, my current project is to teach robots how levers work.
joe_the_user 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I would say that this is true only as long as this "adult intelligence" pretty much remains within a single "logical frame" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_%28artificial_intelligenc...).

I would claim that while a single logical frame is easy to simulate on a digital computer, creating and balancing multiple, not-necessarily consistent frames is very difficult and requires as much computer activity or brain activity as the also difficult activities of raw input processing.

One might argue that neural system began as very different systems from digital computers but the evolution of the large human has allowed them emulate discreet, including a computer's digital logic while still doing the balancing of multitudes of environmental constraints which neural system have excelled at for millions of years. And letting "us" conceive-of and to even build computers perfecting this discreet logic. Pretty amazing.

Confusion 2 hours ago 0 replies      
What does it take to have a program come up with the theory of relativity, given the knowledge that was available in 1904?

I think there are all kinds of reasoning skills that we've never been able to test, because they depend on perception and motor skills. It seems possible those would take many more computational resources. I find it hardly surprising that feeding a program abstractions and allowing it to reason about those abstractions is simple. It's the interacting with the real world, correlating abstractions with the real world and coming up with useful new abstractions, that's hard.

I don't think we'll ever have an AI until something is built that can freely interact with the world, freely gather data and freely modify itself to enhance all its abilities. An AI without pressure sensors that ever touched sand will never understand the universe.

baddox 4 hours ago 1 reply      
This seems too obvious to be considered a paradox. The article says that the discover ran contrary to traditional assumptions, but I wonder if this is true, or if so, why it would be the case. Perhaps I just have the luxury of hindsight, but it seems like after the advent of electronic computers, it would quickly become obvious that computers could vastly outperform humans in things like multiplication, or counting words in a large text document, or finding a correct path through a digital maze.

Besides, the distinction between "high-level reasoning" and "low-level sensorimotor skills" seems fairly weak. Checkers already starts to blur the line: the problem space can be modeled as pattern recognition and tactics (like how humans model their own gameplay), or it can be modeled as a "dumb search" through a decision tree (like how a computer algorithm might play). Then you get to something like chess, which has a prohibitively large decision tree to do a "dumb search," then face recognition, then natural language processing, etc.

c8ion 3 hours ago 0 replies      
This doesn't seem very paradoxical to me, and at a layman's level I think one good parallel between a human's "operation" and a computer's operation with regard to this question is as follows . . .

Even as a non-programmer (I am a programmer) I might relate well to an ordinary desktop/laptop running my Excel spreadsheets. I can create a spreadsheet, enter data in cells, enter formulae, format the content beautifully, specify and view charts of the data I'm entering and information I'm computing. I might be able to respect and appreciate the beauty and complexity of how the spreadsheet program was implemented in an abstract sense. I might describe to another person my ideas about how the spreadsheet program was created, its major features and concerns, and its obvious complexity. What I'd be missing though, likely, is (a) the complex interface between what I see and what supports that experience behind the scenes; and (b) the 50+ years of computing technology under the hood that has evolved to support my narrow and visible relations with my Excel spreadsheets.

From the user's view, the Excel spreadsheets, Windows Explorer, the Start button, etc., are the aspects of the computer analogous to a human's thought processes. They're visible and explainable. The user might have some vague notion that files are stored on disk, that there's something called a CPU, that does the computer thing, etc. The user has no clue, though, that the Excel spreadsheet program itself contains but a very small portion of the effort to make its visible manifestations happen. There's an enter support system from file system, CPU, memory, buses all over the place, GPU, video display, chips, specialized interfaces to I/O and other subsystems, ASIC's, semiconductor physics, electricity, magnetism, etc. The hardware, firmware, and software for the latter have had 50 years to evolve and mature. To a normal user these aspects aren't understandable. They understand Excel.

And so for us, we can understand and describe human thought and cognition in an abstract way. But most thought is below the level we're conscious of, and supporting that thought is an entire interface with the physical elements of the body, its nervous system and autonomous function, and the interface of these with the brain.

ilaksh 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Sounds like people posting or contributing to an article like this are aiming at understanding artificial general intelligence. So just search for that. Artificial General Intelligence or AGI.
tathastu 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This may also be an artifact that in terms of "intelligence" we have focused mostly on supervised learning as opposed to unsupervised learning; recent reversals in this trend have been shown to be surprisingly powerful [1].

Consider this: While reading, most humans use a different part of the brain to register consonants and vowels [2]. No matter how much we like to think we learn language in an orderly fashion, that is not the case. Our reading and speaking skills are simply built over time and experience by having neurons connect as we experience visual words and other people talking; formal language instruction probably plays a secondary role of attaching labels to already built neural networks.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/24/science/scientists-see-adv...

[2] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v403/n6768/full/403428a...

Retric 4 hours ago 0 replies      
It's all in how you think about the problem.

Brains are vary good at fuzzy highly parallel tasks and bad at sequential ones. Computers suck at those fuzzy parallel tasks, but are rather good at accurate sequential ones. People are easy to train individually, computers take a lot of up front effort but after that it's easy.

thyrsus 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Restatement in pictures: http://abstrusegoose.com/496
justhw 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Certainly true, but perception and mobility as basic as they are, are a lot complex in nature than intelligence.
osetinsky 2 hours ago 0 replies      
msandford 3 hours ago 0 replies      
It's only difficult because computers are digital devices and all the "hard" things for computers/robots to do aren't done in hardware. Trying to have a single CPU do all of the things a robot needs to do is asinine.

Making a robot hand pick up an egg and a cup of coffee and turn a wrench isn't difficult provided that you build in similar feedback loops and low-level "firmware" that the brain does for us, unconsciously.

But if you did that it would take tens of kilowatts to run a halfway decent robot. And that's clearly ridiculous! So nobody does it.

AngelList Raising A Big Round, To Be Valued at $150 Million Or More techcrunch.com
13 points by zosegal  1 hour ago   2 comments top 2
DanBlake 16 minutes ago 0 replies      
Congrats to Naval and Team.

He was instrumental in helping me out when I was new to the game and of all the investors/angels I have dealt with, he is the most down to earth and awesome in many ways.

I feel very confident that he is one of the few guys in the valley who actually cares about helping entrepreneurs and is not in it for the cash. Angellist's success is proof of that.

bravura 46 minutes ago 0 replies      
What is the correct way to use angel list if you're not currently fundraising? How should one engage on the site?

What is the strategy in deciding who to follow?

How do you attract people to follow you?

Dear Open Source Project Leader: Quit Being A Jerk lostechies.com
313 points by derickbailey  11 hours ago   140 comments top 29
jasonkester 8 hours ago 9 replies      
This isn't restricted to open source project leaders, or even open source developers. You'll find the same childish elitism in pretty much every field of human endeavor.

Programmers certainly do it. Laughing at noobs and being mean to them is pretty much the sole purpose of IRC, unless I'm mistaken. Surfers do it. Climbers do it. I've even seen rocket scientists do it.

The interesting thing is watching which members of a given group behave this way.

It's not everybody. There's a certain skill range where you find this behavior. Generally it ranges between "reasonably good" and "better than most people I know", and it grows exponentially in that range (though, again, only in people who are given to such behavior).

But there it stops. Once you hit a threshold of "better than pretty much everybody in the world, even those who have dedicated their life to this stuff", you don't really see this sort of elitism anymore.

