Threads for balloonatic

    1. 26

      Great story, but probably the most important lesson to learn from this remained un-remarked on in the conclusion:

      I was into my unofficial second shift having already logged 12 hours that Wednesday. Long workdays are a nominal scenario for the assembly and test phase.

      Whoever was responsible for the crunch-time situation really deserves the blame for the problem, not the person who wired the breakout box.

      1. 19

        I am in this world. The deadline is set by the orbit of Mars, if you miss it you are delayed for two years, so there is an extreme amount of pressure to hit the launch window. Secondly, every space mission of this class is a fabergé egg with 217 seperate contractors contributing their custom jewels. There are always integration issues, even assuming there wasn’t some fundamental subsystem issue that delayed delivery for integration. Even when rovers are nominally the same platform, they still have quirks and different instruments that mean they are still firmly pets rather than cattle. Given the cost per kg of launch, every subsystem has to be incredibly marginal and fragile weight-wise, else it’s a gramme taken away from science payloads which is ultimately the whole purpose of these missions. As a result, things are delicate and fussy and have very un-shaken-down procedures. It’s the perfect storm for double shifts.

        1. 9

          There’s also an often-ignored aspect that’s easy to miss outside regulated fields: there is an ever-present feeling that there is one more thing to verify, and it’s extremely pressing because that may be your last chance to check it and fix it. About half the double shifts I’ve worked weren’t crunch time specifically, we weren’t in any danger of missing a deadline (I was in a parallel world where deadlines were fortunately not set by the orbits of celestial objects). It’s just you could never be too sure.

          Also, radiation hardened instruments and electronic components have a reputation of ruggedness that gives lots of people a surprisingly incorrect expectation of ruggedness and replicableness (is that even a word?) about many spacecrafts. These aren’t serially-manufactured flying machines, they’re one-, maybe two-of-a-kind things. They work reliably not because they’ve gone through umpteen assembly line audits that result in a perfect fabrication flow, where everything that comes off the assembly line is guaranteed to work within six sigma. Some components on these things are like that, but the whole flying gizmo works reliably only because it’s tested into oblivion.

          Less crunch would obviously be desirable. But even a perfectly-planned project with 100% delay-free execution will still end up with some crunch, if only because test cycles are the only guarantee of quality so there will always be some pressure to use any available time to do some more of those and to avoid mishaps by making procedures crunch-proof, rather than by avoiding the crunch.

      2. 7

        I did a little searching about this. The project was green-lit in mid 2000 with a launch window in Summer of 2003, so about 3 years, to build not one but two rovers and get them to mars for a 90 day mission. Check out this pdf of a memo from what would be riiiiight smack in the middle of that schedule:

        The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the Implementation of Faster, Better, Cheaper (FBC) policies for acquisition management at NASA. By using FBC to mange programs/projects, NASA has attempted to change not only the way project managers think, but also the way they conduct business. Therefore, we considered FBC a management policy that should be defined, documented in policy documents, and incorporated into the strategic planning process. Although NASA has been using the FBC approach to manage projects since 1992, NASA has neither defined FBC nor implemented policies and guidance for FBC. Without a common understanding of FBC, NASA cannot effectively communicate its principles to program/project managers or contractor employees. In addition, the Agency has not incorporated sufficient FBC goals, objectives, and metrics into NASA’s strategic management process. Therefore, missions completed using FBC are outside the strategic management and planning process, and progress toward achieving FBC cannot be measured or reported. Finally, NASA has not adequately aligned its human resources with its strategic goals. As a result, the Agency cannot determine the appropriate number of staff and competencies needed to effectively carry out strategic goals and objectives for its programs.

        My paraphrase: Y’all told everyone to do stuff faster, better, and cheaper, but then didn’t actually make any policies for how to do that, or how to measure your success at doing that. Oh, and y’all suck out loud at staffing.

        They include the management response which was basically: Well… yeah that’s a fair point. Also it’s not Faster Better Cheaper’s fault we suck at staffing! We just suck at staffing in general. We plan to develop plans to fix that next year!

        I’m not joking about that “plan to develop plans” part btw. Here’s the full quote:

        NASA also only partially concurred with the recommendations to align staffing with strategic goals because management does not view FBC as the cause for the staffing issues identified. However, NASA plans to develop a workforce plan for each Center that will link staffing, funding resources, mission and activities and core competencies. In addition, the fiscal year 2002 Performance Plan will include a discussion of Agency human resources.

        Big oof.

        Despite all of this, the rovers meant to last like 3 months lasted 6 years and 14 years respectively. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      3. 6

        Good point! Another aspect is that you should design systems in such a way that inadvertent misconnections become impossible, even for low-level testing. If that’s not possible with the hardware, in the given case a very simple pre-test would have been to test the impedance and resistance and abort in any case of excessive measurements.

        To build a bridge to programming: Design your interfaces such that they cannot be broken with bogus input. This especially applies to low-level functions that are only explicitly called in tests, because you can mess up test inputs easily by accident. One approach is to use a strong type system, e.g. a function “{Real, NaR} log10(x:Real)” is much more fragile than “Real log10(x:StrictlyPositive)”, which is constrained by the type system not to yield NaR (not a real) in any case.

        1. 1

          I haven’t seen NaR before.

          In my mind I imagine a NaI (not an integer) could be useful to handle overflow/underflow/divide by zero.

          1. 1

            NaR is used for some next generation computer arithmetic concepts like Posits.

    2. 4

      My goodness, that GitHub stats thing under ‘about the author’ that gives you a giant ‘A+’ or whatever score for how much you use GitHub as a proxy for your eligibility to teach… horrifyingly dystopian!

      1. 1

        It’s just an interface to the GH API:

        https://github.com/anuraghazra/github-readme-stats#github-readme-stats

        In other words it’s not something created or endorsed by GitHub itself. No doubt you can hack the code to give yourself “A+++” for zero contributions.

    3. 4

      Analyzing Data170,000x Faster by removing the Python

      1. 26

        The end user is still writing Python.

        And honestly, “learn some profiling and optimization tricks” – which is the sort of thing a non-programmer might pick up from going to a data science conference or even by word-of-mouth from a more experienced colleague – is vastly preferable to the original article’s “rewrite in Rust”, given that Rust has a notoriously brutal learning curve even for experienced professional programmers.

        1. 11

          Oh I am absolutely in the wrong in the above comment - I see that I clicked on the article, clicked through to the article it was referencing where they replaced it all with rust, and forgot that that wasn’t this article. This article is indeed v interesting and I enjoyed it.

        2. 9

          Somewhat of a quibble, this isn’t really Python. Numba uses Python syntax, but it’s only a relatively small subset of the language and it’s semantically much more restrictive in many ways (e.g. strongly typed). So you will typically get some annoying errors as you write it when you hit the edges of what it can do. And Rust is a general purpose language while Numba is very domain-specific.

          I do strongly agree with the second paragraph though. I’m writing a book on speeding up Python data science/scientific computing with low-level code, and it’s going to use Numba throughout because it’s so nice from an educational perspective. Previously shared an excerpt based on an early draft of one of the chapters. Rust would involve a whole book just on the Python/scientific computing/integration aspects in addition to reader having to read a different book on learning the base language.

