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Tentative hypothesis

This blog hosts comments. Boy, does it host comments.

Nearly two decades of comments on this blog leads me to advance the proposition that any computing or information technology enthusiastically endorsed by the collective commentariat of this blog will be unpopular with the general public, and vice versa.

Discuss!

(Ducks and runs)

475 Comments

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1:

I completely disagree, what can be in any way wrong with desktop Linux, for example?

2:

Essential application support for cross-platform integration, for starters.

(I'd happily switch to desktop Linux if I could keep my core, essential-for-work, applications. Which include 1Password (a hard nope), Scrivener (kinda-sorta-maybe but it remains to be seen if the final Scriv 3 for Windows will run under WINE even as well as Scriv 1.9 did), and Microsoft Word (because I have to be bug-level compatible with Microsoft Word when doing change tracking—and yes, it is buggy, but if I can't interoperate 100% cleanly I can't do my job).

And that's just the beginning, off the top of my head. Streaming music services, anyone? Phone syncing?

3:

Yes, with qualifications :-) It isn't clear that there IS a single viewpoint of the commentariat - surprise!, surprise! And some technologies endorsed by quite a few people are popular with a fair proportion of the general public.

For example, I and others have been endorsing Apple systems for many decades - for the sort of person who wants or needs to use a computer as a tool, but really, REALLY doesn't want to do anything more than that and, in particular, does NOT want to have to waste time learning arcana or performing bizarre rituals. And they are fairly popular with the general public.

But, generally, I agree. One can phrase this as "Intellectuals are out of touch with ordinary people" and "The public is sick of experts" -- or as a regrettable indication of how far the masses have willingly allowed themselves to be dumbed-down, brainwashed by the marketdroids, oligarchs and demagogues. Take your pick :-)

4:

Oh no, nuclear propulsion in space is doomed.

5:

* pretends to be shocked, clutches slide rule *

6:

SS @ 5
Log-Tables, surely, for greater accuracy?

7:

Phone synching: KDE Connect just works(as long as you have an Android phone). It works so well it's getting a Windows port due to demand! I'm not aware of any projects that work well with iOS.

Music streaming:
1. Spotify has an official Snap and community built Flatpak
2. Google Play Music has a community built Flatpak and Snap
3. Pandora radio has a community built Flatpak
4. Plex has a community built Flatpak
5. Tizonia is terminal based, but supports all of the above and Soundcloud Snap
6. Aruyo is a Soundcloud player AppImage
7. Apple music works in a browser, which may or may not be enough https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2019/09/apple-music-linux

There might be additional streaming services that only provide PPAs or App Images, but these are harder to locate. I'll include two links to websites collecting known AppImages: https://appimage.github.io/apps/ and https://www.appimagehub.com/browse

8:

I absolutely agree.

Next post, please.

9:

I think I can see this also in other things than just related to computing or information technology.

It might be that the commenters on this blog are a somewhat biased group, instead of being a good representation of the general public.

10:

I am at a loss to see how nuclear propulsion in space is a computing or information technology.

11:

However, your requirements are as specialised as those of the people I worked with all of my career, where Linux had a FAR better coverage of what they (and I) needed than Microsoft systems did. I doubt that there are any more book authors than scientists and engineers who use the sort of computing tools I am referring to.

Cross-platform integration? Oh, dear. I spent 15 years needing that (and running such systems), and Microsoft systems were a near-absolute disaster area. Actually, they still are, and NOT just in my field - try and run a mixed environment with a non-Microsoft authentication server and see how far you get! It's bad even for simple text-based document preparation and Email. It may be better for YOUR requirements, but no way does that apply universally.

Indeed, I still occasionally help people out who are trying to transfer files between two Miprofessional crosoft systems, and failing dismally. And that used to be an absolute disaster area.

This doesn't so much argue against your point as argue that ANY solution that is best for a group of specialists isn't likely to be popular with the vast majority of non-specialists. One can then argue whether that is a fundamental constraint or an artifact of the computing environments that have developed :-)

12:

Nuts to log tables - even 6-figure ones are unusual, and much larger ones are unknown! You should evaluate the function, in whatever way is best, and then you can get arbitrary accuracy :-)

Now, THERE is an approach which would be unpopular with the general public!

13:

Actually, the stuff I mentioned is mostly cross-platform. It's all available on macOS, Windows (obviously), and on iOS. All but one is available on Android. At this point we're talking about 95-98% of personal computers/laptops, and well over 20% of tablets/phones (99% if you relax the requirement to run Scrivener on Android).

Linux (minus the Android UI layer) is kinda laggy on end-user applications. As a constructor toolkit for making web services it knows no equal, but the fact that LibreOffice is still the best-of-breed office suite on Linux after all these years (yes, I trace its lineage back to StarOffice, circa 1995) is kind of telling.

14:

1Password X works fine on Linux if you're using Chromium or Firefox.

15:

Windows actually works quite nicely in VirtualBox. I had a pretty decent run of several years in a former workplace where my "work computer" was the corporate Windows image, complete with Office and especially Outlook, running in a VM on a Linux laptop (I forget what flavour). This was before System Center came out, but the Windows fleet management tools of the day seemed to work pretty seamlessly, though I think the was achieved by sharing the NIC with guests via a virtual bridge, rather than letting the host OS supply NAT to the guests. So in part it was probably only possible because I was the boss of the network infrastructure. But still it was pretty nice and made working mostly on the unix side much easier than with a straight Windows machine.

Giving the guest OS direct hardware access, that's where things get a bit dicey and probably too fiddly to bother with. But you don't typically need that for officey apps.

16:

Charlie Stross @ 2: Essential application support for cross-platform integration, for starters.

And that's just the beginning, off the top of my head. Streaming music services, anyone? Phone syncing?

PhotoShop. Although that's probably moot anyway, since there's never going to be another standalone PhotoShop since Adobe went the Rent-ware route. ... and NO GIMP is NOT a substitute, adequate or otherwise.

17:

Log-Tables, surely, for greater accuracy?

Arguably true, but lacking in tactile feedback.

(Fortuitously, this comment made me check my jacket pocket, where the Pickett 300 I stuck in there last winter had jammed with dust, lint, and general crud over the summer. Oddly the aluminum rule suffered more than the leather sheath; go figure. I'll add some lubricant when I get home.)

18:

Evidence for hypothesis:
Microsoft Outlook insanely popular in real world, aka corporate land.

Hated by right thinking people, besides being dreadful mail client it enables meetings.

Case closed.

19:

You didn't happen to like the Essential PH-1 phone, did you? I love mine, but I'm still trying to figure out why that failed on the market (aside from Andy Rubin's scandals).

20:

Zune was superior to iPod. God it feels good to say that.

21:

Evidence against the hypothesis :

The Jesus Phone and/or Pad. I'm guessing that the commentariat skew to Android and points weirder (sailfish etc) but Im betting that what my evidence lacks in numbers it makes up for in quality in the person of our OGH.

I was also tempted to say a Mac of some description but after selling my soul to get an all singing all dancing 2018 MBP for work last year, I can safely say that for 90% of my work my 2013 MBA has actually better battery life and is more reliable.

22:

My broader point is that the demographic attracted to comment here are so far out of the mainstream that what they want bears no relationship to anything that can be described as a mass market.

The commentariat might represent a market big enough to support niche products like, say, desktop Linux or the Cosmo Communicator — call it the nerd market, to distinguish it from the geek market, the term geek having been co-opted over the past two decades to mean something subtly different — but it's in no way a market big enough to support the kind of ecosystem we expect of the big players, e.g. high street shops, app developer ecosystems, diverse niche sub-products, and so on.

23:

In general I think, compared to the mass market, the commentariat skews in a direction that prefers flexibility and control, and is willing to learn more/sacrifice ease-of-use in order to get it. When Slack came out I heard a lot of nerds grumbling that "you could just set up an IRC server for free and get more functionality..." Ah yes, but Slack made that process a three-click exercise.

You might occasionally see a powerful technology break through the ease-of-use barrier but it's only going to happen when the reward greatly outweighs the effort required to make it work. Bittorrent is a good example of this that comes to mind.

24:

Yep, ease of use is utterly crucial.
A similar process is happening in gaming and streaming with Discord for voice comms, which has utterly replaced all the paid for services that dominated a decade ago. Ventrilo, teamspeak, mumble, all disappearing.
It's effectively a web service in a wrapper app, works on every platform imaginable, is low latency and trivial to set up and manage. And free, without even any visible advertising.

25:

Want - Something like Unix with a screen editor

OTOH have Mickeyshaft inflicted on me by corporate (and I think you could say similarly Charlie?)

26:
a regrettable indication of how far the masses have willingly allowed themselves to be dumbed-down, brainwashed by the marketdroids, oligarchs and demagogues.

The way that this is phrased suggests that there was once a time when the masses were not dumbed-down and brainwashed, a Golden Age if you will.

27:

I'll bet the general public prefer electronics designed on linux machines to electronics designed on windows machines. Although they may not know it.


NB for clarity, i mean the 99.999% of the electronic design thats done at the silocon level. We have a $4B industry to make software for us to design with, and there is no windows version anywhere.

28:

I have, among other gizmos, a Windows 10 machine. (Shock! Horror! One of these.) It can be turned into something I can work with, once I disable the more annoying Microsoft nonsense (hint: Cortana, Skype ...) and get WSL running on top of it. Windows Subsystem for Linux is actually quite nifty, and it means I've got a decent Debian command line environment (with nvim and my preferred toolset) whenever I want it, and a mildly annoying launcher for the GUI apps I can't live without. (Which reminds me: time to upgrade from WSL 1 to WSL 2 ... then maybe experiment with VirtualBox and a macOS X VM. After all, I've only got 16Gb of RAM to burn on this thing.)

29:

Snooty answer: because professionals use different tools. You could also say that Hilti power tools are unpopular compared to hardware-store brands, or that plate compactors and pavement saws are unpopular because only a small percentage of folks own them.

Practical answer: because like you and your writing, your readers and commentariat skew hard-neophile, and it's rare for new things to be adopted in their initial form.

30:

Ferry nuff. About 8 months back I was cross-graded from Windoze 7 to Windoze 10. Cross-graded because changing the skin is not an upgrade!

31:

Three words: Kerbal Space Program.

32:

Joke response:

1Password [...], Scrivener [...], and Microsoft Word

1Password: C'mon all the techies use Keep-Ass.

Scrivener: *whistles* Hey look! Shiny! Nothing to see here!

Microsoft Word: Come on now, Word runs perfectly fine on Linux. Microsoft has, after all, ported Word to Javascript some years ago as part of their SAAS offerings!

33:

Microsoft has, after all, ported Word to Javascript

And provided a whole different set of bugs!

34:

Wait, what if this causal? Because in that case I for one TOTALLY love PHP, Spring Boot, Windows...

35:

It depends on what you're doing and what you are used to.

If I'm a framing carpenter, I'll be using a framing hammer for most things, even itty bitty nails. Even within framing hammers, there are lots of variations.

A mason would use a mason hammer and maybe switch to other hammers for wood.

A sheet metal worker has yet another hammer, with a square head if IIRC.

There are people using smartphones for everything they do. US school kids would add a chromebook for school papers, etc, though technically that could be done on the phone, maybe adding a bluetooth keyboard.

There will always be things that only work in one environment and things that work best in one of the supported environments.

36:

I use MS Windows, but I generally run about a version behind. (I don't like Win10: it feels very corporate-desktop to me, and has at least one bug that I find to be a real problem. And several of the programs I use don't work with it. Need to go back to Win7 or even XP.)

[...the bug? It will resize and move a window, even one that's minimized, when I haven't used it for a few minutes, but *not every time*.]

37:

If you want actual functional cross platform portability, use Smalltalk.
It’s the only software system good enough to be worth critiquing. Anything else is just...less.

38:

Log-Tables, surely, for greater accuracy?

Napier's Bones? I made and used a set in elementary school…

39:

You know, I'm sure I remember there being a native Linux port for Scrivener, which I messed around with for about half a day before giving up and going back to LibreOffice because it was too damn complicated. Did that get discontinued?

40:

This is at least partly a trick of scope. If people agree about something, they'll subdivide it into smaller pieces until they find something to disagree about.

https://xkcd.com/915/

If you want to talk higher-level technologies, I'm pretty sure this blog could mostly agree with the general public about the usefulness of:

The Internet
Personal Computers
Smartphones

41:

Jake: the Windows version of Scrivener (it's too complicated to be called a "port") relies on the Qt toolkit for GUI functionality. Qt is cross-platform, and the Windows version of Scriv 1.x was clean enough to link to libWINE, which is why there was an unsupported public beta of Scriv for Linux.

Alas, interest in the Linux port was minimal (most writers don't use Linux) so they didn't develop it further. They skipped porting Scriv 2 to Windows and went straight to Scriv 3, which is currently is in very late beta (it's on something like release candidate 2 right now) and will probably be released in the next month or so. I expect Scriv 3 for Wondiws will probably also run well under WINE: L&L are responsive enough that if it doesn't, it's worth bugreporting (they're a small company and if getting it to run cleanly on Linux generates additional sales for not much work they're far more likely to do it than a corporation where everything has to be signed off by committee).

42:

I use Scrivener 1.9.7 on Linux with WINE, works great. Justr curious, what Scriv 3 has that 1.9 doesn't?

43:

Come on now, Word runs perfectly fine on Linux.

I spent a bunch of my last employer's time, containerizing our stuff so it ran on a Kubernetes cluster. And one of the takeaways is that many brand loyalties were becoming irrelevant. I put Fedora inside some containers, Ubuntu inside others, and so on. And unless I was a cluster admin (which I wasn't), I didn't need to know all that much about what was outside the containers.

I suspect Microsoft is coming around to the idea that in the cloud, promoting their OS over other OSes is a waste of time.

44:

PJ Evans @ 34 & onwards
Win10 has one REALLY irritating "feature" - the "Upgrades"
A recent one disconnected my backup-&-plugged-in external Seagate Terabyte drive & now the main machine cannot "see" it & I can no longer do backups, nor retrieve them ...
The drive is no longer "D or E or F" it is located as somewhere else, visible, but unreachable. as far as I can see. Somewhere supposedly "internal" & now I know not where ....
W T F?

45:

"experiment with VirtualBox and a macOS X VM"

I still haven't done this, and need to. Though the easier path is probably to replace the Windows laptop with a MBP next time around.

46:

Fair enough then. I'm the sort of Linux user who'd rather make do with an inferior FOSS alternative than use WINE as a substitute for real Linux support, but I'll keep it in mind if I ever get the urge to restructure my 'workflow' (if you can call it that) around something fancier than LibreOffice.

47:

Have you seen the latest stuff that apple have been putting out and the blowback with the latest mac keyboard breaking if its camera sees a biscuit with 10m.

The new pro is cool and all and not to bad value but for a built to the hilt workstation you really need to go with AMD's Threadripper and as many suitably grunty Graphics cards as you can fit.

48:

A proper RPN HP Calculator back when HP was good BTW there is a swiss company that makes replica HP - with the proper buttons!!!!!

https://www.swissmicros.com/

I suppose the ultimate would be a Curta

49:

People who only use mobile phones are called poor people, there is a worry that only having access via mobiles creates a two tier society.

50:

> UI latency on Linux is bad

GTK3 is higher latency than GTK2, and GNOME shell is kinda laggy; but i3wm + xterm is still pretty low latency and firefox in linux certainly feels no slower than on windows, to me.

As a note on other OSs, I didn't know, but it looks like Win10 introduces some compositing latency now, which is a bit rubbish: www.lofibucket.com/articles/dwm_latency.html (author also mentions how i3wm is fast for them).

51:

Er, try this: "Development of J. Bloggs software like word processors and stuff on Linux lags somewhat compared to its development for other OSes".

Not entirely sure I agree, since as far as I'm concerned the word processor had reached the end of its development some years before Linux even existed, and everything since then is not real "development" but merely the incremental addition of a seemingly endless sequence of bullshit features that nobody ever actually uses, wants or even knows about. And the story with other classes of J. Bloggs software seems to be much the same.

52:

"any computing or information technology enthusiastically endorsed by the collective commentariat of this blog will be unpopular with the general public, and vice versa"

I'd admit that the proportion of Linux users is abnormally high, and there also seem to be more people than expected who don't have TVs, but apart from those two points I'm having a hard time thinking of any examples. There is more awareness here of the adverse aspects of such things, in particular privacy invasion and political abuse, but the result mostly seems to be not that people eschew it, but that they use it anyway and then come on here to complain. (For example, anything to do with mobile phones to which the obvious answer is "don't have one" never actually gets that answer, just a bunch of people finding ways around it when their perceptions don't allow them to see it, like the mysterious empty space a dense crowd leaves around Death or Susan.)

53:

This blog makes me feel normal.

I mean, I am a nerd by most definitions. But I have nothing on most people posting here.

54:

I enthusiastically endorse this hypothesis.

55:

Interestingly (for certain values of interestingly) at my current workplace, I run the Compulsory Standard Windows 10 Desktop, inside which I have a Linux VM where I do almost all my actual work. This has turned out to be a far better compromise than I was expecting it to be at the beginning.

56:

Charlie is so right, I’m dying laughing

Other examples of “Vice versa”
- the cloud, any cloud, pick a cloud this blog hates clouds
- smartphones
- social media
- ridesharing apps
- google applications (google docs, gmail etc)
- messaging apps (except for maybe signal)
- home assistants (Alexa etc)
- smart cameras (Dropcam)

57:

I have several external hard drives which are only plugged in when I need to use them. (Different contents on each one.)
Win10 is annoying enough that I'm seriously considering going back to Win7. I can *probably* convince my finance guy to let me buy a laptop for internet stuff.

58:

I need battery packs (I have my HP45 and my father's, and I think there's another one). I've been using solar scientifics for the last several years, though, and can usually get answers out of them. (No batteries!)

59:

My first calculator was a Rockwell which ran on a 9V battery and used RPN. I adored it's brightly glowing red display.

A bit later my little sister asked for a calculator for Christmas and my parents foolishly insisted, as the family math geek, that I get one for her. Never mind my heartfelt argument that she needed to master arithmetic before she went on to actual math in high school and (hopefully) college and that a calculator would be a counterproductive crutch that would result in her ending up an innumerate failure in life. But no, She Needed A Calculator.

It took some pre-internet searching but I eventually found a very nice RPN pocket calculator for her. My thinking (if it could be called that,) was that RPN demanded a certain basic understanding of arithmetical principles and that the practice would eventually be of value to her. To start the experience off on a fun, lighthearted note I gift wrapped the little thing in a washing machine carton weighted with bricks to a reasonable degree.

She ended up taking the college degree requiring the least number of math courses. I've always suspected that it was my fault.

60:

Those figures aren't reliable; inter alia, a large proportion of Linux systems are classified as Microsoft ones. But let's skip that - it wasn't my main point.

Scrivener and even Photoshop are as specialised and niche-market as the tools I am referring to, quite possibly more so; I know precisely two people who are actually capable of using Photoshop, and probably hundreds who have it installed. Most people use a VERY limited range of basic facilities (Email, camera etc.), treat a computer as a black box, and neither know nor care what system it runs. I know that my usage is very much a niche, nowadays, however dominant it used to be - but I am seriously unconvinced by your implication that yours is representative of the masses.

Also, I know a lot of people who use Microsoft and Apple systems, and need to work together with people in other places. Even doing this as simple as working on a common text-based document is still often a serious headache. You may not encounter the problems, but I can assure you that they exist. As I said, I have helped quite a few people out of holes in that respect, and not just in (not my) work-related contexts.

There are also issues with things as basic as being able to script the commands you use, which is less easy to classify. It's a very common requirement, even for the masses in its simpler forms, but is regrettably rarely available, nowadays. But I think that topic would divert from this thread, so let's skip it.

61:

as far as I'm concerned the word processor had reached the end of its development some years before Linux even existed

Since Linux has been around since roughly 1991, I think you're implicitly suggesting that word processing was a done deal some time in the late 1980s. In which case I'd have to vehemently dispute your position.

An outright majority of computer users today can't cope with a command-driven editor (such as vi, emacs, or Word Perfect 4.2) that requires them to understand the underlying document model and memorize commands. A preponderance can barely cope when using a graphical user interface that delivers true WYSIWYG text editing and exposes all the available commands through a tabbed interface like Microsoft's Ribbon, never mind late-1980s drop-down menus (which hide options/commands behind a menu hierarchy).

And that's before we get into core functionality. For a novelist—who is focussed on the book level—something like Scrivener is as much of a leap forward as Microsoft Word was for someone intent on producing a properly-formatted business letter with the right fonts in the right place, or vi was for a programmer who wanted to be able to edit lines with some actual visual context in the code block they were working on compared to something like ed.

So no, you're completely wrong. And this is supporting evidence for my original point in this post.

62:

I am seriously unconvinced by your implication that yours is representative of the masses.

Of course my use case is bizarre and ridiculous and unrepresentative of the masses! I never meant to imply anything else!

What I'm getting at is that the people discussing this shit here on this blog are similarly waaaaaay outside the envelope loosely defined as "normal users". So much so, in fact, that we might as well be Martians.

(I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)

63:

To expand:

Looking at the USA/UK. I'm going to apply a cut-off age of 75; while some over-70s grew up using computers, they're a tiny minority, and while some folks adapted to them in middle age/adulthood and kept doing so, they're still a minority and over-75 active users are rare.

Average population age, excluding those over the cut-off, is probably early 30s. So, people born after 1980. The Macintosh and the GUI interface has always been there, computers have always had mice, and they've had a cellphone since they were in their mid-to-late teens, or earlier if they're under 25. (Proto-smartphones and communications gizmos aimed at teens and tweens have been a thing since the 1990s. Anyone else remember the Cybiko? Or Hiptop? Or, hell, CB radio?)

"These people" learned to type by osmosis some time between learning to walk and learning to ride a bicycle. They got an "Information Technology" education that showed them the basics of using Microsoft Office for their schoolwork around the age when "our generation" would have been crowding round an Apple II in the computer lab for an introduction to programming in BASIC.

They've always had a handheld games console, and probably a TV console. The internet happened between 1995 and 2000, and they've been on it since they were teens, or younger. (Kids under 25 have always had Google and Facebook.)

In fact, there are adults walking around out there right now who don't remember not having an iPhone or iPad or Android equivalent—at least, they came along around the time they were hitting their tween or teen years.

Unless they've done a deep dive into the technology—akin to folks of our age who got an education in physics to graduate-proximate level—they live in an animist world; you perform the right gestures and the magic mirror takes a photograph, you compose the right incantation and Google shows you the entire universe of cat photos (along with some advertising). They live in a world that increasingly knows where they are and what they're doing and sometimes cooperates and sometimes is frustratingly opaque. Or stalkery, for no obvious reason.

Remember Neuromancer? Published in 1984, that book is weirdly obsolete to an under-30 sensibility.

Firstly the opening sentence, "the sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel". Back in 1984, that meant multicolored static snow; today it means that weird shade of electric blue.

But secondly, there's a scene in which Case walks through an airport/train station concourse (I forget which). The AI Wintermute is trying to connect with him; as he walks past a row of telephone booths, each phone rings in turn.

When did you last see a public phone booth with a phone in it? Or an under-30 using a phone booth? Even drug dealers don't use public telephones any more: they've all got burners, or WhatsApp. If someone else's phone rings, do you pick it up?

You could put that scene in a movie today and the kids simply wouldn't be able to make sense of it.

And that's how out of touch we are.

64:

typical commenter here is…

Mostly right in my case. I deal with teenagers for hours every day — 50-60 hour workweek* for ten months a year.

But the rest? Middle-aged white male, STEM background, ASD spectrum is a decent description.


*40 hours contact, remainder planning and documentation.

65:

(I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)

Mostly right here, too. I have the impression I'm somewhat younger than most of the commenters here (which is the same as was on a roleplaying mailing list I used to be on for a long time - the intersection of which with this blog might be bigger than just me, as the topics seem to be often the same), so I interact with children and teenagers on a daily basis. I'm (at least to my knowledge) not on the ASD spectrum, but otherwise checks out.

I'd also guess that the typical commenter here is from a country where the most common first language is English - the UK, the USA, Australia, Aotearoa. Of course this is a blog by a native English speaker, but many people for whom English is a second language write in English on the internet because it provides a larger audience.

66:

Average population age, excluding those over the cut-off, is probably early 30s. So, people born after 1980. The Macintosh and the GUI interface has always been there, computers have always had mice, and they've had a cellphone since they were in their mid-to-late teens, or earlier if they're under 25.

I encountered this in the university, almost 25 years ago. When I started, the basic IT course taught us things like how to use xterm and shell, and had some X Window stuff on it. Email was read using Pine or Elm, editor choices were basically Pico, Emacs, or vi, and so on. I think we had Mosaic, and were shown also how to use gopher and the local netnews system. Most of the people starting at that time knew what a command line was, and were probably happy that it was something modern like bash or tcsh, and had started their computer use with Commodore and Spectrum computers when they were about ten years old, and for whom the command.com was a familiar thing.

There were also people for whom the university was the first place they really used a computer - it was not that common to have one at home, and you could perfectly well go through primary and secondary education without seeing, much less using, one.

Five years later, I heard from my friends who were teachers' assistants on that course, that they had to explain to the new students what was a command line and that you could type commands to the computer instead of clicking with a mouse. They weren't that much younger, but computers that they had used before had probably had Windows or Mac OS on them and no need to use cmd.exe for things they wanted to do.

Quite different from the LOAD"$",8,1 times.

So even that twenty years ago the "usual" way of using a computer was some kind of GUI instead of the command line. Admittely, the DOS command.com was a horrible attempt at a CLI, but at least for me moving on to bash and zsh wasn't that hard.

67:

When I was 12 or so, I used to walk in to computer stores, or the computer sections in department stores, ask permission to try a demo computer and type in something like the listing below, using whatever the graphics system was for the machine (think I knew the correct invocations and dimensions for Commodore and Atari, I knew one or two kids with Apple IIs but they were way, way out of my reach):

10 enter graphics mode
20 let $x=0, $y=0, $xinc=1, $yinc=1
30 plot ($x, $y, COLOR)
40 $x += $xinc
50 $y += $yinc
60 if ($x == 0 or $x == 320){$xinc *= -1} <- okay so I really don't remember BASIC
70 if ($y == 0 or $y == 240){$yinc *= -1}
80 GOTO 30

It'd make interesting Moiré patterns and stuff. Nothing spectacular, but a long way better than anything the salefolk had to put on demo machines. There was typically no way to persist it, of course, so I suppose that was an early incentive for golf.

Anyhow, yeah I think I tick all the boxes other than the ASD. I don't *think* I'm on the spectrum, but I suppose it's not impossible.

68:

I also have 1 (one) windows 10 machine, required to update firmware in other gadgets. It is currently at 99% downloading a feature update, and has been for several days, when I turn it on. Windows software quality control is still SOS. Has been since the beginning, will remain such. Not reliable.

Linux has a bad rep with software vendors because it is impossible to DRM lock software for more than a few hours. So vendors believe it is impossible to collect license revenue. Maybe so. I no longer care, and will use it.

69:

My first computers being second hand, my children were exposed to command line, Atari 8 bit & MS/DOS. even after I moved up to an Atari ST, the older machines were available for them to play games on, making them sort of transitional with respect to computing hardware, because they had working class parents.

70:

Unholyguy @ 56: Charlie is so right, I’m dying laughing

Other examples of “Vice versa”
- the cloud, any cloud, pick a cloud this blog hates clouds
- smartphones
- social media
- ridesharing apps
- google applications (google docs, gmail etc)
- messaging apps (except for maybe signal)
- home assistants (Alexa etc)
- smart cameras (Dropcam)

I'm slowly coming to terms with having the smartphone as I learn how to make it do what I want it to do instead of what Steve Jobs thought I should want.

Is "Google Maps" a "google application"? I still use them a lot to find out where things are & "Google News" still provides an minimally acceptable wide range of resources when I want to know what's going on.

I'm mostly a "Windoze" guy. I have built all of my own "desktop" computers (laptops & notebooks are a bit beyond my ken) & my experience with Windoze10 was NOT GOOD, so I'll never have a Windoze10 computer.

I'm retired, and the closest I come to doing any kind of "work" on a computer is using Photoshop (Photoshop CS6 the last REAL version of Photoshop before they went to that CC rentware crap), and most of the games I want to play are Windoze only. If I live long enough I expect I'll either have to learn desktop Linux or build a Hackentosh (or maybe even buy an actual Mac).

71:

> You could put that scene in a movie today and the kids simply wouldn't be able to make sense of it.

There is an existence disproof of this: season 3, episode 11 of _Person of Interest_, aired in December 2013, 12.4 million viewers in the US. Exactly this happens at the start of the episode (and yes, it's a callback to _Neuromancer_ but it makes perfect sense in context). Of course, this was aired on CBS (sold as a crime-of-the-week show, turned into a show about the superintelligent AI revolution) so the average age of its viewership was probably about 103, but still it wasn't *that* long ago, and they expected the viewers to understand it, and I'm fairly sure younger viewers would -- because the scene didn't leap out of nowhere. Someone who had no idea what a payphone was would have got it by that point in the series.

So... maybe your point stands? Stuff that was common when we were young and could be used without further explanation now requires incluing like something SFnal would. You see this a lot with youngish children: five-year-olds who don't know what soap bars are (their parents use hand cleanser stuff that comes in bottles) or try to turn the pages of a book by swiping...

72:

@62
[i](I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)[/i]

Pretty close - 55 Cis White Male, SW developer (hell, I got into Charles Stross by reading his articles in shopper), have been described as very slightly spectrum (but easily distracted by tech / science), and linux geek.

Only major discrepancy is teens / kids - I have a law graduate(m) at 21, a caring profession student (f) at 20, and a combined Physics/Chem student at 18 (m) just off to uni, so the teenage years feel *very* close in the rear view mirror.

Oh, and $wife is a minister in training, for shits and giggles.