I live in the climbing mecca of Fontainebleau, and can watch first hand as 7a boulderers from around the world descend and act like jackasses trying to scootch their butts off the ground on problems that are hard (but not world class) while scowling with superiority at the lowly rabble that might dare touch the holds of their project. It's best to simply wait until they give up before going over and doing the problem.

But occasionally you see a guy working an 8a. That's pretty stout by anybody's definition (even at font), but he's not shouting or swearing at it. He's just calmly doing his thing, uninterested in being the center of attention, and more than happy to talk to anybody who walks up without the least hint of snoot.

I think you find the computer programming equivalent of that guy from time to time too. He's the "bourne shell" guy that another comment mentions downthread, and he's above the elite.

The cool thing is that you don't have to be as good as him to act like him. All you need do is not be a dick.

tinco 10 hours ago 4 replies      
I've never seen an opensource leader make fun of an honest attempt at contribution. What I have seen is a lot of ignoring and rejecting attempts.

Miguel de Icaza had a blog post on this I think. The problem with large opensource projects is that they have a lot to do, and simply don't have time to thoroughly follow up on all the small contributions that are ridden with naieve errors and plain formatting issues. Not to mention the big ones that come with architectural changes without explanations.

I think it's unfair to call these charity workers jerks, just because they are trying to make light of a dire situation.

Yes it can hurt if your contribution is coldly cast aside, and yes it would be much better if they warmly took you in and taught you in their ways, but if the OSS project leaders don't keep up the constant stream of contributions, improving the project all the time the project will die and all work will have been in vain.

On a side note: which project will you be contributing to this christmas? It is charity time after all and a bunch of hem could use a commit or two from your hands :) just be sure to read their code-style documents ;)

bryanh 10 hours ago 2 replies      
I've not seen this at all.

In my experience, most open source project leaders are very congenial and gracious that you're spending time on their project. I did some poking around and couldn't find any OSS leads that disparaged their contributors.

Not sure if the lack of examples was an attempt to not "name and blame" or if there aren't many good ones. OP, to be clear, this isn't merely leads saying "this code/feature/suggestion is inappropriate" to pull requests, but honest malice?

Symmetry 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I expect a major driver of this is that people always tend to underestimate how much tacit knowledge they're using and so to assume that people who disagree with them are fundamentally stupid, malicious, or crazy when they're really just coming from a different background.


Zelphyr 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Based on all the "I don't know what you're talking about. I've never seen this." comments I think the author should clarify that its not just the OS project leaders who are guilty of this. The smugness of core developers, and even contributors is worthy of a South Park episode.

If you're a young developer, or seasoned for that matter, and the urge to put down the work of someone else tugs at you, consider this;

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Steve Bourne, inventor of the Bourne Shell (as in, /bin/sh on every Unix system ever). Here is a guy who was literally sitting next to the guys who invented Unix WHILE THEY INVENTED IT. And all this time later he's surprisingly humble, friendly, and genuinely interested in what other, younger developers are doing.

If a guy who has earned the right to be smug several times over treats people with respect, what right do we have to do otherwise?

mindcrime 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I couldn't agree more. I've seen this type of attitude from F/OSS "leaders" over the past couple of decades, and it always galls me to no end.

This is why I commit (no pun intended) to try my best to not be like that with any of my projects. Now, to be fair, none of the Fogbeam projects have a lot of outside contributions to date, but every time someone has contacted me, I've tried to respond in a polite, reasonable and appropriate manner.

One thing to consider, when interacting with people you don't know, is that you don't know what you're possibly getting. We got a request once, for permission to take our code, make it work with MySql, and use it for some academic research. Now that was already allowed by the license anyway, but I took the time to respond to the guy, and had a few chat/email interactions with him as worked on his project, even though I had no idea who he was, how important the project was, or if anything would ever come of it. A year or so later, I get an email saying "Hey, here's a pre-print of the paper we published, it's being presented at $PRESTIGIOUS_CONFERENCE, and we mention your project in the paper". That turns out to be a nice "feather in the bonnet" for us and helped get the project some visibility it would not have gotten otherwise.

Honestly, I don't see any value in being dismissive, insulting or demeaning towards anyone, just because they aren't already an expert in your project.

ynniv 8 hours ago 2 replies      
I played pull request with a framework recently. There was something that I wanted to do that could only be done if the framework had fully chained a JavaScript function (ie, forwarded all parameters, included "this", and returned the result). It was an easy fix, but it turned out that what appeared to be an omission was intentional due to very specific edge cases in JavaScript that prevented someone from doing something undocumented but maybe useful. A conflict between two users doing things that the framework did not intend seems like a tough decision, one that makes sense to roll with the status quo. Except that from the issues database, I can see that I was not the only person to ask for this change. My pull request was actually proposed 3 or 4 other times, and there were plenty of other people who had found a sort-of-workaround and were shipping code using this workaround. So I sat down and spent a good amount of time investigating the edge cases to figure out what should be done, wrote it all up, linked to the other people who were having problems or working around them, and submitted a new pull request. Again, the results were unsatisfying: closed because they didn't think people should be doing that. Except that they already are doing it in a hackier way. I guess that other lone guy who was doing something really strange but filed his bug report first wins after all. This whimsy is disrespectful, and pushes people to use something else, start their own, or spend time telling the world that you don't know how to play nicely. In the end, maybe that doesn't matter to some maintainers. They had their fame and their fun and they move on.
jongold 11 minutes ago 0 replies      
Just taking a second to thank you for all your work on Marionette, and your seemingly endless contributions to Backbone/Marionette questions on StackOverflow Derick - I'm nowhere near the level to be contributing to Marionette but your humbleness inspires me to use your code every day :
tytso 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The author thinks an open source elite is someone with high visibility in a project that is "well known by tens or hundreds of thousands of people"? That's a pretty low bar. Personally, I'd call someone in that category a wannabe. On the internet, it doesn't take a lot to have that much recognition.

I consider people who are "the elite" to be folks like Larry Wall. Or Guido van Rossem. Or someone like Ian Lance Taylor (who has hacked on many things in the GCC/binutils toolchain). Their projects are known by a bit more than a mere "hundreds of thousands of people", and they are definitely not jerks.

The reality is if you want to be very successful, especially in a project where all of the contributors are volunteers, you can't be a jerk, because then people won't want to work with you. In the very early days of NetBSD, there were a quite a few people who were quite disagreeable to be around on the core team list. One of them was in my work and social circles, and it's one of the reasons I choose to work on Linux instead of NetBSD. But even NetBSD is known by more than "hundreds of thousands" of people.

And that's the key --- yes, being a jerk will probably be a strong negative factor if you want your project to be one of the really top, well-known, successful projects. But you can a jerk and still have a moderately successful OSS project. Because at the end of the day, for better or worse, people will overlook someone being a jerk if they have a good, solid product to offer. This is true outside of the OSS world as well, of course. As far as I'm concerned neither Larry Ellison nor Steve Jobs would win the nicest person of the year award. But their products were sufficiently good that people were willing to overlook their personality traits, and indeed even idolize them as positive examples of leaders in the Tech industry.

nullc 8 hours ago 0 replies      
There is an unfortunate flipside to thisâ€" people who show up with ALL CAPS demands, proclaiming your incompetence, because of some missing functionality that they believe to be so obvious but can't seem to completely explain on their own.

