1.  

    This seems like a step in the right direction, with a more accessible user interface.

    What does “released” mean, though? How do I upgrade my existing nix install? nix-channel --update ; nix-env -i nix doesn’t get me 2.0.

    1.  

      Did some more digging. I am on nixpkgs-unstable (not on NixOS though). But it seems nixpkgs-unstable didn’t get the 2.0-release of nix yet, either. There’s nixUnstable though, which is at version 2.0pre5968_a6c0b773: https://hydra.nixos.org/build/69873027.

      Digging further, it’s just not in nixpkgs yet: https://github.com/NixOS/nixpkgs/commits/master/pkgs/tools/package-management/nix. And the relevant PR for switching nixpkgs’s nix to 2.0: https://github.com/NixOS/nixpkgs/pull/34636

      (And as an aside, this kind of need to dig to figure out the answer to a pretty straightforward question is typical for my nix experience – it always ends up making sense in some way, but you need so much knowledge and have to dig so deep to find out how/what/why. git grep in a nixpkgs clone seems part of the required tool set for a nix user.)

      1.  

        Yeah, I think there have been great strides on documentation over the past year, but there’s a long distance still to go.

      2.  

        I’ll keep talking to myself here. Following a suggestion from the announcement post on news.ycombinator, I got the new nix:

        $ git clone https://github.com/nixos/nixpkgs
        $ cd nixpkgs
        $ git checkout origin/nix-2.0
        $ nix-env -i $(nix-build --no-out-link . -A nix)
        

        Which… doesn’t seem to know about nixpkgs? At least nix search doesn’t find anything. And nix log nixpkgs.hello doesn’t find nixpkgs.

        1.  

          Nix ≠ NixOS. But in NixOS, Nix 2.0 would be present in 18.03 release, which would be released in March this year. But you can also freely upgrade to their “unstable” channel (I forgot the proper name though) which has these all nice things with cutting edge versions available.

        1. 10

          Well, since you asked for a discussion. :)

          I used NixOS as a distribution for my primary personal desktop machine for about two years. It was a lot of fun, precisely because it was occasionally a lot of work. It is pretty satisfying that most of the time, once I get something to work inside Nix, it stays working.

          Today I still use NixOS for my personal mini-servers, directly for the local ones and under nixops for the VPS-based ones. Running WordPress securely is pretty much impossible, so it’s really cool to know that when my WP server eventually gets compromised, I will be able to re-create it with just a few commands. At some point soon, I want to look into how well it works on the Raspberry Pi or a similar ultra-cheap machine, because I can think of a few simple automation tasks I’d like to use it for.

          I’ve never tried the Nix package manager on a non-Nix OS; I do most of my development work remotely these days, so I don’t really feel the need to customize my desktop environment as heavily as I used to.

          In general, although it’s fun to tinker deep inside a system and make it do something, I’m at the point in my relationship with computers where I know that anything I customize too heavily is going to be very difficult to understand later. Three or four times now, I’ve had to leave behind machines I had spent years heavily customizing (on Debian, on OS X, on Windows…), and found that I didn’t have a complete mental inventory of what exactly went into them so that I could make sure to preserve the interesting parts for later use. The most exciting promise of Nix, to me, is that it makes a plausible case that there’s a way to avoid being in that situation again. Of course, I won’t really know whether it delivered for at least five years…

          1. 4

            Imo nix is just a better system period. It is growing despite some usability concerns I have (that I think can be solved) because it is actually a better model fundamentally. It takes a few weeks of using it to really appreciate it. Bonus points if you use nixops to manage multiple nix machines.

            1.  

              Do you use nix on the desktop? I was wondering if it might work even better there because on my desktop I try not to edit configuration files directly, while on a personal server I often have many changes.

              1.  

                I’ve used it on the desktop but I stopped. I found hardware support to be a significant barrier there, though surmountable with a lot of work. That’s one of those things that becomes a lot easier when the community gets large enough, and is nearly impossible until then. So I’m optimistic for the future.

                1.  

                  ring if it might work even better there because on my desktop I try not to edit configuration files directly, while on a personal server I often have many changes.

                  I currently use nix on my desktop, laptop and server, I think the model works well for all of them.

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                Regarding Nix’s growth, the community has doubled in size over the past two years and the binary cache sees a steady rise in use. Over the past six months I know of several people who were able to start working in Nix and NixOS roles full time – at least one of them focusing primarily on improving NixOS itself. From the inside, it feels there is a ton of growth going on, and we feel excited about what is to come over the next year.

                1. 3

                  That’s great to hear! As a Nix and NixOS user, I find it to be incredibly useful software, and I very much want the community and ecosystem to continue to grow so that I can continue to use them. :)

                  1.  

                    This is good. Nix is the first Unix derivative that I’ve felt has actually tried to solve the problems with mutable systems that have been accumulating for the past thirty years. I think a completely declarative configuration is so wonderful that I’ll even put up with the terrible Nix tooling and the suboptimal language.