73:

Oh, do not start me on that stupid fucking goo-in-a-bottle shit. Wildly expensive, wilfully extravagant, hugely greater recycling load from all the extra packaging (if it even does get recycled), and completely bloody pointless... its very existence is a damning indictment of human stupidity, its prevalence even more so. Things have come to a pretty pass when I have to order something as simple and basic as soap off Amazon because none of the local shops have any.

Shame it doesn't meet the criteria for inclusion on this thread... but then it is only a matter of time before the already grossly excessive packaging is rendered even more excessive by the inclusion of a computer and a level sensor so that people who are too far gone to think of observing the level in a transparent bottle with their eyes can query it on their phone instead, and not understand the phone display either so it also automatically orders more of itself when it runs out.

74:

Charlie Stross @ 62:

"I am seriously unconvinced by your implication that yours is representative of the masses."

Of course my use case is bizarre and ridiculous and unrepresentative of the masses! I never meant to imply anything else!

What I'm getting at is that the people discussing this shit here on this blog are similarly waaaaaay outside the envelope loosely defined as "normal users". So much so, in fact, that we might as well be Martians.

(I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)

Well, I'll go first, just to give some data points. I fit at least part of the profile.

White, male, age 70; don't know where that is in the "middle-aged-to-elderly" range because the "elderly" end keeps moving away every time I get close to it.

They didn't have "ASD spectrum" when I was growing up, so I don't know if I am or not, but I definitely have the deficit in social communication skills & some repetitive patterns of behavior. I got into computers from the Fire/Burglar Alarm business (which I got into because I was an unemployed construction worker & needed to apply for two jobs a week to keep my benefits - the Burglar Alarm company hired me).

No children, but I do meet & talk to a fair number of teenagers (young people in general) from playing music & just because I'm basically a busybody who could give a cat curiosity lessons.

I could have been a mongoose in another life, because "Run and find out" suits me to a 'T'.

75:

Wow. Cool flow charts of US energy production and consumption.

More recent ones:
https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/commodities/energy

The earliest one seems to have been made in 1972, for 1950 in a report where they produced charts for 1950, 60, 70, 80, 85, 90 (the last three being projections of course).
https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/energy/energy_archive/US_energy_flow_archive/UCRL51487.pdf

They projected energy consumption to be 65% higher than it actually was 20 years later.

76:

"I think you're implicitly suggesting that word processing was a done deal some time in the late 1980s."

Correct.

"...vi, emacs, or Word Perfect 4.2..."

I was thinking rather of Microsoft Word for the Mac - which you yourself have posted about with wistful nostalgia and called it the best Word ever (or something not far different from that.) (Aside: it runs fine on Linux using the Basilisk emulator.)

"...exposes all the available commands through a tabbed interface like Microsoft's Ribbon, never mind late-1980s drop-down menus (which hide options/commands behind a menu hierarchy)."

...as opposed to hiding them behind incomprehensible icons (that is if you can even discern what the tiny little things are in the first place) which don't reveal their meaning unless you wait for a tooltip to appear, camouflaged amid a great sea of other equally indecipherable gunk? (Of course once you've learnt where they are they are no longer hidden, but that is true of menus also. And at least menus identify the options with ordinary readable words instead of opaque hieroglyphics.) Not to mention the loss of valuable vertical editing space from having the things displayed all the time.

I'm afraid I stick those things firmly in the class of pointless bullshit masquerading as "development". I can't believe that people really can't cope without them, since their dependence on icons alone renders them more opaque than menus, although I will admit that some people might not be familiar with menus if they've been taught otherwise.

As for Scrivener, I can't comment because I don't know what it does or what you do with it, but it certainly isn't a J. Bloggs application. (But I do know that Douglas Adams wrote his books on a 68K Mac, because he used to go on about it in the introduction...)

77:

I just do not understand the point of this posting. You tend to use the tools that are at most useful for what you are doing.

I am in a three desktop lock. I need a real Mac, I need a real Windows 10, I need a real Linux with significant computing power.

I run the computing side of my work-of-the-day things on the Linux machine (a quite powerful machine which would have been labeled a supercomputer not such long ago). Mostly hard-core statistics and AI with ***HUGE*** datasets. The Mac is the tool of creating nice animations and editing test-related videos. Windows 10 is the system for creating the report for the paying customers.

I know quite a few people in the data industry who use a similar setup.

The machines are only tools. You should use the tool that suits the job.

I would like a MacBook for my traveling, but the screen reflects horribly and the keyboard is crap. Hence a Windows 10 laptop for road-shows.

78:

"(I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)"

This is nice. And quite accurate. I am quite near the retirement age and my children are adults with their own families. I am male. But I have constant contact with children and teenagers due to my voluntary work (working with children/teenagers who have lost their father).

79:

Pigeon @ 73
IIRC both Sainsbugs & Waitrose have bars of "Wright's Coal Tar Soap" on their shelves - that's where I got my last two bundles, anyway.

"Nrmal Users!"..Yes well 73.75 yrs old, started using computers about 1972 ( FORTRAN IV ) no kids, pink, hard-science/engineering background....
And I DELIGHT in filling in survey forms, if only to see how many Satndard devs off the mean I can skew it, cause I'm like that.

80:

"So far out of the mainstream".....

Well, for starters, I assume that most here, like me, are real fans[1].[2]

For another, the ASD spectrum, as far as I'm concerned, is bs. I see it a *lot* like ADD/ADHD/whatever letters they're using now.[3]

I'm 70, retired with full US social security. I did *not* get into computers early, it was only in '78 that I decided that they looked like fun, and had a *good* job (library page) that paid tuition, and went back to college for DP. Command line? Heh, heh, heh. I'd like to see the look of these kids when I pull out a deck of punch cards.

Reality: I can do more, and faster, most of the time, with a command than a mouse and menus with submenus that disappear part of the time when I try to point the cursor at them.

Or, say, adjust the volume.

Streaming, Charlie? I got that working on Linux about a dozen or more years ago. Right now, I'm listening to WQXR (NYC classical station), and I listen a lot to KUTX (UT Austin), WBUR (U Mass, Boston), and of course, WFMT (Chicago) for the Midnight Special, and WXPN (UP, Philly) for the Folk Show. I point my browser to them, tell noScript to allow only what's needed, and click on "listen live", and it just plays.

What kids these days don't get? I've got one that had the whole theatre cracking up: in the first Superman movie (yes, Chris Reeve *was* Superman, screw this "edgy" crap), where he's running, and glances at a telephone-on-a-stick, before he just uses superspeed to change.

1. It's my father's fault. He came home from the main library in Philly, a few months before I was 17, and told me he'd seen a flyer for a science fiction conference downtown...

2. A convention center staffer, at Worldcon in '96, had a button I keep meaning to get Nancy to make me: "Weird and Pround!"

3. My son has ADD. My late wife did research, and found a *specialist* in ADD, not just some doctor who said, "kid's too much to handle? Sure, they've got ADD, let's medicate".

81:

I. Hate. "Smartphones". All they do is make you STOOPID.

Like the people who've died by walking between parked cars into traffic without looking, because they were on them. Like the assholes who DARE to not just use hand-held ones, but TEXT WHILE DRIVING!!!

And on. And on. And don't get me started about texting, instead of calling, or leaving a voicemail.

82:

The rumour I've heard is that there is *no* follow-on to Win 10, just a thin client, and your whole desktop, etc, is in the cloud. The ultimate SAAS.

I'll ask again, could someone tell me the difference between time-sharing on a mainframe, and the cloud?

83:

Yes, they do, but I was defining "local" as "exists for the use of residents of sufficiently proximate domicile that powered transport is not required", and Sainsbury's from my place is an expedition :)

84:

Dunno what latency you're talking about. Unless there's a problem on the 'Net, or something's eating my system, I don't see it.

Don't play much in the way of games*, stream a lot of music.

Oh, running KDE; I *HATE* gnome, talk about bloatware, and need to run 5,567,900 demons....

85:

In 1995, just before Lose 95, er, Win 95 came out, there was a review of word processors in PC Mag. What they found, *then*, was that 90% of the users never used 90% of the features, and of the 10% that did use some of the other 90% of the features, they used them 10% of the time.

I cannot imagine why you would want scripting in a word processor (oh, unless it's to make up for the lack of command mode...)

Did not like WP 4.x. WP 5 - WP 6 were *wonderful*, and yes, I still have my legal copy (somewhere, on floppies) of WP 6.c. Back in the late nineties, all the secretaries I knew, who know both, *hated* Word, and loved WP.

Major pet peeve: "reveal all codes" in Word DOES NOT. Show me, for example, where it reveals "right justify this paragraph".

Oh, and I'm 100% Linux (CentOS 6, and, *sigh*, I'm going to have to go to 7, 6 is EoL next spring, and I'll have to deal, as I did at work, with systemd...)... and my daughter occasionally reads my stories, and sends tracked changes, which, if I enable in LibreOffice, I can see.

86:

Oh, I agree with that, but that's not how I read your post. There are two immediate consequences, which I was reading you as implying were not true:

One is that the Linux/Microsoft/Apple/Google/Unix/Plan9/etc., er, debate is completely irrelevant. Any non-trivial discussion of anything except the incantations they are invoked with is as comprehensible as quantum mechanics to most of their users.

The second is that there is nothing exceptional about this blog - the same applies to ANY forum that goes in for such discussion.

I would take issue with 'animism', on the grounds that I doubt that more than a few of the most unusual users seriously believe that their devices are inhabited by living spirits that must be mollified in order to deliver boons to humans. But I am sure that some do, and we will get there as soon as those devices start to use 'AI' :-)

I would categorise it as currently equivalent to primitive/mediaeval magic/medicine - recite that incantation, wear that amulet, failures are due to your enemy's witchcraft etc. Yes, the practice of that nowadays overlaps socially and geographically with animism, but it is not the same.

87:

"icon": a small, fuzzy picture intended to replace a perfectly clear and comprehensible word. The Engineer's Dictionary.

88:

I doubt that you ever used a good, scriptable editor, and had to do a lot of semi-systematic text editing (NO, Emacs LISP does NOT count). Command-line scripting is all very well, but does help in itself - you need something to operate on the characters, words, phrases etc. I haven't heard of one in decades, but there used to be a few.

89:

I hate them, too. But apart from you (I assume) and me, is there actually anyone on here who doesn't have one? It looks to me as if there is very little difference between their popularity on here and their popularity with the general public. People on here have a greater awareness of their negative aspects, but it doesn't result in them doing anything more than complaining. See the recent discussion about taking them abroad, where not one person suggested just not doing it, and all the suggestions were expensive methods of avoiding that obvious and simple answer.

Similarly with most of the things in Unholyguy's list at 56. They are all things that I personally hate, but either people on here do not seem particularly averse to, or else aren't actually all that popular with the general public anyway. The proportion of ordinary people I can think of who I know to have Alexas, for instance, is small enough that I don't find it surprising that there isn't anyone on here who I know to have one. Or for an example concerning something that is generally popular, I am pretty sure that my policy of never using any Google stuff apart from the search engine, and that plain text only, only with my custom scripts that strip all the added evil out, and only when Bing has failed to be useful, is going a lot further than anyone else on here appears to, let alone the general public.

Heck, there are even people on here who don't use ad blockers, or don't even block cookies.

I must disagree with some of the other bits, though; Charlie's "typical user" fits me to a T, and the ASD part of it (the suggestion of which, in my case, long predates the words) means that I hate communication systems which are speech-based, and also hate those which work in real time. So I'm quite the opposite regarding "text vs calling"; you either contact me by email or you just don't.

90:

And people didn't like them when they first started being used to label the controls in cars, let alone computers. Now they are on toasters and bloody everything - and always in conjunction with some other thing which needs to be changed according to the language or region of the intended user, thus negating the only possible argument in favour of them.

91:

The reason that icons are used is that they are language- and culture-neutral - i.e. they make no sense no matter what languages you know, or how many cultures you are familiar with.

92:

Sort-of. I didn't have one until 6 months ago, when my old dumb mobile telephone died, and I needed one with Bluetooth to connect to my dongle which connects to my hearing aids, because I can't hear most mobile telephones. But I haven't used it since I got it, because it is solely for emergencies and telling my wife I am still alive when I am touring.

Of course, in some other respects, I am an extreme geek :-)

93:

You might have enjoyed some of the discussions in my workgroup, where we got into computer stuff. Several nerds of a feather, there. (We were doing GIS, building a database; the other one was mostly being done outside, as it was less demanding in its requirements.)

94:

My father had a lot of fun calling up his software providers and asking them questions about how to do various technical stuff, in the late 80s and early 90s; when he died in 1994, at 76, he was a beta-tester for Norton Utilities. He had even set up batch files on his computer to run and backup a virtual disk. But I couldn't get him to try the CAD program I had; he still did all his drawing by hand.

Nearly 40 years ago, when I signed up for computer science in college (and had had classes in programming before), they required Fortran or Basic before letting you into the major. (You could get classes in them, but they were electives, not required.)
(I wrote my first programs in 1970. But there were people in my high school who had done that in the mid-1960s.)

95:

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by a "scriptable editor". For documents, not code, I'd think you were talking about a "word processor", the kind we had back in the eighties, that took names from a d/b, and boilerplate text, to generate letters.

96:

69, white female
First (and second) job was building displays for early 4-function calculators (running about $200 each), 1972-1974. All hand work, by real people (female), and meeting standards of repeatability. By 1978, that kind of work was pretty much limited to prototypes for engineers to test.

I spent 1978 building solid-state microwave delay lines, mostly for radar altimeters, which is how I know how long 1000 feet is (1.016 microseconds).

In 1984 (right after Worldcon) I started a long-term temp job converting a manual database (on about 10 kinds of file cards) into a uniform computer database - it's been migrated to another system at least once since then, but it's very much alive and working - and *that* led to later jobs that ended into helping build a GIS database at the same company - I worked there more than 20 years, total. Best jobs I ever had, a fair amount of fun, and impossible without computers.

97:

1970 was before electronics became common. Energy efficiency wasn't a thing then, either.

98:

I was going to try to argue - I'm 25, but I had my share of BASIC at home (it ran on a NES clone that someone had coupled with a keyboard and called a "computer for children"; I didn't even realise it was one until a few years later when I turned it on without a cartridge and got a "99999 games-in-1" welcome screen) and our Information Technologies course in school contained LOGOWriter for DOS, base-2/8/16 arithmetic, text encodings, Caesar ciphers, and probability theory (our teacher was old-school - I was allowed shell access to the school FreeBSD server and brute-forced Caesar cipher problems in Perl; he also gave me a LaTeX book). Also, there's a phone booth in front of the main building of my university. I know that the phone works, but I only checked it once for fun.


But you are right: it's increasingly hard to find like-minded people, so your hypothesis seems to be true from around here.

99:

Charlie (#44) noted the problem of Windows updates.

Yeah, we really need a class action lawsuit to compensate us all for the time wasted recovering from unwanted updates in the middle of work crunches. Microsoft is far too arrogant, and needs to be reminded that its customers have a say in how the softwareverse should operate.

The best solution I've found for this problem is to run Windows in a virtual machine (I use Parallels), and save snapshots of previous stable states. When a Windows update borks my computer, I revert to the most recent stable snapshot.

100:

Re: ' ... their devices are inhabited by living spirits that must be mollified in order to deliver boons to humans.'

Agreed ... it's the app demons that must be mollified! Give it another 20-30 years by which time AIs will have become sufficiently complex and make this true/real.

Just wondering ....

Has anyone ever studied how apps interact among/between each other and whatever OS they're installed in? Are there any apps that, once installed, grow and self-integrate into adjacent systems/functions/apps to the point where removing them would 'injure' the system? Are there any apps that don't really do anything specific themselves but somehow seem to boost performance of some part of the system or some other app? (Trying to visualize how closely computer systems parallel biology.)

101:

Since Linux has been around since roughly 1991, I think you're implicitly suggesting that word processing was a done deal some time in the late 1980s.

Carnegie Mellon had FrameMaker running on workstations, somewhere around 1990. A few years later I got stuck using Microsoft tools on PCs, and began to venerate FrameMaker's memory.

102:

the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today.

To paraphrase Isaac Asimov: but I am a [[hack kaff]] teenager !

103:

And to add to the glorious mess that is Windoze 10 Updates:

A couple of days ago, I was taking my laptop to a meeting in the evening. This machine usually runs Fedora, but there is some Windows-specific software that I might have needed.

So, at what seemed a prudent time beforehand, switch to Windows, and ask about updates.

"Yes, there are some. I'll think about applying them."

An hour and a half later. Time to shut down and get ready for the meeting.

"Hey, you can't shut down now, I've just started on the updates I told you about an hour and a half ago."

Oh yes I could. But there would be plenty of people who would be terrified that they'd break the machine if they disobeyed its instructions.

J Homes.

104:

(I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)

Yes to most of these ;-)

105:

> Carnegie Mellon had FrameMaker running on workstations, somewhere around 1990. A few years later I got stuck using Microsoft tools on PCs, and began to venerate FrameMaker's memory.

My preferred document editor in more than 30 years of using a computer is still FrameMaker.

106:

Reading the comments, it seems many of you are of my parents' age. I'm not sure why my impression of people of the previous generation seems to be very biased - it might be that I just see a very selected sample in the context of Finland, or then Finland is a different country. It's probably a bit of both.

What I mean is that for me, my parents and many of the people I know who are of the same age use computers and mobile phones pretty well and often, and they like them. My father did learn how to program in the University (though his major had nothing to do with computers) and used that at work for a long time. He was never a programmer - it was just easier to manipulate the data he used by himself.

Anyway, he's not an outlier in my circles. Many people his age I know still use and even program computers, so for me there's less of a generation gap there. My children use them in a different way than I do, but as said, they don't remember the time before computers were available easily and when connectivity came through the same land phone line as the phone calls. My kids and I all watch let's play videos from Youtube, though, but it seems I'm the strange one there.

I still suspect that Finland is a different place from the UK and the US in that computers might have been more generally available earlier. I have no sources for thisat hand, though.

107:

Poe's law is strong in this thread. I honestly can't tell which (if any) of the diatribes here are sarcastic.

108:

I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children...

"Hey!"

*looks around for camera*

*remembers Charlie has met me in person*

"Oh, right..."

109:

I doubt that more than a few of the most unusual users seriously believe that their devices are inhabited by living spirits that must be mollified in order to deliver boons to humans.

Other than the word "living" (and I don't intend to debate definitions of life), what part of that is wrong?

110:

I'll ask again, could someone tell me the difference between time-sharing on a mainframe, and the cloud?

We have a newer and much shinier buzzword now!

Back in the 1990s the buzzword was "thin client computing," which people pointed out was a lot like time sharing on a mainframe.

In the 2030s there will probably be a new buzzword for this that makes no reference to "the cloud" because by then the term sounds old fashioned, quaint, and inefficient.

111:

I think that the specs have gotten so much better in many cases that it's getting more and more difficult to tell what's running on the mainframe and what's running locally. Connection speeds can be a problem, but in many cases even those are good enough that you can for example do speech recognition or whatever on a server instead of on the local computer. Also in my work it seems that one thing that has really improved in the last 20 years is the control of the servers. Doing cloudish stuff with Kubernetes and Docker is much easier than comparable things used to be.

In my experience, 20-30 years ago it was usually painfully obvious when something was run on a remote machine instead of locally, even when the remote machine had much more power. The connection was the bottleneck. Nowadays, 4G or wifi (and then a wired connection) is good enough in most cases that I don't have to care.

Of course, with more power we are getting more and more "features" in the local programs which of course means that we don't often get all the power into doing the "real stuff." Still, running relatively simple REST API things in a localish network is nowadays easily "fast enough" that many services are not running into capability problems anytime soon.

I agree though on the sentiment that it's just the same thing rebranded. "The Cloud is just somebody else's computer."

112:

...a review of word processors in PC Mag. What they found, *then*, was that 90% of the users never used 90% of the features, and of the 10% that did use some of the other 90% of the features, they used them 10% of the time.

Famously this was the Word Perfect discovery: 90% of the users only use 10% of the features - but they aren't the same 90%. (This was a disappointment to developers who would have loved to dump code that didn't get used; the size of the program kept growing and growing...) And people kept requesting new abilities.

After a few rounds of this you get nonsense like realtime-variable scripted font colors in tables that hardly anyone ever even knows the program will do - but the few people who want color coded schedules absolutely love.

113:

P J Evans @ 97
Energy efficiency wasn't a thing then, either
What started that off was the temorary "oil crisis" of the late 1970's
The most obvious example on a large scale is the energy-saving design of the vast Princess of Wales Conservatory in Kew Gardens
Half-below ground, large internal heat reservoirs, etc ...

114:

And to add to the glorious mess that is Windoze 10 Updates

This is only a mess if you don't flip the switch to tell it to reboot and install updates outside of active hours, then set active hours to something like 5am-3am.

Then, once every month or two, reboot into Windows before you go to bed, and expect to wake up to an updated machine and boot back into Linux.

Seriously, in Windows terms I'm a n00b, but finding this in the Windows 10 settings wasn't exactly rocket science; it's easier to accomplish than on the last version of macOS (I haven't updated the herd to Catalina yet due to worse-than-usual software incompatibilities).

115:

FrameMaker was very good for its time; alas, Adobe killed it (in favour of InDesign, which admittedly is very good at the page layout side of things—good enough to have totally eaten Quark Publishing System's lunch in the publishing world).

116:

whitroth@80:
> For another, the ASD spectrum, as far as I'm concerned, is bs.

You probably don't have it bad, then. Like most things, if it's strong enough it puts you way out on the fringes of human experience. Sure, unlike many things classed as disabilities it comes with significant positives -- it's not like losing a leg which really doesn't have any plus points that I can see, though I'll now have angry people from the Legfree Community telling me otherwise -- but the downsides also get stronger and stronger until you end up with the strongest forms of autism entirely uncommunicative and hypersensitive to almost all sensations and unable to function in society: heck, I know more than one autistic who refuses food, perhaps because they don't like the texture. All food. If that's not a disability, I don't know what is.

You can have it less intensely, so that maybe you are only *almost* unable to model the mental processes of other people, and only hypersensitive to sounds and crowds of, say, twenty people make you unable to read faces or focus on anything for more than five seconds, and crowds of more than fifty make you too stressed to speak, or too stressed to do anything *but* speak nonstop: if you're very lucky you get this *and* the positives like being able to focus for a dozen hours at a stretch. That would be me, and I'm sorry, I'd have to be an idiot to fail to notice that I can only model other people at the level of about a normal ten-year-old, or that most people seem to find crowded pubs enjoyable rather than terrifying, or that most people realise they have to turn the central heating on without having to run a conscious monitoring loop checking if they're shivering with cold every ten minutes or so.

Like most conditions affecting personality, it is impossible to say what you'd be like without it, because it is pervasive: without it, I'd be a completely different person, so the question has no meaning. Like most such conditions, almost everything you do is in some way affected by coping mechanisms: I work from home because open-plan offices are too noisy and stress-inducing to think in, my walls are white because patterned or coloured wallpaper plays hob with my visual system, I am extremely anxious and panic-prone and am quite capable of panicking over e.g. replacing a blind or a subtle change in Waitrose's unattended checkouts, my job is optimized for thinking alone for long periods of time rather than constant interaction with other people because that is just too stressful and I'm so astonishingly bad at it... far from being something too subtle to notice, it affects *everything*. It takes seconds for normal people (including e.g. four-year-old children) to notice that something is off about my interaction styles, and this is after 45 years of learning to pass as kinda normal. There may be overdiagnosis, but this is a real thing, and as subtle as a brick to the head.

117:

I'll ask again, could someone tell me the difference between time-sharing on a mainframe, and the cloud?

Sure.

Time sharing: multiple users get to enjoy a terminal experience with a command interpreter/scripting/job control language. The mainframe can multitask.

Virtualization: the mainframe OS requires a standardized set of low-level APIs, and can in turn emulate those APIs to other instances of the OS running as guest applications. Sometimes it's a distinct host OS and a separate guest OS (e.g. VM/CMS are two distinct operating systems; CMS runs as a per-user client under VM, which can host multiple instances of CMS). Advantage: it insulates users from each others' idiot mistakes. More sophisticated OSs are self-virtualizing; they can run as guests or hosts, you can stack 'em up recursively. Requires hardware support. Mainframes got this in the early 1970s. PCs got this in the early 00s; host OSs are usually called hypervisors.

The Cloud: once you unhook a client operating system from the physical hardware it doesn't care what the underlying physical box it's running on looks like. And once you have fast enough networking, you can migrate a client operating system between a hypervisor on one physical CPU and a hypervisor on another machine without the user necessarily noticing. You need a lot of fancy filesystem and virtual device support under the hood, but in effect the mainframe is replaced by a nearly-infinitely-scalable network of commodity PCs.

Note that the Cloud is not a mainframe, not even a virtual mainframe; mainframes tend to be physically bounded and have much tighter hard limits than cloud computing, although they also have much faster internal i/o bandwidth than cloud computing.

Best metaphor I can think of: if a mainframe is a high-rise condominium made out of slabs of pre-stressed concrete, a cloud service is a sprawling housing estate of individual units made out of bricks. (They both provide large-scale accommodation but the architecture and the i/o are very different.)

118:

support for cross-platform integration, for starters.

Microsoft is currently working towards/announcing "'windows in the cloud", with promised support for anything that can do HTML5. As it is Word is part of Office.666 which is also clouded, so I assume you have looked at that and rung your exorcist for a conslutation.

Personally I am about to buy a very expensive gaming device that will run Win10 because that is currently the one true way to play Path Of Exile, and because my work development environment runs quite happily in a virtual machine but the game does not. Sadly the cross-over between gaming and work pcs extends only so far as "many CPU, much display" (and a small, fast disk) so I will be buying slightly slower RAM but lots of it (games will run in 8GB for the most part, as long as you have another 6-10GB in your video card), and as many cores as I can afford (modern build systems use all of them). The good news is that 2TB SSDs are now quite affordable so I will likely not have legacy disks in the box at all (but there will be a dock so I can do backups), and modern gaming video cards generally have lots of outputs so I will be able to run 3 or 4 monitors at 4k, albeit only using one for the really intense gaming sessions (no faking 8k by using 4x4k monitors).

I am very well aware of the general principle, it also applies to the pc - most people use some combinationj of a phone, a "smart" tv and a tablet or crapbook rather than a desktop.

119:

Generally if I want a specific thing because the obvious answer I see around me is garbage I assume that if what I want is available it will be very expensive and come with expensive things that I do not care about.

I believe the OP hypothesis counts as almost tautological. Any focused subgroup will have requirements driven by their special interest that diverge from the general population, and when the interest is hardware-based the hardware requirements will be one focus of the difference. You/we also have the fact that this group is selected for being interested in unusual things in a way that selects for people not overly influenced by peer pressure. Thus "what everyone else does/wants" is less important to us and we are unusually likely so ask for what we want rather than what is socially acceptable.

We are also research-oriented and thus more likely to find out what we can want than the average minion, more likely to find a place to discuss wanting it with like-minded folk, and more likely to have previously found very weird things that do stuff we care about. The average person, possibly even the average author, might not know that Scrivener exists let alone be interested in its cross-platform ability.

My air quality monitor also counts gamma rays, for example, and the phone I nearby bought also took IR photos (a smartphone with a 10AH battery... magic!). Likewise the ebook reader I used for a while was actually a developer kit (only $US600!) running a weird Linux variant and using a power supply I hacked up myself (you want battery life? I'll give you battery life!) but sadly it was not even slightly rugged. Likewise my long history of building my own bicycles from bits of metal tubing because the commercial market has decided that (per Scott Adams) "bicycle seats are uncomfortable. Solution: dorky pants" and that carrying more than a handbag is unnecessary (I have also owned more than one $US5000+ custom made bicycle - there's one in my shed right now).

I wonder if part of my long-term desire to be wealthier than average comes from knowing I have expensive desires?

120:

totally eaten Quark Publishing System's lunch

For a finite number of years, Quark Express and Aldus Pagemaker were the Chevy/Vauxhall/Opel/Holden and Ford of desktop publishing. Adobe acquired Aldus, but I had the impression Quark was already in trouble and fading away at that point. I was never clear whether InDesign was a name change for PageMaker, or a new product when Pagemaker was retired. Aldus had an Illustrator competitor too, called Freehand, which I have a vague recollection ended up as someone else again's IP, but anyway it faded away too. Corel Draw sort of ended up the surviving natural competitor I guess.

Pagemaker and Quark did the same things, but differently. And while both inherited their conceptual architecture from traditional printing, they were not the same conceptually. Some people swore by and were passionate about Quark the way people were/are about WordPerfect and publishing houses always had both available. I might have occasionally turned up in an offset print house with a fully laid out publication archived across 15 x 1.44MB floppies... (a 16th floppy containing the archive app).

121:

FWIW I write this on a laptop that's running Fedora, and have a Centos desktop at work that I use sometimes. But sadly hardware support for Linux is often better done by running Windows and using a virtual machine, because the Linux-VM-Windows-Hardware setup has better device drivers. Trying to buy a desktop PC that can run Linux properly is still unreasonably difficult, and an up to date COTS solution is almost impossible. Once this month's new toys hit retail then percolate out into Linux-land people will start working on drivers etc and we might be able to use selected setups this year, and have some chance with random assortments by the end of next year.

122:

#82 - Well, to me a mainframe is a device under the control of the organisation that (most of) the users are employed by. "The Cloud" is under the control of a third party which leases space and CPU counts to users (organisation or individuals).

#85 - Similar feelings about Wurd and (lack of) style sheets. In a past job, I was asked to edit a report where about 6 people were contributing sections. The company had a standard that, amongst other things, required legal paragraphing. I held a meeting that lasted about 5 minutes in which I told the authors that I would like them to follow the standard, but not worry about how their paragraph numbers were all 1, 1.1, 1.1.1... As the editor, it was my responsibility to make the numbers for each section correct (and I knew that the numbers would auto-update when I pasted sections into my master document).
If I did find a mistake in sub-section levels in Section N, I could correct that by manual editing of that section without affecting the rest of the document.