The best way to respond to that is to politely request what you need and then ignore if they won't be helpful. ... but humans don't always respond in the best way: Another possible response is to respond harshly and critically in order to generate a hierarchy: "I am not here to serve you. Your patches may be accepted if it suits my fancy.". Neither extreme of being high and mighty nor of allowing people to simply abuse you is ideal.

lazyjones 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I've seen this a couple of times but not after pull requests, but simple (verified even) bug reports or feature requests.

Let me quote a recent example from IRC:

> XXXXX interesting how the number of new github issues went down since i started ignoring them :)

> XXXXX could be coincidence, but i suspect having a few open tickets discourages the more frivolous requests we usually got there"

Nice attitude there! After reading several such comments and some diatribe on github (following a bug report), I really had difficulties justifying the use of the software developed by this guy, especially after having been warned about this earlier by a co-worker ("the project is fine, XXXXX is the only problem with it") and not taking it seriously because I thought he was exaggerating (I'm not really into personality cult etc.).

Spearchucker 2 hours ago 0 replies      
That this still happens is sad.

I was on the receiving end way back in 2002. I'd just written an RS232 library for the .NET Compact Framework that ended up in the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework Core Reference[1]. It was also referenced by an MSDN article[2], so got a lot of attention.

I left a bug in there which broke anything that didn't use default settings. The abuse was astounding. It was the last code written on my own time that I ever published.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/book.aspx?ID=5960...

[2] http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa446565.aspx

codex_irl 7 hours ago 2 replies      
I've called out more than one "leader / boss" out in meetings / code-reviews for being excessively mean & shaming noobs who are genuinely trying their best & are hungry to learn.

Constructive criticism is a great thing, but telling someone they will never work again in this industry because they make a small CSS error on their first ever post-college project is another.

I've been fired from one job for standing up in a meeting and calling the boss a self-important asshole & refusing to retract it.

Life is too short to let these type of people get you down, we are all just floating on a rock in space & going to die in a few years....what's important: http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/14su4p/he_sang_to_her_...

marcamillion 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I thought this was exclusive to the Rails community - but it is good to see it's not.

I am glad someone is speaking out against it, because it sucks.

One of the major reasons people don't learn to be better developers is because of "elite developers" that have come before them that take pride in humiliating them.

This article is very on-point. I nearly stopped learning Rails because of the torment from #RubyOnRails on IRC. But then I remembered it is the internet and everybody is probably a dog.

I am glad I didn't stop learning - and I am very conscious of this with "noobs" now.

debacle 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree with others. This is useless without context - I have never seen this actually happen.

"stupid pull request of the day site:twitter.com" returns one result, and it isn't negative in any fashion.

tjbiddle 6 hours ago 0 replies      
There are a lot of other angles we can look at this as well: The user ("I need.."), The cocky contributor ("This is right, accept my pull request!"), The belittled contributor ("I'm not sure.. but let me try.."), The helpful leader ("I can't accept this because it will break xyz.") The douche leader (As the article stated: "LOL!"), and the cocky leader ("No, that's wrong." - And then they realize later it's actually right, but they're attitude made them not look at a worthy contribution in the right light correctly.)

The article makes a good point - But there's a lot more we can take out of this, that being that for any community to succeed, it needs to be just that: A community. A place where others help each other grow.

sp332 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Chances are, mr or mrs open source elite, you have been on the receiving end of this in your life.

Exactly, and that's why they do it to others! That may be their default (not consciously-chosen) behavior because it's what they got used to.

spot 10 hours ago 1 reply      
useless without pointer to the actual behavior.
sonabinu 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Glad that someone is talking about this. There are times when a little encouragement can go a long way. A novice maybe very excited about learning and being belittled at that stage can be deflating. This is especially true of people who come from a totally different field, or are young and enthusiastic about contributing.
joering2 8 hours ago 2 replies      
My favorite comments I will never forget from my ex-CTO:

"you are wrong about this, because I say you are wrong." [turned out: he was dead wrong!]

"stay home if you want to answer phonecall from your dad." [knowing he is in the hospital]

"today you have been all day on the phone." [after talking with dad for 3 min 35 sec]

"stop pinging google to check if the net is working."

"ping doesn't tell you anything."

"I hate those Chrome tabs -- they are affecting my search results."

"I'm a CTO - I can be rude."

"Don't work here if you have family."

"If we succeed with this project [24-months period], we may get million dollars bonus" [perfectly knowing its impossible and simply not true]

"I fixed Asia!" -"Cool!" -"What did you do?" -"At 3am? I was with my wife and kids." -"Well, I hope that helped alot in your career." [next day, after he IT-supported Asia at 3am]

"You see my desk? Apple, Apple, Apple..."

"You are on a McDonalds French Fry Guy schedule, ha!" [after working 14 hours straight from 7am till 9pm]

"You work long hours and are not paid for those, because you are upper managment and should be proud of it". [after working 14 hours straight]

"Don't ask for that, you are not upper managment!" [when something failed to work and needed to figure the details to troubleshoot]

"You are upper managment, you should know this!" [when I didn't know something IT-related]

"You won't get the bonus, you are not upper managment!" [bonus question around Christmas time]

[email provider down; on the phone with support] "Why are you calling them? chat-support is faster!"

[days later, the same issue; on the chat] "Stop wasting time on chat, just grab a phone and call them!"

[after 12 hours straight work on 8hr schedule] "I completed the project, I am going home" -"Fine with me, as long as you are Symfony Framework specialist" [next day after staying extra 2 hours to understand basics of Symfony Framework] -"Never mind, we won't use them anyway!"

Those were the perks.. there were some better here and there, but honestly I started making notes way too late. But my tech-friends always loved to ask whats new with my CTO. They used to call him "Chief Toilet Officer", because frankly speaking he couldn't do shit right.

Karunamon 10 hours ago 7 replies      
A part of the hacker mindset ("hacker" as used in the jargon file, and in this site's title) is intolerance of stupidity. Ignorance is one thing, that can be learned away. Stupidity is wasting developer's time by asking questions that are addressed in the documentation or that can be instantly solved with five minutes on Google, or submitting pull requests that go against a published style guide, are plainly wrong or buggy, and so on.

I'm going to come right out and say this: Some people should not contribute to a FOSS project. Whether that's because they can't deal with other people or because they're not willing to put in even a modicum of effort to work effectively with other people. If you go up to a group of people who are used to doing things according to procedure X and you blithely ignore it, you really should not be surprised when your efforts are met with derision at best and hostility at worst.

While I understand the point the author is trying to make here, and even sympathize to a point, the mindset isn't going to change, nor should it. The bar to entry is a part of what make high quality projects high quality.

b1daly 3 hours ago 0 replies      
When I was high school I had the opportunity to work with an aspiring music producer. It was great fun and a formative experience because he had a notably kind and supportive demeanor, coupled with focus. He went on to become a superstar producer and to this day when I run into him he has exactly the same demeanor.

This leads me to think some aspects of personality and how we treat others are innate. Jerks can be talented and successful too, and just remain Jerks. It takes all kinds.

kmfrk 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't see this in GitHub projects (so far), but this is the usual experience when asking for help on Stack Overflow or Freenode.
carlisle_ 9 hours ago 3 replies      
I have to wonder how many people see Linus Torvald's behavior and think what he does is OK. Linus walks a VERY fine line, and his insults and demeaning comments are usually directed at people who "know better."