          1. 3

            Somewhat of a quibble, this isn’t really Python. Numba uses Python syntax, but it’s only a relatively small subset of the language and it’s semantically much more restrictive in many ways (e.g. strongly typed). So you will typically get some annoying errors as you write it when you hit the edges of what it can do. And Rust is a general purpose language while Numba is very domain-specific.

            A subset of Python is still Python. All valid Python programs are by definition a subset of Python.

            1. 4

              The semantics are also different at the edges, e.g. there’s no bigints which matters if you overflow integer addition.

            2. 3

              Numba ain’t Python; extension modules are almost never Python. I suppose that somebody needs to write this article a third time, using PyPy…

            3. 1

              I mostly agree to the extent it’s a proper subset; you could see it as an optimizing compiler that only optimizes a subset of the language. There are a few gotchas where the semantics are actually different from Python semantics though.

    4. 7

      You lost a lot of time and energy dealing with issues like: Using vim […] When you start the next project, start it in VScode in the beginning.

      To emphasize this: vim is a great tool but not, in any way, beginner friendly. I don’t like VSCode as much for my own programming but IMO it’s the better choice for most developers.

      1. 8

        That’s the only thing that I didn’t identify with especially at the start - I remember my first week at University, advice from an older student for my degree was to just properly sit down and learn Vim for editing and LaTeX for reports/papers and use them from the get-go. By the end of the first term I was flying along. Likewise I wish I had properly set down and learned my shell (and shell scripting) much earlier. It actually doesn’t take much patience to have a basic order-a-beer-and-reserve-a-hotel confidence in the shell and an editor, and from then on you’re flying.

        I remember once watching a friend doing a biology PhD manually renaming and organizing about 1000 photos from an automated microscope that were of the form ‘DSCNXXXX’ into folders and file names based on date, time, experiment etc. I showed them a basic bit of Ksh to do it in about one second instead of six hours. He was so aghast that this superpower was there infront of them on their mac but that they’d never been taught it at any point in their PhD induction. He said ‘I reckon shell scripting could cut six months off the average biology PhD’. Yes! These foundational tools will always be there and useful even as high level chefs and ansibles and whatever come and go. I wish everyone could take say 12 hrs at the start of their multi-year projects to at least have enough familiarity with their computers to say ‘I know there’s a smarter way of doing this’.

        Well anyway, so yes i still recommend learning vim and the command line.

        1. 5

          Well anyway, so yes i still recommend learning vim and the command line.

          I would as well, but over the years I’ve become far less dogmatic on that topic. I grew up in a household of programmers and was shocked when I got to University and in our wash-out “Here’s C” course, we had people (~25% of the class IIRC) who had never heard of, let alone used Linux, and who had to have the concept of a command line explained. That was roughly two decades ago, and while Linux may be more mainstream now, we have become an even more graphical society carrying around touchscreens everywhere we go. I’d wager that if you polled 100 professional programmers today (not necessarily 100 on Lobste.rs), my background and experiences would be in the severe minority.

          Ultimately, while I use vim on a daily basis, I would not by default assume that is good for a novice programmer. Most people I would want to get interested in programming I would want to remove as many barriers to entry for, exactly as this post’s first bullet point highlights. Getting them on a graphical editor or an IDE would let that average novice get closer to loving programming sooner, rather than fighting the machine.

          Obviously, there will always be some with more of a background like mine. For them I’d absolutely open up with vim as a suggestion. Does that mean I don’t think anyone can learn it? No, I’ve taught Linux CLI to a lot of people who you wouldn’t expect would excel at it. However, I recognize that the TTLOC (time to lines of code) will increase and, particularly in the case of a homework assignment that is due (as in the post), it just wouldn’t be as beneficial as focusing on the code itself.

          Not disagreeing with you and happy to stand next to you in the righteous flamewar against emacs (a better story is the fact that I grew up in an emacs house, but I digress), just suggesting there is a time and place when we can suggest neutral ground.

        2. 2

          Yeah, when I was at that stage, I just went “hmm, everyone is talking about vim, let’s see what it’s about”, and I opened up vimtutor, and it really wasn’t that long until I was up and running.

          On the one hand, the expectations back then were lower. There was nothing like VSCode. Sure, there were some IDEs but they were big, slow, and not really taken seriously by the majority of working devs. So starting with a blank vim config and a copy of exuberant-ctags and building up from there over the years was no problem for me — but for someone starting out today I wouldn’t recommend that they cut themselves from all of those tools.

          OTOH there is stuff like LazyVim, and I bet that’s the right choice for some people.

    5. 4

      If you’re interested in learning more about this idea, I highly recommend MacKay’s Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms [free pdf but worth having a couple of paper copies, one for the office and one for the bathroom]. It’s extremely pedagogical and its central thesis is that compression, communication and prediction are all really the same thing.

      Edit: Indeed I see the above book is cited in the very first sentence of the paper!

    6. 35

      I really hope I will make it through this life without ever having a car. I made it this far.

      1. 8

        Me too

        Go down the not just bikes path (see youtube channel) and join the fight to make your city planning more pedestrian/bike/transit friendly!

      2. 6

        From the article:

        And we don’t want to take a page from car companies’ books by asking you to do things no reasonable person would ever do – like reciting a 9,461-word privacy policy to everyone who opens your car’s doors.

        This implies it’s affecting passengers, too. Even without actually owning the car you’re in your privacy might be violated!

        1. 1

          How? What does the car do to a passenger?

          1. 4

            From their Subaru review:

            The moment you sit in the passenger seat of a Subaru that uses connected services, you’ve consented to allow them to use – and maybe even sell – your personal information. According to their privacy policy, that means things like your name, location, “Audio recordings of Vehicle Occupants”, and inferences they can draw about things like your “characteristics, predispositions, behavior, or attitudes.”

            […]

            If you go read Subaru’s privacy policy (or don’t, we did it for you, you can just read our review here), you’ll see at the very start they say this: “This Privacy Policy applies to each user of the Services, including any “Vehicle Occupant,” which includes each driver or passenger in a Subaru vehicle that uses Connected Vehicle Services, such as Subaru Starlink (such vehicle, a “Connected Vehicle”), whether or not such driver or passenger is the vehicle owner or a registered user of the Connected Vehicle Services. For the avoidance of doubt, for purposes of this Privacy Policy, “using” the Services includes being a Vehicle Occupant in a Connected Vehicle.” So yeah, they don’t want there to be any doubt that when you sit in a connected Subaru, you’ve entered the world of using their services.

            I like my Subaru (which is why I chose that review to dive into) and I don’t think I use any of the features that would make it a “Connected Vehicle”, but that very decidedly creeps me out.

          2. 2

            I don’t know. A quick guess: send phone bluetooth or wifi identifiers to the manufacturer, who can then sell it as extra data to the same companies that are already tracking your phone so that they know even more about you?

            1. 1

              “we drone people on metadata” combined with the n degrees of social graph steps from you to a surveillance target used as a metric to expand surveillance to you.

      3. 4

        It’s hard for me to imagine not having a car. I mean, it’s obviously doable, but I’m having problem in some scenarios, like: having to buy some furniture and bring it home (only big shops deliver), moving across cities, helping friends move, being sick and needing to go to the doctor, trying to visit some lonely place with a tent, doing big/heavy groceries (e.g. buying 6 bottles of 5L water plus stuff for the week). A bike is not the answer for these.