#108 - Similar feelings, and for much the same reasons!

#109 - I've used computers that I know had daemons in them!

#119 - Well, what brought me here was OGH's writing, not techno-shineys. I've never owned a "home PC" (for values including Macs and *nix as well as Windoze).

123:

As the editor, it was my responsibility to make the numbers for each section correct (and I knew that the numbers would auto-update when I pasted sections into my master document).

Auto-updating things seems to be a problem with some software even now. I read a lot of tabletop roleplaying games (and play less than I'd like...), and many of them seem to have a problem with references. Books even from relatively large and professionals have more than enough references like "page XX."

I haven't really written a long document using modern tools, but I did write a lot of things in LaTeX back in the day, and with it it was easy to get page references correct. I'm sometimes amazed how those things which are in my experience easy to automate, just what the computer is for, are not.

Of course, my path to publication-ready files was very simple: .tex files, through 'latex' to PostScript to printer, basically. Publishing professionally has more steps and the page references need to be correct for the final book, so they're easier to miss. Still, I'd think that in modern publishing pipelines there would be a mechanism for automatically fixing the page references.

*Starts up Word and tries to figure out how that handles page references*

124:

I've used computers that I know had daemons in them!

A note from years ago: The unix mailer daemon does not pose a possession hazard to humans. It cannot be contained in a Dho-Na curve.

125:

InDesign was an entirely new clean-sheet product developed at Adobe to replace both Pagemaker and Framemaker. More emphasis on layout than Framemaker, staggeringly good at importing Quark projects, and underwent rapid initial development and feature upgrades: it started out with rough parity with Quark then rapidly improved, and the typesetting agencies used by the major publishers deserted Quark in droves (because Quark upgrades had stalled for years while InDesign gave them a clear upgrade path).

Whether this still holds true or not is another question now that Adobe have switched from selling you software to renting you an annual license for a recurring fee. I note with displeasure that the last non-license-mangled version of Adobe Creative Suite, CS6, was a 32-bit app and so no longer runs on the newest release of macOS that dropped this month. (I foot the bill for an annual CS license as part of my business, along with the Office365 license, and with similar reluctance: I need to be bug-compatible with everyone else in the case of MS, and I need to retain the ability to self-publish at a professional level in event that several billion dollar multinationals implode overnight leaving me naked before the might of Amazon.)

126:

Not at all. And there are very good reasons to use the same editor for both documents and code for technical work - indeed, almost all fancy documents ARE written in a specialist language, though it is not always accessible to the person working on the document.

I am referring to the ability to do complicated, repetitive operations by typing a short line of commands IN THE EDITOR, thus not causing a glitch in your work. Note that I am talking about more than just macros - i.e. you can write a miniature code fragment in the (simple) editing language. Such as changing all the section numbers (and cross-references) to a different numbering scheme (see paws4thot, #122), or standardising. The difference between it and command-line scripting is that it is at a much lower level, and optimised for text manipulation. The difference between it and fancy 'word processors' is that you are not limited to the operations it provides. The difference between it and customisable editors is that it also helps for one-off changes.

Such editors existed in simple forms in the 1960s, and there were advanced (and VERY effective) ones in the 1970s. Templating (such as you described) is even older.

The main reason they disappeared is that nobody succeeded in integrating their facilities into a WYSIWYG editor, and the advantage of those for simple work (and simple users) is immense.

127:

The words 'spirit', 'mollified' and 'boon'. The vast majority of computer users (still) view them as incomprehensible devices run by some arcane magic, where you drive them by incantations that make no sense, but NOT as the hosts of alien entities. See the last paragraph in my response.

As so often with the best SF writers, OGH is probably merely ahead of his time, as I indicated and SFreader expanded on in #100. We are definitely agree in the direction the public perception of them is moving.

128:

Re the number of computer uses: it's wrong w.r.t the UK. In the (early?) 1980s, the UK had several times more computer users per head of population than they next country in the ranking (which wasn't the USA, if I recall). The BBC Micro had a lot to do with that.

The reason for our current differences is that the UK has had 40 years of an active and effective (government and other) policy of dumbing down the British public.

129:

nobody succeeded in integrating their facilities into a WYSIWYG editor

If you've ever seen the laughable jokes that pass for GUI regular expression editor/composers, this is no surprise (and a regexp composer is just part of what you'd need for such a scriptable editor).

130:

Yes, I have - agreed! Many of the scriptable editors did not support REs, but traditional conditionals and loops are as tricky, and the same is true there (e.g. Iris Explorer). I spent some time working out how I would tackle this issue, in two different ways:

I might have written a hybrid editor for my own use if I could have found a simple WYSIWYG editor with clean code and decent ergonomics to use as a starting point. I looked very hard, too :-( But it would never have been popular with the masses.

I came to the conclusion that designing a decent GUI programming interface (even limited to very simple languages, like REs) was probably an insoluble problem, and certainly needed someone brighter than me to solve it.

I've mentioned it before, but it's very relevant to this thread, so might be worth repeating. I am expecting a revolution in human-computer interfaces soon, because the current ones are not fit for the (current) purposes, but haven't a clue what it will be. I know that some pundits are certain they know - with all sorts of solutions - but this area smells to me of something where the future direction will not be based on rationality, and so is essentially unpredictable. In particular, UNLIKE with technical solutions or even WIMP interfaces, predictions by technical people like me are very likely to be wrong.

If 'they' can get voice recognition reliable enough, that might be part of it. It would require people to accept a high failure/hacking rate for anything used in public, but I never expected that people would expect the unreliability, huge error rate and user-hostility of modern commodity systems. They might do the same here - after all, the UK public seem happy that all their personal data is being exported for the benefit of multinationals' marketing campaigns.

131:

The vast majority of computer users (still) view them as incomprehensible devices run by some arcane magic, where you drive them by incantations that make no sense, but NOT as the hosts of alien entities...

I don't know. I've got a Galaxy tablet here beside me and I know it's infested with tiny spirits, some of which I cannot exorcise, servitor creations of inhuman intelligences that have no sympathy for me or capacity for love.

It's my hope that most of them are not part of any nefarious plans. Some of them will perform useful services, if I manage the correct rites of command.

Does it really matter greatly if we say "imps" or "apps" here?

132:

I am expecting a revolution in human-computer interfaces soon...

I remember reading about the voice based interface revolution that was coming "soon" - back in the 1980s. (It ships with the fusion plants, I imagine.) It's easy to spot the places where a current UI doesn't work very well; it's much harder to actually build a usable interface that doesn't have its own annoying or frustrating shortcomings.

Unusable interfaces with crippling flaws, sure, we can make plenty of those.

133:

Totally off-topic comments ought to be OK after 100+ responses to OP, right?

This item is so totally up blog host's alley that I had to come straight here and post it.

134:

Follow that one up with the linked short essay It's a Good Thing Magic Isn't Real...

135:

Does it really matter greatly if we say "imps" or "apps" here?

Well, "imps" are like "daemons" only smaller. MickeyShaft have recently taken to calling "Wurd" an "app", and I think what we think of that piece of bloatware is already documented.

136:

Jeff Fisher @ 75: Wow. Cool flow charts of US energy production and consumption.

They projected energy consumption to be 65% higher than it actually was 20 years later.

I don't think they knew OPEC and the Arab Oil Embargo was going to wake the country to the folly of basing an economy on imported oil. Now we know, even if we've just replaced one folly with a dozen others.

137:

Does it really matter greatly if we say "imps" or "apps" here?

Even for geeks like me, functionally, not in the slightest. My comment was solely about what people perceive them as.

My very second program on my first machine (a Ferranti Mercury II) produced an incomprehensible effect that completely baffled the engineers, despite being all of a dozen (simple) lines long. In my career, I have investigated a good half a dozen problems in depth where I concluded "That code could not possibly have had that effect". And I really DO mean that I had no evidence to disbelieve witchcraft or daemonic possession.

138:

And once you have fast enough networking,

So, for most people, that means never.

I am opposed to "everything on the cloud" because it may be great for people who live in Bandwidth Utopia, it is hell for people who live in the real world. Even more random delays waiting on something in the chain slowing things down for random periods of 5-60 seconds at random intervals.

139:

If someone does produce a user-friendly voice interface that becomes widely adopted then it will probably follow a similar evolution to that of the prevalent visual interfaces with the words/sounds becoming less and less recognisable with longer gaps between them filled with white noise such that you're never quite sure which app/program you're interacting with.

140:

whitroth @ 85: In 1995, just before Lose 95, er, Win 95 came out, there was a review of word processors in PC Mag. What they found, *then*, was that 90% of the users never used 90% of the features, and of the 10% that did use some of the other 90% of the features, they used them 10% of the time.

I cannot imagine why you would want scripting in a word processor (oh, unless it's to make up for the lack of command mode...)

Did not like WP 4.x. WP 5 - WP 6 were *wonderful*, and yes, I still have my legal copy (somewhere, on floppies) of WP 6.c. Back in the late nineties, all the secretaries I knew, who know both, *hated* Word, and loved WP.

Major pet peeve: "reveal all codes" in Word DOES NOT. Show me, for example, where it reveals "right justify this paragraph".

Oh, and I'm 100% Linux (CentOS 6, and, *sigh*, I'm going to have to go to 7, 6 is EoL next spring, and I'll have to deal, as I did at work, with systemd...)... and my daughter occasionally reads my stories, and sends tracked changes, which, if I enable in LibreOffice, I can see.

The first word processor program I used was Professional Write for DOS. I loved it because I learned to TYPE and it was easy to use because it worked pretty much like a typewriter ... with some minor changes to adapt to the computer keyboard ("Enter" key instead of slamming the carriage return across across). If you put "Caps Lock" on typing the top row of keys gave you "!@#$%^&*()_+" instead of numbers. It was a true "Shift Lock".

It did have mouse support with a ruler across the top and to place a Tab, you moused up to the ruler and clicked where you wanted the TAB and typed 'T' ... or 'D' for a decimal tab if you were going to align a column of numbers ... I think the only "fonts" it had were Courier and Elite. The left and right margins were set by placing a 'M' on the ruler.

When you got to the end of the line, you had to press "Enter" to do a carriage return/line feed or the cursor would just stay there and keep changing to the last letter you typed. There was a way to do a Margin Release like on a typewriter, but I don't remember how to do it now.

And that was it. If you wanted to type a letter, you TYPED a letter.

But times change, and now I use a WYSIWYG graphical Word Processor (although I mostly use Notepad to compose my replies here).

I had a look at Scrivner, and if it does all that the video explaining the Core Concepts says it does it's VERY powerful, and then I looked at the price and DAMN! you get all that for just $45 USD? WOW!

141:

Pigeon @ 89: I must disagree with some of the other bits, though; Charlie's "typical user" fits me to a T, and the ASD part of it (the suggestion of which, in my case, long predates the words) means that I hate communication systems which are speech-based, and also hate those which work in real time. So I'm quite the opposite regarding "text vs calling"; you either contact me by email or you just don't.

I still enjoy receiving the occasional real voice phone call. The problem is all the damn telemarketers & robocalls just drown them out.

And when I was overseas, I had daily access to personal email, but it was a pale substitute for actual letters from home, even when the letters were all written on a computer & printed instead of hand written.

142:

P J Evans @ 93: You might have enjoyed some of the discussions in my workgroup, where we got into computer stuff. Several nerds of a feather, there. (We were doing GIS, building a database; the other one was mostly being done outside, as it was less demanding in its requirements.)

GIS, Hah! All of the shit I'm going through with the City of Raleigh right now is because the GIS "lost" a manhole - got paved over about a decade ago, and the GIS couldn't tell them where to look for it.

Contractor didn't recognize it when they scraped off the top layer of asphalt preparing to resurface the street & somehow water getting into it after it was exposed created a sinkhole, so now they've had to close off the street to replace all of the subsurface infrastructure (with a sudden, unscheduled detour through my residential neighborhood for all the frustrated, angry drivers who need to use that street to get to work).

143:

DaffGrind @ 107: Poe's law is strong in this thread. I honestly can't tell which (if any) of the diatribes here are sarcastic.

The <code>CODE</code> tags used to indicate sarcasm don't seem to work here, but the <tt>TeleType</tt> tags do, so you can always use that if you need an indicator.

144:

Scott Sanford @ 110:

I'll ask again, could someone tell me the difference between time-sharing on a mainframe, and the cloud?

We have a newer and much shinier buzzword now!

Back in the 1990s the buzzword was "thin client computing," which people pointed out was a lot like time sharing on a mainframe.


In the 2030s there will probably be a new buzzword for this that makes no reference to "the cloud" because by then the term sounds old fashioned, quaint, and inefficient.


I see it as a juxtaposition of where the processing was/is done and where the data was/is stored.

Time sharing on a mainframe, the processing was done on the mainframe, but the data was stored locally. With "the cloud" processing is done locally while the data is stored remotely.

145:

Charlie Stross @ 114:

And to add to the glorious mess that is Windoze 10 Updates

This is only a mess if you don't flip the switch to tell it to reboot and install updates outside of active hours, then set active hours to something like 5am-3am.

Then, once every month or two, reboot into Windows before you go to bed, and expect to wake up to an updated machine and boot back into Linux.

Seriously, in Windows terms I'm a n00b, but finding this in the Windows 10 settings wasn't exactly rocket science; it's easier to accomplish than on the last version of macOS (I haven't updated the herd to Catalina yet due to worse-than-usual software incompatibilities).

At least through Windoze7 you could turn off automatic updates and have the OS prompt you to install them. I get a little dialog box once in a while down in the bottom right corner of the screen to tell me there are new updates available, but I can install them when it's convenient for me. Also gives me time to find out if an update is going to break something and/or whether there is a fix for it so I can delay the update or have the fix all ready to install as soon as the update goes in.

Don't know if this is still possible with Windoze10 or not.

146:

- Cloud allows you to run multiple OS’s/ libraries etc
- cloud scales way way beyond mainframes , thousands or tens of thousands of cpu is not uncommon
- compete disconnect between hardware and software (not just got standby)
- pay for what you use: with mainframes you pay for the whole mainframe whether you use it or not. This includes dynamic scaling up and down of compute resources
- compute and storage are disconnected
- generally cheaper since commodity hardware
- can geographically move compute close to demand to minimize latency

147:

I just do not understand the point of this posting.
We are atypical.
I am in a three desktop lock. I need a real Mac, I need a real Windows 10, I need a real Linux with significant computing power.
Similar here. Linux (debian distro) laptops, MacBook Pro for work because it's what I was issued, windows machine for windows stuff. The Linux laptops are for personal use and moderately-well secured against attack (including physical) and tracking. Also a bigger Linux server in house that can be accessed remotely via ssh.
Smartphone is for google(game changer relative to 20 years ago), light-duty browsing (only a few hundred tabs across 5 browsers :-), wireless hotspot, Signal, email(reading) and the occasional phone call/text message.

148:

_Moz_ @ 121: FWIW I write this on a laptop that's running Fedora, and have a Centos desktop at work that I use sometimes. But sadly hardware support for Linux is often better done by running Windows and using a virtual machine, because the Linux-VM-Windows-Hardware setup has better device drivers. Trying to buy a desktop PC that can run Linux properly is still unreasonably difficult, and an up to date COTS solution is almost impossible. Once this month's new toys hit retail then percolate out into Linux-land people will start working on drivers etc and we might be able to use selected setups this year, and have some chance with random assortments by the end of next year.

If you want to buy a computer with Linux pre-installed it looks like there are options:

https://linuxpreloaded.com/

I don't know about applications. The only one I couldn't do without is PhotoShop. There's no native Linux version of PhotoShop and Adobe says there never will be.

No real biggie. I already have PhotoShop CS6 & a Windoze 7 computer that it runs on. And since there's never going to be another standalone version of PhotoShop I doubt I'll ever need to upgrade from that computer (baring failure of some component that becomes no longer available).

149:

Charlie Stross @ 125: Whether this still holds true or not is another question now that Adobe have switched from selling you software to renting you an annual license for a recurring fee. I note with displeasure that the last non-license-mangled version of Adobe Creative Suite, CS6, was a 32-bit app and so no longer runs on the newest release of macOS that dropped this month.

I don't know about the rest of the Creative Suite applications, but PhotoShop CS6 was available as a 64 bit application (at least for Windoze it was).

150:

You can just rent "computers" (more or less virtualized) in the cloud and run whatever you make on them.

But you can also buy higher level 'services'. Essentially implementations of useful algorithms or blobs of storage with various properties. These can work together to accomplish tasks. Your team then only has to create the 'work together' bits, and those are often wrapped in frameworks to make them easier to use. The wins are that amazon/google/microsoft have large teams of experts working to optimize, maintain, and secure these better than your team would be able to do it and they make it so that you can scale your usage up or down vastly more than you could if you bought the hardware. The cloud operators also implement higher level services on top of their basic algorithms.

One can browse the items here to get an idea of what these services are:
https://aws.amazon.com/

But, vaguely, the lower level ones are like "storage that is slow but cheap" "storage that is fast but expensive" "a database that is fast to read but slower to give the same answer to all requests after somebody writes and moderately priced". You don't know or care what the hardware is that those are implemented on, and there actually isn't one type of hardware and it is changing and failing constantly.

151:

Re age, I'm currently working with younger-end Millennials (I am not one) and there is a constant background effort (enjoyable, TBH) to decode cultural references. Constantly hitting google/etc to find the references and the origins of usages, memes, etc. The tech use is similar, though, including CLIs. Google (for how-tos) is a leveler that way.

Nix@116:
Being a hypersensitive introvert means a bit of a mismatch with a very chatty, mostly extroverted work team. Current open-plan office workplaces are friendly to extroverts (and hostile to hypersensitives). (Can read people/faces, do empathy fine though so maybe not ASD.) (Yom Kippur, female cantor [referring to a reading]: "you have a wonderful speaking voice. What do you do for a living?". "Not speaking.". OK, I was toying with trying to make something like the Dune BG "Voice" real, for fun. :-)

I work from home because open-plan offices are too noisy and stress-inducing to think in,
Open-plan is like diving into a mind-shredder, every day, yes?

152:

Re: 'Even more random delays waiting on something in the chain slowing things down for random periods of 5-60 seconds at random intervals.'

Have been wondering how such random slow-downs (out-of-syncs) might affect programs including whether this could erroneously toss in/delete/scramble some portion of code that was not originally part of it. Worked on a project where the IT dept said we had to use multiple servers - when we tried it first on one server, it crashed (big data file, etc.). Unlike previous projects, time-stamping was an important part of the data being collected. Result: The time-stamped data collected using multiple/parallel/chatting back-and-forth servers did not make sense and we had to re-do the project. Given this first-hand experience, I wonder how ever faster, cross-talking apps/AIs are going to screw up data. I am even more concerned that the humans running these devices/programs will not even be aware until there's a total screw up/unexpected result that forces them to look more closely. Seriously: How closely and in what ways do current O/S, app, systems developers test their products? Is there an international central body that requires testing to industry agreed-upon standards? (Are we at the stage that we should demand regulated standards and testing?)


Re:EC: '"That code could not possibly have had that effect".'

Yep - this is exactly what I was asking about! Did you ever figure out what the glitch was?

153:

I remember several times when I went to log off at work finding out that it needed to run updates, and letting it run, after making sure that someone else knew it was updating, so they could turn the machine back on and make sure I *was* logged out. (We normally left our machines on 24/7, because our technical-support people did their updating when we weren't around.)

154:
Yeah, we really need a class action lawsuit to compensate us all for the time wasted recovering from unwanted updates in the middle of work crunches. Microsoft is far too arrogant, and needs to be reminded that its customers have a say in how the softwareverse should operate.
Drug addicts suing their dealer over the quality of the product.
155:

We were dealing with gas piping - and all the major valves are going to be GPSed, because they might need to be shut off in an 0-dark-hundred no-power emergency. (I was using Google Maps/Streetview, because that was back when you could right-click and get lat/long for a point. The real numbers have 8 places right of the decimal; I was using 6.)

At the time, we were still running XP on our workstations; it was hard to get all the software to upgrade and work properly together.

156:

It was nice working in an open-plan office where most people worked quietly. (We weren't doing customer service, so the phones weren't ringing all the time.) Some of the youngers used IM to "talk" to each other all the time.

157:

It would be rather handy if the text "You may use HTML entities and formatting tags in comments" above the reply box contained a link to a list of exactly which tags are allowed and which ones aren't. Trial and error doesn't really cut it, especially with the apparent lack of logic behind the choice of permitted tags and the amazing obscurity of some of them.

158:
Virtualization: the mainframe OS requires a standardized set of low-level APIs, and can in turn emulate those APIs to other instances of the OS running as guest applications. Sometimes it's a distinct host OS and a separate guest OS (e.g. VM/CMS are two distinct operating systems; CMS runs as a per-user client under VM, which can host multiple instances of CMS).
As we said at the time: IBM invented virtualisation because they were too dumb to write a real multi-user OS.
159:

I used to be notably fond of the keyboard on the Commodore Pet, where the numbers were only on the keypad, and the top row of keys on the main section produced only punctuation marks without using Shift at all. Very handy for code or anything vaguely mathematical. Shame the keypad was on the wrong side, though.

160:

Pleasure to meet you.

in the mid-80's, I worked for the National Board of Medical Examiners - most of the doctors in the US take their Boards, and *all* grads of foreign medical schools take their tests. I was on the team, well, sorta team lead, that first computerized the tests. We were on PCs, and we had a d/b from a vendor (remember, not much out there on pc's at the time) that had their code written in... wait for it... partly assembly, and partly compiled Basic. Was big, and couldn't do things we needed. Eventually, I proposed, and after they looked around, gave me the go-ahead, and I wrote a d/b system. In BASIC. Was *way* faster than the vendor, and far smaller. I understand in the mid-nineties, they finally converted it to C, so I dun gud.

GIS: around the turn of the millenium (Ghu, is that weird, or what?), I was working to support the City of Chicago 911 system. After several other programmers left, our manager asked me to clean up a mess: the City would extract the maps from ArcInfo, I think it was, send us the dump, and we would load it into our Oracle d/b. I found out why we were doing it a couple times a year, instead of every month: the programmers had been MASSAGING the data to get it in. And doing the *same* massaging, and more, each time. I wrote some awk scripts to complain when something was missing, or out of range, I'd send that back to the City, and he'd fix it, and no more massaging. Went from two weeks of sheer terror (try to send an ambulance over a closed road?) to a day or so of tedium.

161:

There was a DOS-era joke about voice interfaces which obviously hasn't been heard enough because the concept is still alive...

Scene: an open-plan office, full of drones. J. Random Drone calls out across the office to ask a question of Office Nerd:
"Nerd, how do you format the C drive?"
"FORMAT C: enter."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes!"

162:

Ha. When I first encountered it, it was an APPL (32-bit big-endian int) ;)

163:

I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're complaining about.

Computers *are* magic. You have to study for a long time, and learn the correct invocations. Then you invoke a function, er, sorry, object, and give it parameters, oh, *pheaux*, I mean message, *sigh*, I mean command the daemon, and instantiate an instance, and it does what I told it to do.

Please note, I said, "what I told it to do", not always "what I *meant* for it to do"....

164:

Stop. Really, I mean STOP!!!!!

I occasionally misread something, but I usually shoot off something short. Sorry I said something that triggered you... but WHAT YOU WROTE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT I SAID.

REALLY it doesn't.

Let's try again, and DO NOT START RANTING, READ EXACTLY WHAT I'M WRITING, SENTENCE BY SENTENCE.

1. A lot of what used to be considered ADD/ADHD seems to have been
rolled into "autism spectrum".
2. ADD/ADHD was MASSIVELY over-diagnosed, mostly by doctors with *no* training in the subject.
3. Side note: I once had a boss who, after a while that I'd worked there, started yelling at me, literally, over bugs. At one point, she finally said she knew she had a problem, and had tried to work on it, but gave up, so I'd have to deal with it. (I got another job.)
4. There are plenty of folks, esp. on the 'Net, who claim it, and use it as an excuse. STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! I DIDN'T ACCUSE YOU OF THAT, I SAID THAT THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE ON THE 'NET BESIDES YOU!!!!!

If you try to argue the spectrum is that broad, you're starting to approach, as a limit, all human behaviour has some clinical diagnosis, and I disagree with that.

Is this any clearer? I was NOT TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WITH CLINICALLY-DIAGNOSED SERIOUS ISSUES.

165:

Yes, I remember that statement from when it was current, but I'm not sure how useful it was/is as it stands, and I've never seen it broken down to more useful components.

The BBC Micro was a bloody brilliant machine for nerds, and no other country's nerds had anything quite like it. But it was also one of the most expensive options, and though it proliferated in schools because there was a grant for it, only a minority of people had one at home. The majority of home users had a Sinclair Spectrum, because it was a quarter of the price, it had a lot more games for it, and they didn't care about how shit it was because playing games was all they were interested in it for.

Playing games doesn't teach you anything more about computers than playing cards teaches you about printing processes, so a rather more useful figure would be the percentage of the population who used a computer as a general purpose processing engine, as opposed to a Space Invaders machine that took a long time to get going and had all these buttons with letters on for some reason that you never used.

166:

I disagree, Charlie. You're defining time-sharing on a mainframe per early eighties specs.

Also, a *lot* of cloud computing is done *in* the cloud, and only the results are displayed on you pc. (Come on, you don't think those mass spammers send all that out on someone's home pc, do you?)

ESP. with SaaS, you'll get more and more running in the clouds.

167:

"Bicycle seats are uncomfortable".... Yeah, about that. I sincerely hope you've a *real* bike seat, *hung*, not like so many "oh, it's so soft (never mind when you hit a bump, your crotch hits the nylon base...."

168:

Oh, and since you ask, mine is quilted, padded, hung leather.

169:

As a programmer who is too lazy to build machines and just buys laptops off the shelf I'm not sure I belong here.

Yeah I run linux some of the time when I'm doing worklike stuff but I am unable to get engaged in OS wars.

A few years back I had a mac and liked it, but not enough to stick with them through the last round of screwing around with their mice and trackpads.

Windows mostly works. Linux sometimes works. Apple always works but it will cost you a kidney. Do people still get worked up about this?

170:

You mean sendmail? Y'know, I've read an interview with the creator, who said the config file was supposed to be easy to parse, and he had no interest in human readability....

171:

Voice recognition... nope. I hear my lady talking to Alexa, and, just nope.

Besides, allow me to what I (and others) were saying in the early nineties about voice recognition: the just-fired disgruntled employee is escorted out of the HR office, and he yells, at the top of his lungs, START-COMMAND-FORMAT C:-YES-YES-YES!!!!

172:

Re: '"what I told it to do", not always "what I *meant* for it to do"'

Yeah - that's the catch! :)

So which is the more typical reaction:
(a) This incantation/potion has a bug in it.
(b) There's something that I don't know and because of that my spell isn't working as I expected on the following parameters.

In math, chem and physics, you hear about a discovery that seems kinda weird/so-what at the time but which later proves to be really useful. This ever happen in CompSci/IT?

173:

"Tens of thousands of CPUs"... and you really think you're getting that many?

Where I just retired from, they had what, at last count, was the world's 100th fastest supercomputer, 60k cores? More? I ought to ask. You got some limited set of cores.

Oh, and mainframes? About 20 years ago, someone at IBM maxed out an entire mainframe, using IBM's VM (which goes back to the seventies), with 48,000 separate instances of Linux, and it ran 32,000 separate instances quite happily.

Sorry, you really don't understand mainframes, or how resources are shared.

174:

I am referring specifically to the cases where I tracked the problem down and got the unequivocal answer "This could not have happened". In a couple of cases, that involved a week's work. Merely baffling bugs were too numerous to count.

175:

Back in the early 1980s, I thought that MS-DOS would be a failure because not even the most stupid user would put up with such a heap of malfunctioning crap. I was wrong. It is possible that people may tolerate the same failure rate with voice control that they did with MS-DOS 2.14.

176:

"Trying to buy a desktop PC that can run Linux properly is still unreasonably difficult"

Yer wot? It used to be like that, but scrabbling around trying to get hardware that Linux would recognise and then trying to get Linux to recognise it hasn't been a problem for years and years. Indeed it's the other way round these days: with Windows you carefully check the "compatible with..." blurb on the box before you buy the thing, then buy it, plug it in, and piss around with the driver CD and its installer and then piss around more on the internet looking for a newer driver etc etc etc, whereas with Linux you ignore the "compatible with..." entirely, frisbee the driver CD across the room, plug the thing in and it works.

There are a few holes with devices that are exotic but not nerdly, such as film scanners - there are a few that work with Linux which are Christmas cracker toys not worth spending money on, but only about one high quality device that works - and it's a few years since I last looked, so it might well not be like that any more. But devices that aren't exotic are pretty much all fine these days, and devices that are nerdly tend to make more of a point of compatibility with Linux than with Windows.

The difficulty with desktop PCs is how to be certain that you are actually getting the best performance for the money - sorting out things like does this thing really get the sustained performance its chipset is capable of or is there some shitty cheap-arsed corner cutting in the auxiliary hardware that means it can only keep it up for a few cycles before it chokes, or does this motherboard actually give better performance to justify being three times the price of that one or are you just paying for a more expensive artist to draw spaceships on the box it comes in. The real information is, of course, deliberately unavailable, and trying to get something dependably meaningful out of the mess of badly-conducted apples-and-oranges "bench tests" on various websites is not a problem with a decent solution.

177:

Mere tens of thousands of CPU cores is kinda passé. Modern GPUs are SIMD devices with up to thousands of FPUs running in parallel per processor, and folks put them in racks by the thousand just to mine Bitcoins. The face recognition cluster at Facebook, just running recognizers over the shitpile of user-uploaded photographs to auto-tag them and identify who knows who, ran on several million cores as of about 3-4 years ago.