I have had a few drinks so it's hard to properly articulate what I mean, but maybe somebody else knows what I'm talking about.

saosebastiao 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The worst behavior I have ever seen comes from a commercial open source project. I know they aren't paying customers...but they are bug finders and bug reporters, user experience testers, and even feature-expanding code contributors. I would be appalled if I employed the guy.
hnruss 6 hours ago 0 replies      
From what I've seen, most of the contributors to large projects are one-time contributors who just want to implement their one cool idea for the project. Maintainers who want to encourage those sort of contributions need to do everything they can to lower the barrier of entry to contributing, which includes being positive towards new contributors.
zzzeek 8 hours ago 1 reply      
this blog post has a major omission of any specifics whatsoever. I've never seen this kind of behavior, and I'm having a great urge to say something like, "oh well because PHP/Ruby/etc". But that is all prejudicial.

Won't we be given some specifics so that we don't have to guess what famous OSS author actually typed "HAHAHA" at a pull request ?

fijal 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This completely doesn't ring the bell for me, but maybe Python community that I typically interact with is different. Maybe we're such jerks that we don't even know how much of jerks we're.
TeeWEE 10 hours ago 0 replies      
What is this, I don't even…
KA Lite: Bringing Education To Those Who Need It Most thisisyourbrainonblogs.wordpress.com
33 points by mtorourk  3 hours ago   discuss
Show HN: Introducing KA Lite, an offline version of Khan Academy jamiealexandre.com
26 points by jamalex  3 hours ago   2 comments top 2
stchangg 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Congrats, Jamie and team! As a Khan Academy developer I can attest that this was a substantial technical undertaking.

"While it's possible that within, say, 10 years, internet access will have reached near global ubiquity, that shouldn't stop us from actively finding ways to work around its current limitations, to reach populations in need; waiting 10 years means letting already disadvantaged communities fall another generation behind, perpetuating the global digital divide as we move into whatever its next instantiation may be."

++. Kudos for highlighting (and tackling) the compounding nature of inequality.

hayksaakian 2 hours ago 0 replies      
this is a little ridiculous, three discussions on the same exact topic on the home page at once?
you can't tell me all of those votes were legitimate.
A vim interface for gmail: Vmail danielchoi.com
92 points by ezl  7 hours ago   53 comments top 18
3amOpsGuy 3 hours ago 5 replies      
When will we get a "programer's web browser"?

I mean a full blown browser of current generation abilities, but with the option of completely keyboard driven interaction. Concise input of small commands (navigation, data extraction, exploring and massaging of extracted data, data uploading etc.) that can be composed to form more complex interactions.

It should have full interoperability with the CLI, don't go re-inventing grep, sed etc. but instead stand on their shoulders by interoperating fluently with them. In practice i expect this means the "programer's browser" functions as a full blown terminal emulator too.

If it were a text editor (and it should be a competent one of those, but the web is more than a textual medium so some implementations should certainly offer richer functionality than plain text editing) then the net and its many protocols would be its filesystem.

It should be extensible, but only by 1 language. Competing programer's browsers could offer alternative extension languages as their differentiator.

It should be entirely open for extension, by that i mean more than plugins, i should be able to rip out core parts of it to be replaced with alternative implementations (A's needs won't match B's needs and so on).

It shouldn't go too far though, it shouldn't be a full blown operating system: why re-invent the wheel, reuse the thousands of man years effort in existing OS's. It should be multi platform.

We almost have the requisite component parts available now, who's going to get the ball rolling with the new wave of "programer's browsers"?

algorias 3 hours ago 1 reply      
> To save you keystrokes, Vmail provides alternative key mappings for ,* , ,#, and ,!

Unfortunately, vmail doesn't seem to consider internationalization important at all. US users save a single press of the shift key when starring messages (,8 instead of ,*), but on a german keyboard, where the star is shift-3 instead of shift-8, the shift-less version of starring trashes the message instead. Not a typo I'm eager to make.

Problems like this are, sadly, way too common.

baydinalex 5 hours ago 1 reply      
I love it. For decades, my flame war offensives against the evil crusaders of Emacs have stalled out against their Maginot Line of "But Emacs can be your mail client too!" This is like a Blitzkrieg of flame war glory. PARIS PREPARE TO BE MINE!!!
freshhawk 4 hours ago 2 replies      
I hope you at least felt some pain in your soul when you wrote a vim plugin for email that was gmail only.

Why on earth would you do that?

kecebongsoft 6 hours ago 1 reply      
While this is awesome, I am one of those guys who feel uncomfortable to store my raw password in a dotfile, not to mention I'm managing my dotfiles in Github, authentication in every run doesn't seem convenient either. I see that this happens in other places such as Github gists-terminal and some twitter-terminal clients. Is there any way we can store these credentials locally in a safer way like SSH keys?.
pge 6 hours ago 3 replies      
for vim fans, another option is mutt or alpine with vim as your editor. Both work with gmail.
tommorris 5 hours ago 0 replies      
This is pretty awesome. I've used Mutt in the past but always found it a little bit over-the-top. This is very, very simple to setup and does the job pretty well.

But better than that... oh my word, the documentation. How I wish every command line app had that kind of documentation. Just one page that documents the shit out of it.

There's only one thing that would make it better: if that documentation came bundled with the RubyGem so I could read it offline with `ri`.

thezilch 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Does it have support for two-factor auth? In the event of 2FA/MFA, I'm assuming one needs to generate an application-specific password and keep that in the .rc?

Alternatively, I see there are requests for using OAuth, which would be a similar approach to have a "token" that can be revoked.

eggoa 5 hours ago 1 reply      
To me, here at work on a Windows machine, that looks like way too many dependencies for me. Looks cool, though.
purephase 6 hours ago 0 replies      
This is insane. Amazing, but insane.
tmcw 6 hours ago 0 replies      
dysoco 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow, I love the idea.
I have always wanted to manage my mail via terminal, but didn't want to set up Mutt or something similar.
alexpopescu 6 hours ago 1 reply      
iawesome!thanks danielESC:wq
tibbon 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Also by Dan: instantwatcher.com
skrebbel 4 hours ago 0 replies      
cool! plain curiosity: why gmail-only instead of imap?
rymith 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Thanks to google killing free Google Apps accounts, I won't get a chance to use this. It's really sad because this is exactly what I was looking for.
Tichy 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Why gmail and not email?
wheeee 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Does this mean that vim is now officially finished?
KA Lite: Khan Academy for the 70% of the world without an Internet connection dylanbarth.com
24 points by dlnb  2 hours ago   2 comments top
pstuart 1 hour ago 1 reply      
It would be great if the KA site could be optimized for tablet usage -- combined with this, one could have a very cost-effective beginnings of a "Diamond Age" like device.
New Dropbox for iOS dropbox.com
36 points by rkudeshi  5 hours ago   7 comments top 5
trustfundbaby 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Still can't sort folder items by date added or date modified. sigh.

I have folders with tons of photographs in them that I upload from my desktop. Whenever I'm on my ipad or iphone, finding a picture I just uploaded is an absolute nightmare if I can't remember the name ... I usually have to go load up dropbox.com in my browser, do the sort there and download the file.