                    1.  

                      Hopefully some of the Nix 2.0 improvements (tagged today, though the UI is still in flux) will solve some of the terrible tooling issues.

                  1. 2

                    … What? SAT is already NP-complete. This paper talks about constructing a problem related to SAT and proving that that problem is also NP-hard. As far as I was able to digest from my quick read, it does nothing to establish the relationship of the new problem to SAT in terms of complexity, and it’s hard to see how that approach could prove anything about P even if it did.

                    The writing is also kind of unclear, but I’m hesitant to ding a preprint just for that because it’s possible that English is not the first language of its author. But of course for a paper on a topic this important to be taken seriously, it would almost have to have perfect writing and come from a well-known name in the field.

                    1. 5

                      The paper is better than that, but there is still probably a mistake. I mean, a serious one, because I have already found a fixable one.

                      1. The author defines yet another NP-Complete function. I think it is even claimed to be previously known.

                      2. The author says that the new literal-compatibility-satisfiability is «isotonic» — nondecreasing in every variable.

                      3. The author remarks that polynomial-time algorithm implies a polynomial-size boolean circuit.

                      4. The author claims that a boolean circuit for a non-decreasing function can be built out of AND and OR with a constant overhead compared to the optimal circuit. The proof ends up listing some NOT operations in the final count… I will not be surprised if this is fixable, but that is a warning sign that not all the details are fully polished yet.

                      5. The author presents a way to assign weights to all the elements of an AND-OR circuit for the NP-Complete function in question; the claim is that every element has a polynomial weight but the total weight is exponential. There is nothing apriori wrong with such an approach.

                      (4) has a typo-level mistake and (5) could easily hide a few mistakes. I am not currently in the mood to check, and statistically it is likely that there are mistakes and someone will post a detailed explanation next week. Or maybe (4) is actually substantially wrong.

                      1. 1

                        Interesting. I appreciate your explanation, I wasn’t able to focus on it enough to understand that.

                    1. 4

                      This is very relevant as I’ve been working with a therapist this month to fix my posture and ergonomics after developing tendonitis in my wrist and shoulder. I’d like to stop it now before it becomes carpal tunnel which my understanding it can be difficult to treat.

                      Would love to hear what others are doing to make their computer centric work and life more body-friendly.

                      1. 4

                        Find a friendly gym. I use the one at my local tech uni. It’s boring, annoying, painful at first, and takes time. But your body will tell you that it is worth it. You don’t need to grow mucles there, just go regularly to move and get some blood flowing in parts of your body which are usually neglected. Especially when I start feeling pain in wrists and fingers, I can go there and the pain gets fixed. Sometimes I use the time there to reflect on things I’m working on, and already even found bugs in my code that way. You should get an intro from either staff or someone experienced. If you they ask you what you want, and you don’t really know, just ask for a set of exercises that will keep your back in good shape. Worked well for me.

                        1. 3

                          Switching to a split keyboard (kinesis freestyle 2) and 70-degree-rotated mouse (like the Microsoft sidewinder) helped a fair bit, as did getting a good chair. All told I’ve spent about $1200 on ergonomic equipment and it all feels well spent.

                          1. 2

                            I’ve been wearing wrist braces for about a month now. They’ve helped immensely. Also I’ve been trying to understand posture and ergonomics, like you… it’s hard; I never really paid much attention before.

                          1. 6

                            Ah, yeah, I really like the perhaps-unintentional humility implied by the meta tag having a negative hotness modifier, but it does seem like this is a case where announce is warranted. :)

                            1. 3

                              Interesting to see some backlash over this, Dave Winer’s objections have caught my eye in particular.

                              On the one hand I’m not sure google should be punishing sites for being http only.

                              On the other hand, what is the open web if your ISP can inject ads into a page where there are none?

                              1. 2

                                I didn’t see a link to Winer’s objection in the linked article. Do you have a reference?

                                  1. 4

                                    He sounds a bit, well

                                    HTTPS is going to burn huge portions of the open web

                                    His entire shtick seems to be that he thinks HTTPS is a conspiracy by Google to control the web, somehow.

                                    1. 3

                                      He seems to be confounding Google’s motives, which in fairness are probably not altruistic, with the technology itself which is obviously pretty sound.

                                      1. 2

                                        I’ve literally never seen so much FUD in my life. He must have some fundamental misconception about how HTTPS works. I just don’t see how he could be arguing these points otherwise.

                                        I mean, I would be mad if Google really was doing what he thinks they’re doing. But they’re not. He’s also totally missing (ignoring?) the fact that Mozilla is also taking steps matching Google’s.

                                        1. 4

                                          I hate to say it because I have a lot of respect for his work, but I think basically he’s got a lot of domains and can’t be bothered converting them. I totally get the objections against the way Google are approaching this, but going after https itself is dumb.