The really big cloud clusters are getting into the millions (potentially up to hundreds of millions) of cores.

Of course, on this scale you're looking at lots of clones of the same software chewing on different components of a gigantic data set, or at individual CPUs running virtualized OS instances that are no more powerful than those of a high-end PC. But still: mainframe city? Is small.

(Back in 2000-2001 I was part of a startup that was going to try and commercialize—at the retail level—virtual hosting of Linux guest instances on IBM mainframes, using second-hand hardware. Alas, we rolled up to make our first pitch on ... 12th September, 2001. I think you can guess how well that went.)

178:

Not the same.

GPUs are good at GPU stuff and CPUs are good at CPU stuff.

GPU: SIMD. High throughput, minimal branching. Simple logic.

CPU: Complex logic, lower throughput.

GPUs aren't quite as horrendous for complex logic as they were a few years ago but getting them to CPU standards there isn't going to happen because it would make them crap at their core job.

A decent graphics card is just the job for running an FFT or big matrix decomposition but they are exactly the wrong tool for the job for the squirrely control logic.

The difference between the two cases is essentially why it's important not to mix up parallelism and concurrency.

179:

There are plenty of folks, esp. on the 'Net, who claim it, and use it as an excuse.

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=2832

180:

FrameMaker is alive and well. Google: Tech Communicator Suite 2019.
In the last year, my wife has done work in FrameMaker for two companies and a technical organization. The two companies are well know to everyone commenting here. I've done FrameMaker and VBA scripting to automate the conversion of PowerPoint files to formatted FrameMaker files. I have great respect for the person who initially wrote FrameMaker.

I consider FrameMaker and OrCAD to be the two must have Windows programs.

181:

P J Evans @ 94: "Nearly 40 years ago, when I signed up for computer science in college … they required Fortran or Basic before letting you into the major."

I took a Fortran class in college back in 1981 and became disenchanted with computers in general. We were using terminal keyboards with dot-matrix printers loaded with computer printout paper (set up with the Michigan Terminal System MTS). We were also doing computer punch cards (one wrong punch in a card stopped the entire stack reader).

In the very same computer lab there were also new IBM desktop computers with glowing green type on black monitors and using 5 inch floppy disks. Why couldn’t we be on those instead? Even then we knew the terminal system we were operating on was antiquated.

In 1984 a friend of mine was working for a local office computer retailer installing and setting up computers in homes and offices. Ben was allowed to take computers home and try them out. One day he showed me the Apple Macintosh and showed me how to use the mouse. Since then I knew I didn’t want to program but wanted to use the software.

182:

Charlie Stross @ 125: "… Adobe have switched from selling you software to renting you an annual license for a recurring fee."

Yeah, everything is becoming subscription/cloud based. Working for an institution like a university it’s more convenient for licensing Adobe CC and Office365. Updates are frequent and automatic.

However, the macOS updates are happening far too frequently and appear to be getting ahead of themselves when it comes to capability with other program software. Just today our Computer Services Director sent out this email:

Colleagues:

For those of you who have a Mac that you administer yourself, we strongly suggest that you do not upgrade to the most recent version of OSX, Catalina. There are some significant changes in the underlying OS with this upgrade and software and accessory compatibility issues are reported as being widespread.

We encourage you to wait until the next few updates have been made by Apple before considering moving over to Catalina.

183:

My school had a CDC machine and a PDP10 (with RSTS). Most of the interactive terminals were always in use by the business classes, so that was kind of a loss. You could get a terminal with an editor, if you wanted to deal with the CDC - its editor was not very useful, as it used two "enters" to change mode, and the keyboards were bouncy - or you could use punchcards. I tended to not use either, as much as possible: my then roommate had an LSI-11 running RT. (I do remember at one point using the "hidden" keypunch in the engineering building, and surprising one of the engineering students by being able to manually feed a card and punch it in about two minutes.)

184:

One of the software vendors I deal with sent out a message about Catalina that was basically "don't use our stuff with it".

185:

My experience with Linux, going back to about 1995 is that it doesn't work. For me. I may have a black thumb in this regard but...

I end up recycling and repurposing older machines a lot and I don't have a choice of hardware, it's whatever was in the box/laptop/netbook when I got it. Generally these machines were built to run Windows, or Windows was ported to them. I can put a modern version of Windows on these boxes and they Just Work. Linux, I try it occasionally and it almost always goes Horribly Wrong somewhere.

Example -- I have a couple of small netbooks, the sorts with Atom processors in them. They use the Intel GMA945-series graphics chip, a pile of fetid dingos kidneys as video adaptors go but that's what's in there. There is no Linux driver for that chipset, put Linux on one of these netbooks and it defaults into CPU-driven memory-mapping VGA mode which is as slow as cancer with a limp and makes the machine unusable. I put Windows 7 Starter on them, they Just Work with usable drivers to start with and updated ones available online.

Example -- I have a wheelhorse server in the workshop, dual quad-core Xeons and 32GB of RAM. I fire it up when I've got some offline heavy hauling to do. I can throw images and video to it over the LAN, let it chew down on the data while the cooling fans scream and fetch the results back afterwards. I tried to fit two video cards into this server, one PCI and one PCIe. Cinnamon Linux threw its hands up in horror at my audacity and dropped me into a command line, telling me to fix this heresy myself since it was having a case of the screaming habdabs. I put Win 7 on this box, the GUI said "Oh, you've got two video monitors attached, how do you want to arrange them?" Click, click, click it Just Worked (oh, afterwards it wanted to download 195 updates - I'm not kidding, I have a screenshot) but no CDs were thrown across the room.

186:

Um... I may be typically atypical or somesuch. Middle-aged, male, non-whitish, STEM, definitely odd, but 2 young children.

However, like smartphones, Android, love voice controls and home automation. Frankly, given the sheer tedium of my life, the most likely result of an agent being forced to listen to me is an uptake in drug usage. Anyways, anything that gets the lights off without me getting out of bed after the fifth time a family member has peed and left it in is good by me.

TV no. Chromebook yes.

187:

An editor with advanced macros and normally a full screen one.

There was an awesome one for PR1ME, made developing in F77 or PL/1G much better than the standard one.

PR1ME was an early super mini maker lost out to DEC when they introduced the VAX.

Still think that PL1/G was the best computer language ever used it to do the core part of the Billing system Telecom Gold used - Map Reduce with late 70's Early 80's tech.

188:

Follow up It was the Salford Editor source available here http://www.andrewpetermarlow.co.uk/personal/prime.html

Wonder if I could port it to Linux

189:

Early IBM's went exactly much use for a CS course :-)

You might not know but PDP10's and 20's score really high on geek points.

190:

I have suspect there are there are other reasons it is probably a bit arse anyway, but I think what you're looking for in terms of coding in the word processor is available in Word and has been for a little while. MS have an API they call COM, which exposes an underlying document model. Since Powershell, you can open COM objects in a REPL command line mode of a script, and I believe you can open an object there and in Word at the same time (you set "visible" to true). The gotcha would be whether you can edit it at the same time in both and I don't have time to play with it now. I found this, though:

https://mcpmag.com/articles/2018/05/24/getting-started-word-using-powershell.aspx

Of course it means learning how the document model is structured and that's probably not worth it without there being an obvious payoff.

As far as your remarks here:

"I am expecting a revolution in human-computer interfaces soon, because the current ones are not fit for the (current) purposes, but haven't a clue what it will be."

I think this is spot-on. I'm reminded about how, as recently as 2006, pretty much EVERYONE KNEW that an all-touch-screen interface for a pocket computer would NEVER SELL enough for the market to carry, even if they could be made to function flawlessly, hence all the dinky little full keyboards that were appearing on phones at the time. I think some folks knew that if you could get people across the line in terms of getting it to work in front of them, and enough did it there could arise a critical mass, and the iPod was getting a lot of attention, but no-one really saw Apple getting into the phone business either.

I think a lot of us thought Google Glass might have hit that critical mass, maybe even were quietly barracking for it to succeed despite the slightly dystopian implications, but I assume it's actually still sort of advancing somewhere, incubating.

191:

Oops - 190 is supposed to be a reply to EC @130

192:

Um... I may be typically atypical or somesuch. Middle-aged, male, non-whitish, STEM, definitely odd, but 2 young children.

However, like smartphones, Android, love voice controls and home automation. Frankly, given the sheer tedium of my life, the most likely result of an agent being forced to listen to me is an uptake in drug usage. Anyways, anything that gets the lights off without me getting out of bed after the fifth time a family member has peed and left it on is good by me.

TV no, except as a player for Chromecast and even then rarely. Chromebook yes. Kindle awesome.

The children may be driving the technological adoption - as reducing the need to multitask and interrupt is very valuable.

I tend to differentiate between ASD spectrum, which I'd argue becomes relevant at 2 standard deviations - with the caveat that many people have weird extreme gaps in limited regions. (Everyone gets a number, but doesn't matter unless you're unusual.) Know a woman who is perfectly social and pretty well put together, but whose theory of mind had her toddler explaining stuff to her.

Clinical diagnoses are tricky because they're pragmatic - meaning that - if you can function - you aren't ill. But, change the situation and you may not be able to function. Autism really is on a spectrum. I'd also argue that accepting normal human variation in social skills includes dealing with dysfunctional behavior that often clusters around asd-like symptoms. Treating such people with compassion is a reasonable approach. (Cause, you can also hurt them, but there will be negligible useful change.). That really diligent and passionate programmer with a tendency to screaming fits and a complete inability to present useful information - well - they can be handy.

Personally, having been to ASD support groups, I am cynical about Asperger's. If you're handsome, ASD, male, and have a job - that's Asperger's. The condition is: non-autistic enough to marry, autistic enough to annoy the spouse. Seriously, the people who identified as Asperger's were all significantly more handsome and employed.

For the variability, at least in less mature silicon, don't assume that it really is digital. Everything is analog. And it is painful to test across process variations... So, not all companies bother. I can, um, guarantee that....sigh.

On one hand, I like parts of the cloud. On the other hand, my first internship used remote computing for the usual reasons. Suddenly the old is new again.

Also, Soylent great - at least better than my breakfasts. And easy to make while holding a baby. Vite Ramen too.

So, I'm maybe anticommenteriate?? I guess I like Linux but don't have much of a use case. Also, low level pure hatred of all things Mac, mostly driven from 7.5.3. I do bear grudges.

193:

Another RT 11 user nice I recall the days of PDP 11/03's and that nasty smell the VT55's built in printer made.

Don't miss the installation of a dual floppy drive requiring three people to install two to lift it one to feed the cables through the chassis.

194:

Interesting article. Folks here will probably be able to guess some of the weird screw-ups/flaws.

Frankly, these examples make me wonder how and to what extent already in-use AIs are being fooled. The examples in the article skew toward visuals but - seriously, folks - from a machine's POV, is there really any difference between a 'picture' vs. any other bunch of really dense data, like say, FB's or anyone else's cryptocurrency?


'Why deep-learning AIs are so easy to fool
Artificial-intelligence researchers are trying to fix the flaws of neural networks.'

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03013-5


195:

Hope your post doesn't backfire: I (and presumably a lot of other readers) enthusiastically endorse this blog.

196:

"The rumour I've heard is that there is *no* follow-on to Win 10, just a thin client, and your whole desktop, etc, is in the cloud. The ultimate SAAS."

Plan 9 conquers the world?

"I'll ask again, could someone tell me the difference between time-sharing on a mainframe, and the cloud?"

You can walk down the hall and kick the mainframe.

I do get the feeling that we are evolving in reverse. Within the major tech companies there are enormous and excellent capabilities, but outside? Things like file sharing and networking have actually gotten harder. Problems which were solved 20, even 30, years ago have come back, and appeared in devices which are distributed by the hundreds of millions. Meantime, the social problems of the internet are barely addressed. If anything, we have gone backwards. Time was, we were proud that women were major participants in computing. Now, we have sexism and harassment as a routine problem.

197:

This could be where I discover I'm positively *months* out of date and the situation has changed for the better. A couple of years ago Centos desktop was a disaster and Fedora not much better, Debian was ok until I tried it with a gaming video card and it sulked ("you get one monitor, and I get to choose which one").

If it all works I might flip my current work setup and run Windows in a VM where I can keep an eye on it, and Fedora on the desktop because that actually works. Although firefox seems to need to be restarted every time I update it.

it looks like there are options

Interesting, linuxnow have started selling gaming PCs and are about the same price as our local windows-only pc shop. I wonder if graphics drivers for Linux are now up to date?

One hassle I find is that graphics cards can be hit and miss. I'm used to the Windows system where you can set position and scaling per monitor easily, but Fedora/Gnome seems to go from "pretty control panel" to "edit x windows config" at the slightest hint of anything non-standard. My laptop will drive a 4k monitor, but god help you if you want to position it other than in one of the default options offered and then unplug it for a while.

I shall consult my coworker who like playing with these things and see what he says. If it's an extra $100 on $3000 worth of bits he might be willing to give it a go (or I might decide to do that instead). Right now I am grumpy that the pre-set "gaming pc" thing I bought two years ago has never worked right and the shop just said "update all the firmware, that will fix it" and that was the end of my warranty support.

198:

Things like file sharing and networking have actually gotten harder. Problems which were solved 20, even 30, years ago have come back, and appeared in devices which are distributed by the hundreds of millions

Nah, once USB-C becomes common people will stop needing USB-OTG dongles to let them copy files from their phone to their laptop if they're too big for google drive.

Also, I remember when people still used network cables and that was no fun{tm}. Everyone using wifi makes things much easier, especially now that wifi is vaguely secure by default. These days the real problems are more related to having ubiquitous networking - SIM hijacking so we get the fappening or simply being locked out of your giant online collection of all the data. I know a few people who would be distraught if they lost access to the only copy of their critical data... which is in the cloud.

For that matter if there was the wrong sort of cloud hack an awful lot of businesses would not be. There's a lot of POS and accounting systems that consist of a web browser and "the cloud"...

199:

"Seriously: How closely and in what ways do current O/S, app, systems developers test their products? Is there an international central body that requires testing to industry agreed-upon standards? (Are we at the stage that we should demand regulated standards and testing?)"

Sarcasm, surely.

Regulation tends to happen only after problems kill a sufficient number of people *and* cause sufficient economic losses. Look at aerospace and medical. Both of them are regulated because there has been a mind-boggling number of disasters caused by poor quality (quality includes design, engineering, manufacturing, coding and all the stuff) or simple indifference.

Even strict regulation cannot always overcome the inherent tendency to cut corners. Look at the Boeing 737 MAX and the cost-cutting decisions with both hardware and software. Corporations just operate in the way that if it is possible to do something cheap, then they will do it cheap. (In this I make a clear difference between cheap and inexpensive.)

In fields in which a software bug does not kill people in hundreds the regulation practically does not exist. In one large software/hardware system I know very well for various reasons, the current count is three dead people due to software bugs. For that system there are regulations on some environmental side-effects like noise, but practically none whatsoever on the quality of the software or the whole system. Well, if the system does not work, then the customers will not be happy with it, but that's it. A pity if a software error kills an operator or a field worker. Fortunately insurance has been invented and in most cases no liability can be proven (the lawyers are employed for the liability issue).

200:

> Such as changing all the section numbers (and cross-references) to a different numbering scheme (see paws4thot, #122), or standardising.

This^ is one of the major reasons why I used to use FrameMaker for large technical documents (>600pages), instead of Word.
This kind of mucking about at low level with section numbers in plain text should be unnecessary.
Section numbers and cross-references should be fully automated, updating whenever paragraphs are inserted, deleted or rearranged.

In FrameMaker numbering is defined for each paragraph style, and remains completely independent of tabs or indents. Any number of paragraph styles can be defined, all with their own numbering schemes if so desired.

In Word, numbering is limited to a fixed set of styles, and for some brain-dead reason is interlinked in unpredictable ways to the paragraph tab stops and indents, such that changing any of these three properties has unexpected side-effects on the other two. Almost completely unusable.

I feel better now. Nurse?

201:

SFR @ 194
How long before an AI-recognition programme is used in a criminal prosectution, where the accused wasn't even there, but was "recognised" by the infallible system?
The current ( And much-protested-about ) "facial recognition" presntly being misused in London is a case in point. Sooner, rather than later, it's going to snare some innocent passer-by.

202:

Already happens with ANPR and mis-identified number plates.
Straight to automatic penalty notice.

203:

Issue is that, at least in an industry in which I have experience, regulations are expensive and when done according to the letter rather than the spirit, probably not that effective. Definitely better than nothing on some ways, but ending up by tripling prices...while ensuring that identified problems are ignored rather than fixed. (Regulatory paperwork == ship product with known issues instead of fixing them). The bright side is that the regulations do keep people out and prices up.

We also tend to farm out risk assessment to the least competent and motivated engineers...

204:

One thing I loved about InDesign when it came out is that it ran/runs some sort of database engine. When it crashed (as all the tools of the trade did, frequently) you could just start it again and continue as if nothing had happened.

It seems to me that there's a disconnect between vendors peddling cloud solutions and customers. At least for the ones I deal with, cloud computing just isn't an option because it's inherently unsafe and not compatible with data retention laws.

205:

W.r.t. the editor - no, because that's much the same as writing and executing LISP in Emacs. It's not much less overhead than saving the file and running a sed/awk/python/perl script on it. I was talking about editors with no mode distinction between normal working and scripting, and hence a VERY shallow learning curve.

I have heard that the DEC editor TCO (?) was like that, but the main one I used was ZED, which ran on the Cambridge Phoenix system. As I said, I haven't even HEARD of one in decades.

206:

That's merely pattern recognition - yes, we are going in that direction, but I do wish that people would stop dumbing down the term AI. It was bad enough in the 1960s and 1970s, but is now used to describe tasks that even I have programmed (and I have never worked in or close to 'AI').

The reasons that it is harmful are that it (a) builds the mystique of computing and (b) hides the fact that there are SERIOUS problems with allowing automated decision-making.

207:

Many years ago I saw a scan of a speeding ticket that included a photograph of the offending car on the back of a tow truck.

Jobsworths the world over have spent decades proving that you don't need computers for automated decision making.

208:

In Word, numbering is limited to a fixed set of styles, and for some brain-dead reason is interlinked in unpredictable ways to the paragraph tab stops and indents...

Footnote: In LibreOffice (and Word, I'd assume) it's actually possible to create new styles - but this feature is deeply buried and not obvious.

This is epi-phenomenal to the stance taken back at the very beginning when creators had to address the fundamental design philosophy question of whether the program should format text by style and purpose or in the fashion of a markup language; they of course chose to do both at once.

209:

You're right, paragraph styles can be created.
However from memory I believe the number of paragraph numbering styles available for any paragraph styles is fixed.

For me it is the obscure interactions between numbering, tabs and indents that makes them stupidly difficult to manage properly.

210:

Now, we have sexism and harassment as a routine problem.

It has always been there. Difference now is that women want to be treated as persons online as well, and the troglodytes are running out of safespaces.

We're moving forward. It's just that the movement is shining a light on the infestation.

211:

Heh. Before OSHA, a power supply which had already killed three people... (Admittedly 100 kV and a few amps) ...merited no more than 'so use ground clamps' and was immediately turned over to a fresh college graduate. Unlike the chief engineer and the two preceding, he lived.

Also, truly don't overestimate the impact of cost cutting. Simple human incompetence magnifies amazingly when working in large groups. In the Boeing case, they might have saved money - but I wouldn't care to bet that the original engineers were better.

212:

Attention, Greg:

The first batch of Cosmo Communicators have shipped to Japanese backers. The pallet of UK/EU models will be dispatched to the UK in another week, so I'm guessing yours (and mine) will arrive in about two weeks' time. (For the Gemini they used—ack, spit—Hermes for final delivery, so You Have Been Warned.)

Linux porting to the Cosmo is only just beginning, so for the time being if you want to use it as a pocket computer you're stuck with running a Linux userland under Android: I can strongly recommend termux, which integrates well with Android; a slightly more involved strategy is to install UserLAnd then pick a linux distro to run on top of it. Tertiary oddball option: t-ui launcher replaces the usual Android launcher with a command line environment that is kinda-sorta somewhere between a UNIX shell and a DOS command prompt, with a whole load of customization options. Alas it doesn't integrate with Termux the way I'd like, dammit, but I can hope (allowing Termux shell processes to launch and interact with Android apps, and vice versa).

But anyway: even without swapping OSs out from Android 9 (which it ships with) the Cosmo should be a reasonably nifty Linux-adjacent pocket computer and smartphone that probably appeals wildly to the normative commenter on this blog.

Which means it's going to be an absolute failure in the mass market.

213:

Charlie
Just got the email, myself ...
I now need to make up my tiny mind, v quickly, if I want the nice carry-case ( Probably yes ) & the poncey cables - are theirs actually special, or not?
I also need to find out about SIM's as I will take my old one out of my dying Samsung, to preserve all my contact details ...
SIGH ... I know about "hermes"- useles aresholes aren't they?
As opposed to the French luxury manufacturer of the same name ...."
Not so sure about the mass-market failure ...
At the "Normal" price, I expect quite a few people will still take it up ... because it is NOT in aplle's walled-garden-with-0razor-wire .. ( ? )

214:

John Hughes responded to my comment about needing a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for their damaging and uncontrollable updates: "Drug addicts suing their dealer over the quality of the product."

Heh.

On the other hand, if that's your metaphor of choice, there's this: the U.S. legal system recently woke up from its decades-long slumber and convicted Purdue Pharma for its role in tens of thousands of opioid-induced deaths, and even went after the owners when they tried to use bankruptcy to protect their assets.

So sometimes "there ain't no justice" should be "sometimes there's justice".

215:

Pigeon @ 157: It would be rather handy if the text "You may use HTML entities and formatting tags in comments" above the reply box contained a link to a list of exactly which tags are allowed and which ones aren't. Trial and error doesn't really cut it, especially with the apparent lack of logic behind the choice of permitted tags and the amazing obscurity of some of them.

Everything I know about HTML I learned by highlighting some part of a comment here and right clicking to select "View Selection Source" and copy/pasting it into the "HTML-tags.txt" Notepad document I use to compose comments, so I can see "How he do dat?"

The ones that I know work (through "trial & error" ... MOSTLY error ... it helps to "Preview" a LOT) are <i>italics</i>, <b>Bold</b>, <p>paragraph</p>, <s>strike through</s>, <strong>STRONG - which looks just like bold to me</strong>, <em>Emphasis which in my browser looks the same as italics</em>, <spoiler>Spoiler - is supposed to hide text until you click on it.</spoiler>, <sup>superscript</sup> and of course <tt>Teletype as a substitute sarcasm font because the code tag doesn't work here.</tt>

"& + lt;" for the less than bracket & "& + gt;" for the greater than bracket, <br> gives a line break and "& + nbsp;" gives a "non-breaking line space" - string five of them together in a row and you get a 5-space indent.

<blockquote>Blockquote allows you to offset quoted text. When I'm replying to another poster & the post I'm replying to has quoted text I use the blockquote to distinguish the text they quoted from their response I'm quoting. You can use the <b>Bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, <br> line break and a string of non-breaking line spaces inside of a blockquote
          which allows you to indent an author's name
216:

Regulation tends to happen only after problems kill a sufficient number of people *and* cause sufficient economic losses. Look at aerospace and medical.

Look at food. It took a lot of effort to get food regulations in place.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/312067/the-poison-squad-by-deborah-blum/

By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. “Milk” might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by “embalmed milk” every year. Citizens–activists, journalists, scientists, and women’s groups–began agitating for change. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, “The Poison Squad.”

Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. Together with a gallant cast, including the muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair, whose fiction revealed the horrific truth about the Chicago stockyards; Fannie Farmer, then the most famous cookbook author in the country; and Henry J. Heinz, one of the few food producers who actively advocated for pure food, Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as “Dr. Wiley’s Law.”

217:

Pigeon @ 159: I used to be notably fond of the keyboard on the Commodore Pet, where the numbers were only on the keypad, and the top row of keys on the main section produced only punctuation marks without using Shift at all. Very handy for code or anything vaguely mathematical. Shame the keypad was on the wrong side, though.

It's all what you're used to. I had been writing reports & training outlines on a typewriter for many years before I ever got to use a computer, so the typewriter like quality of that program really appealed to me. The first keyboards I used didn't have a separate number pad, but neither does a typewriter.

218:

Yes, food is also an excellent example. I tend to forget those fields I have not been dealing with.

And, by the way, there are studies which suggest that successful and "good" corporations are not such "nice guys" in the reality. The corporations are likely to cut any corner in order to get more profit. This is in accordance to OGH's concept of corporations as slow AIs, which have only one goal: profit. Emergent systems, apparently. Human lives, environment and other issues do not matter if they stand in the way to higher profits.

An interesting finding in some of the studies is that the more successful the company is, the more likely it is to perform illegal actions. For example

Mishina, Y., Dykes, B. J., Block, E. S., & Pollock, T. G. (2010). Why “good” firms do bad things: The effects of high aspirations, high expectations, and prominence on the incidence of corporate illegality. Academy of Management Journal, 53(4), 701-722.

This is, however, for away from the original topic of the posting.

219:

whitroth @ 164: 3. Side note: I once had a boss who, after a while that I'd worked there, started yelling at me, literally, over bugs. At one point, she finally said she knew she had a problem, and had tried to work on it, but gave up, so I'd have to deal with it. (I got another job.)

That's one way to deal with it; probably the best way ... hope the new job paid more.

220:

dpb @ 169: As a programmer who is too lazy to build machines and just buys laptops off the shelf I'm not sure I belong here.

Yeah I run linux some of the time when I'm doing worklike stuff but I am unable to get engaged in OS wars.

A few years back I had a mac and liked it, but not enough to stick with them through the last round of screwing around with their mice and trackpads.

Windows mostly works. Linux sometimes works. Apple always works but it will cost you a kidney. Do people still get worked up about this?

Some people still get exercised about it. I use windoze because that's how my laziness manifests itself. "It mostly works" and I can do what I want to do on a computer with minimal hassle.

I assemble my own computers because it's not that hard & I get almost twice the bang for my buck from what I could get buying pre-built computers. Plus, I enjoy the simple-minded mechanical pleasure of making it all fit together. But that's my way of doing it, YMMV as they say ... or as we used to say, Different strokes for different folks!"

221:

dpb @ 169: As a programmer who is too lazy to build machines and just buys laptops off the shelf I'm not sure I belong here.

Yeah I run linux some of the time when I'm doing worklike stuff but I am unable to get engaged in OS wars.

A few years back I had a mac and liked it, but not enough to stick with them through the last round of screwing around with their mice and trackpads.

Windows mostly works. Linux sometimes works. Apple always works but it will cost you a kidney. Do people still get worked up about this?

Some people still get exercised about it. I use windoze because that's how my laziness manifests itself. "It mostly works" and I can do what I want to do on a computer with minimal hassle.

I assemble my own computers because it's not that hard & I get almost twice the bang for my buck from what I could get buying pre-built computers. Plus, I enjoy the simple-minded mechanical pleasure of making it all fit together. But that's my way of doing it, YMMV as they say ... or as we used to say, Different strokes for different folks!"

222:

One alternative to the carry case for the Cosmo, that I've been using with the Gemini: if you poke around on eBay you can still find the Proporta hardshell case for the original Psion Series 5 coming up second hand from time to time. Going price seems to be £15-25 (they used to be £25 new; I've seen completed auctions and buy it now prices of up to £50). You can't use the Gemini or the Cosmo while in the hardshell case, but it's rugged AF. And because the Gemini is slimmer than the old Psion Series 5, there's space to stash a Microsoft Arc bluetooth mouse in it (yes, the Gemini and Cosmo work great with a bluetooth mouse). Or maybe one of the flat USB batteries, if anyone makes one that can deliver power to a USB-C device.

223:

_Moz_ @ 198: Also, I remember when people still used network cables and that was no fun{tm}. Everyone using wifi makes things much easier, especially now that wifi is vaguely secure by default. These days the real problems are more related to having ubiquitous networking - SIM hijacking so we get the fappening or simply being locked out of your giant online collection of all the data. I know a few people who would be distraught if they lost access to the only copy of their critical data... which is in the cloud.

NO WI-FI in this house. I already had the cables run before wi-fi became available, and I just didn't feel like learning what I'd have to learn to make wi-fi secure ... I'm sure we've all read those stories about the guy who got arrested for downloading kiddie-porn and it turned out he had an insecure wi-fi network in his house and one of his neighbors connected to it to do his illegal stuff. They eventually dropped the charges, but the guy's still labeled as a paedophile.

You never know how good (or how inadequate) your backup is until you have a hard-drive crash & it turns out significant items weren't included and/or the backup won't restore because you used Microsoft Windoze backup/restore to create the backup (this is NOT theoretical) and the new replacement hardware is not EXACTLY the same as the old failed hardware, (all 2TB hard-drives are NOT the same, even an "identical" 2TB hard-drive from the same vendor is not the same).

Fortunately, I had almost everything duplicated somewhere, even if they were older, incomplete copies, so I was able to recover most of what I'd lost even though the backup was FUBAR.

The world is divided into two types of people (or 10 types of people since we're talking about computers) - those who are going to have a hard-drive crash and find out their backup isn't good enough and those who are going to have another hard-drive crash and find out their backup is STILL not good enough.

224:

JBS @ 220 : Somehow I managed to post this twice. If the moderators would be so kind as to remove the duplicate, I would be grateful.

225:

I don't like wireless, for that reason.
I also do my backup by copying files to the external drives. It may be slow, but it keeps them available - some of them go back 10 or more years. (I have a nominal 5TB of external drives.)

226:


"technology enthusiastically endorsed by the collective commentariat of this blog will be unpopular with the general public, and vice versa"


If true, then it's an asset you can monetize, a bassackwards focus group. "Let's give our product one more try, run it up the flagpole and see if Charlie's crowd salutes it. They do, then  we run for our lives and never look back. Best money we could ever spend,  worth every buck at twice the price. Isn't it uncanny how they zero in and gravitate towards losers that way? Must all be psychic. Don't tell him or he'll hike his fee next time."  Call it the Fischer - Kuttbate Advisory Consultancy, Ltd.  Any luck, it'll cover some of the server expense.