I guess my particular use case doesn't occur that often :(

grandalf 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Is it possible to share a folder via the IOS app? I keep trying to do this and can't figure it out and not sure if it's just me or if it's not possible.
0x0 3 hours ago 0 replies      
A little nitpick on a glitch that I immediately noticed:

The navigation bar (title bar) up on top looks pretty horrible. Opacity of the icons flickers when navigating back and forth, and "very long folder names..." are truncated differently the moment animation starts, causing them to jump around and overlay buttons for the duration of the animation.

justjimmy 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Does it still compresses the photos on the iPad? Cause that's the only thing holding me back from subscribing.
cgomez 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Saving a picture finally downloads it at full resolution rather than a horribly compressed one. Thumbs up.
BarkBox's road to 20k customers and 95% retention perfectaudience.com
20 points by brandnewlow  3 hours ago   2 comments top
jessaustin 25 minutes ago 1 reply      
Some people are going to be weirded out by this "retargeting" thing. I don't think it quite meets the level of something that privacy advocates can complain about, though. It's just an agreement from ad networks that they'll show your ads when they see your cookies in a request. Ad networks function by reading cookies, so if you accept their existence you accept the basic practice. This is just an interesting new wrinkle.
Tcl the misunderstood (2006) antirez.com
154 points by zeitg3ist  12 hours ago   87 comments top 30
jgrahamc 11 hours ago 2 replies      
A little Tcl story. When John Ousterhout interviewed me to be VP of Engineering at the Tcl company (Scriptics) many years ago I told him I knew nothing about Tcl at all. He told me that the two great virtues of Tcl were that it was incredibly easy to learn and had very powerful regular expression facilities (I think he was trying to contrast with Perl which also has great regular expressions).

I blurted out "Don't those two things contradict each other? You can't have something that's easy and have regular expressions!".

I immediately figured I'd totally blown my chances and discovered afterwards from the recruiter that the one thing he really liked in candidates was to be challenged. Me and my big mouth got me that job.

RyanZAG 11 hours ago 2 replies      
As others have said, most uses of Tcl was no doubt Eggdrop bots. I made an eggdrop bot to do some interesting stuff in an irc channel. I also learned nice and important lesson in the process about Tcl and dynamic execution in general (such as in SQL) : Fully dynamic execution is great as long as you spend more time checking input than actually writing logic.

As an example, you can do the following in Tcl as the article points out:

  set a pu
set b ts
$a$b "Hello World"

Awesome! I'll use this kind of dynamic behavior to let users of the bot have more freedom. Bzzzzt. This was back in the 90s and the idea of 'SQL injection' wasn't as widespread as it is now... Getting around these kind of injections in Tcl requires constant vigilance and sometimes is very confusing.

Another interesting issue is the lack of types and how Tcl interprets them. Ask the user for a number and check if its between 1 and 3, and reject if it isn't. Works fine until the user tries the number 0x01, which matches 1 in some places but not in others. Gave me a lot of appreciation for typed languages where an int really is an int.

engtech 7 hours ago 0 replies      
We use TCL for a couple of core scripts at work because most of the tools we spend millions of dollars on in licensing use TCL as their embedded interpreter (I work in EDA/semiconductors).

I find the most unproductive use of my time at work is when writing TCL code. Switching to TDD has helped a lot, but I still find the language maddeningly frustrating.

I hate that this is both valid syntax with wildly different meanings:

   set env(VAR) "value"
set $env(VAR) "value"

I hate that TCL error messages have no prefix, so there is no way to grep for them (the 3rd party tools merge STDOUT and STDERR to a single log).

I hate that the TCL error message line numbers are RELATIVE TO THE PROCEDURE instead of relative to the file.

I hate that the language is fully interpreted and not compiled, so you can have a syntax error in a code branch that isn't triggered just lying there for months if you don't fully unit test every code path.

I do not understand how anyone could like TCL unless they were using a linting tool to give the robustness of debugging that most other languages have.

Because of our code base and the 3rd party tools I'm not able to lint our code and it is a brutally painful language to debug.

jgw 11 hours ago 4 replies      
I actually was forced to use Tcl recently on a project, and I came across this article at the time.

It so happens that I was getting into Lisp at the same time, and the parallels between them are obvious. You effectively get macros, so it's a pretty expressive language. There's even an object system in Tcl based on CLOS. But ultimately, it feels like a language with lots of good ideas, implemented poorly. I'm not a PL theorist or purist, but "everything is a string" constantly feels like a really poor abstraction.

Tcl is practical for small, quick projects, but you soon run into insane things like the fact that curly brackets are syntactically significant in strings - and comments.

zorlem 11 hours ago 4 replies      
One of the biggest advantages of TCL in my opinion is the simplicity of its syntax. The lexer is quite simple, straightforward and easy to create. Properly written TCL interpreters are quite small and memory efficient. Because of this TCL used to be quite a popular choice as an embedded scripting language for various appliances (eg. Cisco used TCL for their VoIP/IVR scripts).

Nowadays Lua has mostly taken TCL's place as an embedded scripting language of choice and I must say I'm a little sorry, there are some things that I miss from TCL.

bretthopper 11 hours ago 1 reply      
My first experience with Tcl was before I knew anything about programming. Tcl was the scripting language for Eggdrop IRC bots, which back in the day was pretty much the only IRC bot around: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggdrop.

I remember being annoyed by Tcl back then when I was modifying existing scripts. Although now I can see that it probably isn't the easiest language to learn for a beginner.

I'm sure a lot of people's first, and probably only, experience with Tcl was from Eggdrop bots.

gautamc 9 hours ago 4 replies      
My first real programming job involved building web apps using OpenACS - http://openacs.org/. OpenACS was all Tcl executing in AOLServer and used postgres or oracle. It was awesome.

I Learned a lot from "Tcl for Web Nerds" and its companion "SQL for web nerds" (all links listed here: http://openacs.org/doc/ ). Back when I started Tcl, I was more like a emacs-lisp script kiddie. Because Tcl was so easy to learn and because OpenACS was such a great MVC style framework, it didn't take long to master the framework itself and dive into the interesting things that were related more with the architecture of a web-app and not just the syntax of a programming language.

The "whereas" poem, as I like to call it, that announced Miguel Sofer's inclusion in the Tcl Core team was real fun to read too - http://code.activestate.com/lists/tcl-core/1983/

Miguel Sofer had described an algorithm for representing hierarchical data in a RDBMS. What he put forward could be thought of as a different kind of a nested set representation. Whereas the nested-set approach involved keeping track of two numeric values (left & right) for each node in our relational records based tree, Miguel Sofer's algorithm would use the ability to lexically sort a base159 encoded string. This way, tree operations could be implemented via sub-string matching and sorting.

His algorithm was implemented in OpenACS because it allowed an efficient implementation of the OpenACS nodes table. Each URI in OpenACS has a node record associated with it and all these nodes are hierarchical records - http://openacs.org/forums/message-view?message_id=16799

The OpenACS nodes system allows the implementation of a fine grained permissions system which enables a child node to auto-magically inherit the permissions of its parent node - this is, if the child node didn't have any specific permissions set on itself - http://openacs.org/doc/permissions-tediously-explained.html

When I was learning ruby I implemented this algorithm using active-record - https://github.com/gautamc/hierarchical_objects The utdt.edu link hosting the pdf that Miguel Sofer created is broken now; I found a copy here: http://www.tetilab.com/roberto/pgsql/postgres-trees.pdf

Symmetry 11 hours ago 2 replies      
So, here's this article purporting to answer the misconception that Python is superior to Tcl in every conceivable way and, erm, I left with the impression that Python is superior to Tcl in every conceivable way except that Tcl is a smaller language. If you really want to do meta-programming in Python by putting together strings then eval() is right there waiting for you... but there are good reasons people try not to overuse it.
geoka9 10 hours ago 2 replies      
For me, the best feature of Tcl is actually not part of the language itself. It's a tool built on top of Tcl -- Expect.