        1. 19

          I, too, have never owned a car. To each of your scenarios:

          having to buy some furniture and bring it home (only big shops deliver)

          I have never seen a furniture shop that doesn’t deliver. A lot of furniture doesn’t fit in a car, so you end up needing to rent a van anyway. Man with a van services are fairly cheap and come with someone to help you carry things as well.

          moving across cities, helping friends move,

          How often do you do this? Last time we moved, we rented a van for the day, which cost about as much as a week’s worth of tax and insurance on a car. Moving with a car sounds quite painful.

          being sick and needing to go to the doctor,

          Are you safe to drive when you’re sick? Again, how often do you do this?

          I live in a city, so my GP is about 5 minutes walk from my house. If I need to go further, taxis are available.

          trying to visit some lonely place with a tent,

          Sure, you might want a car for that but, again, how often do you do it? If it’s every weekend, it might make sense. If it’s once or twice a year then renting a car (or a camper van, or some kind of off-road vehicle) probably makes more sense.

          doing big/heavy groceries (e.g. buying 6 bottles of 5L water plus stuff for the week). A bike is not the answer for these.

          That’s a lot of bottled water. I live in a civilised country, so the tap water is drinkable, but you might be surprised at how much you can carry on a bike. Two pannier bags will happily carry a week’s shopping for an individual.

          That said, I can’t imagine going back to doing a big grocery run in person. For the last 20+ years, I’ve done it online and had it delivered. It takes less time to do the shop than it would take to drive to the supermarket, and these days I can do it on a tablet so I can wander around and check the fridge and cupboards to see if I’m out of something (or, if it’s a non-perishable on special offer, how much I have space for), which is far more convenient. I pick up fresh things every few days from a shop within walking distance.

          Mr Money Moustache has some good rants on the economics of car ownership. I am somewhat in awe of an industry that has managed to equate ownership of a depreciating asset with high operating costs with freedom in the minds of consumers.

          1. 2

            These arguments always seem a bit circular unfortunately, and can be summarised as ‘if you just do less of the things that need a car, to the point at which you no longer really need a car, then hey presto you don’t actually need a car!!’. I mean yes, sure.

            I wouldn’t bother with one in any sort of decent sized city, I think they’re effectively essential in most rural places here in the UK, and the need to make ‘anti car’ as a sort of religion or identity (I don’t think the parent comment is doing this, i should say) seems like a psychological tick that isn’t very helpful in what needs to be a more sober debate about urban infrastructure and planning.

            1. 9

              These arguments always seem a bit circular unfortunately, and can be summarised as ‘if you just do less of the things that need a car, to the point at which you no longer really need a car, then hey presto you don’t actually need a car!!’. I mean yes, sure.

              That’s quite reductionist. There’s a question for each of those things in a few dimensions:

              • Do they actually improve your quality of life? Supermarket shopping is one of the activities I used to really hate doing, for example. Yay, a car enables me to do this, but I can also just do it online and have it delivered. It’s faster and more convenient. The weekly supermarket trip is typically the top thing that people say they need a car for, but not doing it is a big quality of life improvement. I spend five minutes prodding a tablet rather than ten minutes driving to a supermarket, half an hour walking around it in a crowd of stressed people, then ten minutes driving home.
              • Do they actually justify the cost? A quick search tells me that the average cost of car ownership in the UK is £3406.80/year (tax, insurance, fuel, depreciation). When I was looking to buy my first house, I looked at a couple of places that were sufficiently far out of town to need a car and worked out that, with the price difference, I’d be making a loss after about four years and would then keep making a loss. Buying somewhere a bit more expensive and owning an appreciating asset was better financial sense than buying somewhere cheaper, and it was more convenient (I wouldn’t want to drive home after a pub trip, for example).
              • What are the alternatives? Taking that £3400/year number, that buys a lot of taxi trips. A trip anywhere in town is about £10, so I could take a taxi every two days for the same price as owning a car, plus I can get a taxi back from the pub drunk, whereas I wouldn’t want to drive back. If I take a taxi every couple of weeks, it’s much cheaper. For unusual things like airport trips, the cost of a taxi is about the same as the cost of parking at the airport, and I don’t have to drive while tired and jet lagged.
              • Do they justify the externalities? The best thing about 2020 was that the reduction in vehicle traffic meant that I didn’t get a cold from air pollution for the first time in years. If rich people own cars, this incentivises governments to incentivise infrastructure that requires cars, which pushes inequality by forcing poor people to buy vehicles that are expensive to own and operate.

              I wouldn’t bother with one in any sort of decent sized city, I think they’re effectively essential in most rural places here in the UK,

              I grew up in a small village in the UK and I agree. We had a bus to the city once a day (and it was timed for people visiting the countryside, so if you took it into town you didn’t have one coming back until the next day). Walking to the outskirts of the city took about an hour. With an electric bike, it was probably quite easy (they were far too expensive then) but there was a big hill just before the city that was not at all fun in a normal bike, and then the trip into the city was uphill.

              The bus went from about two minutes walk from my house though. If it had run hourly, owning a car would have been far less important. When I moved to Swansea, there were regular busses that looped through the nearby villages at least once an hour, so it was possible (just not convenient) to live there without a car. Increased spending on infrastructure would make that easier. The bus service was great back then. Students could get a bus pass that gave unlimited trips for under £1/day, you could also buy a day pass for about £2 that gave you unlimited trips (most returns were more expensive, so this was the only ticket you ever bought) and they ran every 5-10 minutes on most of the in-town routes. When I went back about 7 years ago, the buses were so expensive that it was cheaper to take a taxi.

              1. 3

                Sorry, I can’t help but interpreting your posts as “I don’t need it, therefore I don’t think it’s a good idea to use it”, although you probably don’t mean it this way.

                Do they actually improve your quality of life?

                You can walk out of home right now and travel 1000km alone with the baggage of your choice. I need to have this option, because otherwise I would feel like I’m in jail.

                Are you safe to drive when you’re sick? Again, how often do you do this?

                It’s not really about me; I simply wouldn’t want other people who are sick to use the same transit as I’m using right now. That’s why I don’t want to use the transit, or go to the office, when I’m not feeling very healthy.

                If it’s once or twice a year then renting a car (or a camper van, or some kind of off-road vehicle) probably makes more sense.

                Driving requires skill, and people get rusty with driving skills when not done often enough. Some time ago I didn’t need to drive for a month, and I’ve felt the difference when I’ve finally sat behind the wheel. Driving once a year for a thousand kilometers doesn’t sound very safe to me to be honest.

                For the last 20+ years, I’ve done it online and had it delivered

                but I can also just do it online and have it delivered

                Well, you could since 20+ years. For me it wasn’t really an option before Covid. Also small shops don’t have this service, and I like to support smaller shops instead of big malls.

                cost of car ownership in the UK is £3406.80/year

                Statistics often don’t include cost optimization each of us can do, based on our unique situation. In Poland it costs me ~£1400 per year, according to my own statistics (including fuel). Not sure how is this similar to UK.

                If I need to go further, taxis are available.

                What are the alternatives? Taking that £3400/year number, that buys a lot of taxi trips.