Alternatively, it could be a reflection of the consensus mentality among the world's true movers and shakers, whereby winners are carefully selected and channelled throughout their product life cycles, so necessarily any competing items are actively discouraged from interfering. This eventually builds up into an emperor's new clothes situation, requiring voluntary suspension of disbelief to sustain a collective illusion. But there's always the chance that someone whose social antennae aren't exquisitely quivering and tuned for perception of fine nuances of meaning, clueless or uncaring about taking a hint, to come along and say, why isn't this a success, the ingredients are all there, they followed the directions, what explains its failure to thrive in a competitive environment, no other reasons apparent, so it must be.....Understandings were arrived at, Deals were made.... Ah well, more for me to enjoy at pennies on the dollar. It's why I keep sifting through the entries in this blog, there's a good chance someone with the necessary expertise to identify diamonds in the rough will mention a hidden gem.    

227:

Re: 'Merely baffling bugs were too numerous to count.'

Do the bugs scale ... up/down with anything including but not limited to data size, number of procedures/processes, processor ... quantum kittens?

228:

The discussion on WiFi and backups is interesting. When I compare my setting in my "home-office" (actually an employer approved remote branch with the possibility of having a couple of colleagues in the same space and with the required physical security) to some of the comments, I feel even weirder.

My home network cabling and routers/repeaters/firewalls are mostly 10Gbit compatible. The WiFi is a way too slow for any practical use. My actual working environment is combined of two systems. The first one has significant computing power and memory with several TBs of SSD space for data. The second one is for backing up all relevant databases and files (with versioning). That one is much, much slower in the computing sense, but it has a bunch of disk-space with reasonable fault-tolerance (a kind of data-server, in other words). The Windows 10 and Mac -machines are for report writing and making nice videos. If the computing system breaks down, I'll just upgrade it and reinstall all the stuff because the data and codes are on the data-server, which has reasonable fault-tolerance.

The data-server dumps the copies to my employer's data-servers as soon as it can by using a pesky 200Mbit/s line. Sometimes I have some backlog on that because I have been able to generate a bunch of reconfigured data or the model happens to be a big one. The line is directly to my employer's internal network, although I run a well-configured firewall on it anyway (and the data encrypted... paranoid, eh?).

Well, there are some downsides in insisting to work mostly from your home. But I just hate using a few hours for commuting each day.

Actually it seems that I have just proven OGH's hypothesis correct.

229:

What on earth did Nix do that promoted such a violent reaction?

Your response is classic worst case way to engage with someone with ASD, screaming and shouting (even virtually).. I just hope Nix hasn’t reacted too badly too it.

FWIW you’re probably right that historically a lot of diagnosis’s were just an excuse to medicate unwanted behaviours there is a much more nuanced and standardised approach to ASD and similar disorders at least here in the UK. There is no effective medication for ASD although several exist for ADHD.

ASD Diagnosis’s have exploded here in the UK recently in my belief not because of increased prevalence but better diagnostic tools. Hopefully in a few more years the NHS’s treatment of it will have advanced too. Currently the NHS tries to deal with all the symptoms separately and so complex cases tend to get rejected (eg ASD ADHD and anxiety all feeding off of each other). They are also pretty lousy at detecting and acknowledging social masking in females which is believed to be the major cause of female incidents of ASD reporting with a lower frequency. My personal hypothesis is undiagnosed disorders like these are why incidents of self harming in females is also so high.

I’m bang in Charlie’s supposed demographic albeit with 2 young girl children - the oldest of whom has a ASD + ADHD diagnosis. Reading her report was like looking into a mirror of myself at that age.

230:

The thing that always put me off about Word for technical documents was the lack of anything that acted like a typesetting display: a block of text, tables, mathematics, graphics, etc that were kept together with their own formatting. Preferably with the ability, in any sort of page view, to let the display float to the top of the next page if there's not room on the current page.

One time I was whining about it where my father could hear. He had done hand typesetting in college and said, "Sure, floating displays. I was really good at those when I did that kind of work."

231:

Re: AI & incorrect IDing (wrongful arrest)

Found the below article discussing some of the likely legal issues related to level of confidence in using a new tech in a court of law. Keep in mind that courts can be relatively conservative in adopting new tech because new tech/tools vary in their applicability and reliability, e.g., (at least for now), lie detectors don't work on many/most psycho/sociopaths plus a few other subgroups, DNA testing doesn't work on bone marrow transplant recipients, and hair analysis just plain doesn't work.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/criminal_justice/publications/criminal-justice-magazine/2019/spring/facial-recognition-technology/


Re: IT/computing international standards/testing

After I wrote my comment yesterday I went on to check what if any international standards might exist re: programming. Did find something on the IEEE site but only at the level of 'guidelines' -- last updated Dec 2018.

https://softwaretestingstandard.org/20246.php

Folks here can give them a read. (My lay/non-techie impression is that these guidelines are directed more at a machine doing simple already known to be highly related computations very fast rather than AI level complexity. That is, still pretty easy for a human to spot a screw up upon seeing the output/answer.)

232:
Regulation tends to happen only after problems kill a sufficient number of people *and* cause sufficient economic losses. Look at aerospace and medical.

Look at food. It took a lot of effort to get food regulations in place.

Look at trains. There are an *amazing* number of photos of American train wrecks, because wrecks were dirt common the late 1800's. Head-on's, in particular. Eventually government stepped in, and the instant (and lasting) effect on the US accident rate was enormous.

Not that the CPR's generally good safety record kept it from killing my grandfather in a head-on in 1946.

233:

Unfortunately the IEEE-documents are not binding regulations. Similar stuff can be found from ISO-documents. They have good stuff in them, but nobody punishes you or your employer of you have no understanding of proper quality control and do not perform any reasonable testing. That is in the case that your industry does not have proper regulation in place - even with the regulation the results may be only a bit of lost money like in the case of Boeing 737 MAX. People killed, but the ones who made the decisions that killed those people may even lose a part of their bonus for once.

Several of the commentators have *surely* been reading those documents. Some of the commentators may have participated in writing those IEEE or ISO standards (or at least been part of the commenting circle).

You have to rely on the invisible hand of the market to correct your misdemeanour. The almighty market will punish you because you have neglected to perform even the initial rites of achieving basic quality. There is no need for the government of international regulation or a penalty system, markets will handle everything.

Gosh. Apparently I cannot write "invisible hand of the market" without laughing.

234:

the Cosmo should be a reasonably nifty Linux-adjacent pocket computer and smartphone

An alternative to a mini-laptop is to use some screenful device (like your phone) and add a pocketable Bluetoothed keyboard. I recommend this keyboard. (Well, I think that's the one I have, it is sold under many different brand names.) It tri-folds small enough and rugged enough to be kept unbagged in a pocket, and it powers up/connects when flipped open. I can type on it, YMMV depending on finger size. Works best on a flat surface.

235:

RP @ 216
NOW, of course, the "libertarians" ( Never mind US BigFood) are trying to undo all of that - current US food standards are significantly lower than UK/Europe ...
Because: "we don't need food standards & "GOVERNMNT" - peope can simply sue if food isn't up to it" - I'm not sure I believe this level of stupidity ...

@ 223-23
Backup -- please don't.
As I said, I had *(still have a dedicated backup drive) that a win10 "Update" shut out/ hid - so I can't now doe backups.SNARL

DonL @ 232
Look up the history of HMRI in this country, or read the ongoing reports from RAIB .....

236:

I assemble my own computers because it's not that hard & I get almost twice the bang for my buck from what I could get buying pre-built computers.

I used to do that, but lately I put all the iffy stuff at the other end of a USB cable, or use Bluetooth, or whatever. So the thing at the center doesn't need rare&precious drivers to boot, and buying it in pieces wasn't giving as much price advantage as it used to. So I gave up. This time I bought a Dell laptop with pre-installed Linux, a Dell dock with monitor stand, and a big monitor. It's lovely, and a useful subset can be whipped into a shoulder bag at need.

237:

Section numbers and cross-references should be fully automated, updating whenever paragraphs are inserted, deleted or rearranged.

Word used to be able to do that. Back in the 90s I wrote what because a 400+ page book with ToC, index, and cross-references in Word. All the entires relied on markup tags, so periodically I'd have ro compile the ToC and index to see what they were looking like.

That document also had illustrations, which at the time could be set to appear at a particular place on the page (say top-right) that contained their anchor point.

If modern Word can do similar things I haven't figured out how. (And have no interest in learning.) Unlike Charlie, I don't need to be Word-compatible, and so am switching from the iWord '09 version of Pages to Affinity Publisher (which is overkill but lets me lay out pages the way I want, which Apple's newer versions of Pages don't).

238:

"legal issues related to level of confidence in using a new tech in a court of law"

Oh, that's simple to solve. The technology can't possibly be wrong, so all you have to do is disconnect all the safety systems when it's an automatic prosecution case. Things like right to silence, innocent until proven guilty, and all that guff. The trick is to start off by introducing automatic prosecution on a limited class of offences that don't carry much of a sentence, so people get used to the idea and all the legal objections to it can be slapped down while it's still small-scale before it gets extended to things people might care about enough to mount a serious enough challenge to win.

239:

I would (or actually my employer would) pay significant amount of money for a small pocket-sized device that could be used as a real desktop when there are a screen and a keyboard available. Something like 16BG RAM and 256GB SDD would be sufficient for such a device, assuming that LTE networking is present with satellite backup and computing power is at least J3544 level. Microsoft promised that with the next generation Windows Phone, but those phones never come to be true.

My employer was a bit pissed. A new generation of field software was prepared on that promise. Well, shit happens.

240:

Sure, I learned to type about the same time as I learned to write (I still have my old Underwood Noiseless with jungle animal stickers on the case). So I found the Pet keyboard a bit odd to begin with. But once I got used to it it was great, because typing computery stuff means using those upper-row symbols all the time and it's much easier not to have to dance on the shift key to do it. Especially for expressions with loads of brackets in, which on a normal keyboard make me want a shift key somewhere around where the backspace key is.

Wireless networking: I don't have it either. Quite apart from stuff like security and unreliability, there's just no point. All that arsing around with settings and passwords and encryption and shit, and all the accompanying hassle trying to look up how to do it, when I can just pick up a cable and plug it in and that's the end of it? No contest.

241:

"...an employer approved remote branch with the possibility of having a couple of colleagues in the same space and with the required physical security..."

Just what species are your colleagues and what kind of security is required? Leg irons? Silver muzzles? Garlic-impregnated collars?

242:

Nah, nothing that strange. Just a hundred Chinese mercenaries with the permission to shoot everybody they do not know. And a moat with the alligators. The dragon just died of old age and no replacement before next year's budget.

243:

I blame Arsebook. For normalising posting online not only identifiable names, but actual bloody photos of yourself. At one time I thought the internet was going to mean the natural death of all -isms because you can't tell whether the person at the other keyboard is male, female, queer, black, white or purple with green spots, and if you ever find out it's too late for the prejudice to supervene over the existing friendly acquaintance. Until some twat running a sexual harassment site for his mates somehow manages to get people all over the world to put their own data on it voluntarily (OK, so I also blame human stupidity for falling for it) and deprive the process of any chance of working.

(Sure, there's more to it than that, but that is an enormous amount of it either directly or by influence.)

244:

There are an *amazing* number of photos of American train wrecks, because wrecks were dirt common the late 1800's. Head-on's, in particular

Many of those photos come from the paid spectacular "train crash" entertainments. That really was a thing, and it only stopped when the cost of a couple of second hand engines exceeded the revenue from the spectators.

Mythbusters have likewise done a whole bunch of "crash the thing into the thing" entertainments and those records are similarly widely available, although seemingly without causing you to also think that, say, cars regularly fall off helicopters and land in the desert.

245:

What are you babbling about ?

For cloud jobs your not talking about one computer, even a super computer (which are really more like mini clouds these days anyway). Your talking about thousands of commodity servers

And you most certainly do get x number of virtual cores that perform at certain specs. It’s in the contract

The number of Linux instanced you can run on a mainframe is related how ? It’s not the number of OS’s it’s the compute you are doing with them that matters

246:

“ Mere tens of thousands of CPU cores is kinda passé. Modern GPUs are SIMD devices with up to thousands of FPUs running in parallel per processor“

Yes but FPU’s are not equivalent to CPU’s, while they are good for certain specific use cases they are far less generally useful. You mostky see them in image processing and certain ML workflows

A modern company will run a combination of CPU’s and fpu’s but is generally gonna be more cpu heavy unless there workload really maps unusually to those specific problems

The amount of cores you can get to attack a certain specific job is somewhat limited by the size of the data and the specifics of ge problem . I think the biggest thing I ever saw running was a few years ago a map/reduce job with something like 200,000 mappers all executing simultaneously, and that was against a really large (hundred petabyte) data set

247:

I remember running into that problem myself, back around 2002 or so.
(I was rebuilding a manual. Moved material from one chapter to another, got stuff arranged reasonably logically, made the images all the same format, added some material - and when I finished, it was 30 pages longer and half a megabyte smaller than what I started with. The user reviews were positive.)

248:

They've added more regulated safety measures in the last 10 years, because of a bad head-on a mile north of my local station. The safety measures include "positive train control", which is supposed to be able to stop trains before they hit.

249:

Aah, log tables.

I have a book with 64 figure log tables, inherited from my late grandfather, ancient and leather-bound. The foreword includes a nice explanation of how to calculate logs using Taylor's method.

250:

The thing that always put me off about Word for technical documents was the lack of anything that acted like a typesetting display: a block of text, tables, mathematics, graphics, etc that were kept together with their own formatting.

I think I can help with this one. Frames. I've created far more roleplaying game documents than any normal person should have to and the easy way to make this happen in Word/LibreOffice is to put everything into a frame. Do your formatting in there and you can just select the whole box to move it, copy it, or whatever. (It's an obvious tactic to have a blank form for something used often and then just copy it and fill in the details.) By default the program will want to draw a visible box around the frame contents but you can easily turn off the border.

251:

Re: 'Several of the commentators have *surely* been reading those documents.'

Yeah, that's my guess, hence the questions.

252:

A 64 place log table, you say? Sounds great.

(Photo of a chessboard built on an old log omitted here, because the blog's html interpreter apparently won't resize images in the standard way.)

253:

Re: 'But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations.'

And maybe pharma to the extent that in the EU, regulators actually expect senior pharma execs to sit down with them and answer questions. And the EU expects documentation for all of the production stages from raw materials through shipping/storage. This includes out-sourced suppliers ... nice!

(At one time 'vertical integration' was all the rage so that corps could better control costs not to mention all personnel associated with their product. Now it's 'out-sourcing' so that corps can better avoid high initial investment/reduce fixed costs as well as provide their execs/owners anonymity and deniability. That's why the 'nice!')

254:

I wonder if you're familiar with the Dex technology in the latest Samsung phones (S8 and onwards)? If you're not using their fancy Dex dock you can only have something like 5 apps running at once, but you don't actually need the dock to turn your phone into a not-too-shabby desktop. I use a HDMI cable and HDMI/USB-C adaptor, with bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Not all apps play well when they're suddenly expected to behave as if they're on a desktop, but a surprising number do. If what you want to do is available on Android, it's surprisingly practical.

255:

I've never really seen the point of carrying your work desktop around with you in your pocket, I must admit. What happens if you get to the office and discover little Tarquin has loaded it up with virus-riddled porn the night before, or it gets pinched off the table at the Starbucks while you're distracted by the barista?

Desktops are cheap enough to just leave in place at the office rather than depending on someone bringing their own processor to work every day, laptops are useful for folks on the move and come with their own inbuilt keyboards, trackpads, displays etc. The data should be stored on company-curated network shares, cables are more secure than Wifi and mobile data links.

MS is rolling out a new feature in Win 10 where the desktop actually takes over from someone's smartphone in the office, a reversal of the idea the smartphone as a barely adequate office appliance. This new feature allows someone logged in and working at a desk to see stuff sent to their phones, IMs and calls and the like and to reply to them without having to scrabble in their pockets and bags when the Ride of The Valkyries at 105dB announces to everyone else in the open-plan office layout that they've got a call.

256:

Are you sure? And, if so, how do they work? Conventional ones of that size are impossible.

257:

Yes. All of the above, and more. They are proportional to the number of interactions, which is anything up to factorial in the number of 'components'. And some will be essentially unfindable/insoluble - Turing/Gödel again. A good example is the human immune system.

258:

Here's a use case: you're travelling for business and you need to travel light for some reason. But every chain hotel room everywhere these days has a TV and they take HDMI input and will do 1080p. So with the right cable, and maybe a folding bluetooth keyboard and mouse, you don't need a laptop any more to work in the hotel room (or borrowed conference room at the customer's site, or whatever).

The problem with this is that laptops can be really light these days (not to mention cheap) and by the time you add the cables, adapters, chargers, keyboard, and travel mouse to your phone it ends up weighing as much as the laptop.

If we still lived in 1990, when a 4kg wrist-breaker was a "sub-notebook" with a 40 minute battery life, then it'd make a good deal more sense.

259:

Speed camera offences in Australia. Refusing to admit to the offence is an offence.

260:

Do things like evidence count as a defence there, or are you just screwed because computer says no?

261:

I don't think evidence counts much. Your car was detected at such and such a speed, place, time. Admit to the offence or tell us who did it. "it wasn't me, I don't know who it was" doesn't work. From what I can gather you get fined for refusing to supply required information.

What's more, if you ignore the fine that's mailed to you (say for instance you're a young person in rental accommodation and you move around a lot) then your licence and car registration are canceled, along with your insurance.

Police cars are equipped with plate readers and if you're detected driving unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured, you may be charged in absence and given a custodial sentence. This happened to the daughter of a work colleague (she wasn't speeding, the RFID toll tag malfunctioned and she used a tollway without paying, but same basic laws). She had multiple offences of driving unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured without ever knowing. Eventually she was stopped, and made aware of her wrongdoing, but by that time she had evading lawful custody along with 10s of thousands in fines, more than 90 years disqualification from driving and over a year in gaol. Living in rural Australia is impossible without a car, so she emigrated when she was released (which is damn sensible).

262:

Re: '... up to factorial in the number of 'components'.'

Basically: Guaranteed to fail.

Hmmm ... haven't noticed many stories suggesting that maybe the computer industry should take a pause in pursuing greater complexity for some applications. (There's precedent in bio/immunology --- CRISPR).

263:

I've never really seen the point of carrying your work desktop around with you in your pocket, I must admit.

Would be very handy for me.

First off, although I have an office at school I spend most of my time there in a variety of classrooms. Having instant, secure access to documents, forms, email, etc would be nice.

Second, in a shared office with shared computers it can be difficult to get screen-time (or screen-time where the phys-ed extroverts aren't literally talking about last night's game over your head). Being able to go to a quiet place and keep working would be wonderful.

As it is I do as much as possible on my own devices, just because I can carry them with me. And I do a lot more work at home than I should, because network security at school won't give me full network access on a non-IT-controlled device so I have to come home to do things various tasks (plus it's quieter here).

264:

Sorry for being not that polite. I have a room with classified security for intruders. The servers and firewalls sit there. The workroom has a much lower classification. No actual high-level security (with mercenaries, dragons or alligators). I do just movement recognition stuff, which is not yet highly classified. Only somewhat classified. Therefore this is a lax setting. Meat detectors only in the machine room.

It is always nice to know that you can be identified even if your face cannot be seen. Every individual moves in an unique way. That can be recognised.

This is public knowledge.

265:

Eh, I was joking, and I took you as carrying on the joke! (Very well, too.) For your next dragon, make sure to get pure Welsh - they live longer than the cheap Chinese ones.

266:

A Welsh dragon? Have you checked how many sheep they require during a week? And if you do not have a steady supply of virgins you need to upgrade the number of sheeps. Sure they live at least four centuries, but just consider the amount of sheep shipping... Well, it looks like a Welsh one has almost the same front-cost than the normal Chinese ones (which live only several decades). The Welsh ones seem to grow much, much larger and be more aggressive according to the purchase manual. I'll go for a Welsh one and just add the maintenance to the following years.

It is always easier to get something bought with a low initial cost. The maintenance will cost whatever it costs.

Thanks for the tip.

267:

Much the same here. As far as your first paragraph is concerned, identical. Don't think it can escalate to the point of driving emigration, but they do take your car away and destroy it.

268:

Don't forget communication, too. You don't get those nasty accidents where someone thinks slightly the wrong tone and inadvertently calls the dragon a wanker.

269:

Meh. Probably before its time - will be more interesting when cell phone internet is cheap and good enough to be of interest... Issue is that for reasons that probably make marginal sense, hotel internet is usually horrendously slow. Otherwise, would be nice if you needed to do real work.

270:

Ah, yes. Thank you. I had a closer look at the purchasing manual and it actually states that the Welsh dragons are more than average sensitive in that respect. The manual says that the thought-reading aspect of the Welsh dragons may be, for some settings, a problem.

In our case I assume that "if you think in a wrong way, you will get eaten" will be sufficient. The mercenaries are quite likely to understand that.

271:

No. I have been saying it for ages but, even in the IT community, most people favour the Bozo solution to Northern Ireland - a technological magic bullet. The current one is 'program proving'. It would make a very good SF theme, or several, actually, and I am happy to explain the consequences in detail to any writer who wants to explore the idea.

272:

Jar & Pigeon
VIRGINS?
From S Wales? You have to be joking, surely?

273:

P J Evans @ 225: I don't like wireless, for that reason.
I also do my backup by copying files to the external drives. It may be slow, but it keeps them available - some of them go back 10 or more years. (I have a nominal 5TB of external drives.)

Yeah, I'm now doing that too (& copying them to more than one drive), but I just KNOW I'm missing something, and someday, I'll have another hard-drive failure and then I'll find out what it is.

274:

The new Samsung phones do exactly that. Plug them into a USB-C to HDMI cable and plug that into a TV or monitor and a whole desktop OS appears. If you have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse you get an android/samsung desktop experience. It seems like more of a neat trick, but I can imagine it being useful to some folks.

275:

whitroth @95:

Back in the day, it used to be spelled TECO -- first the smallish version found on PDP-11s, later the full-bells-and-whistles version from MIT running under TOPS-20. There was also a workalike port of the former to MS-DOS whose name escapes me...

Chris

276:

Greg, also Jar and Pigeon,
Whether the number of Virgins in South Wales is an appropriate amount is not the question.
It doesn't say in the manual that they must be Human virgins. (It's not even in the in fine print in the Grimore appendix.)
I would just use non-bred sheep and move on...

Jeff S.
I am just an egg.

277:

And that's how out of touch we are.

So out of touch that when you mentioned "computing or information technology", most of them started talking about things you run on a desktop or laptop.

How quaint.


278:

All this talk about "Linux in your pocket" reminds me of my all time favorite device: the old Nokia n800. Man, I miss that thing. It could do things my Samsung J7 still cant do.

279:

Wikipedia's page on TECO has external links to versions for DOS and Window - they're not "full" versions, but they'll be enough for most purposes.

(I was using it on a VAX at work - we had some files with data that needed to be moved a character to the right, and a character might need to be inserted. TECO worked really well for that. Command was something like j$21c$i $3c$fs $ $0tt$$, where the character insertion would come in the i command, if it was needed. Data source was using 4-digit house numbers, and we kept running into 5-digit numbers.)

280:

For those looking for Linux-preloaded laptops, I and a coworker have had reasonably good luck with two different generations of the Dell XPS-13, which can be ordered with Ubuntu preloaded right off their web site. (I've also seen a flurry of press releases about Lenovo shipping Ubuntu preloaded on their P-series laptops, but I can't find the option on their order page...)

281:

5.5/6 on Charlie's demographic guesses. I'm a 41-year-old software engineer working for one of the evil FAANGM companies.

Not really on the ASD spectrum, but I might as well be, since my introversion and esoteric interests keep me just as socially isolated.

Hmm, I wish there was a way to precisely input your demographic parameters and find a blog you'd like (I assume the aforementioned evil companies are already tracking me with roughly this level of specificity, but for their own nefarious purposes, rather than for my benefit).

282:

I liked the N900 even more, it was like the N800, but with a phone attached. Programming for the UI was a pain for me - the GTK-based UI was quite clunky. It is C and tries to do object-oriented programming with macros, and for me that was too difficult a hurdle.

The N9 (Maemo and later Meego) was much nicer to develop for, as its UI was based on Qt and done in C++. As a form factor, I liked the N900 more. The Meego developer model N950, with the folding keyboard, wasn't nearly as nice. The keyboard was much more flimsy than the one on the N900.

A friend of mine ran JSPWiki (and I think Apache) on the N900, which was quite an accomplisment at the time. You could have a web server running a useful service in your pocket!

283:

The feature you describe for Win10 is already available. Samsung has been doing it since at least 2014, first via Sidesync and more recently through Flow. It's available on the Android app store and for Windows systems, I don't think there are any restrictions about what hardware it needs. In addition to other features, it basically puts your phone screen in a separate window on your desktop. Quite handy if you work in an office all day and don't feel like playing with your phone all the time (or do, but don't want anyone noticing...).

As an experiment, I spent several hours this afternoon using Dex mode with my Note 8 plugged into a HDMI monitor. It functioned perfectly well for Word and Excel; Google apps; Dropbox; and web browsing via Firefox. It handled multiple windows open simultaneously with no appreciable drag; task switching was quick and easy. I'm seriously considering recommending it next time my aged mother wants an upgrade - having everything on one device would simplify her life a great deal. I doubt it would be useful for many of the regular commenters on this blog, but for many purposes it's perfectly adequate. Worth looking into, if you might have a use-case for this.

284:

The stuff I run on a laptop or desktop is stuff I use.

The stuff that runs on my phone is mostly for the benefit of shadowy corporations who don't have my best interests at heart. I don't consider myself to be the operator although I do interact with it on occasion.

285:

SFReader @ 231: Re: AI & incorrect IDing (wrongful arrest)

Found the below article discussing some of the likely legal issues related to level of confidence in using a new tech in a court of law. Keep in mind that courts can be relatively conservative in adopting new tech because new tech/tools vary in their applicability and reliability, e.g., (at least for now), lie detectors don't work on many/most psycho/sociopaths plus a few other subgroups, DNA testing doesn't work on bone marrow transplant recipients, and hair analysis just plain doesn't work.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/criminal_justice/publications/criminal-justice-magazine/2019/spring/facial-recognition-technology/

That's all well and good if it ever gets to court. But cops misidentify people and kill them all the time. Even in London.

286:

#200 - Yes, but that would have (in #122) required teaching 7 people, at least one each of consultant and contractor included, to use FrameMaker to produce 30 to 60 page documents.
I don't know how many levels of numbering WP5.2 supported, just that we never ran out of levels.
I'll cheerfully agree your criticisms of Wurd, with the note that changing, say, Heading 3 not only has the effects you describe but can also unpredictable change the linked stye Text 4.

#201 and #202 - Or the ANPR correctly identifies the licence plate APR 4T but issues a Notice of Intended Prosecution (but no supporting photograph) based on, say 70mph in a 60mph speed limit without recognising that the licence plate is issued to a tractor capable of 25mph flat out! #207 is another example.
#259 and #261 also refer, with the note that UK law does actually still allow a defence of "that is not my vehicle".

#266 - Is this the real reason why in Wales "sheep are nervous"?

Ref the DEC - Prime wars, my college experience is roughly contemporary with these.

PrimeOS was a real advance on the DEC PDP11, but then DEC came out with the VAX...

287:

UK law does actually still allow a defence of "that is not my vehicle".

Not unreasonable, given the availability of cloned plates—they cracked down on it a decade or so ago but it still happens.

My favourite was the acquaintance who went to court "with a not my vehicle" defense and won when the prosecution coughed up a photograph of a car doing 72mph on a dual carriageway, and the acquaintance produced vehicle registration papers to prove that (a) the vehicle the registration belonged to was an antiquated Massey-Ferguson combine harvester, and (b) it had been exported as scrap to Eastern Europe some years ago.

Judges tend to take a common-sense view of the evidence under such circumstances.

288:

A phone or tablet is mostly used for data consumption, a laptop or desktop is mainly used for data creation in the workplace. I do use my own desktop for consumption, especially entertainment -- a 4k 32-inch diagonal screen is a better device for that purpose than any pocketable phone screen is going to be, especially for my old and tired eyes.

The "use my phone as a workplace desktop replacement by docking it to a screen and keyboard and mouse and graphics tablet and network adaptor and..." is the use-case I can't get my head around. As Charlie says, carrying around enough bits'n'bobs to make a phone into a useful data creation device when travelling is a pain when an all-in-one lightweight laptop or ultrabook or a convertible tablet like the Yoga or Surface Pro has superior data storage, screen readability, RAM, processor power, graphics, wired networking etc.

289:

*sigh*

Except, as I said, you pay per core and RAM. That kind of huge processing is if you're a huge organization, with deep pockets. I don't know, but suspect that most folks' use of "the Cloud" is as storage.

I'll also note that people who mine cryptocurrency, these days, can buy *datacenters*. The number of organizations that can pay for the kind of humongous computer you're talking about is far, far smaller. Hmmm, I just read about Bernie Sanders' proposal for worker/corporate ownership, and it mentioned that there were only 22k companies in the US with revenues > $100M.

290:


Reminds me of back in the earl nineties, in a usenet newsgroup, some idiot claiming that he had a master's, and it didn't matter if he had grammar or spleeing rghit.

291:

"Automatic updates" == "sooner or later, something you need, or many somethings you need, will break, and they don't have a workaround for days....

One of the things I *don't* miss from work is Tenable? Big Fix? saying that we had a vulnerability that had to be fixed within 14 days... and finding that the package *was* the current one, and what they wanted us to go up to was, in fact, in the rolling updates, and not yet rolled out officially.