                                          Why would you think it’s a bad thing that you can guarantee that the site you are viewing has not been tampered with?

                                          I’ve seen him call out Mozilla too in fairness.

                                          1. 1

                                            Meh. Honestly I have no issues with the way Google is approaching this. They (and Mozilla) give plenty of time before making even the tiniest changes, and in the end really all they’re doing is changing the UI to reflect reality.

                                            And without them doing that, people exactly like Winer just wouldn’t care.

                                          2. 3

                                            I’m skimming through, trying to understand it, and he never really states an objection anywhere that I can see. I am familiar with several reasonable objections to the concentration of power created by the CA system and to the burden it imposes on content creators; I just don’t see Winer actually expressing any of them.

                                      2. 1

                                        On the other hand, what is the open web if your ISP can inject ads into a page where there are none?

                                        May be this is better served by adding signatures to the basic HTTP rather than forcing HTTPS everywhere?

                                        1. 2

                                          Wouldn’t that involve the same trust infrastructure but without actually encrypting the traffic?

                                          1. 4

                                            Not completely. The benefit is that intermediaries can cache it if required, and clients can verify the signature only when needed. With the forcing of HTTPS everywhere, a lot of caching infrastructure that existed previously has become useless without any alternatives. These are especially important in low bandwidth countries or communities relying on low bandwidth gateways.

                                      1. 4

                                        I find it to be. But I suspect my employer would be a bit nervous about me explaining my full thought process to the general public, so you get the abbreviated version.

                                        The company serves ads to people. My job involves, in part, thinking through the ethical questions about how that should be done.

                                        I do take the point other people have made that work doesn’t have to feel meaningful for humanity - it’s strictly optional. At the very least, it’s allowing you to live your life, and that’s a form of meaning. And perhaps it generates funds that you can put towards supporting other people’s work which you find more meaningful than your own, and that’s valid too.

                                        Everybody’s job satisfaction functions are different, and it’s very personal what goes into that. Also, it’s okay to work a job that doesn’t satisfy you, if that’s the best decision for your life.

                                        1. 18

                                          Frankly, investing 2 ETH in an attempt to prevent a hypothetical future AI from torturing you in all eternity makes a lot more sense than most other cryptocurrency pitches.

                                          1. 9

                                            “Readers interested in Lisp, compilers, or Ethereum will enjoy this article.”

                                          1. 3

                                            Awesome features! Thank you @pushcx for implementing them, and thank you to everyone who contributed.

                                            1. 12

                                              I’ve changed my tune on Bitcoin recently for two reasons, despite still liking its ideals:

                                              1. The government intervening in the economy is sometimes a feature, not a bug. In times of economic crisis, for example, the government has unique powers to help. Sometimes it is a bug, but Bitcoin seems to assume that any intervention by any centralized entity, at ALL, is malicious. In fact I intend to take an economics class to be better informed on this very issue.

                                              2. The energy use is unconscionable. We’re already destroying the environment at a ridiculous pace and the Bitcoin space (to me, at least, bearing in mind that I don’t REALLY pay attention) seems to be full of anarchists who are determined to have their uncontrollable system at any cost, with absolutely no regard to seemingly unrelated consequences.

                                              1. 13

                                                The government intervening in the economy is sometimes a feature, not a bug.

                                                If by “sometimes a feature” you mean “the only thing that prevents repeated economic collapse” then yes.

                                                If you’re interested at all then definitely take a macroeconomics class. And history while you’re at it, especially pre-industrial and early industrial America.

                                                1. 5

                                                  Sometimes == every time bitcoiners fall for a scam and lose money (and suddenly drop all the libertarian stuff and start crying for government help).

                                                  Look at /r/Buttcoin, the amount of fraud in the cryptocurrency space is beyond ridiculous.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    I agree with your observation, but I think understanding the cause is more useful than poking fun at it. I’ve gotten the sense that falling for scams is an expected cost to a certain constituency, specifically the people who are using cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange for things the governments they live under don’t approve of. I don’t expect the prevalence of scams to scare that group away. People who don’t share that driving concern should take note and understand that it’s always likely to be high-risk.

                                                  2. 1

                                                    Not that I’m in favor of Bitcoin at all (and I seriously agree with your first point) but I’ve also seen arguments that Bitcoin is used in some places (perhaps it was China?) to help mop up excess energy from renewable sources when they’re at peak output hours. I think the argument went that when the sun is high in the sky on a clear day, or when the wind is really blowing, energy companies will often turn off windmills or solar panels to avoid producing too much energy. In this case, Bitcoin can help use up that excess energy, and by turning it into cash, become a sort of renewable subsidy that makes it more attractive to build more renewable energy sources. I do know there are definitely places where a renewables-powered grid overproduces so much that energy prices become negative.