                Last time I’ve tried to use a taxi to go back home after leaving my car for repairs, I couldn’t find any taxi. I need to walk 1 kilometer to a bus stop and then wait 40 minutes for a bus. Another time I had to wait 30 minutes in front of my office building, because all taxis were busy. So this is my experience with taxis. Also I don’t like this deadline you need to conform to – with a car you just leave when you’re ready.

                For unusual things like airport trips, the cost of a taxi is about the same as the cost of parking at the airport

                Sure, if you live close to the airport.

                If rich people own cars, this incentivises governments to incentivise infrastructure that requires cars, which pushes inequality by forcing poor people to buy vehicles that are expensive to own and operate.

                Wow, what a stretch. And fighting for electorate by satisfying the majority at the costs of discontenting the minorities doesn’t have anything to do with how government operates?

          2. 1

            I enjoy reading your posts on software topics, but this one has major Rob Rhinehart vibes. http://web.archive.org/web/20150924055227/http://robrhinehart.com/?p=1331

            1. 3

              Really? You’re comparing a kook who can feel AC current (cue “electrical oversensitivity”) and who promotes Soylent (whatever happened to them??) with someone living an utterly normal life in an urban environment?

              1. 3

                I was going to say something very similar if no one else had.

                Soylent is still around. It looks more and more like Ensure, just marketed to a younger crowd.

        2. 9

          For me personally, a mix of having a cargo bike and renting vans fills this niche

          1. 1

            Renting cars doesn’t feel like an “anti-car” strategy, and cargo bikes limit your possibilities to ~20km from the point where you did rent the bike. Cargo bikes are only a thing in biggest cities, unless you have your own. Some of them cost as much as an used car, this means that their price/value ratio seems to be very low.

            1. 12

              “Anti-car” is actually mostly “anti-having-only-car-centered-infrastructure”. Having easy access to rental vans is a main essential, not a hindrance.

            2. 10

              The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics does calculations for what it costs the average American to own/drive their own car.

              The total for the year 2022 is $10,729. That is per year. https://www.bts.gov/content/average-cost-owning-and-operating-automobilea-assuming-15000-vehicle-miles-year

              This is not anywhere near the cost of even the fanciest of cargo bikes.

              They also have this page which shows a more complete and detailed picture an including average costs by income level. For whatever reason, this only shows info as late as 2021: https://data.bts.gov/stories/s/ida7-k95k/

              This is all to say that cars are indeed very expensive and so it is perfectly understandable why someone would want to avoid such an enormous cost burden in their lives even if every level of the U.S government, some of the largest corporations, and a car-brained culture want to make saving that money as difficult as possible.

              I have lived in a more typical city in a fairly quiet neighborhood and my grocery store was directly across the street from my apartment. Basically everything else I needed was walkable within a couple blocks. The U.S. has tried its best to be pedestrian-unfriendly almost everywhere but plenty of people do live in places throughout the country where walking or cargo biking is totally possible.

              1. 1

                Interesting data, thanks. Although, I’m doing my own statistics, and in my case it’s $142 per month for the last 12 months (including gas, maintenance, paperology stuff, parking, highways, basically anything that has to do with the car is included here).

                Also:

                Insurance figures are based on a full-coverage policy

                Not sure how it looks like in the US, but in my case I can limit my insurance to basic coverage and pay $116 for one year, instead of full coverage for $940 per year.

                The average also assumes the car is changed to a new one every 5 years, so it probably includes profits of car dealers. Meaning, these statistics seem to show the absolute worst possible, but still realistic, price of having a car, and it should be pretty easy to optimize it.

                1. 1

                  Did you include capital expenditure spread across the lifetime of the vehicle in your calculations? But if you buy an old robust and maintainable car like a Toyota or a Volvo the initial purchase and maintenance costs are probably well below average.

                  1. 1

                    I didn’t include it, but after including the initial price, my monthly cost is on average $225 – $2700 per year (Volvo V50).

            3. 4

              I completely acknowledge using a cargo bike is a thing I can do because of where I live, its really not for everywhere. And yeah, they get pricey, but I would push back slightly on your cost argument because the total cost of a cargo bike is so much less than a car once you factor in insurance, maintenance, gas.

              I didn’t think we were being “anti-car” per se, rather, anti car ownership. I’ve spent my whole life driving and only recently have I had the option to use bikes as my primary mode of transportation. Cars are useful! It’s hard to imagine our society without delivery vehicles and ambulances and such, so I’m personally not anti-car as much as I would like to live in cities with viable alternatives.

              What’s funny about this discussion is, while privacy on cars is atrocious, privacy on transit is probably so much worse.

        3. 6

          If you live in a car-centric city, it’s entirely rational that living without a car is unimaginable. It’s a vicious loop — if everyone must have a car, businesses and services are built around cars, therefore everyone must have a car.

          I lived in Warsaw and London which aren’t car-dependent.

          • All shops selling big/heavy stuff have delivery. Sometimes it’s an option even for groceries. For stuff too small for delivery, but too big to carry, you get a taxi (for occasional things like that taxis are cheaper than TCO of a car).
          • There are many ways to rent a van if needed. It can be self-drive, or with a driver and people to help. You can order a van to pick up stuff for you from any shop or friend’s house (it’s like Uber Eats for sofas).
          • For moving, hiring a “man-and-van” is IMHO a great solution. You get someone with a muscle to carry all the stuff, quickly and without complaining, and it doesn’t cost much more than IOUs to your friends.
          • The are local clinics throughout the city within 15 min walk distance. If it’s not serious or infectious, there’s public transport, taxis. If necessary, you can have a home visit or an ambulance (at no extra cost in nationalized healthcare).
          • In touristy places for a tent, there’s a train station + minibus that will drop you off at a start of a hiking trail.
          • Car rental is always an option. It’s still an improvement, e.g. you don’t need to drive a pick-up truck every day if you just need it once to buy a sofa.
        4. 2

          There’s really excellent cargo bikes these days, recumbent 4-wheel bikes (quikes?) that take 100+ kg of cargo, and are still small enough to fit through a standard door for your neighbourhood bicycle storage, and go on the non-car roads with everyone else. I don’t have one, but that’s my dream vehicle, which would let me maybe find a cheap house a bit farther out.

          I can do without a car because there’s decent non-car infrastructure in this town of ~90K people. The non-car roads are shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, and everyone else who can’t or won’t drive a car. In the winter I use the bus more.

          I’ve lived in other places where it would be very difficult, if possible at all, to get by with an electric wheelchair or a bicycle. So I recognise that it’s a huge privilege. Not having a car is what lets me afford other things that make my life better. It’s quite expensive to have a car here, and I don’t want to work even more just to afford that too.

          I don’t want to come across as better than anyone who has a car. My only wish is that more people would be able to get by without one.

      4. 2

        Is there a “rallying cry” for anti-car? Something short and recognisable, akin to “black lives matter” or “be gay, do crime” or “animals are not property”? Or even a hashtag?

        The closest I have heard is “cars ruin cities”

        1. 9

          “cities aren’t loud, cars are loud” is also a good one that gets people thinking

        2. 6

          In all seriousness what you’re looking for is “f*** cars”. There’s a popular subreddit.

    7. 8

      Looks like the beginning of the end of the fantastic progress in tech that’s resulted from a relative lack of regulation.