292:

Sigh... I had a course in o/s's, and had to write a simulated one. We were on a very lovely PDP11/780, with, I think it was TSRS (a time-shared version), with PIP, and a decent editor.

The next term, I had a course in compiler design. We were on a Cyber 6000? 6600? which ran NOS, which I have referred to ever since as the Noxious Operating System.

PDP: log on, upload a file, assemble. CDC: log on, go into text mode, upload the program, close the file save it... and now GET IT, because the stupid o/s didn't know it had it already....

293:

Black thumb.

I've got an HP L1010, a Netbook, from '09. Last year, I put CentOS 6 on it, and it just ran.

Two video cards, of two different types? Why not one video card, and connect two monitors? That's what I, and most of the folks I was working with did.

Of course, my manager thought the nouveau driver worked for NVidia cards and two monitors; I found it a pain, if it noticed the second monitor, so I d/l and built the proprietary NVidia driver, and it just worked.

294:

PL/1. Ah, I liked that. That, along with a proprietary thing called Quikjob, was what I worked in when I started programming for a living in '80. The college admission, etc, system was all in PL/1.

295:

Ignore me. I *hate* fedora (no, I don't want 10 updates today, and another 7 tomorrow, and 13 the day after, and....)

I also *hate* gnome. It's a royal pain. I run KDE. Great, I see it's being depreciated on CentOS 8, so I'm probably upgrading to C 7 soon (and installing it on Ellen's machine, dual boot).

Or I might go to IceWM, which I used to like, and a lot of folks like XCFE (I think it is), or mate. You can choose your window manager, which sits on *top* of X, the windowing server.

296:

Test? What is this "test" business? Is that where you roll out alpha software for "early adopters", who then complain, and you decide what you feel like fixing?

I had *two* jobs where we had serious testing - as in, people who did nothing but. One was at Ameritech (a former Baby Bell, now eaten by Southwest Bell (UGH!), sorry, who ate AT&T, and renamed themselves AT&T.

Oh, and the other was as a contractor for... AT&T, right when they got bought. Testers, complete with automated regression testing.

297:

Yeah nVidia is pretty committed to Linux support, so much so it makes preferring laptop with one of their boards as the discrete GPU, if one needs such a thing these days (the integrated chipset is good enough for most stuff), an obvious choice.

The thing that has dragged me back to Windows and/or Mac is music creation software and ASIO compatible drivers for outboard, usually USB connected hardware devices. The Linux ecosystem in this space is not empty and has some pretty rich offerings that can be enough for some. But the well known DAWs that have been around over 30 years don’t come in Linux versions and device manufacturers rarely include Linux support even as an afterthought, although “class compliant” devices will work pretty well in general. Otherwise it’s still in that world of hobbyists reverse engineering drivers, that is, it’s like stepping back 20 years in Linux terms.

298:

It did - that was when I worked for Ameritch in a startup division. Incredible job, wonderful people... except for upper management, who left me *this* close to clinical burnout (according to a friend who's a degreed practicing psychologist... and I left, and two weeks later, my late wife dropped dead at 43).

299:

I've got wiki. It comes with my router, which I have *inside* the phone company's router. And a ridiculously long password. Ellen uses it for her phone, and that's it.

Wired is way faster, more secure, and reliable.

300:

UNIX uses the metaphor that everything is a file. MULTICS used the metaphor that everything is memory. Most other OSes have different APIs for files, printers, shared memory, etc.

NOS used the metaphor that everything was a tape. A file could have multiple EOFs, the actual end was an EOT. You had to rewind a file after processing it. It also had built-in hierarchical storage (which is to say, a file could be local on disk, or it could be archived on a tape); the reason for having to GET a file was to ensure it was marked as local, and not suitable for archiving. (I should also point out that scratch files, used by a job for temporary purposes, didn't need to have GET -- they'd keep the file reference, and rewind and such; without the GET, the file would either go live on tape, or be cleared up as ephemeral data.)

(My college COBOL class was, for some reason, on Z80 systems running CP/M. I asked the instructor if I could use the Cyber instead, and he was happy -- as long as he didn't have to teach me how to use it. The CP/M machine could compile a COBOL "Hello, World" program in about 10-15 minutes; the Cyber could compile a few thousand lines of COBOL a second.)

301:

I use fluxbox. Which basically means I have a menu to launch xterms and applications from and that's the end of the story, and what more am I supposed to want anyway?

Really do not see the point of these bloated-arsed "desktop environments". What are they supposed to do? Because they don't actually seem to do anything at all, apart from choking up the machine with a truly cetacean quantity of blubber which... provides menus to launch applications and some crappy blubberised alternative to xterm from. Oh and provide "control panels" which purport to replace the editing of config files only they don't work and when you do edit the config files they make the system ignore your changes. Pain in the bloody arse they are.

As for video cards... the problem I had trying to run two video cards was nothing to do with the OS; it was the BIOS which threw a wobbly and kept trying to pretend there was only the one card, so the system worked perfectly apart from having no display at all.

The problems I run into now are with having just one video card, and arise because it's so hard to get anything other than sodding great massive ones for playing games on, at sodding great massive prices, and which are so big they occlude slots I need for other things. I don't even have any games installed, let alone ever play any; I eventually managed to find a suitable video card by relaxing my prohibition against second hand ones. It needs an old version of the nvidia kernel drivers to work, and now I find newer packages conflicting with the old driver versions... purely because some utter wanker has made them conflict, in order to fuck people up. The actual code is perfectly compatible, and if I delete the spurious dependency information it works just fine.

302:

I think compiler writers got upset when silicon overtook them and compilation seemed too fast.

Undecidable compilation with Turing complete compilers was a bit of an extreme reaction but it did the job of getting compile times up again.

Most people weren't paying attention until it was too late and it only became obvious they were trolling when things like this started to appear.

303:

"Violent"?

Perhaps you should reread what he wrote, that I was responding to. Of course, if CAPITAL LETTERS/raising my voice scares you, you might want to just drop it.

For one, I said I am not on the scale, nor autistic. He responded, never having met me in person, with an armchair diagnosis of "you're just don't have it that badly."

For another, see the cartoon that someone else posted....

Y'know, "mindfulness"? Maybe some Zen would work: shut your mind up, and try to understand what someone wrote, and why, rather than having the voiceover in your head overwrite what someone else was actually trying to say.

304:

Maybe look into the wearable hardware? As I recall, someone (MIT?) has an annual catwalk fashion show of wearable hardware.

305:

Maybe I'm "babbling" about what I know about? Maybe, with the title I held the last 10 years, sr. Linux systems administrator, I've *built and run* clusters (one was over 1100 cores, another about 512), and am friends with the woman who expanded biowulf, such that last year it was the 66th fastest supercomputer on the planet (fell to 100th this year), with (can't remember, think it's well over 60,000 cores)?

You've got to be able to fork over $$$$$$$$$ to buy a contract, which includes x cores.

And, of course, you have to worry about security (really? do you think your data's in this country? and that everyone who has admin or physical access to the hardware has at least a minimal security clearance?

306:

Which is why, btw, that a couple years ago, the UK government said "thanks, but no thanks" to the Cloud, because they had no assurance that UK government data would be on UK soil.

307:

Oh, and let's not forget outsourcing so you can have the work done in sweatshops in, say, southeast Asia, with no unions, minimal pay, and excuses that let you provide the only, not just the most, important product: ROI.

308:

Why, so management can get you to do work at all hours, and never mind that pesky 8 hr day....

309:

Virgins? Human virgins? Speaking as a Pagan, let me assure you that I have no idea where you could *begin* to get a steady supply of human virgins over the age of consent.

Speaking as a dragon (I *am* the Silverdragon), the taste of virgins (other than virgin olive oil) leaves me... underwhelmed.

310:

Sorry, I include "things you run on actual servers".

311:

Brief.

It was *the* programmers' editor late eighties/early nineties on PCs. Among many, many things, it had (ta-da) *column* copy. Highlight the column, user-determined start and stop, and you could move it.

312:

I mean, besides any BS Comp Sci program?

S'almost like the EU have a good idea with trade barriers and protections for workers?

313:

Two video cards, of two different types? Why not one video card, and connect two monitors? That's what I, and most of the folks I was working with did.

This is a 2U-high server so it needs half-height video cards. There was only one x8 PCIe slot, that got a hacked x16 PCIe card which I cut half the card edge off to get it to fit. I got a card from the junk box since I was going to hack it, that card only had a single DVI-D connector which I dongled to feed a VGA-only monitor.

The other card was a rocking-horse-dropping rarity, a modern(ish) nVidia PCI-only card that went into one of the PCI/X 64-bit server slots and downgraded to 32-bit connectivity. It had a DisplayPort connector which I needed to feed a specific monitor. That may have been the card that confused Cinnamon Linux since I'm not sure anyone in the Linux community tested having two video cards in two different buses would actually work out of the box. Of course with Windows It Just Worked, no necessity to download source and build drivers by hand.

314:

Re: ' ... excuses that let you...'

Denial is easier esp. via the fractal maze of numbered co's whose ownership is impossible to track down.

Too bad crypto-currency (accounting) is so energy-intensive, could have been useful in tracking down ownership/liability/taxes.

315:

fedora (no, I don't want 10 updates today, and another 7 tomorrow, and 13 the day after, and....) I also *hate* gnome. It's a royal pain. I run KDE. Great, I see it's being depreciated on CentOS 8, so I'm probably upgrading to C 7

Ah, the joy of not needing updates at all, even for critical security vulnerabilities*. I spent much quality time trying to persuade C7 that I should be allowed to use libraries other than the system default ones. In an environment where someone else most emphatically did all the devops... except trying to force Centos to be up to date. Still my job, BTW, since our prod servers are C7 and may become C8 a few months after that goes live.

By comparison Fedora is bliss, sure it wants new updates every day but at least it has them.

And I am way too wedded to an IDE to be able to live without a decent windowing system. Maybe it's my age talking, but hand-assembling makefiles just doesn't do it for me, and gdb is great but I wouldn't want to use it every day. One of the things that gripes me about Rust is the lack of an IDE, so trivia like viewing the source of a library function is an exercise in filesystem navigation instead of a single keypress. Sure, it's only 10 seconds, but it's 10 seconds for each of 500 tasks a day and there are only so many hours in those.

* a slight exaggeration, but only slight. I have to manually make sure that stuff like curl and openssl are using latest-stable not centos-default and fix the centos reversions of those. Sure, centos-openssl got a backported fix for one critical last year, but the forest of not-technically-critical stuff is a year behind.

316:

Brief.

Was slightly a fan, but preferred qedit backed by vi or textpad, depending on whether I was locked to Windows (long term Delphi developer, often Windows was the only option). Once IDEs started getting proper features like column blocks that made life easier.

Sadly Beyond Compare have dropped their Linux version, because there's still nothing close to that anywhere. The version I have works but I expect it will stop soon.

317:

Wow, qedit has some discussion in wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_SemWare_Editor

318:

sigh. Yes you can tell what country your data is in, if you want to. Why wouldn’t you, aws is all region based anyway which maps to physical countries ?

Honestly all those security issues are pretty solved at this point, you wouldn’t see DoD dropping the kind of dime on aws they are planning to unless they were

https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/addressing-data-residency-with-aws/

And yes cores cost money but they cost money no matter what you do and for many business with spikey workloads renting us better then buying

This stuff is changing so fast that if you don’t refresh yourself on it at least once.every six months or so, you get out of date very very fast

319:

This blog's readership is just full of people who can wave around the biggest server, so if you're going to do so, do it light-heartedly.

320:

One of my ex's had her bed propped up on 2U servers, which were all powered and networked just in case her room got cold. Or she wanted to play with ideas in the middle of the night (of the form "how many servers does it take to drown out the noise of a 747 taking off over my house", I presume)

We had a deal that I would not do certain things and she would not power them up when I was present/would power them down before I arrived. I heard one of them running once, and that was enough.

Is that what you meant?

321:

“And that’s why it’s called cyber... — oh hang on!”

322:

Having been in the business of running stuff on clusters, if your unit of cluster size measure is "cores" or "machines", you're probably running small clusters. The only unit that makes sense is MW.

I think the typical cluster size we had was, um, let me try to convert to units you are used to, 60k machines, with between 48 and 72 cores per machine. We had ~100 of those, in a kinda-sorta-federated setup.

323:

if your unit of cluster size measure is "cores" or "machines", you're probably running small clusters. The only unit that makes sense is MW.

This is why we URGENTLY need to dismantle the moon and convert all the regolith into PV cells for the Matrioshka brain we will need to mine the very last Bitcoin ...

324:

As someone who ran the second-largest supercomputer in the UK at one time (a tightly-coupled cluster), that's the primary (NOT only) measure for specifying them - but it is NOT a good measure of their functionality. For that, the number of cores can be relevant, so can their nominal (x)Flops, (x)B of RAM, or others.

The number of cores are particularly relevant for algorithmic work, because of scaling issues. That's why my aging home desktop has 16 cores (think 64 in modern terms), though the slowest available CPUs and a low power consumption.

325:

Re: 'Yes you can tell what country your data is in, if you want to. Why wouldn’t you, aws is all region based anyway which maps to physical countries ?'

Ahh ... So outfits like FB can tell you outright which country your personal data is being sent to? If FB can do that, then the next step is to offer their users an opt-out re: countries their personal data is allowed to be sent to.

I've never had an FB account but every once in a while get directed to it (search results), so I check their T&C - still sucks.

Add 'T&C' as yet another way that corps are given permission to avoid/evade responsibility/liability. Fortunately for the planet, the EU does not agree that merely saying you deny all responsibility in your T&C entitles you to legally deny all responsibility.

My high school English Lit teacher cited this story/urban legend* about English Law in Shakespeare's time: some rich merchant went to a court of law to sue a hired killer for not successfully offing someone (don't remember who the intended victim was). The basis of the lawsuit was that the hired killer did not fulfill the contract so the hirer wanted his money back. The court did not award damages to the hirer. Based on how often corps have been taken off the hook for harms done via their services/products in some countries, really looks like some countries' legal systems are devolving/regressing.


*Can't find the actual case. However, the below article seems to be pretty consistent with what I recall hearing.

Making Sense of English Law Enforcement in the 18th Century

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/England_18thc./England_18thc.html

326:

Make that "over the top", even "offensive". Anyway, it was bollocks. No, such issues are NOT being over-diagnosed - what they are is being misclassified, not least by being forced into black-and-white categories and into a single dimension. That's unmitigated crap, too.

As someone who has had hell for being way out on the (sane) Asperger's spectrum, before the term was used, I can assure you that the problems we have with handling a society based on domination by people with Blair's syndrome (*) are horrendous.

One reason that the single dimension is so harmful is that people like me (who include many or even most of the world's leading mathematicians, scientists and engineers) are NOT dysfunctional - we merely think differently from the likes of you. All we need is some consideration and common decency. For example, every SINGLE ONE of my social behaviours has been consciously learnt, and it took my wife over 25 years to realise that I (unlike most of the population) mean EXACTLY what I say, subject to making mistakes, of course.

But that is NOT true of others with Asperger's, who are less intelligent or have other issues as well, and they need a lot more help. And a lot of people now classified as autistic have severe behavioural handicaps. Also, people not on the spectrum can have serious difficulties with some socially-required behaviours - hence ADHD etc.

The serious psychologists are coming to the conclusions that (a) Asperger's per se is NOT a dysfunctionality but a normal difference and (b) there are FAR more factors and variations than has previously been allowed for.

(*) My term, used to refer to the people who have serious difficulty in viewing the world rationally - and usually really do believe that, if you say something false often enough and with enough conviction, it will become true. God help us, even some scientists are like that :-(

327:

Might you settle for a PV belt transmitting power via microwave to reduce hydrocarbon burn while awaiting the Matrioshka brain? Assuming usable power after a quarter million miles...

328:

BTW- I believe the term "Asbergers'" may be out of date. It's "High Functioning Austism Spectrum Disorder" now. That said, I'm constantly surprised how much HFA skepticism and even angry pushback there is. I've learned to keep a low profile.

329:

For many, many things, improvements in reporting rates are often mistaken for increasing prevalence. Add to that a lot of myth and misinformation and it's a wonder people express strong views without doing the appropriate deep dive first.

A lot of health and especially mental health and related conditions are conceived in terms of departures from an arbitrary norm, one that in general is far more subjective than most people understand. So in some ways you can take it a lot further than "not disabled, just different". I feel that some would be totally in their rights to take a position that they are "normal", and the rest of us divergent, in fact somewhat disabled by all these inflections and cues we seem to think are so important. Like Greta calling it her superpower, there's no objective reason to regard that as a disability. Certainly there are nonentities who suggest it has an impact on capacity and you can therefore downgrade people's entire contributions and opinions for that reason, but we can take that as direct evidence of the debased value of such commentators own (perhaps slightly steaming) contribution.

330:

Nah, just get one o' they new quantium processors to crack SHA256...

331:
I don't like wireless, for that reason. I also do my backup by copying files to the external drives. It may be slow, but it keeps them available - some of them go back 10 or more years. (I have a nominal 5TB of external drives.)

The main iMac that I work on has a wired (via Homeplug) connection to the VDSL modem/router but I also have wireless networking enabled for iPhone, iPad, Raspberry Pis (3), Amazon Echos (2), Smartplugs (3), Firestick and probably other stuff I've forgotten. There are 17 devices showing on my home network now and a bunch of things aren't even turned on. There's also a Zigbee network with my Hive heating controls.


For backups I use Apple's Time Machine with two tiny USB powered external drives that I rotate weekly to back up my startup and data drives (ie one Time Machine drive is attached to the iMac doing hourly backups and the other is offsite at someone else's house.(Encrypted of course.) I swap them over on Sunday evening when the least is happening on the computer. Worst case I lose a week.) All of my photos and some other stuff is also backed up to Apple's iCloud. I also use Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner to update a bootable clone of my internal startup SSD to an external USB SSD in the middle of the night. CCC runs four backups nightly - one to copy the startup drive to a bootable external SSD, another to back it up again to a hard drive just in case, and two more backing up my /Users which is on an external 1TB USB C SSD to two different hard drives. That takes care of the vital data. Intermediately important stuff that could be downloaded or recreated again but it would be a nuisance is stored outside the Time Machine/CCC backup regime on other external hard drives with copies rsynced to backup drives. Then there's the stuff I haven't deleted but I probably wouldn't care/notice if it vanished. I am presently using nine external drives ranging from a 0.5TB SSD to an 8TB spinning disk and totaling about 22TB. The oldest of these drives is a 3TB Firewire drive that now requires a daisy-chain of two dongles to connect to the USB C/Thunderbolt on the iMac. I've got two 12TB external USB HD on backorder at Amazon so I can move things around and tidy up a bit.

Having actually recovered from a failing Fusion drive on my old 2012 iMac to an external CCC USB boot drive (which also, in turn, failed after a few months and I had to recover to another) I know that my backup regime seems to work.

Another thing I noticed is that Apple's new APFS disk format is slow to unbearably slow on hard drives and is really designed only for SSD, which makes it strange they are still selling entry-level Macs with hard drives instead of SSD after introducing macOS Catalina which requires the startup disk to be in APFS format.

332:

Re: 'All we need is some consideration and common decency.'

More public awareness/education would help.

Years ago I supervised a youngish (25-30ish) new hire who could do the specific job he was hired to do, but ... . I couldn't figure him out, nor could the rest of the team. Anyways, after he was re-assigned to another team/manager I found out from his SO at a company event that he had an Asperger's diagnosis. Would have made life so much easier all-around if everyone on the team had known this while he was part of our team. I've had team members with physiological/medical issues; I've had a few periods of physical/medical limitations (broken arm, etc.) myself. Based on experience with staff/managers/self wrt physiological/medical issues, I'm pretty convinced that once you know and understand what the issue is, you can usually figure out a work-around.

Cognitive, social-psych and behavioral differences are as real and widely distributed as physiological/medical differences. Ignoring this doesn't help anyone.

Personal question - feel free to not answer*: When did you first tell any of your work colleagues of your Asperger's diagnosis? And if you did tell them, did you assume that they would know what it was/meant?

* This begs another question: The layman's info on Asperger's suggests that folks with this diagnosis have difficulty understanding others''personal space' physically, emotionally and socially. But the descriptions don't really go into detail about these folks' perceptions or feelings about their own 'personal space'. In your comment you sound really ticked off. How/why, what ticked you off? (Yeah - I know, you're a sample of '1', but we gotta start somewhere ...)

333:

"Honestly all those security issues are pretty solved at this point, you wouldn't see DoD dropping the kind of dime on aws they are planning to unless they were"

>snort<

334:

Which is both offensive and scientifically misleading to the point of incorrectness. As I said, it is NOT a disorder, except as viewed by those with (low functioning) Blair's syndrome, as shown by the disproportionate number of leading mathematicians, scientists and engineers who are well along the spectrum. As Damian points out.

Exactly why should the ability to ignore facts staring you in the face, and to convince yourself of falsehoods by doing that, be regarded as other than a disability? But, God help us all, it is :-(

335:

"Would have made life so much easier all-around if everyone on the team had known this while he was part of our team."

I very much doubt it would have made it any easier for you to "figure him out". It might have given you the comfort of being able to attach a label to stuff he did, but that is in no way equivalent to understanding. If anything the illusion of equivalence makes understanding less likely.

This acts to discourage people from following your "tell your employer" recommendation - no point, since it won't convey any useful information, and it feels like you're claiming some special privilege or making up excuses.

336:
(I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children—or has adult children but no/limited contact with teenagers or children today. Yes/no?)

Age 59 which I concede may be approaching middle age, male, white, probably not on the spectrum, CS degree and work as a software developer, childless widower whose youngest nieces/nephews are in their twenties.

337:

I have never had a diagnosis, but it is evident to everyone who knows about it and knows me well. When I started in computing, it wasn't actually a requirement, but quite often covered the majority of the people who took that path (as it did in most of my employment). It was rarely a problem, because of that, and that I had learnt how to handle you aliens by the time it ceased to be true! It's still extremely common among leading researchers in the areas I mentioned, and really only causes trouble when manageritis or excessive political correctness takes over. After all, in such work, most interactions are NOT involved with emotions and similar perceptions, but facts.

Yes, I had some propblems with causing offence to others, but probably no more than they did to me. The difference is that I was blamed in BOTH cases, irrespective of intent, because OBVIOUSLY I should see when something was hurtful to someone else and not do it, even if they were proceeding to fuck up a job I was also involved with. And, similarly, it was completely unreasonable of me to get offended when people misrepresented what I said (or just plain lied black is white). You have probably seen some examples of both on this blog. I was brought up to believe that all such problems were my fault, and unforgiveable, but learnt to stand up against that in relatively old age - however, it is STILL done to many young people with Asperger's.

But the really big problems are social, and one of the reasons I am ticked off about this is precisely because I remember what it was like being a child, adolescent and young adult, and I see the discrimination being promoted and made really vicious by the politically correct brigade. This is me getting angry about other people being discriminated against, because I know what they are going through.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201705/is-autism-really-empathy-disorder

Let's take a specific example: inappropriate advances, touching or kissing; this no longer affects me, as I am much married (and have been for 40+ years) and, after that time, my wife has mostly learnt about what I can do and what I can't. But, for a young male who cannot read anyone's emotions, how ON EARTH can he know if a woman is interested in his advances without making one? In my day and, I believe even today, women almost NEVER make it clear (let alone make the first move) in a way that is comprehensible to people with Asperger's. No, I am not advocating the 'right to grope', but pointing out that the demonisation and, in particular, the denial of the 'honest mistake' defence, is seriously and viciously discriminatory.

338:

it feels like you're claiming some special privilege or making up excuses.

And some people do that, with or without an official diagnosis.

But then, people do that for other conditions as well. Look at the number of people who lost function in their arms for insurance claims and were videotaped playing golf…

339:

I have to admit to being surprised - most of our video cards had multiple ports. There are also video splitters....

2U, half-height? I assume that means that the slots were vertical, rather than horizontal, and that they didn't offer a riser for a horizontal card.

340:

Fractal ownership.... I recently read of a place in NYC, I think it was, where the ownership was so fractal, that the tenants could complain, but get no maintenance, and the city was called in, and they "owners" said "but we don't own...."

My reaction would have been for the city to take ownership, and screw the owners - let them show up to complain, and they're SOL.

341:

1. C8 is live. Just say NO. Wait for 8.1, really.
2. alternatives is the RH answer. Alternately, LD_LIBRARY_PATH, or other variables that the environment knows.
3. *ALL* security fixes get back-ported by RH (or upstream, as we say on the CentOS general list), and come out about the time the fixes for the current version does.

342:

Re: ' ... because OBVIOUSLY I should see when something was hurtful to someone else and not do it,'

This is what I'm trying to wrap my head around: I don't have ESP, how am I supposed to know? If you [EC] can't always/immediately tell if you're hurting someone, do you nevertheless expect that someone else should be able to tell if they're hurting you [EC]? (Do you tell people right away if they're hurting or offending you?)

Lots of folks without this diagnosis can be unempathetic: they can choose to disregard what their empathy tells them --- which makes them jerks. However, if someone is unaware that they've hurt someone, then most society would 'forgive' them --- with the proviso that they not do it again.

The study below found that the incidence of autism including Asperger's is pretty similar between the West and China which argues against this being some sort of cultural artefact or bogey man.

https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-018-0246-0

343:

Er, have you been drinking Kool-Aid (tm), or some other liquid provided by a cloud provider?

From your link, para 2:
"This approach, however, is counterproductive to the data protection objectives and the IT modernization and global economic growth goals that many governments have set as milestones. This new whitepaper addresses the real and perceived security risks expressed by governments when they demand in-country data residency by identifying the most likely and prevalent IT vulnerabilities and security risks, explaining the native security embedded in cloud services, and highlighting the roles and responsibilities of cloud service providers (CSPs), governments, and customers in protecting data.

And it appears to dance around where the *processing*, itself, is done. And if you find out that they had it elsewhere, and your people or interests are attacked, and you find out that your processing was done elsewhere, and it was hacked... what are you going to do, sue Amazon for violating a contract? Does that bring people back to life, or restore their funds?

Come talk to me again, when the contract that a cloud provider signs includes "if something like that happens, our chief execs are personally liable, and guilty, and will serve jail time, and the company will become completely owned by the government."

And, hey, you *are* talking about the DoD under the Unstable Orange Idiot....

344:

Under...her... bed... power up to cover a 747 (about 2 2U servers, I'd think, if she was lying on them)....

ROTFLMAO!!!

Moz, you're a treasure. Don't ever leave this blog.

ROTFL!

345:

Heh. A link to Cariadoc's weebsite. For that kind of history, I'd trust him (I strongly disagree with his economics).

Why, yes, when I was in the SCA in the last half of the seventies, in Philly, Cariadoc was my fighting master.

346:

You wrote:
One reason that the single dimension is so harmful is that people like me (who include many or even most of the world's leading mathematicians, scientists and engineers) are NOT dysfunctional - we merely think differently from the likes of you.
---

*bingo*

It's gotten to the point where *anyone* too far out of the mythical statistical "norm" is diagnosed as having something, and needs medication.

I'm waiting for some jerk to decide that *all* of real SF fandom are clinically guilty of something-or-other, and need medication.

Oh, and my late wife, my late ex (also an actual rocket engineer), and my new SO are all fen... and have no trouble believing that I mean what I say.

A datum: there is an old children's game called "telephone". You have a line of people, and the first one whispers something into the second one's ear, and the second to the third, etc, and the person at the end of the line announces what they heard.

SF fans, and *only* sf fans, can say that what comes to the end is what went in, and after having it happen once, years later, with other fen, I tried it, and it happened again.

We *are* different. Fans are slans!

347:

Perhaps I should have spelled it out, though I think it was pretty clear. No, I don't expect that, and never did. Most of the time, I just gritted my teeth, but sometimes raised it to the person at the time or later, and it sometimes got as far as involving others. I am referring SOLELY to the latter two cases.

In several cases, I have been criticised for causing offence by being negative (correctly) about technical issues, NOT about people at all; when I asked what I had said that caused offence, I was told "It wasn't what you said, it was the way you said it". When I have repeated my entirely factual words and asked what was offensive, I was merely told "You should have known that would cause offence."

Yet, when I pointed out that I had been offended by false attribution of statements to me, including in cases when it was clearly deliberate, it was MY fault either for taking offence at such things or provoking such behaviour.

348:

The problem was finding video cards in my junkbox and elsewhere i.e. not spending money, to fit into a repurposed server which I got for very little money (and there's a genuinely funny story attached to why it was so cheap). These cards needed to provide a VGA output, which I got from a dongled DVI-D port, and a DisplayPort output which doesn't dongle from anything except maybe a Lightning3 port.

There is, as far as I know, no riser for this server -- it's an Intel-branded system with an Intel-manufactured server board inside. It certainly came with no riser and sourcing one if it existed would mean spending money which is not what I wanted to do. If Linux requires me to spend money on compatible hardware because it's unable to work with what I've got then Windows is my way forward. It's just I get a rush of blood to the brain sometimes and think to myself "The Linux community will have fixed these problems by now, surely!" and download the Latest and Greatest and I suffer disappointment yet again.

"Ask ye not on Usenet, for they will tell you both 'Yes' and 'No; and 'Try another distro'."

349:

I’ll play! Early 50s, white, female visual artist married to a microbiologist/musician. No kids. Reaaally bad case of ADHD which probably kept me from pursuing a STEM field due to inability to focus on stuff that didn’t come easily. Currently noodling around with combining art, data viz, and science in interesting ways. Obsessed with maps and trying to add ArcGIS to the mix (but ArcGIS is a harsh mistress). Worked as a word processor back in the 80s and 90s, Word Star, Word Perfect...HATE MS Word.

350:

EC @ 337
My deepest sympathies.
I'm nowhere nearly as bad as you describe yourself, but I've made some appalling mistakes in the past, for the same reasons as you.
I'm much better, now, at reading people - oddly enough "body language" ( Now I'm aware of it ) is a lot easier to read that other indicators - speech is often still very decptive.