                                                    Perhaps this isn’t true, but I think it illustrates that maybe the energy problem is a more complex issue than it appears?

                                                    1. 7

                                                      Sounds like some fairy tale told by miners implying they are not mining 24h/7d a week.

                                                      1. 3

                                                        Mm, that matches my understanding of how energy production works, but it’s also the case that that energy could go into other things. I think it was actually here on lobste.rs that I learned about kinetic energy storage (roll a ball up a hill, to roll it back down later… that sort of thing) and how it’s used to smooth out energy demand.

                                                        There’s no way that Bitcoin miners aren’t making things difficult for grid operators. I agree with @isra17 that it’s an extremely self-serving claim.

                                                      2. -1

                                                        The energy seems like a fairly trivial cost to me. It’s a fraction of a percent. I’m willing to pay that price, and I’m also optimistic about the future of renewable energy.

                                                        1. 13

                                                          The per-transaction electricity cost was 215kwh back in November - that’s not trivial in the slightest. At market rates where I live it’s $7 or so.

                                                          Credit cards processors use several orders of magnitude less per payment made.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            Well in dollars terms it either is worth it or its not. I’m not particularly concerned about the environmental impact.

                                                            1. 9

                                                              And whom do you expect to deal with the environmental consequences?

                                                              1. 2

                                                                whoever’s dealing with it for the other 99.9% of the environmental impact from non-renewable energy sources

                                                                1. 7

                                                                  That would be your descendants.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    o/ yo

                                                                    1. 0

                                                                      if their solution ends up involving defining standards for sufficiently useful computations, well, uh, godspeed

                                                            2. 9

                                                              A fraction of a percent of what? Energy use? Today Bitcoin is estimated to use as much energy as the country of Denmark. By 2020 is estimated it’ll use literally as much energy as we use in the entire planet today. I don’t particularly see how that’s trivial. Source: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/bitcoins-insane-energy-consumption-explained/

                                                              1. 6

                                                                Today Bitcoin is estimated to use as much energy as the country of Denmark

                                                                That’s far out of date. Denmark consumes approximately 3.5GW; bitcoin is now at about 5GW, somewhere between Hong Kong and Bangladesh.

                                                                https://digiconomist.net/bitcoin-energy-consumption

                                                                By 2020 is estimated it’ll use literally as much energy as we use in the entire planet today.

                                                                No credible extrapolation is possible, obviously. Energy usage will drop fast when the bubble bursts.

                                                                1. 0

                                                                  Because denmark has like 5 million people? I’m about as worried about bitcoin as I am another denmark popping up (the world gains like 12x the population of denmark every year)

                                                                  edit: re 2020: https://xkcd.com/605/

                                                                2. 1

                                                                  I know next to nothing about cryptocurrencies, but my understanding is that Proof of Stake means we don’t need to use this energy. Many coins don’t use this because they weren’t sure whether it was secure. But recently the IOHK team has proven a secure Proof of Stake algorithm for Cardano.

                                                                  Is there a downside to this approach?

                                                                  1. 4

                                                                    The “Criticism” section on the Wikipedia article on Proof of Stake lists a few:

                                                                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof-of-stake#Criticism

                                                                    Note that Wikipedia is an ideological battleground when it comes to cryptocurrencies, so make sure to check the citations for a more comprehensive view.

                                                                    1. 2

                                                                      I can’t find the source for this despite having seen it just last night (sigh) but IOHK apparently makes you generate your own seed, which has resulted in lots of people using web-based generators that then steal your money. This is a really bad idea and it’s not that hard to read from /dev/urandom and then say “here write this thing down.”

                                                                      So I wouldn’t really trust them to have done stuff correctly, including Proof of Stake. Obviously that doesn’t mean it can’t be done or even that they haven’t done it - just that I would like to see a lot of scrutiny from experts.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        So I wouldn’t really trust them to have done stuff correctly, including Proof of Stake.

                                                                        The point is you don’t have to, they have proofs.

                                                                1. 13

                                                                  Can I ask why stripe is called a startup? At what point does a startup become a company?

                                                                  1. 7

                                                                    At some point it’s probably becoming just marketing to say that X is still a startup.

                                                                    1. 5

                                                                      When the job market declines to the point that stability attracts prospective employees more than the opportunity for change does.

                                                                      I mean, I imagine you knew that, but you did ask.

                                                                      1. 6

                                                                        I’m not sure I understand what you mean, to me all ‘startup’ means is a company that was recently started up (like an engine).

                                                                        1. 3

                                                                          Yeah, I probably could have been clearer. I was trying to suggest that what companies call themselves is far more driven by marketing concerns than by what those terms actually mean, and it’s unrealistic to expect otherwise. “Startup” suggests vitality and rapid change, while “company” suggests stability.