      Also, probably, a massive spike in grift jobs as people are hired to ensure compliance.

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        Looks like the beginning of the end for the unnecessarey e-waste provoked by companies forcing obselence and anti-consumer patterns made possible by the lack of regulations.

        1. 7

          It’s amazing that no matter how good the news is about a regulation you’ll always be able to find someone to complain about how it harms some hypothetical innovation.

        2. 6

          Sure. Possibly that too - although I’d be mildly surprised if the legislation actually delivers the intended upside, as opposed to just delivering unintended consequences.

          And just to be clear: the unintended consequences here include the retardation of an industry that’s delivered us progress from 8 bit micros with 64KiB RAM to pervasive Internet and pocket supercomputers in one generation.

          Edited to add: I run a refurbished W540 with Linux Mint as a “gaming” laptop, a refurbished T470s with FreeBSD as my daily driver, a refurbished Pixel 3 with Lineage as my phone, and a PineTime and Pine Buds Pro. I really do grok the issues with the industry around planned obsolescence, waste, and consumer hostility.

          I just still don’t think the cost of regulation is worth it.

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            I’m a EU citizen, and I see this argument made every single time the EU passes a new legislation affecting tech. So far, those worries never materialized.

            I just can’t see why having removeable batteries would hinder innovation. Each company will still want to sell their prducts, so they will be pressed to find creative ways to have a sleek design while meeting regulations.

            Do you think Apple engineers are not capeable of designing AirPods that have a removeable battery? The battery is even in the stem, so it could be as simple as having the stem be de-tacheable. It was just simpler to super-glue everything shut, plus it comes with the benefit of forcing consumers to upgrade once their AirPods have unusable battery life.

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              Also, if I’m not mistaken it is about service-time replaceable battery, not “drop-on-the-floor-and-your-phone-is-in-6-parts” replaceable as in the old times.

              1. 13

                In the specific case of batteries, yep, you’re right. The legislation actually carves special exception for batteries that’s even more manufacturer-friendly than other requirements – you can make devices with batteries that can only be replaced in a workshop environment or by a person with basic repair training, or even restrict access to batteries to authorised partners. But you have to meet some battery quality criteria and a plausible commercial reason for restricting battery replacement or access to batteries (e.g. an IP42 or, respectively, IP67 rating).

                Yes, I know, what about the extra regulatory burden: said battery quality criteria are just industry-standard rating methods (remaining capacity after 500 and 1,000 cycles) which battery suppliers already provide, so manufacturers that currently apply the CE rating don’t actually need to do anything new to be compliant. In fact the vast majority of devices on the EU market are already compliant, if anyone isn’t they really got tricked by whoever’s selling them the batteries.

                The only additional requirements set in place is that fasteners have to be resupplied or reusable. Most fasteners that also perform electrical functions are inherently reusable (on account of being metallic) so in practice that just means, if your batteries are fastened with adhesive, you have to provide that (or a compatible) adhesive for the prescribed duration. As long as you keep making devices with adhesive-fastened batteries that’s basically free.

                i.e. none of this requires any innovation of any kind – in fact the vast majority of companies active on the EU market can keep on doing exactly what they’re doing now modulo exclusive supply contracts (which they can actually keep if they want to, but then they have to provide the parts to authorised repair partners).

              2. 5

                Man do I ever miss those days though. Device not powering off the way I’m telling it to? Can’t figure out how to get this alarm app to stop making noise in this crowded room? Fine - rip the battery cover off and forcibly end the noise. 100% success rate.

            2. 5

              So far, those worries never materialized.

              You’re enjoying those ubiquitous “This site uses cookies” pop-ups, then?

              Do you think Apple engineers are not capeable of designing AirPods that have a removeable battery?

              Of course they’re capable, but there are always trade-offs. I am very skeptical that something as tiny and densely packed as an AirPod could be made with removeable parts without becoming a lot less durable or reliable, and/or more expensive. Do you have the hardware/manufacturing expertise to back up your assumptions?

              I don’t know where the battery is in an AirPod, but I do know that lithium-polymer batteries can be molded into arbitrary shapes and are often designed to fill the space around the other components, which tends to make them difficult or impossible to remove.

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                You’re enjoying those ubiquitous “This site uses cookies” pop-ups, then?

                Those aren’t required by law; those happen when a company makes customer-hostile decisions and wants to deflect the blame to the EU for forcing them to be transparent about their bad decisions.

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                  Huh? Using cookies is “user-hostile”? I mean, I actually remember using the web before cookies were a thing, and that was pretty user-unfriendly: all state had to be kept in the URL, and if you hit the Back button it reversed any state, like what you had in your shopping cart.

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                    That kind of cookie requires no popup though, only the ones used to shared info with third parties or collect unwarranted information.

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                    I can’t believe so many years later people still believe the cookie law applies to all cookies.

                    Please educate yourself: the law explicitly applies only to cookies used for tracking and marketing purposes, not for funcional purposes.

                    The law also specified that the banner must have a single button to “reject all cookies”, so any website that ask you to go trought a complex flow to reject your consent is not compliant.

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                      It requires consent for all but “strictly necessary” cookies. According to the definitions on that page, that covers a lot more than tracking and marketing. For example “ choices you have made in the past, like what language you prefer”, or “statistics cookies” whose “ sole purpose is to improve website function”. Definitely overreach.

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                I don’t know where the battery is in an AirPod

                we do know it and it’s a Li-Ion button cell https://guide-images.cdn.ifixit.com/igi/QG4Cd6cMiYVcMxiE.large

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                  FWIW this regulation doesn’t apply to the Airpods. But if for some reason it ever did, and based on the teardown here, the main obstacle for compliance is that the battery is behind a membrane that would need to be destroyed. A replaceable fastener that would allow it to be vertically extracted, for example, would allow for cheap compliance. If Apple got their shit together and got a waterproof rating, I think they could actually claim compliance without doing anything else – it looks like the battery is already replaceable in a workshop environment (someone’s done it here) and you can still do that.

                  (But do note that I’m basing this off pictures, I never had a pair of AirPods – frankly I never understood their appeal)

            3. 4

              Sure, Apple is capable of doing it. And unlike my PinePhone the result would be a working phone ;)

              But the issue isn’t a technical one. It’s the costs involved in finding those creative ways, to hiring people to ensure compliance, and especially to new entrants to the field.

              It’s demonstrably untrue that the costs never materialise. Speak to business owners about the cost of regulatory compliance sometime. Red tape is expensive.

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                What is the alternative?

                Those companies are clearly engaging in anti-consumer behavior, actively trying to stop right to repair and more.

                The industry demonstrated to be incapable of self-regulating, so I think it’s about time to force their hand.

                This law can be read in its entirety in a few minutes, it’s reasonable and to the point.

                1. 5

                  What is the alternative?

                  Is that a trick question? The alternative is not regulating, and it’s delivered absolutely stunning results so far. Again: airgapped 8 bit desk toys to pocket supercomputers with pervasive Internet in a generation.

                  Edited to add: and this isn’t a new problem they’re dealing with; Apple has been pulling various customer-hostile shit moves since Jobs’ influence outgrew Woz’s:

                  But once again, Steve Jobs objected, because he didn’t like the idea of customers mucking with the innards of their computer. He would also rather have them buy a new 512K Mac instead of them buying more RAM from a third-party.