And: that people like meUS (who include many or even most of the world's leading mathematicians, scientists and engineers) are NOT dysfunctional - we merely think differently from the likes of you. - as whitroth says ... BINGO!

I'm waiting for some jerk to decide that *all* of real SF fandom are clinically guilty of something-or-other, and need medication.
Hmmm ... Does MORE BEER count as medication? Please, pretty please?

351:

Living in the land of the Fee, I'm not formally diagnosed, but I likely don't reside in the center of the statistical distribution. Being born before the Atmospheric test ban, I joke that there was a little something extra in the air. Life might be more tolerable if folks would abandon the notion that all the World needs to be like them.

352:

there are nonentities who suggest it has an impact on capacity and you can therefore downgrade people's entire contributions and opinions for that reason

Which is surely evidence of a social disability on the part of the nonentity. "unable to play nicely with others" or whatever verbiage they use these days. "developmentally delayed", perhaps.

And I note that almost without exception one of the criteria used for that kind of remote diagnosis is "disagrees with the nonentity". You don't see a lot of far right types saying Trumpkin should be booted because he's deluded, ADHD or sociopathic. Albeit the latter is almost a prerequisite for the job (maybe that's why Elizabeth Warren isn't qualified?).

353:

They are not dancing around where the processing is done they are just assuming a basic level of knowledge

AWS is divided into Regions. Examples include US East (Northern Virginia) or Europe (Ireland) etc etc

These regions are then subdivided into availability zones, primarily for failover purposes

When you spin up an instance in AWS the very first thing you need to do is specify the Region. Where I work now for instance , most things run in US East while some things run in US West. It’s geographic from the very beginning most atomic interactions

It’s possible to shoot yourself in the foot in multiple ways with regards to data locality but assuming you have a modicum of sense and don’t specifically go out of your way to be fancy, the default is you are going to pick a region and run there and all your compute and network and storage is going to be in that region

Aws is not gonna indemnify you if you decide to spin up in some foreign region, though I believe there are safeguards at the aws account layer that can serve as guardrails

354:

if everyone on the team had known this

... rather than just demanding that every single person fit into a narrow stereotype?

IME the better workplaces deal with people as they are, with whatever variations from the rough social mean we call "normal". Doesn't matter whether they're non-male, non-white, non-middle-aged or even, bob forbid, non-rich. Discover what they can do, what they like and dislike, come to some arrangement that works for everyone.

As soon as you erect a barrier of "no accommodation without publicising a formal diagnosis" you have put up a whole load of quite visible barriers. Starting obviously with people's medical privacy. And not just wealth or social status, but a lot of "does your condition meet the criteria", "can you afford the time and money to keep shopping around until you find someone willing to give a formal diagnosis", "has any research been done on people like you to name the condition you have", "do the authors of the DSM like your condition" (hint: 'a bit weird' is not in there) and so on.

355:

3. *ALL* security fixes get back-ported by RH

We had one very specific security issue that had not been back-ported 6 months after it started affecting us. Since then I have been extremely sceptical of claims like the above. Luckily the guy who manages this at work copes much better with it than I do, saying "yeah it'll get fixed eventually" and similar reassuring things.

356:


You'll all be happy to know that actual geniuses* are more likely to be anxious and depressed. Not because of the climate catastrophe or anything, just as a side effect of being a genius.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bad-news-for-the-highly-intelligent/

The biggest differences between the Mensa group and the general population were seen for mood disorders and anxiety disorders. More than a quarter (26.7 percent) of the sample reported that they had been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder, while 20 percent reported an anxiety disorder—far higher than the national averages of around 10 percent for each.

I'm sure there's no effect from high IQ diagnosis correlating with wealth which allows disparate access to medical care. The author of the study apparently prefers the 1800's theory of "excitability" instead.

* in the sense that IQ measures genius {cough}

357:

whitroth @ 296: Test? What is this "test" business? Is that where you roll out alpha software for "early adopters", who then complain, and you decide what you feel like fixing?

I had *two* jobs where we had serious testing - as in, people who did nothing but. One was at Ameritech (a former Baby Bell, now eaten by Southwest Bell (UGH!), sorry, who ate AT&T, and renamed themselves AT&T.

Oh, and the other was as a contractor for... AT&T, right when they got bought. Testers, complete with automated regression testing.

I'm pretty sure it was BellSouth (former "Baby Bell" Southern Bell) who bought AT&T. Could it be that Southwest Bell ate AT&T first & got eaten by BellSouth in turn? Or did BellSouth in the guise of AT&T get eaten by Southwest Bell.

Or maybe it's some secret cabal at AT&T plotting to reassemble the monopoly by pretending to be eaten by each of the Baby Bells in turn?

358:

oddly enough "body language" ( Now I'm aware of it ) is a lot easier to read that other indicators

Ah, interesting! I wondered whether it was just me. Yes, once I sussed out the importance of body language, it turned out that I was better at reading it than most other people, even though I remain fairly useless with them "other indicators". No idea why it should be so. Human mind is such a *strange* thing!

359:

It's only a problem when the body language says something that the talky bit doesn't want to discuss. I have learned that I have to wait until a new relationship is announced before saying anything, and never mention periods or pregnancy.

One place I worked had gay Simon and homophobic Simon. One was very open about his preferences and one was closeted. I found both difficult to deal with.

360:

69 (or close enough to it), female, AA in engineering, most of a BS in computer science, and more than 20 years working with maps and databases. Whether I'm on the spectrum is an open question - it probably is minor compared to the hardwired clinical depression.

(There are a lot of engineers in my family, and they go back a long way - there's a millwright in the 18th century, and a lot of joiners and cabinet-makers.)

361:

@ 358-360
"Body Language"
I got a lot better at it after my very serious injury in 1976 ( By the end, lost more blood than I started with ... ).
As part of my recovery self-prgramme, I took up dancing ( morris ) which requires very careful timing & observation on the move. I also learnt to fence - which also requires v careful & v quick observation of others' movements.
Those little twitches & inclinations, that the perpetrator almost certainly does not know or realise they are "displaying" speak volumes IF/WHEN one starts to notice them....

362:

Those little twitches & inclinations, that the perpetrator almost certainly does not know or realise they are "displaying" speak volumes IF/WHEN one starts to notice them....
Try working on seeing rapid facial microexpressions; ping people with ideas/language/etc, and look for rapid microexpressions. They're similar. One way to practice is with careful observation of hi-def videos of interviews. (slow-mo can be helpful.)
Also gate analysis (e.g. recognizing people from gate and other bodily motions) can be similarly learned (assuming that's not in your body language category.)
There are books on these methods (and others) but as a non-neurotypical person I found it easier to just reverse engineer them.

363:

On one hand, I do run into an awful lot of people who truly suffer from Blair's disease. Poor dears.

On the other hand, though I'm a few years out of date, my recollection was that Asperger's was rubbished in DSM-5. My faltering memory was that it just wasn't a good classifier. Basically, there wasn't a distinct Asperger's subtype, just a set of ASD sufferers whose specific symptoms and life circumstances meant they could work. If anything, I wasn't kidding about Asperger's being the label for an autistic male who was sufficiently attractive to marry.

Women especially are underdiagnosed - which is a shame because, in my observation, other women are especially viscous to ASD women.

I do agree that modern society - with rigid rule enforcement of social norms (felt so sorry for Damore) is pretty toxic for ASD people. It is hard enough remembering to smile, make eye contact, and verbalize something. Heck, saying something on topic is hard enough. Considering the life circumstances of someone from a different upbringing before speaking? Nah. If I tried, I'd never speak again. I figure meaning well is about all that lies within my capacity. Frankly, giving up on being normal made my life so, so much more functional. And the slightly incoherent rambling? Oh well.
Some fraction of people don't mind. Those are friends. The others, meh, without being aggressive, I do not miss them. Heck, I've had people yelling for moderators here. I attribute it to autistic people often flying off the handle, but that may be too generous.

Now, mild autism can be useful, rather like mild sociopathy - particularly when combined with high intelligence. But, most of the symptoms I've seen do look like disabilities. And maybe those disabilities free up something else sometimes - or just enable more focus...but...meh...that is mostly only on the mild end. Still, most people are a bit broken anyways - almost like we use some sort of funky self-assembled organic chemistry-based process with indifferent quality control. Maybe it is a difference in attitude, but most 'norm deviations' do look like malfunctions -I tend to accept it and move on - never have understood this tendency for mildly broken people to assert that their particular brokenness is a valuable mark of difference.
Anywayss, I hope that didn't offend.

364:

Nope. Trust me, I was *there*. SWB (who people in Texas hated as much or more than Mother Bell by the late eighties) bought Ameritech, then bought AT&T, and "rebranded" themselves AT&T (while I was working as a contractor at AT&T in the AT&T building in Chicago (we were the *last* AT&T people in the building, sigh).

Not sure about Bell South.

365:

On one hand, I do run into an awful lot of people who truly suffer from Blair's disease. I do wonder if it could be corrected with remedial classes. Poor dears.

On the other hand, though I'm a few years out of date, my recollection was that Asperger's was rubbished in DSM-5. My faltering memory was that it just wasn't a good classifier. Basically, there wasn't a distinct Asperger's subtype, just a set of ASD sufferers whose specific symptoms and life circumstances meant they could work. If anything, I wasn't kidding about Asperger's being the label for an autistic male who was sufficiently attractive to marry.

Women especially are underdiagnosed - which is a shame because, in my observation, other women are especially cruel to ASD women.

I do agree that modern society - with rigid rule enforcement of social norms (felt so sorry for Damore) is pretty toxic for ASD people. It is hard enough remembering to smile, make eye contact, and verbalize something. Heck, saying something on topic is hard enough. Considering the life circumstances of someone from a different upbringing before speaking? Nah. If I tried, I'd never speak again. (Heh, college) I figure meaning well is about all that lies within my capacity. Frankly, giving up on being normal made my life so, so much more functional. And the slightly incoherent rambling? Oh well.
Some fraction of people don't mind. Those are friends. The others, meh, without being aggressive, I do not miss them. Accepting brokenness makes it much easier to design in workarounds. Soylent, Vite Ramen, home automation, grocery delivery, completely standardized clothing,...yes, some advertisements, but, meh, they really helped me. Heck, I've had people yelling for moderators here. I attribute it to autistic people often flying off the handle, but that may be too generous.

Now, mild autism can be useful, rather like mild sociopathy - particularly when combined with high intelligence. But, most of the symptoms I've seen do look like disabilities. And maybe those disabilities free up something else sometimes - or just enable more focus...but...meh...that is mostly only on the mild end. Still, most people are a bit broken anyways - almost like we use some sort of funky self-assembled organic chemistry-based process with indifferent quality control. Maybe it is a difference in attitude, but most 'norm deviations' do look like malfunctions -I tend to accept it and move on - never have understood this tendency for mildly broken people to assert that their particular brokenness is a valuable mark of difference. The level of comorbidity tends to argue for the malfunction hypotheses... Anyways, I hope that didn't offend. Probably it did. Meh.

366:

It was rarely a problem, because of that, and that I had learnt how to handle you aliens by the time it ceased to be true!
Thank you for being forceful about this. Very much appreciated.
The "Psychology Today" piece you linked about shallow and deep empathy is somewhat right. (For some, deep empathy can be easier than shallow empathy.)


367:

never have understood this tendency for mildly broken people to assert that their particular brokenness is a valuable mark of difference. The level of comorbidity tends to argue for the malfunction hypotheses... Anyways, I hope that didn't offend. Probably it did. Meh.
Oh, you did. :-) Hint; "broken". You are arguing that homogeneity of mind types is desirable.
E.g. if somebody has to downshift to linear verbal thinking mode any time somebody is talking around them (in case they're saying something important and/or interesting), are they broken, or are the people around them broken?

368:

Well, the pychological definition of "disability" was always inherently subjective. One element of the designation has always been "prevents or hinders effective functioning within society" or language to that effect (been awhile since I read it). The unspoken dark side to that has been that what effectively functioning within society depends in part on society's expectations and norms regarding acceptable behavior, and that changes frequently and arbitrarily (and across regions/cultures). HFA is a disorder if society makes it a disorder, but that's true of many conditions (know anyone with Tourettes? No fun, but there is no particular reason that a manageable case shouldn't be hired for most jobs. Same for most cases of epilepsy).

Psychiatric medication is no better--it's based less on science than on trial and error. What I teach in my students is that the definition of a disorder that qualifies for medication is that someone has found a medication that alleviates some of the symptoms. I often hear people grumpily complaining that "now they medicate any personal problem!" as if this were somehow a bad thing. Medication has reduced much suffering in the world--and frankly if someone can find a pill that alleviates social isolation, then more power to us.

What confuses me is that there seems to be more skepiticism for HFA specifically than other neurological conditions. I dont' see this kind of pushback for bipolar disorder, or Tourettes' either. People rarely say to someone with epilepsy "Ah, but have you been *formally* diagnosed?" Maybe it's just social progression (people used to say this about depression), or maybe it's something more deep seated.

I can't tell you if HFA is a disorder or a disability, likely has to be judged on a case by case basis, and the sufferer should probably have the final say, but it *is* a handicap, and I can't think of any reason that mental handicaps should be treated any differently than physical ones.

My two cents, anyway.

369:

Those little twitches & inclinations, that the perpetrator almost certainly does not know or realise they are "displaying" speak volumes IF/WHEN one starts to notice them....

A few years ago I was at a physic education conference and went to a session on non-verbal communication. The presenter did this thing where he stood facing as and looked at one of the corners of the room behind us, and we had to note which corner. Obvious and easy. Then he put on sunglasses, then big sunglasses, and so on covering more of his face, then turning so we could only see his back. Everyone else was still getting the corners right, which was his point — we all see way more than we realize. Except for me, who was trying to figure out what everyone else was noticing. Never did figure it out, as no one could articulate what cues they were using: it was "you can just tell" which wasn't helpful!

370:

Not quite true. You left out “where large sums of money are involved”. I might now work for a firm where there are one or two who still remember OGH (someone left last Wednesday who was interviewed by him for her job), and there is rather thorough testing of our product.

Anyway, I’m early-50s, white, middle-class, STEM, and now AFAICT atypical yet again. Two teenage sons, six nieces and one nephew from 15 to 30, and the first great-niece (wife’s side) is visiting this weekend. I even coach at the university. Unusual but not unique here in being ex-military, albeit a reservist rather than regular. Not ASD, although I wondered for a while (mum was a special needs teacher for half her career, so I learned about such as a teenager); just a chatterbox, and capable of entirely normal levels of social clumsiness/incompetence. Also entirely aware that “I might be wrong”, which is a filter that I’m trying to teach firstborn to consider...

I quite like Windows 10, although my home desktop is 6yo and iPad is 5yo; I’m currently carrying a large and until last month latest iPhone (big screen, big battery, just the thing for my aging eyes) and associated watch (lovely, because it tells me the phone is ringing, and allows me to do a Dick Tracy impression if I wish). They “just work, just well enough”, which IMHO far outweighs any desire to rail against the insecurity of WiFi or the inadequacies of Richmond. Heart rate tracking is nice, it lets me outsmug oldest by pointing out a resting rate in the mid-40s.

I use social media, because even though it has downsides, it’s so damn useful for keeping in touch with friends and family. Particularly teenagers. Oh, and it’s fun. As has been pointed out, many here might not be breeders, and so miss the significance of social media access amongst today’s youth; a serious amount of social interaction demands mobile data and a games console. Don’t knock Microsoft phones, it means you can get a £50 smartphone that is securely-enough locked down for a young teenage boy - with the advantage that many of the social media apps weren’t supported, oops, feature not a bug ;)

371:

Many years ago, my father went off on a long course to learn how to be an interrogator, and turned out to have a knack for it. I can remember finding his copy of Desmond Morris’s “Manwatching” a fascinating book for a bright ten-year-old...

...no, I got away with rock-all as a teenager. On the bright side, it made me socially aware if not socially less incompetent (going to an all-boys military boarding school can do that)...

372:

I do agree that modern society - with rigid rule enforcement of social norms (felt so sorry for Damore) is pretty toxic for ASD people

Years ago I read a sociology book* by Edward T Hall. In it he was talking about formal and informal cultures, and how formal cultures are more relaxed because the rules are explicitly stated so everyone knows if they are following them, while informal cultures are more anxious because everyone is always looking at others' reactions to see if they are following the rules.

I think that the toxicity lies in informal social norms that you have to figure out by reactions — formal norms that can be stated and learned are less toxic.

I've had people disagree, claiming that a lack of formal rules is freeing — oddly, the same people are likely to say things like "but how can you wear socks with sandals? nobody does that!" without realizing that they've just stated an unwritten rule that most people figure out by observing what others are doing and not doing, and they are quite judgemental about it.

Back when I was attending a Baptist church** I was told how they were superior to Catholics because they didn't have a prayer book, instead people prayed spontaneously as the spirit moved them. Which they did, but woe betide anyone who didn't use the proper formulaic prayer — because not using the (literally) unwritten formula just meant that you hadn't really been moved by the spirit, and so it wasn't a real prayer.

The kids in our ASD program are mostly working on learning the norms explicitly so they can more easily get along with others. Little things like when someone says "how are you?" they aren't looking for a health report — the correct answer is "good/OK, and you?" — it's a social formula not a genuine inquiry.


*Possibly The Silent Language or The Hidden Dimension.

**I was young and in love with a Baptist for a time.

373:

The unspoken dark side to that has been that what effectively functioning within society depends in part on society's expectations and norms regarding acceptable behavior

The poor are crazy, the rich are eccentric?

(Can't remember where I heard that one, but it seems to have an element of truth to it. And there's a lot of other factors than wealth, like skin colour, that also have an influence on whether a behavoiur is considered dysfunctional or not.)

374:

"I've had people disagree, claiming that a lack of formal rules is freeing"

The existence of formal rules does not imply the non-existence of informal ones. Instead, the formal ceremonies, because compulsory, become meaningless, and the informal ones become encoded as subtle variations in the manner of performing the formal ones. They're still there, but the consequences of getting them wrong are more severe.

"but how can you wear socks with sandals? nobody does that!"

It would never occur to me not to wear socks if some cosmic shoe disappearance catastrophe meant I had to wear sandals - quite the reverse, because they are slightly less uncomfortable with than without. Thus would I answer someone who posed that question, and consider it irrefutable justification, having learned at a very early age that "other people don't do that" is (a) irrelevant when it's not "other people" doing it, and (b) a notably poor predictor of whether or not I will find it pleasant myself.

...And also that (c) no matter how unarguably nonexistent the effect of me doing it on "other people" is, they will still try to stop me doing it, because they are wankers. Not infrequently, their demands are so illogical that at first I think they're joking, or can't even work out what they're talking about; but at any rate, their demands are not worthy of consideration or compliance. That they may respond by inflicting unpleasantness in an attempt to coerce me into compliance does not in any way constitute evidence of any fault on my part (no matter how strongly they may believe otherwise), but does, solely, constitute further evidence that they are wankers.

(I've posted before about the teacher whose reaction to the five-year-old me going round this side of a building instead of that side was so extreme I genuinely thought she had gone clinically insane. The pattern has been the same throughout my entire life.)

Lack of formal rules is liberating because it delegitimises the use of extreme methods of coercion. Some random person who wears socks with sandals is in far less danger than a soldier whose boots aren't shiny enough.

"The poor are crazy, the rich are eccentric"

Pratchett, as is the drunk/alcoholic variant, though I'm sure he didn't originate either of them.

375:

a steady supply of human virgins over the age of consent

Maybe from the incels on 4chan? They're ready to kill themselves anyway.

376:

Re: ' ... it was the way you said it".'

Yeah - that can happen with anyone for any number of reasons. Tone, speech speed, emphasis on different words in a sentence, body language, etc. - they all contribute meaning to the 'words'. Then there's situational context and all sorts of other stuff.

Do you get the same types/frequencies of reaction when you communicate this type of message via text/email? (Mind you, some people when they read a correspondence from someone they regularly speak with automatically read ['hear'] that message in sender's voice/intonation. Just curious: you've mentioned your hearing in a few posts.)



377:

Re: '"no accommodation without publicising a formal diagnosis"'

Yes - it can end up like this if the prevailing culture is that of shaming any 'difference'. In my mind, I tend to see this (communication style/ability) as another aspect of a human being where an accommodation for personal differences similar to being able to adjust a driver's car seat from the factory statistical (median) height setting for drivers that are shorter or taller might be needed.

378:

Bill Arnold @ 362
One of the apparently-improbable-extreme "talents" in F Herbert ... that of identifying people & events from tiny clues has a basis in this.
Some people's gait & even the sound of their footstep is (sometimes) a unique signature.

Erwin @ 363
lot of people who truly suffer from Blair's disease Well every bloody "priest" on the planet, for a start ... grrr ....

SFR @ 376 ( & EC )
... the way that you say it ... I get that ALL THE EFFING TIME ... bugger'em says I, with or without a millenium hand

379:

Re: 'I get that ALL THE EFFING TIME ... bugger'em says I, ...'

Okay - so thanks to Morris dancing and fencing, you picked up some people-reading skills. That's half of a conversation. Why not learn the other half: how to send an understandable message.

Ever hear of mirror neurons/mirroring?

380:

There are a few things going on here.

Both formal and informal rules exist and the distinction is pretty blurry, it’s not even a continuum just a sort of mish-mash. The more formal the rule, the more some concept of “rule of law” applies to it, that is the more likely it is that people will feel it applies to anyone, high status or low status. But both formal and informal rules have a sort of normative function, literally in the case of actual laws - “do not diverge from the norm more than *this* line or we will actively punish you”. All societies need laws. But both formal and informal rules make up part of the way in which it is cohesive. That is people really thing other people are wrong for being less like them. To celebrate diversity (as IMHO we are obliged to do, partly because when we do we’re making more people more comfortable in their skin) is to set some boundaries around how serious we take the normative rules and whether we think they are real or any good. None of that has much to do with whether a rule is formal or informal. So far so good.

The thing that makes it more awkward for everyone is inequality. Basically the more inequality, the higher the percentage of rules, both formal and informal, will be implicitly or explicitly a direct assertion of social status. You could argue that in the most unequal society, every single rule and law is about asserting someone’s social status above someone else’s. Western societies have been growing more unequal since the 80s and the discomfort with informal rules most likely stems from informal rules becoming more about status. Formal rules might lag, but nonetheless they do follow.

The way to break out of this is to make your own assertions. Not just wearing socks and sandals, but orange, red, black, brown and purple striped toe socks and sandals tyvm (I have actually worn such things car shopping, which made the experience just a bit different). You assert that a rule doesn’t affect or involve you. By rejecting status, you are automatically higher status than anyone who cares about status. But being in a position to make such assertions, and I’m pretty sure I’m sort of paraphrasing someone Charlie has said here in the past, requires quite a bit of privilege. If you’re black in Mississippi in the 50s, not giving up your seat is one way of asserting that a rule doesn’t apply, but you still might get hurt. Being a white middle class middle aged bloke means you can get away with not ironing your shirts, or wearing socks and sandals, because it doesn’t matter to you which people won’t take you seriously as a result. But it’s different if you’re none of those things and everything people judge you for is a weight you’re obliged to carry just to get ahead. And it’s one thing to be the reed that bends in the storm if you get your way in some of the things that are important to you, another altogether if you are constantly blown flat.

So actually simply celebrating diversity is a great start. Rules aren’t just about difference, they are also about making a safe place for everyone to be.

381:

Oh, that’s one of Bernard Woolley’s irregular verbs, isn’t it?

I have an independent mind, you are an eccentric, he is round the twist.

Similarly -

I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he’s been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

382:

The commentariat are a kind of anti-fascists in the sense that, in fascism the Leader is supposed to mystically embody the collective will/nature of "the masses". (Anti-mass? Wasn't there a film about Vatican baddies using that to explode things?)

383:

The commentariat are a kind of anti-fascists in the sense that, in fascism the Leader is supposed to mystically embody the collective will/nature of "the masses".

I speculate that Fascism generally doesn't work well on folks on the ASD spectrum: too much emphasis on irrational loyalty, emotional appeals, internal inconsistency. Some aspects of fascism may appeal to some ASD people for various reasons, where they intersect with individual obsessions, but the whole package tends to make them bewilderingly ask "why?".

(Note that Hans Asperger participated in the Nazi child euthanasia program for children who failed to conform to the regime’s criteria of “worthy to live”. More details via the link.)

384:

The term anti-fascism, much as it has a load of mystical-romantic overtones also brings with those very overtones a bunch of linked images of people with greasy hair, trousers 2-3 sizes too large (optionally secured with rope), and waving around frightening little machine pistols made of pressed metal in backyard workshops that are about as likely to blow the user’s hand off as they are to kill a fascist.

So the background thought is about how to supply the anti-fascists better, but it’s a complex background thought.

385:

Linked images from where, exactly?

The alt-right are extremely good at manipulating search engine rankings to push their own agenda. And every antifa I've met or known of has been anti-violence—far less likely to be waving Saturday night specials about than the fash themselves.

386:

"Some aspects of fascism may appeal to some ASD people for various reasons"

Oh, is that ever the understatement. Take ASD-induced introversion and reclusive living. Add Youtube rabbit holes. Sprinkle a dash of Svengali-like tactics semi-automated from our friends in St. Petersburg's Internet Research Bureau, and you get those portions of our reality that are a cheap knockoff of a Bad Mirror episode.

387:

Allow me to suggest he was actually talking about (kind of) these anti-fascists you can see on the news (usually only at special occasions):
https://twitter.com/edkashi/status/1182410000691580933
https://twitter.com/LawkGhafuri/status/1070082317924880385
They look all the same, aren't they? Hey, there's another joke - some people call them "communists".
It's too bad they got in touch with wrong alliances in especially wrong time. They are, probably, quite good people. Well, probably not, but it's too late to think about it now.

Or maybe those would also qualify, circa 2014:
https://twitter.com/AlMonitor/status/964201639933554689
Or even those, IDK really what today's media makes people think:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/03/isis-and-affiliates-around-the-world#img-1
Which is essentially the same state of disarray, chaos and betrayal, but who cares when you got all these "friends" out there.

388:

The short time I wore sandals, back in the late sixties (I decided I didn't like sandals. These days, more than half the year, I wear boots.), I always wore socks. Of course, a) they were not the kind of sandals that had a thing between your big toe and the next, and b) they were, of course, BF Goodrich sandals, guaranteed for 30k mi, or until your feet fall off. (Y'know, the same kind that those guys in black pj's were wearing, half a world away.)

389:

Hey, thanks, great idea. That would mean we Pagans could go back to having virgin sacrifices (just in time for Samhain!), *and* improve the human gene pool.

You! Incel! Out of the gene pool, *now*!

390:

"Some people's gait"? Mostly, everybody's is.

Personally, I divide everyone into four categories:
1. People who walk heavily, but not loud.
2. People who walk loud, but not heavily.
3. People who walk loud and heavily.
4. People who walk softly and quietly.

Oh, and cats, of course, who are *soooo* (KA-THUMP-KA-THUMP-KE-THUMP) quiet....

391:

I see, like, "I have the True Religion, you have a philosophy, they are superstitious."

393:

What I teach in my students is that the definition of a disorder that qualifies for medication is that someone has found a medication that alleviates some of the symptoms.

There was a joke, years ago, about how the makers of Valium published a list of symptoms that indicated the dose should be increased. And, they published a list of symptoms that indicated the dose should be decreased. But the lists were identical !

394:

Yes. It still flabberghasts me that so many people read their assumptions into text that clearly says something different, and then refuse to see it when it is pointed out. Giving a higher priority to connotations from their own, er, mind over the meaning of the words still strikes me as irrational and perverse - and definitely a mental disorder.

395:

I wear sandals all the time, made for me by a local cobbler, and wear socks with long trousers but not without. This is not a holdover from my childhood, where long socks and sandals was common, but could have been.

396:

65, pair of STEM degrees, systems guy who did all sorts of odd technical things, married, two grown kids, not on the scale. That skips over that at 50 I went back to graduate school, got an MA in public policy, spent three years on the non-partisan budget staff for my middle-sized state's legislature, finished retiring, and am working on a book on a speculative public policy question.

397:

Right. Being retired helps a lot, too :-)

398:

Yes, I agree with most of that. But see also Bill Arnold (#367) - the compulsion to think logically and to reason from facts is a handicap, as well as the inability to read social cues, but it is also a massive strength. 'Superpower' is over the top, but a disproportionate proportion of leading STEM people have it, and always have done - for obvious reasons.

399:

MikeA @ 358:

oddly enough "body language" ( Now I'm aware of it ) is a lot easier to read that other indicators

Ah, interesting! I wondered whether it was just me. Yes, once I sussed out the importance of body language, it turned out that I was better at reading it than most other people, even though I remain fairly useless with them "other indicators". No idea why it should be so. Human mind is such a *strange* thing!

I've known the "importance of body language" for years and years ... but I'm still rubbish at reading & interpreting it. It's another of those social skills I've never quite mastered, even though I try.

400:

Erwin @ 363:

On the other hand, though I'm a few years out of date, my recollection was that Asperger's was rubbished in DSM-5. My faltering memory was that it just wasn't a good classifier. Basically, there wasn't a distinct Asperger's subtype, just a set of ASD sufferers whose specific symptoms and life circumstances meant they could work. If anything, I wasn't kidding about Asperger's being the label for an autistic male who was sufficiently attractive to marry.

There are a lot of "tech-bros" out there who claim they have Asperger's, when what they really have is Assberger's; they think having "nerd" credentials & making a bunch of money in the computer business excuses being an anti-social, selfish ASSHOLE!, but they're not really on the spectrum anywhere.

They're just self-indulgent low-lifes who think being successful means you can treat everyone else like shit.

401:

whitroth @ 364: Nope. Trust me, I was *there*. SWB (who people in Texas hated as much or more than Mother Bell by the late eighties) bought Ameritech, then bought AT&T, and "rebranded" themselves AT&T (while I was working as a contractor at AT&T in the AT&T building in Chicago (we were the *last* AT&T people in the building, sigh).