                                                                          In this case I think the marketing concerns are more about how developers see them than about how end users see them, and developers tend to think startups are cool. In my original tweet I was only thinking about their hiring goals, but explaining it now I realize that their market share depends a lot on whether people are willing to integrate with their services, and it’s often developers who make those decisions.

                                                                          1. 2

                                                                            That’s a good way of putting it. I tend to think of “tech company” in a similar way personally. When trying to understand why some companies are tech companies and others aren’t, it’s hard to make sense of it just by looking at how much technology is involved.

                                                                          2. 1

                                                                            I’d go with the definition by Paul Graham since it was Silicon Valley that popularized the term for growth-focused, VC-funded companies. Plus, organizations like YC crank out tons of them with a lot of media influence that further cements the perception of that term. It has established meaning whether the word is a good metaphor or not. Maybe think of it like drag racing for a billion dollar prize instead of going on a long drive for whatever that gets you. ;)

                                                                          3. 4

                                                                            I thought it was about trying to grow a bunch every year?

                                                                            Though I guess that doesn’t match things like FB that much. I’m deep in this stuff and I really couldn’t come up with much of a definition

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              “Focused on extreme growth” is how we used to reckon whether or not some company was a startup. Otherwise, a new small business is just a small business.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                FB is a public company, so definitely not a startup

                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                By job market, do you mean company?

                                                                                I kind of think I get what you’re going for, but if the job market defines companies that are “different” as startups, there needs to be a new word for a newly-founded company…

                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                  I commented at length elsewhere, but I really meant that right now, there’s a lot of software engineers who have significant savings and are willing to take high-risk jobs because they sound fun, exciting, likely to change the world… and because being at a startup while it goes bankrupt isn’t going to halt their life plans. If there were an overall industry downturn of sufficient magnitude, engineers would have to prioritize their own financial stability while evaluating prospective employers. This would affect how companies portrayed themselves.

                                                                            1. 7

                                                                              At that time, when you turned on your computer, you immediately had programming language available. Even in 90’s, there was QBasic installed on almost all PCs. Interpreter and editor in one, so it was very easy to enter the world of programming. Kids could learn it themselves with cheap books and magazines with lot of BASIC program listings. And I think the most important thing - kids were curious about computers. I can see that today, the role of BASIC is taken by Minecraft. I wouldn’t underestimate it as a trigger for a new generation of engineers and developers. Add more physics and more logic into it and it will be excellent playground like BASIC was in 80s.

                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                Now we have the raspberry pi, arduino, python, scratch and so many other ways kids can get started.

                                                                                1. 10

                                                                                  Right, but at the beginning you have to spend a lot of time more to show kid how to setup everything properly. I admire that it itself is fun, but in 80’s you just turned computer on with one switch and environment was literally READY :)

                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                    I think the problem is that back then there was much less competition for kids attention. The biggest draw was TV. TV – that played certain shows on a particular schedule, with lots of re-runs. If there was nothing on, but you had a computer nearby, you could escape and unleash your creativity there.

                                                                                    Today – there’s perpetual phones/tablets/computers and mega-society level connectivity. There’s no time during which they can’t find out what their friends are up to.

                                                                                    Even for me – to immerse myself in a computer, exploring programming – it’s harder to do than it was ten years ago.

                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                      I admire that it itself is fun, but in 80’s you just turned computer on with one switch and environment was literally READY :)

                                                                                      We must be using some fairly narrow definition of “the ‘80s”, because this is a seriously rose-tinted description of learning to program at the time. By the late 80’s, with the rise of the Mac and Windows, the only way to learn to program involved buying a commercial compiler.

                                                                                      I had to beg for a copy of “Just Enough Pascal” in 1988, which came with a floppy containing a copy of Think’s Lightspeed Pascal compiler, and retailed for the equivalent of $155.

                                                                                      Kids these days have it comparatively easy – all the tools are free.

                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                        Windows still shipped with QBasic well into the 90s, and Macs shipped with HyperCard. It wasn’t quite one-click hacking, but it was still far more accessible than today.

                                                                                      2. 4

                                                                                        Just open the web-tools in your browser, you’ll have an already configured javascript development environment.

                                                                                        I entirely agree with you on

                                                                                        And I think the most important thing - kids were curious about computers.

                                                                                        You don’t need to understand how a computer program is made to use it anymore; which is not necessary something bad.

                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                          That’s still not the same. kred is saying it was first thing you see with you immediately able to use it. It was also a simple language designed to be easy to learn. Whereas, you have to go out of your way to get to JS development environment on top of learning complex language and concepts. More complexity. More friction. Less uptake.

                                                                                          The other issue that’s not addressed enough in these write-ups is that modern platforms have tons of games that treat people as consumers with psychological techniques to keep them addicted. They also build boxes around their mind where they can feel like they’re creating stuff without learning much in useful, reusable skill versus prior generation’s toys. Kids can get the consumer and creator high without doing real creation. So, now they have to ignore that to do the high-friction stuff above to get to the basics of creating that existed for old generation. Most won’t want to do it because it’s not as fun as their apps and games.