                  (from https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Diagnostic_Port.txt )

                  Edited to add, again: I mean this without snark, coming from a country (Australia) that despite its larrikin reuptation is astoundingly fond of red tape, regulation, conformity, and conservatism. But I think there’s a reason Silicon Valley is in America, and not either Europe or Australasia, and it’s cultural as much as it’s economic.

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                    Did a standard electric plug also stiffle innovation? Or mandates about a car having to fit on a lane?

                    Laws are the most important safety lines we have, otherwise companies would just optimize for profit in malicious ways.

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                    But I think there’s a reason Silicon Valley is in America, and not either Europe or Australasia, and it’s cultural as much as it’s economic.

                    The reason is literally buckets and buckets of money from defense spending. You should already know this.

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                      It’s not just that. Lots of people have studied this and one of the key reasons is that the USA has a large set of people with disposable income that all speaks the same language. There was a huge amount of tech innovation in the UK in the ’80s and ’90s (contemporaries of Apple, Microsoft, and so on) but very few companies made it to international success because their US competitors could sell to a market (at least) five times the size before they needed to deal with export rules or localisation. Most of these companies either went under because US companies had larger economies of scale or were bought by US companies.

                      The EU has a larger middle class than the USA now, I believe, but they speak over a dozen languages and expect products to be translated into their own locales. A French company doesn’t have to deal with export regulations to sell in Germany, but they do need to make sure that they translate everything (including things like changing decimal separators). And then, if they want to sell in Spain, they need to do all of that again. This might change in the next decade, since LLM-driven machine translation is starting to be actually usable (helped for the EU by the fact that the EU Parliament proceedings are professionally translated into all member states’ languages, giving a fantastic training corpus).

                      The thing that should worry American Exceptionalists is that the middle class in China is now about as large as the population of America and they all read the same language. A Chinese company has a much bigger advantage than a US company in this regard. They can sell to at least twice as many people with disposable income without dealing with export rules or localisation than a US company.

                    2. 2

                      That’s one of the reasons but it’s clearly not sufficient. Other countries have spent up on taxpayer’s purse and not spawned a silicon valley of their own.

                      1. 1

                        “Spent up”? At anything near the level of the USA??

                        1. 1

                          Yeah.

                          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_computing_in_the_Soviet_Union

                          But they failed basically because of the Economic Calculation Problem - even with good funding and smart people, they couldn’t manufacture worth a damn.

                          https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_calculation_problem

                          Money - wherever it comes from - is an obvious prerequisite. But it’s not sufficient - you need a (somewhat at least) free economy and a consequently functional manufacturing capacity. And a culture that rewards, not kills or jails, intellectual independence.

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                    But I think there’s a reason Silicon Valley is in America

                    The Wikipedia cites a number of factors:

                    Silicon Valley was born through the intersection of several contributing factors, including a skilled science research base housed in area universities, plentiful venture capital, permissive government regulation, and steady U.S. Department of Defense spending.

                    Government spending tends to help with these kind of things. As it did for the foundations of the Internet itself. Attributing most of the progress we had so far to lack of regulation is… unwarranted at best.

                    Besides, it’s not like anyone is advocating we go back in time and regulate the industry to prevent current problems without current insight. We have specific problems now that we could easily regulate without imposing too much a cost on manufacturers: there’s a battery? It must be replaceable by the end user. Device pairing prevents third party repairs? Just ban it. Or maybe keep it, but provide the tools to re-pair any new component. They’re using proprietary connectors? Consider standardising it all to USB-C or similar. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, but at least this way we don’t over-regulate.

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                      Beware comrade, folks will come here to make a slippery slope arguments about how requiring battery replacements & other minor guard rails towards consumer-forward, e-waste-reducing design will lead to the regulation of everything & fully stifle all technological progress.

                      What I’d be more concerned is how those cabals weaponize the legislation in their favor by setting and/or creating the standards. I look at how the EU is saying all these chat apps need to quit that proprietary, non-cross-chatter behavior. Instead of reverting their code to the XMPP of yore, which is controlled by a third-party committee/community, that many of their chats were were designed after, they want to create a new standard together & will likely find a way to hit the minimum legal requirements while still keeping a majority of their service within the garden or only allow other big corporate players to adapt/use their protocol with a 2000-page specification with bugs, inconsistencies, & unspecified behavior.

                    2. 3

                      ’s a game of whack-a-mole, but at least this way we don’t over-regulate.

                      Whack enough moles and over-regulation is exactly what you get - a smothering weight of decades of incremental regulation that no-one fully comprehends.

                      One of the reason the tech industry can move as fast as it does is that it hasn’t yet had the time to accumulate this - or the endless procession of grifting consultants and unions that burden other industries.

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                        It isn’t exactly what you get. You’re not here complaining about the fact that your mobile phone electrocutes you or gives you RF burns of stops your TV reception - because you don’t realise that there is already lots of regulation from which you benefit. This is just a bit more, not the straw-man binary you’re making out it to be.

                      2. 4

                        I am curious however: do you see the current situation as tenable? You mention above that there are anti-consumerist practices and the like, but also express concern that regulation will quickly slippery slope away, but I am curious if you think the current system where there is more and more lock in both on the web and in devices can be pried back from those parties?

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                    The alternative is not regulating, and it’s delivered absolutely stunning results so far.

                    Why are those results stunning? Is there any reason to think that those improvements were difficult in the first place?

                    There are a lot of economic incentives, and it was a new field of science application, that has benefited from so many other fields exploding at the same time.

                    It’s definitely not enough to attribute those results to the lack of regulation. The “utility function” might have just been especially ripe for optimization in that specific local area, with or without regulations.

                    Now, we see monopolies appearing again and associated anti-consumer decisions to the benefit of the bigger players. This situation is well-known – tragedy of the common situations in markets is never fixed by the players themselves.

                    Your alternative of not doing anything hinges on the hope that your ideologically biased opinion won’t clash with reality. It’s naive to believe corporations not to attempt to maximize their profits when they have an opportunity.

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                    Well, I guess I am wrong then, but I prefer slower progress, slower computers, and generating less waste than just letting companies do all they want.

                  6. 7

                    Is that a trick question? The alternative is not regulating, and it’s delivered absolutely stunning results so far. Again: airgapped 8 bit desk toys to pocket supercomputers with pervasive Internet in a generation.

                    This did not happen without regulation. The FCC exists for instance. All of the actual technological development was funded by the government, if not conducted directly by government agencies.

                  7. 5

                    As a customer, I react to this by never voluntarily buying Apple products. And I did buy a Framework laptop when it first became available, which I still use. Regulations that help entrench Apple and make it harder for new companies like Framework to get started are bad for me and what I care about with consumer technology (note that Framework started in the US, rather than the EU, and that in general Europeans immigrate to the US to start technology companies rather than Americans immigrating to the EU to do the same).

                    1. 3

                      As a customer, I react to this by never voluntarily buying Apple products.

                      Which is reasonable. Earlier albertorestifo spoke about legislation “forc[ing] their hand” which is a fair summary - it’s the use of force instead of voluntary association.