Expect can be used to automate CLI tasks, but for me it is indispensable for testing programs with text-only UIs (I get to write a lot of those).


Derbasti 2 hours ago 0 replies      
A few years back I researched for a scripting language for an embedded project. The choice came down to Tcl, Lisp and Lua. We went with Lua and liked it a lot.

After reading this article I wonder how Lua and Tcl compare. It seems like Tcl is more like Lisp than Lua really. Does anyone have experience with any two of those languages and would care to comment on their differences and similarities?

stiff 10 hours ago 1 reply      
For a while TCL was also the state of the art in web applications development:


nicholassmith 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I had to use Tcl/Tk for a Uni project way back when, at the time I wasn't a fan but I looked at it again slightly later and appreciated how powerful it could be when you scratched the surface. It's definitely misunderstood, but if people give it a chance there's a lot to like.
karl_gluck 10 hours ago 2 replies      
The author missed one of the other huge advantages of Tcl: it is extremely easy to add Tcl to a C++ project as a scripting language. It took me about half an hour, and I had never done it before. Once added, it makes interactive debugging of big projects almost pleasant.
rmcastil 9 hours ago 1 reply      
If any of you wonder whether you use an application everyday that still utilizes Tcl/Tk, you may be surprised (https://github.com/git/git/tree/master/git-gui/lib).
narrator 2 hours ago 0 replies      
upvar was a unique feature of TCL that was also a really bad idea.


ww520 1 hour ago 0 replies      
TCL has the closest syntax to English in term of defining DSL. Other languages claiming DSL support is just glorified functions.
kingmanaz 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Here is SICP author Hal Abelson's treatment of Tcl from yesteryear: http://philip.greenspun.com/tcl/

There are more legacy Tcl articles at "reddit.com/r/tcl".

hartcw 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I use TCL in a consumer app that I develop, to allow users to load and run scripts that control the behaviour of the app. Its for controlling cameras (smart shooter), and actually I usually end up writing the scripts for my customers. But its amazing what you can achieve quickly and easily due to how flexible TCL is, users are amazing when I email back a custom script for some fancy HDR photo bracket the same day they request it!

And I myself am surprised at how many photographers have managed to write their own scripts, even non-programmers. I've been thinking about adding support for python as the scripting language, but I can't justify it just for been fashionable.

nonewtcl 8 hours ago 2 replies      
There's no shame in calling Tcl a toy. It provides a fun way to learn lispy concepts and it has helped teach many that a simple lanaguage can be powerful. But I think Salvatore was unwise even in 2006 when he said Tcl isn't a toy. He is clearly a hacker in the best sense and his writing's appreciation for Tcl shows his respect for its power and simplicity. He was not
the first, nor will he be the last, to sing such praises.

Sadly his apparent ignorance or lack of concern regarding Tcl's numerous flaws leads me to question his engineering maturity. For instance, nowhere did he warn of how simple typo errors in Tcl's variable names and interpolated strings leads to a layer of engineering hell beyond anything Dante imagined, a place I've been and vowed never to return.

If you really think you need to expose something like Tcl in your product, please think again. These days you would be better off with something like Javascript or Lua. I strongly suspect the Salvatore of 2012 would agree.

jjr 9 hours ago 0 replies      
With all the discussion about the syntax, some of Tcl greatest features are overlooked.
The article could do with an update. I would like to see the current state of Tcl compared to node.js
Possibly the tcl core beats node.js on many points.
benjamincburns 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I love this article. The few times I've worked with Tcl I've found it an absolute joy to use. I just hope that people don't mistake his conclusion.

The core benefit to Tcl is also its main detriment. Tcl takes off in places like OpenOCD because its incredibly powerful simplicity makes it incredibly tiny. You can throw it in pretty much anywhere as an embedded language and it will buy you a TON of functionality. If you want it to be performant, however, you'll wind up writing a lot of piecewise optimizations which will ultimately cause you to lose the size benefit.

So no, it's not a toy language by any means. And yes, its simplicity yields incredible LISP-like power. However, it's not a language I'd _ever_ use to write the core of anything where performance is of concern.

buro9 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Unmatched brackets in includes.

Bane. Of. My. Life.

malkia 9 hours ago 0 replies      
My exposure to TCL, or rather dialects were through Autodesk Maya (The MEL Script there seems a bit like TCL, IMHO). The other thing was Metal Gear Solid (PSX). Konami used TCL to set up the level entities - enemies, traps, etc. Internally each command was hooked through a "C" function that took argc, argv, and to my shock (and then grin), there were tons of "C" functions that we working like main() - e.g. parsing arguments. For a moment I thought - this must be slow, then I understood - it did not matter - it served it's job, and allow non "C" programmers (game designers, scripts) to set-up objects easy in the "C" world. The whole thing had to fit in 2MB along with textures.

Later working at our studio, I've stumbled on couple of sound tools written in TCL, and lately had to dabble once in a while in the MacPorts land (also TCL).

But then most of the people I've asked they don't know about it...

riveralabs 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Back in the day TCL was the most efficient way to do a GUI prototype in a non MS Windows environment.
sigzero 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I like Tcl. I like that it is quirky and that it different enough (non-algol) to be interesting to me. I like the folks in the community as well. BTW 8.6 is just around the corner.
kriro 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Never used Tcl, nice overview.

  set a pu
set b ts
$a$b "Hello World"

Seems pretty cool.
uplevel is neat as well. The modifications = DSL approach seems interesting, too.

mutation 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I usualy use Tcl for my personal projects. It's nice and simple but powerful language, and the only real problem with it is that there's too many old libraries that can't work with multiple but different versions of Tcl on the same system.
meaty 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I think people who used Tk with other languages (which TBH it didn't really fit cleanly with) were scared away from Tcl.

I never found a use for Tcl myself but I had no problem with it.