                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                            There is no shortage of programmers now. We are not facing any issues with not enough kids learning programming.

                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                              I didnt say there was a shortage of programmers. I said most kids were learning computers in a way that trained them to be consumers vs creators. You’d have to compare what people do in consumer platforms versus things like Scratch to get an idea of what we’re missing out on.

                                                                                      3. 4

                                                                                        All of those require a lot more setup than older machines where you flipped a switch and got dropped into a dev environment.

                                                                                        The Arduino is useless if you don’t have a project, a computer already configured for development, and electronics breadboarding to talk to it. The Raspberry pi is a weird little circuit board that, until you dismantle your existing computer and hook everything up, can’t do anything–and when you do get it hooked up, you’re greeted with Linux. Python is large and hard to put images to on the screen or make noises with in a few lines of code.

                                                                                        Scratch is maybe the closest, but it still has the “what programmers doing education think is simple” problem instead of the “simple tools for programming in a barebones environment that learners can manage”.

                                                                                        The field of programming education is broken in this way. It’s a systemic worldview problem.

                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                          Those aren’t even close in terms of ease of use.

                                                                                          My elementary school circa 1988 had a lab full of these Apple IIe systems, and my recollection (I was about 6 years old at the time, so I may be misremembering) is that by default they booted into a BASIC REPL.

                                                                                          Raspberry Pis and Arduinos are fun, but they’re a lot more complex and difficult to work with.

                                                                                        2. 3

                                                                                          I don’t think kids are less curious today, but it’s important to notice that back then, making a really polished program that felt professional only needed a small amount of comparatively simple work - things like prompting for all your inputs explicitly rather than hard-coding them, and making sure your colored backgrounds were redrawn properly after editing.

                                                                                          To make a polished GUI app today is prohibitive in terms of time expenditure and diversity of knowledge needed. The web is a little better, but not by much. So beginners are often left with a feeling that their work is inadequate and not worth sharing. The ones who decide to be okay with that and talk about what they’ve done anyway show remarkable courage - and they’re pretty rare.

                                                                                          Also, of course, back then there was no choice of which of the many available on-ramps to start with. You learned the language that came with your computer, and if you got good enough maybe you learned assembly or asked your parents to save up and buy you a compiler. Today, as you say, things like Minecraft are among the options. As common starting points I’d also like to mention Node and PHP, both ecosystems which owe a lot of their popularity to their efforts to reduce the breadth of knowledge needed to build end-to-end systems.

                                                                                          But in addition to being good starting points, those ecosystems have something else in common - there are lots of people who viscerally hate them and aren’t shy about saying so. A child just starting out is going to be highly intimidated by that, and feel that they have no way to navigate whether the technical considerations the adults are yelling about are really that important or not. In a past life, I taught middle-school, and it gave me an opportunity to watch young people being pushed away by cultural factors despite their determination to learn. It was really disheartening.

                                                                                          Navigating the complicated choices of where to start learning is really challenging, no matter what age you are. But for children, it’s often impossible, or too frightening to try.

                                                                                          I agree with what I took to be your main point, that if those of us who learned young care about helping the next generation to follow in our footsteps, we should meet them where they are and make sure to build playgrounds that they can enjoy with or without a technical understanding. But my real prediction is that the cultural factors are going to continue to be a blocker, and programming is unlikely to again be a thing that children have widespread mastery of in the way that it was in the 80s. It’s really very saddening.

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                                                                                          I’d been thinking of writing up a standard reference for the discussion we repeat a few times a year when someone posts a link to Linus being angry on LKML, summarizing the topics, points, and counterpoints that are reiterated almost verbatim every time. Maybe a solid summary would help people realize there’s almost never anything new to be said and that it’s not worth their time or emotion. When one’s reply has to start “I think there could be a parenthetical to the third sentence of Standard Argument 3.4.2…” it’s an opportunity to reflect on one’s priorities.

                                                                                          Declaring that deep links into mailing list discussions/flamewars are considered off-topic might be a lot easier, but it’s a heavy-handed approach. Even after 25 years of seeing Linus/Theo emails rehashed I’m not quite jaded enough to say there will never be value in those discussions. But I could be convinced by argument or another half-dozen threads.

                                                                                          (If anyone reading this wants to write the Standard Linus/Theo Controversial Email Epitomy/Abridgment, I certainly don’t feel proprietary about the idea.)

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                                                                                            I would love that and would like to state that I never asked for banning. I asked for a more considerate, less lazy approach.

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                                                                                              Ah, thanks. I got the impression that you were proposing a new rule rather than suggesting a change to norms. I’m sorry for misrepresenting your aim.

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                                                                                              Go for it. I think this is a great approach.