                      (Although I’d argue that anti-circumvention laws, etc. prescribing what owners can’t do with their devices is equally wrong, and should also not be a thing).

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                        The problem with voluntary association is that most people don’t know what they’re associating with when they buy a new product. Or they think short term, only to cry later when repairing their device is more expensive than buying a new one.

                        There’s a similar tension at play with GitHub’s rollout of mandatory 2FA: it really annoys me, adding TOTP didn’t improve my security by one iota (I already use KeepassXC), but many people do use insecure passwords, and you can’t tell by looking at their code. (In this analogy GitHub plays the role of the regulator.)

                        1. 1

                          The problem with voluntary association is that most people don’t know what they’re associating with when they buy a new product.

                          I mean, you’re not wrong. But don’t you feel like the solution isn’t to infantilise people by treating them like they’re incapable of knowing?

                          For what it’s worth I fully support legislation enforcing “plain $LANGUAGE” contracts. Fraud is a species of violence; people should understand what they’re signing.

                          But by the same token, if people don’t care to research the repair costs of their devices before buying them … why is that a problem that requires legislation?

                          1. 3

                            But don’t you feel like the solution isn’t to infantilise people by treating them like they’re incapable of knowing?

                            They’re not, if we give them access to the information, and there are alternatives. If all the major phone manufacturers produce locked down phones with impossible to swap components (pairing), that are supported only for 1 year, what’s people to do? If people have no idea how secure the authentication of someone is on GitHub, how can they make an informed decision about security?

                            But by the same token, if people don’t care to research the repair costs of their devices before buying them

                            When important stuff like that is prominently displayed on the package, it does influence purchase decisions. So people do care. But more importantly, a bad score on that front makes manufacturers look bad enough that they would quickly change course and sell stuff that’s easier to repair, effectively giving people more choice. So yeah, a bit of legislation is warranted in my opinion.

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                But the issue isn’t a technical one. It’s the costs involved in finding those creative ways, to hiring people to ensure compliance, and especially to new entrants to the field.

                I’m not a business owner in this field but I did work at the engineering (and then product management, for my sins) end of it for years. I can tell you that, at least back in 2016, when I last did any kind of electronics design:

                1. Ensuring “additional” compliance is often a one-time cost. As an EE, you’re supposed to know these things and keep up with them, you don’t come up with a schematic like they taught you in school twenty years ago and hand it over to a compliance consultant to make it deployable today. If there’s a major regulatory change you maybe have to hire a consultant once. More often than not you already have one or more compliance consultants on your payroll, who know their way around these regulations long before they’re ratified (there’s a long adoption process), so it doesn’t really involve huge costs. The additional compliance testing required in this bill is pretty slim and much of it is on the mechanical side. That is definitely not one-time but trivially self-certifiable, and much of the testing time will likely be cut by having some of it done on the supplier end (for displays, case materials etc.) – where this kind of testing is already done, on a much wider scale and with a lot more parameters, so most partners will likely cover it cost-free 12 months from now (and in the next couple of weeks if you hurry), and in the meantime, they’ll do it for a nominal “not in the statement of work” fee that, unless you’re just rebranding OEM products, is already present on a dozen other requirements, too.
                2. An embarrassing proportion of my job consisted not of finding creative ways to fit a removable battery, but in finding creative ways to keep a fixed battery in place while still ensuring adequate cooling and the like, and then in finding even more creative ways to design (and figure out the technological flow, help write the servicing manual, and help estimate logistics for) a device that had to be both testable and impossible to take apart. Designing and manufacturing unrepairable, logistically-restricted devices is very expensive, too, it’s just easier for companies to hide its costs because the general public doesn’t really understand how electronics are manufactured and what you have to do to get them to a shop near them.
                3. The intrinsic difficulty of coming up with a good design isn’t a major barrier of entry for new players any more than it is for anyone. Rather, most of them can’t materialise radically better designs because they don’t have access to good suppliers and good manufacturing facilities – they lack contacts, and established suppliers and manufacturers are squirrely about working with them because they aren’t going to waste time on companies that are here today and they’re gone tomorrow. When I worked on regulated designs (e.g. medical) that had long-term support demands, that actually oiled some squeaky doors on the supply side, as third-party suppliers are equally happy selling parts to manufacturers or authorised servicing partners.

                Execs will throw their hands in the air and declare anything super-expensive, especially if it requires them to put managers to work. They aren’t always wrong but in this particular case IMHO they are. The additional design-time costs this bill imposes are trivial, and at least some of them can be offset by costs you save elsewhere on the manufacturing chain. Also, well-ran marketing and logistics departments can turn many of its extra requirements into real opportunities.

            4. 1

              I don’t want any of these things more than I want improved waterproofing. Why should every EU citizen that has the same priorities I do not be able to buy a the device they want?

              1. 4

                Then I have some very good news for you!

                The law doesn’t prohibit waterproof devices. In fact, it makes clear expections for such cases. It mandates that the battery must be repleaceable without specialized tools and by any competent shop, it doesn’t mandate a user-replaceable battery.

          2. 16

            And just to be clear: the unintended consequences here include the retardation of an industry that’s delivered us progress from 8 bit micros with 64KiB RAM to pervasive Internet and pocket supercomputers in one generation.

            I don’t want to defend the bill (I’m skeptical of politicians making decisions on… just about anything, given how they operate) but I don’t think recourse to history is entirely justified in this case.

            For one thing, good repairability and support for most of (if not throughout) a device’s useful lifetime was the norm for a good part of that period, and it wasn’t a hardware-only deal. Windows 3.1 was supported until 2001, almost twice longer than the bill demands. NT 3.1 was supported for seven years, and Windows 95 was supported for 6. IRIX versions were supported for 5 (or 7?) years, IIRC.

            For another, the current state of affairs is the exact opposite of what deregulation was supposed to achieve, so I find it equally indefensible on (de)regulatory grounds alone. Manufacturers are increasingly convincing users to upgrade not by delivering better and more capable products, but by making them both less durable and harder to repair, and by restricting access to security updates. Instead of allowing businesses to focus on their customers’ needs rather than state-mandated demands, it’s allowing businesses to compensate their inability to meet customer expectations (in terms of device lifetime and justified update threshold) by delivering worse designs.

            I’m not against that on principle but I’m also not a fan of footing the bill for all the extra waste collection effort and all the health hazards that generates. Private companies should be more than well aware that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

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              For one thing, good repairability and support for most of (if not throughout) a device’s useful lifetime was the norm for a good part of that period

              Only for a small minority of popular, successful, products. Buying an “orphan” was a very real concern for many years during the microcomputer revolution, and almost every time there were “seismic shifts” in the industry.

              For another, the current state of affairs is the exact opposite of what deregulation was supposed to achieve

              Deregulation is the “ground state”.

              It’s not supposed to achieve anything, in particular - it just represents the state of minimal initiation of force. Companies can’t force customers to not upgrade / repair / tinker with their devices; and customers can’t force companies to design or support their devices in ways they don’t want to.

              Conveniently, it fosters an environment of rapid growth in wealth, capability, and efficiency. Because when companies do what you’re suggesting - nerfing their products to drive revenue - customers go elsewhere.