codegeek 10 hours ago 0 replies      
My first job coding was in Tcl/Tk. it was a vendor system for trading,accounting and only supported Tcl/Tk even for APIs. It was fun. I had never heard of Tcl before that.
circa 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I first read this as TTL. which is also often misunderstood.
Thank HN: You helped the FreeBSD Foundation raise over $43K in three days freebsdfoundation.blogspot.com
138 points by profquail  12 hours ago   22 comments top 5
cperciva 11 hours ago 1 reply      
$200k more to go -- if you're building a startup using FreeBSD, please consider donating. Tarsnap donates every year.
jburwell 11 hours ago 2 replies      
Since they use the FreeBSD userland, it seems appropriate for Apple to kick in a little cash to the FreeBSD Foundation. The remaining ~$150k is an utter bargain considering how important those pieces are to iOS and Mac OS X ...
_delirium 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting to see the year-to-year changes among big donors (http://www.freebsdfoundation.org/donate/sponsors.shtml). Looks like NetApp and Google upped their contributions significantly, but Hudson River Trading dropped theirs (or is possibly waiting until the very end of the year). Also, there was a $50k+ anonymous donation in 2011.
soapdog 5 hours ago 1 reply      
I wish I could donate more than 50...
heymishy 9 hours ago 0 replies      
They had this same thing over at Slashdot (reworded of course). Good work all the same.
Have Scientists Found Two Different Higgs Bosons? scientificamerican.com
47 points by ColinWright  7 hours ago   38 comments top 7
hardtke 3 hours ago 1 reply      
The most important lesson I learned in graduate school came from a scientist at Los Alamos who told me "three sigma effects happen in physics much more often than they should"
gwillen 6 hours ago 3 replies      
I (with minimal physics background, I admit) would bet on systematic error. We're seeing one mass from one decay path, and a _very slightly different_ mass from a different decay path. The best explanation seems to _me_ to be that, for one or both of the decay paths, there's a problem in how we're computing the Higgs mass.
RockofStrength 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Of course everyone is freshly aware of the neutrino fiasco, so this anomaly will probably be handled with extra skepticism and timidity. Without more data we can only make conjectures based on Occam's razor, etc.
brudgers 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Other than monotheistic bias, why should multiple species of god particles be surprising?

Perhaps the first should be called "Odin" and the second "Loki."

Zenst 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Why stop at 2, for all we know others are created by the impact in another universe(s). We don't really know. But sure is fun and the whole higgs boson mystery is still very much alive.

I don't believe we will truely understand the higgs boson until we fully understand gravity and more so explain why it is weaker than it should be.

laserDinosaur 6 hours ago 3 replies      
If anyone is wondering the answer is: No.


Using web fonts in email campaignmonitor.com
6 points by ejpastorino  1 hour ago   4 comments top 3
jrabone 1 minute ago 0 replies      
Please no, just stop. HTML in email is an awful idea. Get PDF/A attachments standardised in the client for presentation purposes, if you really must, but No Scripting.
petercooper 48 minutes ago 0 replies      
Not a big surprise that Apple Mail, iOS Mail, and Thunderbird are the winners here. They're the clients most likely to allow HTML through verbatim in most cases.

Sadly, at least in my case, most people are using Gmail on the Web and they filter the HTML in numerous mystifying ways (although this is ultimately good for us as users IMHO).

Luckily there's still a lot that most mass e-mailers can do, including myself, to make e-mail pleasant for readers without niceties like custom fonts.. but one day it would be great to universally expect something a little more elaborate than HTML 3.2 ;-)

cbs 39 minutes ago 1 reply      
Any idea on stuffing a web font into a multipart message so the tracking-adverse email clients can still use it? Could be impracticable depending on volume anyway, 18k (size of font in example) extra per message isn't nothing.
Stripe adds two-factor auth stripe.com
67 points by pc  10 hours ago   43 comments top 5
programminggeek 9 hours ago 4 replies      
After being a WoW user, I think two factor auth only works if it is forced on all accounts.

Here's a scenario that plays out in WoW all the time and it happened to me. Basically, a user quits playing WoW and their account gets hacked at some point after they quit. The hacker then turns on 2 factor auth via the WoW authenticator app. It is now impossible for the original user to log in to the account or reset passwords. To fix this you must argue and explain with customer support that the account was hacked an that the 2 factor auth is preventing you from resetting passwords and such.

So, unless you turn on two factor auth up front for all users, it's going to actually make it worse for the end user if their account gets hacked. So, like captchas, it's solving one problem and creating another for the user. I'm not sure that is the best solution.

nwh 9 hours ago 5 replies      
Just a thought regarding 2FA in general.

Why are people manually typing in keys? The authenticated website could just have an API with a receiving point for a token. A press of a button in a mobile app would unlock the login form for a short period just like a normal 2FA key, only with typing from the user.

You could use the numerical codes as a backup if the mobile device wasn't network accessible, but just being able to "push button" authenticate in a mobile app would make them a lot more usable normally.

Has this already been done, and I just haven't heard of it?

rdl 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Ugh, please expose the code/seed and just just the QR code. (I usually put the code into a couple of devices manually, vs. one)

Also, let administrators enforce 2fa on all users of an account, and/or see the status of all users of the account. Also being able to enforce password complexity requirements would be nice, but 2fa might be sufficient.

alanctgardner2 9 hours ago 7 replies      
This is interesting for a few reasons:

1) I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. There are a few turn-key two-factor auth solutions, and I expect having this added security is a major benefit for their customers.

2) I'm surprised they chose to use Google Authenticator. The favourite in this space seems to be Authy; off the top of my head Cloudflare and DNSimple both use them. Any thoughts on the pros and cons?

skadamat 8 hours ago 1 reply      
2 Factor auth really sucks in its current form.

A few peeps from my university started Toopher though, looks promising - https://www.toopher.com , since it leverages your phone

Student Engineers: Apply to work at 170+ startups with one Common Application firstround.com
43 points by jkopelman  7 hours ago   20 comments top 11
ig1 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I've had extensive experience in this market (i.e I've spoken to >1000 student developers) and I think this is the right approach.

From a students perspective most students have close to no-idea what kind of company they want to work for when they graduate and often have a very limited concept of the reality of what working at different companies would involve.

From a startups perspective it's very hard to target students, a typical serious recruitment campaign would cost 6-7 figures to run and is really only an option for companies who are hiring a large number of candidates (as you can ammortize the costs of having presence at careers fairs, etc.) - I would imagine Google spends in the millions if not tens of millions in student recruitment every year.

Most startups aren't Facebook or DropBox. Look at First Round's portfolio page, chances are that as someone who's familiar with the startup scene you still won't recognize most of their consumer facing startups let alone their b2b startups.

Most students will never have heard of these startups. Even if a student cares about the domain of the startup they probably still won't have heard of the startup.

You can't be the candidate's first choice if they've never heard of you. But once you've got their CV and you've decided that you want to go after them you can sell them on your company and make it their first choice.

I'm also willing to bet that most startups would rather hire a stellar engineer with average passion about the domain (but cares about the tech) over someone with stellar passion and average talent.

justjimmy 6 hours ago 2 replies      
I think one of the most important differentiation of a traditional company vs 'startup' company is the culture. And in order to understand the culture, you'd have to research each individual company, which this service doesn't seem to offer.

The students may be better served if there was a list of tags/terms for the all the companies so the students can go through them and check/tick the ones they want to apply to. Shotgun mass spam doesn't ensure a cultural fit.

(Should +100 (for how many people in the company) even be an option? Is a company still a startup at that point?)

habosa 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm not sure how to feel about this.

On the one hand, this is something I have always felt needed to exist. In today's weak job market it's important that we do whatever we can to match talent with openings.

On the other hand, I think startups are the wrong type fo companies for this. If I'm hiring for a small (<50) person company I want to make sure the person wants to work on my particular product and help with my particular vision. This would be great for big tech companies though, where they just need development talent and there is sure to be some internal project/product for which you're a good fit.

mhp 2 hours ago 0 replies      
We do the same thing at Stack Overflow Careers. Except it's a lot more companies.