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                                                                                              I would love to know the validity of this claim. It seems fishy that a patent was filed but no white paper was submitted to journal for peer review (that I can find). If anyone with more expertise can provide their take on the matter, I would greatly enjoy it!

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                                                                                                The inventor has a website called boundedfloatingpoint.com. There he describes it in a bit more detail than the article, but not much.

                                                                                                Note carefully how he describes it:

                                                                                                This invention provides a device that performs floating point operations while calculating and retaining a bound on floating point error.

                                                                                                And “[t]his invention provides error notification by comparing the lost bits”.

                                                                                                It’s a solution to the problem of “unreported errors”. His solution provides extra fields in the floating point representation to carry information about ’lost bits” and allows the operator to specify how many significant digits must be retained before an error is flagged.

                                                                                                This is an advantage over the current technology that does not permit any control on the allowable error. This invention, not only permits the detection of loss of significant bits, but also allows the number of required retained significant digits to be specified.

                                                                                                At a cursory glance one might be inclined to think he’s solved the problem of floating point, but the reality is he’s developed a standard for communicating error in floating-point operations that can be implemented in hardware.

                                                                                                Not to detract from his solution, but it doesn’t seem like he’s invented anything that will surprise hardware designers.

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                                                                                                  Thank you for that analysis. This is a real problem with floating point numbers, but hardly the only one.

                                                                                                  People who haven’t seen it might be interested in this post from last year about a new number representation called “posits”, which addresses some completely orthogonal issues with fixed-size number representations. :)

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                                                                                                    Nice! Thanks for the link.

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                                                                                                    It’s a solution to the problem of “unreported errors”. His solution provides extra fields in the floating point representation to carry information about ’lost bits” and allows the operator to specify how many significant digits must be retained before an error is flagged.

                                                                                                    SIGNAL ON LOSTDIGITS;
                                                                                                    NUMERIC DIGITS 10;
                                                                                                    NUMERIC FUZZ 2;
                                                                                                    

                                                                                                    We just need to do all our math in REXX.

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                                                                                                  Obviously boiling lobsters is cruel and brutal, but so is eating them. There is no “compassionate” way to eat something. If you are bothered by boiling them, take the logic a step further and don’t eat them either.

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                                                                                                    So you think that there’s no moral difference between “quick and painless”, “slow and horrible”, and “clumsy bludgeoning”? Sounds like a pretty extreme position to me.

                                                                                                    http://futurama.wikia.com/wiki/Suicide_booth

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                                                                                                      I think this is a useful attempt to elucidate a somewhat confusing position on dz’s part, but that reducing a choice like this to the apparent fundamental principles rarely advances a conversation. People weigh far more things than they are even aware of, and are often not able to explain their real reasons. That’s especially true with a concern like animal suffering which is difficult to think about without having an urge to dismiss it out-of-hand to avoid having to imagine horrifying implications in detail.

                                                                                                      Personally, I think that both killing animals and causing them to suffer are wrong. Unfortunately, they’re on the list of wrong things that all humans are complicit in to some extent, although certainly we can individually adjust the degree to which we are, through our lifestyle choices. Political slogans are simplistic because they must be, but it’s important to remember the nuance when actually talking through something controversial like this.

                                                                                                      I see the point of a device to kill lobsters faster. But let’s not name anything on the site after it. I expect that this thread has already gotten more political, and with less relevance to the site’s core mission, than many lobste.rs users are comfortable with.

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                                                                                                        Yes I agree not to name anything on this site after it. It would be uncool and uncrustaceanly.

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                                                                                                          Thank you. I very much agree that there’s a lot of subtlety to these kinds of issues, and that they are worth considerate discussion in depth, but that this is probably not the right venue.

                                                                                                          I’m still learning how to write comments that are simultaneously relevant, provocative, and concise without being glib or mean… or encouraging others to. It’s hard! Sometimes it might be impossible. I think it’s still worth practicing.

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                                                                                                            but that this is probably not the right venue

                                                                                                            I dunno about everyone else but I find this sentiment common and deeply disappointing.

                                                                                                            Programmers, like it or not, must learn to tackle ethical questions. We’ve automated jobs away, built software to cheat on emission standards, designed UIs with the intent to deceive users — and any attempt to discuss these issues where programmers dwell is invariably shut down with claims of “improper venue!”

                                                                                                            How can we expect to advance our profession if we keep proclaiming that our spaces are strictly for tech chat only?

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                                                                                                              I agree! But let’s spend those limited resources discussing ethical questions that relate to systems we, as programmers, might be asked to build someday. I can promise you that it’s possible to make an entire career simply out of thinking about those questions, and still barely scratch the surface.

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                                                                                                          I didn’t say that. One would prefer “quick and painless” but the immoral act isn’t the suffering, it’s the killing.