Not sure about Bell South.

I'm pretty sure BellSouth "bought" AT&T and rebranded themselves as AT&T ... although, thinking back about it, they called it a "merger" ... so that must have happened AFTER SouthWest Bell had already done the same thing.

The BellSouth/AT&T "merger" was only a few years ago.

402:

Erwin @ 365: On one hand, I do run into an awful lot of people who truly suffer from Blair's disease. I do wonder if it could be corrected with remedial classes. Poor dears.

I've lost the thread here. That's the second or third reference to "Blair's disease", but I can't find what that is.

The only references to "Blair's disease" or "Blair's syndrome" I've been able to turn up from searching the internet is references to an actress Selma Blair who has within the last year been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after suffering symptoms for a number of years, except for one result for a book The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power. I also searched within this thread & didn't find any kind of a recognizable definition in any of the earlier references.

So what is "Blair's disease/syndrome"?

403:

Just following on, it goes to show that you really do need to be careful and supply enough context to make it clear what any random thoughts concern and to identify any historical references unambiguously.

Anyhow what I meant here was mental images that are connected with thoughts about anti-fascism, not actual URL links to photographs somewhere online. And what I’m thinking about are photographs of resistance fighters in German-occupied Europe, especially France. I suppose the oversized pants I’m thinking of might be plus fours, but I also just get the impression that getting trousers the right size was a problem in the 40s. Greasy hair from sleeping rough, but it was also sort of a thing in the 40s I suppose.

I was also thinking specifically of Sten guns, probably unfairly, but considering less visual and more verbal references to local, illicitly made firearms. Any actual photo I’m picturing seems to involve Sten guns and stolen MP40s, though so it could be a bit misplaced. I suppose the Sten guns got cheaper and lower-quality as they were made in more numbers for resistance groups, but on reflection were not *that* likely to explode. Oh well.

Anyhow, apologies Charlie, no I wasn’t referring (intentionally) to any kind of modern antifa group.

404:

Damian @ 384: The term anti-fascism, much as it has a load of mystical-romantic overtones also brings with those very overtones a bunch of linked images of people with greasy hair, trousers 2-3 sizes too large (optionally secured with rope), and waving around frightening little machine pistols made of pressed metal in backyard workshops that are about as likely to blow the user’s hand off as they are to kill a fascist.

So the background thought is about how to supply the anti-fascists better, but it’s a complex background thought.

I know several self-proclaimed anti-fascists, and while one or two of them may have greasy hair ("kids these days ... what can you do?"), I don't think any of them have "trousers 2-3 sizes too large (optionally secured with rope)"; they're more likely to dress like hipsters in skinny jeans ... and I know none of them own "machine pistols" of any sort.

In fact, the people most likely to own "unlawful" firearms around here are anarchy-fascists who think they're libertarians.

405:

whitroth @ 388: The short time I wore sandals, back in the late sixties (I decided I didn't like sandals. These days, more than half the year, I wear boots.), I always wore socks. Of course, a) they were not the kind of sandals that had a thing between your big toe and the next, and b) they were, of course, BF Goodrich sandals, guaranteed for 30k mi, or until your feet fall off. (Y'know, the same kind that those guys in black pj's were wearing, half a world away.)

I've always worn socks with sandals. It's more comfortable and what some fashionista might think about it matters less to me than me having comfortable feet. I am continually amazed by the number of people to whom it actually matters whether I wear socks with sandals or not. They do seem to be confounded by the idea I might put my comfort ahead of their idea of what fashion statement I should be making when I wear sandals. FWIW, I usually wear sandals when I can't be bothered to put on shoes or boots that I'm going to have to lace up.

But then on the third hand or the gripping hand or what ever ... I know lots of people who think they're cool, fashionable, hip & "with it" and have never actually owned a pair of blue suede shoes (I've always got at least one pair to wear whenever I go out to make music). And I too have owned real BF Goodrich sandals a couple of times in my life. I even took a pair along to Iraq for shower shoes, but nobody got the joke.


406:

Yes - see my later comment. I suppose I really thought that referring to sub-machine guns would date my reference to the 40s. I didn’t include enough context.

407:

See #326. Feel free to blame me for confusing you :-)

408:

You might want to hit up YouTube for videos of gun enthusiasts test-firing a Glock-18 before you conclude that "machine pistol" is synonymous with the 1940s. (It's a variant of the Glock-17, for military/SWAT use only: capable of full auto with a cyclic rate of 1200 rounds/minute.)

409:

While my first glance reaction was “holy crap, what madness is this”, on reflection I can see there’s a sort of gun enthusiast variation of Rule 34 - if you can imagine some kind of gun, it exists.

410:

20 rounds a SECOND?
Arrrgh!

411:

Why am I thinking "like a sawn-off shotgun, but less accurate"?

412:

Makes sense for that use case you want a high ROF to reduce the effect of the guns barrel moving.

Incidentally the first sub machine gun (built as an observers gun) the WW1 Villar Perosa had two barrels and each barrel was 1500 RPM

413:

if you can imagine some kind of gun, it exists.

.600 Nitro Express revolver? Yes, it does kick a bit (search on YouTube if you want to see it).

414:

Some brave person has built a rifle chambered for a nitro 950 round - presumably for when the cloned T rexes escape.

415:

I saw a wildcat rifle/round a long time back, the .475 LTD -- that stood for Lott-Tanner Dinosaur -- which was a modern case (a necked-down .50 BMG IIRC) and nitro-based propellant load for a classic cordite-based heavy-game bullet to get its muzzle velocity up past the 800m/s region out of a heavy bolt-action rifle.

If you're planning specifically to go after the King of the Tyrant Lizards then there is a Tyrannosaur rifle and round, a .577 that's got more momentum than the marketing-exercise .700 Nitro Express from Holland & Holland.

416:

Sorry to offend. But, I've seen an, um, spectrum of people with what I'd call filtering issues. When you just have to stop - I'd still call that broken. Common skill, can't do it because of brain issues - that is a malfunction. When you can't function in an open plan office - that is a problem. When you have to be led, in a hood, across a convention floor, that's a mild disability. Never have understood why people are so upset about malfunctioning.

It seems little different than nerve damage to a leg. A bit, you limp, more and you're on crutches. Maybe your arms get extra strong - but it still sucks.

There is a rather nice book on neurodiversity - mostly at least for the sections I remember (written by a gay man) - the title and author escape me - sadly - can't even find it in Kindle library - the diversity as a positive seemed a decent model for gender differences. It tended to be still decent for very mild ASD, but fall down pretty hard for more severe cases. (In particular, low intelligence and ASD kind of sucks. Imagine a teenager in diapers.) For schizophrenia, it mostly just fails. I guess I don't see the neurodiversity framing as productive. The 'okay, a bit broken, here are some workarounds and some people go on to do cool stuff' just seems realistic. Albeit, my wife does keep claiming that 'don't worry, we all die anyways' isn't comforting, so i may be missing something. The neurodiversity framing is too close to the 'everyone else is broken' framing which is basically a death sentence. I do know, or, at least, knew people with that mindset. (See last sentence) Please do not teach that to children.

@jbs Blair's is a made up syndrome often independently invented by ASD people - characterized by, essentially, being an airhead with an aversion to logic and quantitative reasoning. It likely has worse outcomes than mild ASD, and allows a certain amount of fantasizing about putting, eg, random politicians in special courses to stop being such prats. I do think that it would be useful to figure out a treatment, possibly involving medication. It is mostly humor though. Albeit, come up with decent diagnostic criteria and funding for a few studies and you will go down in history. 😀

But..with techbros, I'm dubious. I've never met someone who self-described as ASD who didn't behave in ways completely against their own interests and consistent with ASD. Now, met plenty who wouldn't meet diagnostic criteria and self-diagnose. But, um, those typically did reflect some underlying issue. Now, many of those can fake normalcy for extended periods, but - not forever. Admittedly, I'm not terribly social...

But, still, I'm a bit dubious about anyone claiming people are faking a disability - particularly since there seems to be an implication towards the use of social force to make people behave 'correctly'. I prefer not bothering people unless there is a real problem. Even then, some compassion goes a long way. And yes, this includes people being wankers. (Just sat in on a 2ish hour meeting dealing with an at least mildly ASD engineer who threw a tantrum at my friend because he thought people were ignoring him. Admittedly, they kind of were - but he wasn't responding and when he did, it was just incomprehensible.). See, maybe if you scream at those people enough, they'll behave differently, but for all the ones I have met - there is an underlying issue that doesn't go away and pretending to be normal is an enormous source of stress that I wouldn't risk forcing on anyone.

Overall, the problem with enforcing constraints through social punishments is that it leaves little room for relatively high functioning people on the ASD spectrum. And, since comprehension may not be present, 'as long as they don't do it again' just isn't sufficient. Which is, well, obvious... Sometimes people are useful enough to just tolerate their differences. But, still, having each person learn their own coping strategies is wise.

417:

I remember getting in trouble for being in meetings and not speaking. (Many times when I did, I got ignored or told (not in so many words) to shut up.) It didn't help that I was usually having to listen to someone running on about all the stuff they'd done that week, 90% of which was paper-pushing. (They were only minimally qualified for our workgroup. Really shouldn't have been in it at all, but there wasn't any place else for them to go, except out the front door. Most of us thought that would have been an improvement.)

I don't think I'm on the spectrum, but I've been told often enough that I'm not normal.

418:

When you can't function in an open plan office - that is a problem.

Yes, but largely for whoever put the wrong sort of staff in an open plan office. They are deservedly unpopular with the inmates. The ideal of open plan is that you save enough on office rental to cover the lowered productivity of your staff. The people implementing open plan often miss that point but fortunately such things are above my pay grade.

My boss is aware that I am significantly more productive when working from home but likes to have me in the office so he can talk to me if he feels like it. Well, feels like it and also happens to be in the office, which is not often. It's been about 11 months since that happened. Albeit now he's in the country again it's less unlikely to happen. We also have the two or three people who would greatly benefit from an open plan office in the open plan office, and IME 2-3 winners out of 15 is not bad. I've working in a 0/150 open plan office before. Briefly.

419:

I generally wear flipflops, unless it's raining or I'm having to walk more than a few hundred yards; then I go for shoes and socks. They're more comfortable on my feet than most shoes. (It comes of being in an odd size, both short *and* wide; my father had the same problem, as he wore US size 5E.)

420:

Thank you, Erwin, for putting so many ideas into words with much more eloquence than I could. Your summary expresses rather well the source of much generalized anxiety that I have felt for many years. Unfortunately, people on both sides of this issue seem to have very strong opinions, and seem convinced that they know all about it.

421:

Y'know, a long, long time ago, I came up with a really, really uncool, unhip, un-socially-orientated way of dealing with someone who's body language or obfuscated language confused me: I *ask*.

Never understood the mind-bogglingly STOOPID "someone does something, but we won't tell him, because it's just Not Done", along with, like the line from the Grateful Dead, "I didn't realize you saying no meant don't let me go".

422:

Still annoyed at Erwin's rather wordy and unconvincing argument for the bountiful goodness of homogeneity of mind types. [0]
There's open plan, and there's open plan where noise is the enforced social norm. The actual experimental studies have falsified the claims of benefits of open plan office layouts, and generally show harm instead. (Excepting reduced real estate costs; walls converted to desk means more desk.) Is it weakness to see/be aware of motion across 190 degrees of visual field? (Large predators, human prey, savanna.) Do you see the gorilla, reverse-engineer the experiment, and suspect 40% (no, 70%) that the intently watching graduate student to your right was the one in the gorilla suit? (Hypothetically.)

Anyway, this is good. Video link to after some preamble:
Peter Watts: “Attack of the Hope Police: Delusional Optimism at the End of the World?”

[0] A play on the Underpants Gnomes

423:

Harkening back to the original statement

I'm going to stick my neck out here and assert that the typical commenter here is middle-aged-to-elderly, male, white, somewhere on the ASD spectrum, has a STEM background, and doesn't have children...
More correct than not for me - white CIS male, age 67, STEM background, not sure if I'm on the spectrum but sometimes . . . odd. On the other hand, married, two children, three grandchildren, major-less degree (Bachelor of General Studies) that essentially amounted to a triple-minor degree of computer science, philosophy, and english lit.

424:

That rate of fire is most likely incidental; It’s a feature of the strength of the recoil spring (you still have to manipulate it one-handed) the weight of the recoiling mass (a light slide) and the length of travel (short, for short bullets). Personally, I suspect it was just a cheap way to carry an SMG that fired from a closed bolt, for rare police situations, where sustained fire isn’t required (rather than military ones where it will be). An insane cyclic rate is an acceptable trade off.

IAI apparently found that as they shrank the Uzi SMG into its “mini” and “micro” forms, that they needed to add weight to the bolt to slow it down...

425:

Have you ever had to rely on getting a straight answer from people, even on factual issues, let alone social ones? What's more, a lot of those who won't answer get seriously offended when you press for one. And that's redoubled in spades, with brass knobs, frilly bits and icing on, for anything even vaguely romantic/sexual, where being explicit is an almost sure way to get rejected, even if the person would otherwise be receptive. Or even get publicly accused of making unwanted advances.

No, this is a problem that cannot be resolved by such simplistic solutions. Amongst other things, the incredibly uptight conventions (of the societies that most posters come from) need changing so that it becomes normal to give clear, explicit answers and not take offence at similar questions. I believe that that was slightly more the case a few centuries back, and may be in some other societies.

Yes, the SERIOUS problems are all towards the sexual end of the scale, but it's mind-boggling how bad the problem is for even simple factual queries with no emotional content. The following is typical (and I really do mean typical):

A: would you prefer me to buy a cauliflower or broccoli?
B says something (often at length) that does not answer the question, or summarises as "whatever".
A buys a cauliflower.
B: thank you, but I would have preferred you to get broccoli.


426:

Yep. I note the Glock-18 can also fire three-round bursts, which sounds a whole lot more reasonable as something a specialist anti-terrorist unit might want.

427:

We may come from different perspectives. When people use nonspecific language like neurodiversity...I tend to generalize across a pretty broad range of neurodiversity and also across magnitude. The further ends of ASD are not pleasant. We have friends trying to arrange continuing care for a child who will probably always wear diapers. He is fine for now, but they won't live forever.

And, sure, you can argue for some merits in schizophrenia. But, paranoid delusions are correlated with violence. It is not so fun watching a loved one's mind decay, particularly while they try to kill you. Or just endlessly try to convince you that neighbors are listening through the walls. It gets worse when they, perfectly rationally, realize that coercing children in a park is a good way to uncover the vast conspiracy...saved by helicopters... It is sadder yet, thanks Reagan, to warm a judge that your son is off his meds, be told nothing can be done unless someone is hurt, and then have your son murder a fairly inoffensive old man. (Apparently under a Mario-brothers based delusion.) If it was just seeing things - it wouldn't be so bad. But, the negative symptoms are not treatable and are often debilitating.*

It is an incredible PITA to watch a friend be fired from place after place owing to tantrums related to ASD and listen to them complaining that everyone else is messed up. Sure, okay, I wouldn't particularly object to zapping all the Blair's sufferers to Mars. But, meh, practicality indicates that they won't change. And really, it is also true that thenfriend was behaving badly.

So, maybe, in my experience, the whole bountiful neurodiversity thing is maybe sort of useful for people within a few STD of the mean, (and, if you are posting to a blog, yep, probably there), but it does not generalize well at all. My opinion, which you do not share, is that the neurodiversity framing might be helpful in giving people hope, but is mostly harmful for people with real issues.

@moz Regardless, past a certain size, companies as systems tend to do idiotic stuff. If your brain functioning makes it impossible to survive there...meh...it is a problem for you. Could the company do better by being less stupid? Sure. Are large companies likely to be less stupid? Um...good luck with that. Are large companies likely to be eradicated? Sadly no - seems like they grow until increases in stupidity balance economies of scale. (Sorry, pure cynicism talking.)

*Note, because it will come up, there is a study indicating that schizophrenics are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Sure, in the lying with statistics sort of way. Please consider that, if I get a sword and blindfold and then walk down a central street swinging blindly, I am way more likely to die than hurt someone. That said, I am also not safe to be near while doing that.

428:

Three-round bursts sounds much more reasonable. That would work well enough even without the extra monster size magazine in the picture (otherwise you’d be wanting some sort of belt mechanism really). I can see that sending three times the mass downrange would add value. Not being an enthusiast, I can nonetheless appreciate the visceral quality of three cycles in 3/20 seconds and the greater certainty about threat neutralisation. It’s the difference between a kneecapping and a lower-leg amputation, really.

429:

I've known the "importance of body language" for years and years ... but I'm still rubbish at reading & interpreting it. It's another of those social skills I've never quite mastered, even though I try.

Just goes to show how non-uniform human minds are. For me, a paradigm case is that story of Feynman's about talking and keeping track of time on a small scale. He found it impossible was impossible, while for Freeman Dyson it was trivially easy. Turned out, in order to tell a minute interval, Feynman was counting seconds and talking interfered with that, whereas Dyson was visualising a clock and watching its seconds hand, so talking made no difference. Two people doing apparently the same thing, but in completely different ways, using different mental (and neurological) mechanisms.

The lesson, for me, is that our ability to communicate (via language and/or action) can hide our mental differences just as much as it can elucidate them. Not a fact generally understood, in my experience.

430:

"When you can't function in an open plan office - that is a problem."

When you can't function in a cold damp shed, unheated, unlit, unventilated, and full of heavy metal dust, or phosphorus vapour, or fast-moving bits of machinery intersecting with your personal space - that is a problem. One with consequences that are kind of severe, along the lines of becoming permanently unable to function in any kind of environment before reaching 40. But as far as the perpetrators of those conditions are concerned, the consequences are limited to a shrug of the shoulders and the rapid replacement of the biocomponent by random selection from the crowd of unassigned biocomponents hanging round the gate saying "gizza job". Which they are constrained to do in an attempt to avoid even sooner cessation of function from shortage of essential chemicals.

Therefore the situation persists, unless some external factor arises that destabilises it by raising the consequences upon the perpetrator to a level which cannot be ignored. This is most commonly achieved by legislation, but even this simple solution is hard to implement, even with the obvious consequence of the permanent non-functionality of biodrones, since the biodrones operating the legislative mechanism are not the ones suffering the consequences of its failure to operate.

With the open-plan office, it becomes far harder to implement, both because the consequences are rather less blatantly obvious, and because the legislative biodrones tend to be self-selected from among the unusual examples which actually can function properly in that kind of environment.

More elegant solutions of course exist, but for much the same sort of reasons are even less likely to be implemented. An obvious example would be the elimination of the dependency of biodrones on tolerating harmful conditions for the supply of essential chemicals, which is seen by the executive drone clusters as a purely negative move on the grounds that it is likely to reduce the capacity of their own supplies to a level less grossly in excess of their actual requirements.

431:

The Beretta 93R can do three-round burst too but it requires a shoulder-stock unit to clip onto the butt, turning it into a nearly-controllable shoulder-mounted machine-pistol. The shoulder-stock had a three-lobed sear that controlled the burst-fire mode, without it fitted the pistol could only fire one round for each pull of the trigger.

The 93R with the burst-fire sear unit grafted no was used as a prop in the movie "Robocop" to provide a vivid muzzle-flash for cinematic effect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1_Pw563opc

From about 1.41 onwards. During the filming of this scene the actor was strapped into a supporting metal frame to absorb the recoil of firing the 93R "off-hand". Even then you can see it kicking a lot and the muzzle climbing.

432:

The Beretta 93R can do three-round burst too but it requires a shoulder-stock...

Likewise (some of) the H&K VP-70; this was not considered a desirable feature for the civilian market and apparently many military and police customers also found it superfluous.

433:

Elderly Cynic @ 407: See #326. Feel free to blame me for confusing you :-)

So it is related to Tony Blair & George W Bush and the hubris of power thingy. Ok, I'm back on track. Thanks.

434:

Damian @ 409: While my first glance reaction was “holy crap, what madness is this”, on reflection I can see there’s a sort of gun enthusiast variation of Rule 34 - if you can imagine some kind of gun, it exists.

Never played "DooM" just to get the BFG 9000?

435:

Erwin @ 416: But..with techbros, I'm dubious. (. . .) But, still, I'm a bit dubious about anyone claiming people are faking a disability

That's the thing. I don't see them "faking a disability". They would have no problem conforming to social norms, but they just don't want to. They don't have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, they're just using it as an excuse for being assholes and shitting on people.

In fact, I think they'd be offended if you suggested their inappropriate behavior results from some kind of cognitive dysfunction. Remember, these are the smartest guys in the room, and they won't hesitate to tell you so. They're just over-privileged asshats.

They may have some other forms of mental illness or dysfunction, but not ASD.

436:

P J Evans @ 419: I generally wear flipflops, unless it's raining or I'm having to walk more than a few hundred yards; then I go for shoes and socks. They're more comfortable on my feet than most shoes. (It comes of being in an odd size, both short *and* wide; my father had the same problem, as he wore US size 5E.)

I generally don't wear flipflops, even to the beach. You can't wear socks with flipflops unless you can find those Japanese tabi socks (which before the internet came along wasn't that easy to do). I can relate to the odd shoe size thing. I was in the Army for 25 years before I was ever issued a pair of boots that actually FIT - 9½ EXTRA wide.

Part of my reason for always wearing socks with sandals is sunburn. I burn easily. I'm not pale-as-a-ghost fair skinned, but I'm the next thing to it. I've had sunburned feet & it's hell trying to get socks & shoes on after so you can go to work. Plus, I'm a cancer survivor and the doctors advise me now to NEVER get sunburned again.

437:

whitroth @ 421: Y'know, a long, long time ago, I came up with a really, really uncool, unhip, un-socially-orientated way of dealing with someone who's body language or obfuscated language confused me: I *ask*.

Never understood the mind-bogglingly STOOPID "someone does something, but we won't tell him, because it's just Not Done", along with, like the line from the Grateful Dead, "I didn't realize you saying no meant don't let me go".

There are many social situations where I recognize "asking" is itself inappropriate. Learned that much.

I mostly just keep my mouth shut and try to remember that I'm not so good at picking up body language cues. Plus, in many situations the most appropriate answer if I did ask would be "NUNYA" (i.e. none of your damn business and you're a jerk for asking) ... and they'd be right.

So, I've just resigned myself to going through life without a clue.

438:

Charlie Stross @ 426: Yep. I note the Glock-18 can also fire three-round bursts, which sounds a whole lot more reasonable as something a specialist anti-terrorist unit might want.

Even with a three round burst mode you're still going to have a lot of trouble getting the second and third rounds on target ... and Dog help any innocent bystanders who are even remotely near your line of fire.

439:

Re: ' ... the whole bountiful neurodiversity thing is maybe sort of useful for people within a few STD of the mean, ...'

I think that that was the intent for promoting the diversity thing: too many people were being abandoned by society for trivial (non-harmful) traits/behaviors. Religiosity probably also had an impact: You, your parents/ancestors must have done something really vile for you/your child/family member to have/be born with X condition. And, because this person has X, they also cannot possibly have any talent/trait that would be of value.

Personally, I think that Stephen Hawking helped change many folks' attitudes/thinking about an individual's 'neurodiversity' vis-a-vis cost/benefits to society at large. Apart from his science/math smarts he had a very engaging personality - lots of non-threatening and occasionally self-deprecating humor - that was evident to his listeners even when his 'words' came through a machine.

Also love that he became a best-selling author: "His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks."(Wikipedia)

440:

re body language, spoken language, and HFA.

Unfortunately, the neurotypical population (I didn't come up with that term) relies very heavily on subtle unspoken nuance in day to day communication, and is very unlikely to change. For one thing--it's a marker for in-group membership--each demographic/friend network has it's own "secret handshakes" that act as boundary markers. For another, it's a time and mental energy saver--it allows them to get through the daily grind of interacting with a wide variety of people without mentally exhausting themselves--so much so that most of them are entirely unaware of how much they rely on it. Finally, I imagine that it must be rather fun--creatively coming up with indirect ways of saying something that "everyone" understands or shares (in a 'nudge-nudge/wink-wink' sort of way). Not having the ability to decipher this in real time (in my experience, you get about 2 seconds) is a severe handicap across many social and professional situations. Sadly, I don't think that there is an easy solution (although things seem to be getting a little better recently in terms of cultural awareness of HFA and the need for some degree of sensitivity).

441:

"The neurodiversity framing is too close to the 'everyone else is broken' framing which is basically a death sentence. I do know, or, at least, knew people with that mindset. (See last sentence) Please do not teach that to children."

Everyone else is broken, and they certainly do teach it to children. Most emphatically. See the looney teacher I mentioned in #374 for an example of extreme emphasis (dragged into the cloakroom and subjected to fifteen minutes of red-faced yelling and screaming for doing something I happened to enjoy that had absolutely fuck all to do with anyone else). Another teacher thought that physical force was justified to prevent me eating honey and Marmite combined in the same sandwich.

Those examples, being extreme and memorable, are also rather coarse, but the pattern is not rare; it is exhibited in numerous incidents every day. The entire school and childhood experience is all about being given indefinitely large amounts of hassle over indefinitely insignificant or irrelevant things. When assaulting kids for their taste in food is normal, and smaller-scale instances of the same pattern are continuous, it's hard to see how anyone would not conclude that everyone else is broken or something along similar lines.

442:

Nojay @ 431: The Beretta 93R can do three-round burst too but it requires a shoulder-stock unit to clip onto the butt, turning it into a nearly-controllable shoulder-mounted machine-pistol. The shoulder-stock had a three-lobed sear that controlled the burst-fire mode, without it fitted the pistol could only fire one round for each pull of the trigger.

The 93R with the burst-fire sear unit grafted no was used as a prop in the movie "Robocop" to provide a vivid muzzle-flash for cinematic effect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1_Pw563opc

From about 1.41 onwards. During the filming of this scene the actor was strapped into a supporting metal frame to absorb the recoil of firing the 93R "off-hand". Even then you can see it kicking a lot and the muzzle climbing.

By my count he fires at least 32 bursts, some of which are 4 or 5 rounds instead of 3 ... so call it 96+ rounds fired without changing magazines.

But if we're gonna' be playing with "full auto", I want a "Ma Deuce". It's got more authority than even Arnold Schwarzenegger's mini gun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqDfVMIgzXQ

That is the range at Ft. Bragg, NC and I have fired the M2 on that range. I wish it had showed them engaging the moving target. When I was Platoon Sargent, I had seven of those bad boys. That was the range we trained on.

443:

I’m 49 white make CIS, small kids at home and not even remotely on the spectrum

So I guess I half fit the profile

444:

Another teacher thought that physical force was justified to prevent me eating honey and Marmite combined in the same sandwich.

Honey and Marmite sandwiches are amazing!

Fresh bread cut extra-thick, butter, and honey on top, Marmite on bottom so you get the salty/umami Marmite followed by a burst of sweetness. :-)

Maple syrup and Marmite doesn't really work, though.

445:

"Everyone else is broken, and they certainly do teach it to children."

Yes, but people on the spectrum do this too. *Everyone* is broken, full stop. The neurological basis of human behavior was selected for an ancestral environment that no longer exists. We have cognitive parameters that become dysfunctional when dealing with a level of social or interpersonal complexity that our ancient ancestors never had to. People on the spectrum have no advantage over anyone else in regard to these dysfunctions, although sometimes we are better able to notice them (because we have no other choice).

446:

Those examples are bizarre - I had nothing like it, though I have plenty of horror stories. But it's NOT just in childhood and school, and it's extremely common for 'management' to assign people to tasks they are completely unsuited to, damn them for failing (or just not fitting in), and completely ignore their abilities and requests for tasks that they could do well. I didn't manage many people in my life, but several of those had been treated like that, and I turned their career around in about half the cases. I also have a little experience of that from the other direction.

And, as I said, there are also the social aspects, which include examples as perverse as those you mentioned.

447:

My answer to "open-plan offices" is "look for another job".

Hell, in 1967, when I was first in college, right out of high school, during orientation, we were told, in so many words, that to study or do homework, find a quiet place where you're not going to be distracted or disturbed.

It's not about "new ideas", it's about a) cheaper for management, and b) they want to watch you working, to make sure you're working.

448:

Well, I have two answers to that: first, I have been known, many times, to start out by literally saying, "mind if I ask a stupid question?" That, at least with the folks I've worked with, usually gets a valid answer.

The other... yeah, about that. I have one ex, who told me, years later, "I thought that was just a phase you were going through", and another, who, when we were first seeing each other, I babbled for three evenings about who I was... and years later, from her *mother*, I got "well, she probably thought you were just saying what you thought would sound good". When I asked her mom why would she think that... her mother said, "because that's what she would do".

I've done my best to warp my kids to give *valid* answers, and seem to have done reasonably well.... and I have 4.5 kids (the .5 is my most recent' ex's, and he was 12 when I met him)... and I've got this Letter that I wrote, a long time ago, when my twins and son were early teens.

449:

Had to read your whole post. I kept thinking you were talking about the Orange Idiot....

450:

Yeah, but in some cases, the BGF 9000 was *not* a good answer. For example, at the end of the first Doom wad... first rockets, then get close to the wall, and through the gap, where he can't get you, chain gun, and then shotgun.

451:

You *do* realize that you're starting to get into the territory where *any* group of regularly interacting people develop an in-language?

I mean, fen, for example. Or can I talk about RAID-1 is not a backup, and have you understand that?

452:

All the discussion of the brain and how minds work reminded me of a couple of things.

I've noticed lately that I have trouble in conversation some times getting words I know to come out of my mouth. It's mostly proper names, the street I live on, the cross streets ... other streets, the businesses that are on those streets ... a lot of my conversations lately have revolved around how badly the city EFFED UP closing the main thoroughfare near my hose (especially since I found out that street was already being used as a detour around an even busier thoroughfare).

A