I really like this part: "our Talent Team will review your submission and if you're a fit, we'll follow up directly and connect you with relevant companies". They step in and do the work to connect you with relevant companies which is a great value add opportunity for a VC.

malandrew 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this could be valuable for little known startups that have a hard time being seen and will take any decent talent they can get, but for any startup that is sought after, why would I want a candidate that doesn't want to work for my startup specifically? Someone who is open to applying to 170+ startups at once is not someone I want on my team. To produce a great culture, you want to be every single candidates' first choice, not their second or third choice.
Trezoid 7 hours ago 0 replies      
For those who missed the links (I know I certainly did): http://www.university.firstround.com/
arupchak 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The success of this will depend heavily on the people doing the parsing of applications and matching them to the right company. While I like the idea of lowering the barrier for applying for jobs, I cannot help but think that many students will look at this as another opportunity to focus on quantity of applications they send out. Instead, I would rather that students take some time to research and figure out on their own what they want for an internship, rather than just sending out a bunch of applications/resumes.
whitewhim 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd love to have something like this. As a student at a small school in Canada it is very hard to make connections in the industry that are often facilitated by larger schools.
cfontes 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Would be nice to have one of this for foreign Engineers too.
leoh 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Something about this feels predatory
dhruvbird 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Don't do this please. It's the total opposite of what startups actually want applicants to do I guess... If I were a startup CEO, this would be a bad thing, but I'm not, so I don't know what the reality is.
Alfred V2 Sneak Peek: Workflows alfredapp.com
108 points by neilmiddleton  12 hours ago   18 comments top 8
danneu 10 hours ago 3 replies      
I'll share a tip for Alfred that makes me faster on the computer:

Think of all those times you google something just to click the first link. "twitter gem github", "ebay tickle me elmo", whatever.

Reassign Alfred's I'm Feeling Lucky (Google) hotkey to "L".

Now you can Opn+Space (whatever brings Alfred up), "l twitter gem github" or "l ebay tickle me elmo" and it brings you directly to the webpage.

It's also nice because it lets you type where you want to go instead of wasting brain cpu cycles remembering the URL. "l hacker news". "l rails guides". Or even "l ebay". "l github".

And you don't even need to have your browser open. Just do it from any other app. It's huge.

empire29 11 hours ago 1 reply      
As a long time Alfred user, the workflow feature looks really astounding. Custom google searches were a huge boon to my productivity when developing (i can search APIs in a flash now).

If im reading this correctly, with intelligent workflows I can populate my Alfred results list with carefully curated search results.

This looks like the push I need to pony up and support andrew like i shouldve been doing all along.

nicholassmith 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I love Alfred, so this looks like a really solid update. It doesn't seem to be too in your face so it's just a nice treat for power users.
mtrn 11 hours ago 4 replies      
I love Quicksilver. How is Alfred better?

Workflows also remind me of Apple's own Automator.

moe 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I love Alfred, so my main hope is for it to retain its simplicity and speed during this update (I don't see myself using this feature as I don't use any of the current advanced features either - other than the calculator).
tambourine_man 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I use Alfred every day, but maybe this is getting a little beyond the program's scope. Hope it doesn't increase memory usage much.
lewisflude 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I bought Alfred last week, it's incredible!
tuananh 11 hours ago 0 replies      
workflow opens a lot of possibilities!
Ole Roemer and the Speed of Light amnh.org
296 points by tmoretti  21 hours ago   63 comments top 15
nikcub 20 hours ago 5 replies      
A solution to an accurate measurement of longitude for shipping was one of the biggest scientific problems of the time and involved some of the brightest minds in the world working over decades and centuries.

After losing almost 2,000 sailors and 4 Navy ships in an accident attributed to poor navigation, the British government offered the Longitude Prize - which was worth millions of dollars in todays money.

From Gallileo and his method of timekeeping by tracking the moons of Jupiter, through to John Harrison and his invention of the chronometer - which ended up winning most of the Longitude Prize - the effort that went into finding a solution had many side effects for science and the solution opened up the world to better navigation and the eventual colonization.

The entire story is chronicled in the book 'Longitude'[0], which was a best seller in 1998. It is well worth a read. Wikipedia is also a good starting point for finding out more.[1]

[0] http://www.amazon.com/Longitude-Genius-Greatest-Scientific-P...

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

maeon3 13 hours ago 1 reply      
What I take away from these stories is not how to calculate the speed of light, but how to discover things previously not known. Observe something on the edge of what is known, (the orbital period of IO), take better measurements than ever before (creating new measurement technologies), observe unexplained phenomenon (the annual increase/decrease in the orbital period of IO), and apply tried and true mathematical principles: (given the distance between planets, and the observed orbital period, solve for speed of light).

It's this process that will answer other unanswered questions in our physics engine, another one for example being whether or not photons degrade, or if it is possible to remove the higgs boson from matter, rendering it with no mass.

axomhacker 19 hours ago 1 reply      
I love these kind of stories. Such stories fills me up with an immense sense of appreciation for scientists/philosophers/thinkers from the post-middle-ages.

Also, why I'm absolutely loving the coursera class on astronomy: https://class.coursera.org/introastro-2012-001/.

If you have not peaked into it yet, the way Dr. Plesser explains concepts and bridges them with the historical advances leaves a lasting impression. I wish we had classes like this back in school.

acqq 20 hours ago 0 replies      
To put it in perspective, Newton's "Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica" was first published 11 years later.
prezjordan 20 hours ago 2 replies      
Very thorough explanation, awesome! What I'm more curious of is, how did astronomers measure the radius of the earth and moon several hundred (1000?) years ago?
lmm 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Arrgh. The original, better title had stood for at least four hours, and was the name under which I knew the discussion.

Is there any kind of site/extension that displays hacker news, but gives stories the titles they were originally submitted under? If not I guess I'll do it myself.

vishal0123 20 hours ago 4 replies      
For those who don't know, a more accurate calculation of speed of light was done in ancient india and had been mentioned in rigveda:
rimantas 16 hours ago 3 replies      
Is there a book with collection of stories like this?
redwood 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Love this: "He later served as mayor and prefect of police of Copenhagen and ultimately as head of the State Council."

A real renaissance (or post-renaissance) man! I love imagining a scientist heading up a bunch if police!

imglorp 12 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm a little unclear on how was the +/- 11 minutes variation measured throughout the year? Huygen's clocks lost about 15s/day, which would give them around an hour and a half a year.

source: http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/huygenss-clocks-...

lectrick 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The NOVA series was good, for anyone curious.


robolav 17 hours ago 3 replies      
Adam Savage explains how light was measured in a ingenious experiment in 1849: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-simple-ideas-lead-to-scientifi...
lectrick 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Loved this. Interesting how it was an accidental discovery based on a different pursuit at the time. That is almost a trope of life itself...
rcthompson 20 hours ago 0 replies      
The distinction between philosophy and science (and math, engineering, etc.) is a very recent one (less than 200 years old). You may have heard the term "natural philosophy" as an old term for science, but it betrays that fact that what we now call science was just another branch of philosophy.

Remember that Descartes also authored major mathematical works. Philosophers of that day could and did do a little bit of everything. Anyway, his argument, and the other arguments of them time, were based on things like the fact that if the speed of light were finite, you would notice things like the sun, moon, and earth being out of alignment during an eclipse, since the earth's shadow would lag behind it. Since no such misalignment was observed, the speed of light must be infinite. Later philosophers pointed out, of course, that it was also possible that the speed of light was finite but very fast, and the eclipse lag time was immeasurably small. Then Roemer settled things once and for all.

Pr0 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Very impressive!
       cached 15 December 2012 02:02:01 GMT