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                                                                                                            If the immoral act isn’t the suffering then you shouldn’t eat plants, either.

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                                                                                                              While I don’t share @dz’s moral position, I don’t see this as a gotcha! that shows it is inconsistent.

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                                                                                                              This is a really interesting position - Is there some underlying principle on which this belief rests? Or does it just feel self-evident? For you, is there any amount of crustacean suffering that’s worth more than one crustacean death?

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                                                                                                                So as long as I don’t kill you I can make you suffer as much as I want and it wouldn’t be immoral. I certainly see the appeal of the philosophy.

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                                                                                                                  edited: see below

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                                                                                                                    What if both things are immoral?

                                                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                                                      There are certainly a large segment of people who think that killing and causing suffering are immoral, however this is the first time I’d ever seen that killing was immoral but suffering was not. Given that humans probably would go extinct without killing anything (plants included) usually people make the caveat “Killing is okay as long as you’re killing the beings that suffer the least”. Some go the whole fruits and nuts route, causing no harm at all, but I don’t think this is large scale sustainable. Plants only is a decent argument, but you’re still totally killing, so if suffering isn’t a moral criteria you might as well go eat whatever because I mean you’ve gotta kill you might as well kill the thing that reduces your suffering and I would have to kill like 400,000 clovers to equal one cow because biodensity.

                                                                                                                      Something tells me this isn’t the philosophy DZ has and I’m going to take a generous interpretation that they really meant that reducing suffering doesn’t mean there is NO suffering. The animal was still ripped from its habitat, deprived of a normal life, separated from any family it might have had, etc. I’m going to also suspect that DZ also feels that killing is unilaterally wrong, which is I think not a bad moral basis to aspire to. I think there is some wisdom in having that goal.

                                                                                                                      Being said, don’t make perfect the enemy of the good. If someone is going to kill and eat me, I should hope they don’t boil me alive. I would be a lot more upset about being tortured to death than I would about just being killed.

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                                                                                                                        Yes, this is the correct interpration, and I see how my post could be read differently.

                                                                                                            3. 3

                                                                                                              Something tells me if you were in the position of being boiled alive vs a painless death you would have more of an opinion on the matter.

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                                                                                                              For the site, that could be the name of the module that delivers the banhammer or deactivates profiles.

                                                                                                              Edit due to @Irene comment: I have no position for or against naming part of the site after the thing. I was just joking around with that remark. I didn’t expect the impact the thread has had on some folks. No harm intended on my part.

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                                                                                                                Sorry for dumping on your idea.

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                                                                                                                  Appreciate it. Also, being extra clear I wasn’t trying to offend anyone with my joke. I often see our members toying with different words for how they might apply here. I was just following suit. This taught me to avoid that if it was something harmful to an animal.

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                                                                                                                    No offense taken! I was just heading that off because it isn’t a topic that’s worth the controversy it might draw. I completely understand that that sort of concern isn’t something you are constantly thinking about, nor should you have to - that’s the mods’ job. :)

                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                      “No offense taken! I was just heading that off because it isn’t a topic that’s worth the controversy it might draw.”

                                                                                                                      Smart move!

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                                                                                                                        Thanks :)

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                                                                                                                Pretty easy to cheat if you recognize those integers and can write a for loop. I was hoping for better art, though…

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                                                                                                                  Lol, no way, it was worth it. All the effort and mystery around something so kitsch. I’m glad I got to experience this.

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                                                                                                                    The artist told me that was intentional. I think it was interesting, whether intentional or not.

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                                                                                                                    Nice writeup. I’ll note that…

                                                                                                                    “and given that it is one of three copies (the other two being on the two hard drives I have attached to the Pi)”

                                                                                                                    …this actually is two copies if using failure models of geography and implementation. The locations and device types are the same. That means the same problem in either category can knock out both of them. The second HD has to be implemented differently (i.e different vendor) to ensure a problem with first won’t hit it, too. Also, they usually need to be in separate locations. I lost all my stuff once due to a triple failure that came from them all connecting to one device in one location.

                                                                                                                    So, you have two copies if it’s an isolated fault affecting one drive but just one if its an environmental or drive fault affecting both.

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                                                                                                                      Sure - but in 10 years of running home backups, I’ve had 5 drive failures and zero disasters.

                                                                                                                      I’m pretty happy with having only 2 geographical regions (home and s3) for my backups given how infrequent that kind of issue is.

                                                                                                                      I’d considered switching to backblaze (cheaper) but haven’t had time to move everything over (it takes a few days to test restoring from backups).

                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                        I agree that this is important. I very nearly lost all my drives at once a few years ago, in a house fire, and I’ve been telling people ever since that it isn’t as unlikely as they think. For the first month after the fire, it wasn’t clear whether I’d be able to recover any data, although I ultimately didn’t lose anything.

                                                                                                                        I encourage everybody to have at least one off-site backup.