              Which is why you’ll see the greatest proponents of regulation are the companies themselves, these days. Anti-circumvention laws, censorship laws that are only workable by large companies, Government-mandated software (e.g. Korean banking, Android and iOS only identity apps in Australia) and so forth are regulation aimed against customers.

              So there’s a part of me that thinks companies are reaping what they sowed, here. But two wrongs don’t make a right; the correct answer is to deregulate both ends.

              1. 14

                Only for a small minority of popular, successful, products. Buying an “orphan” was a very real concern for many years during the microcomputer revolution, and almost every time there were “seismic shifts” in the industry.

                Maybe. Most early home computers were expensive. People expected them to last a long time. In the late ’80s, most of the computers that friends of mine owned were several years old and lasted for years. The BBC Model B was introduced in 1981 and was still being sold in the early ‘90s. Schools were gradually phasing them out. Things like the Commodore 64 of Sinclair Spectrum had similar longevity. There were outliers but most of them were from companies that went out of business and so wouldn’t be affected by this kind of regulation.

                It’s not supposed to achieve anything, in particular - it just represents the state of minimal initiation of force. Companies can’t force customers to not upgrade / repair / tinker with their devices; and customers can’t force companies to design or support their devices in ways they don’t want to.

                That’s not really true. It assumes a balance of power that is exactly equal between companies and consumers.

                Companies force people to upgrade by tying in services to the device and then dropping support in the services for older products. No one buys a phone because they want a shiny bit of plastic with a thinking rock inside, they buy a phone to be able to run programs that accomplish specific things. If you can’t safely connect the device to the Internet and it won’t run the latest apps (which are required to connect to specific services) because the OS is out of date, then they need to upgrade the OS. If they can’t upgrade the OS because the vendor doesn’t provide an upgrade and no one else can because they have locked down the bootloader (and / or not documented any of the device interfaces), then consumers have no choice to upgrade.

                Conveniently, it fosters an environment of rapid growth in wealth, capability, and efficiency. Because when companies do what you’re suggesting - nerfing their products to drive revenue - customers go elsewhere.

                Only if there’s another option. Apple controls their app store and so gets a 30% cut of app revenue. This gives them some incentive to support old devices, because they can still make money from them, but they will look carefully at the inflection point where they make more money from upgrades than from sales to older devices. For other vendors, Google makes money from the app store and they don’t[1] and so once a handset has shipped, the vendor has made as much money as they possibly can. If a vendor makes a phone that gets updates longer, then it will cost more. Customers don’t see that at point of sale, so they don’t buy it. I haven’t read the final version of this law, one of the drafts required labelling the support lifetime (which research has shown will have a big impact - it has a surprisingly large impact on purchasing decisions). By moving the baseline up for everyone, companies don’t lose out by being the one vendor to try to do better.

                Economists have studied this kind of market failure for a long time and no one who actually does research in economics (i.e. making predictions and trying to falsify them, not going on talk shows) has seriously proposed deregulation as the solution for decades.

                Economies are complex systems. Even Adam Smith didn’t think that a model with a complete lack of regulation would lead to the best outcomes.

                [1] Some years ago, the Android security team was complaining about the difficulties of support across vendors. I suggested that Google could fix the incentives in their ecosystem by providing a 5% cut of all app sales to the handset maker, conditional on the phone running the latest version of Android. They didn’t want to do that because Google maximising revenue is more important than security for users.

                1. 5

                  Economists have studied this kind of market failure for a long time and no one who actually does research in economics (i.e. making predictions and trying to falsify them, not going on talk shows) has seriously proposed deregulation as the solution for decades.

                  That is remarkably untrue. At least one entire school of economics proposes exactly that.

                  In fact, they dismiss the entire concept of market failure, because markets exist to provide pricing and a means of exchange, nothing more.

                  “Market failure” just means “the market isn’t producing the prices I want”.

                  1. 8

                    Is the school of economics you’re talking about actual experimenters, or are they arm-chair philosophers? I trust they propose what you say they propose, but what actual evidence do they have?

                    I might sound like I’m dismissing an entire scientific discipline, but economics have shown strong signs of being extremely problematic on this front for a long time. One big red flag for instance is the existence of such long lived “schools”, which are a sign of dogma more than they’re a sign of sincere inquiry.

                    In fact, they dismiss the entire concept of market failure, because markets exist to provide pricing and a means of exchange, nothing more.

                    Assuming there’s no major misunderstanding, there’s another red flag right there: markets have a purpose now? Describing what markets do is one thing, but ascribing purpose to them presupposes some sentient entity put them there with intent. Which may very well be true, but then I would ask a historian, not an economist.

                    Now looking at the actual purpose… the second people exchange stuff for a price, there’s a pricing and a means of exchange. Those are the conditions for a market. Turning it around and making them the “purpose” of market is cheating: in effect, this is saying markets can’t fail by definition, which is quite unhelpful.

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                      I might sound like I’m dismissing an entire scientific discipline, but economics have shown strong signs of being extremely problematic on this front for a long time.

                      This is why I specifically said practicing economists who make predictions. If you actually talk to people who do research in this area, you’ll find that they’re a very evidence-driven social science. The people at the top of the field are making falsifiable predictions based on models and refining their models when they’re wrong.

                      Economics is intrinsically linked to politics and philosophy. Economic models are like any other model: they predict what will happen if you change nothing or change something, so that you can see whether that fits with your desired outcomes. This is why it’s so often linked to politics and philosophy: Philosophy and politics define policy goals, economics lets you reason about whether particular actions (or inactions) will help you reach those goals. Mechanics is linked to engineering in the same way. Mechanics tells you whether a set of materials arranged in a particular way will be stable, engineering says ‘okay, we want to build a bridge’ and then uses models from mechanics to determine whether the bridge will fall down. In both cases, measurement errors or invalid assumptions can result in the goals not being met when the models say that they should be and in both cases these lead to refinements of the models.

                      One big red flag for instance is the existence of such long lived “schools”, which are a sign of dogma more than they’re a sign of sincere inquiry.

                      To people working in the field, the schools are just shorthand ways of describing a set of tools that you can use in various contexts.

                      Unfortunately, most of the time you hear about economics, it’s not from economists, it’s from people who play economists on TV. The likes of the Cato and Mises institutes in the article, for example, work exactly the wrong way around: they decide what policies they want to see applied and then try to tweak their models to justify those policies, rather than looking at what goals they want to see achieved and using the models to work out what policies will achieve those goals.

                      I really would recommend talking to economists, they tend to be very interesting people. And they hate the TV economists with a passion that I’ve rarely seen anywhere else.

                      Assuming there’s no major misunderstanding, there’s another red flag right there: markets have a purpose now?

                      Markets absolutely have a purpose. It is always a policy decision whether to allow a market to exist. Markets are a tool that you can use to optimise production to meet demand in various ways. You can avoid markets entirely in a planned economy (but please don’t, the Great Leap Forward or the early days of the USSR give you a good idea of how many people will die if you do). Something that starts as a market can end up not functioning as a market if there’s a significant power imbalance between producers and consumers.

                      Markets are one of the most effective tools that we have for optimising production for requirements. Precisely what they will optimise for depends a lot on the shape of the market and that’s something that you can control with regulation. The EU labelling rules on energy efficiency are a great example here. The EU mandated that white goods carry labels showing the score that they got on energy-efficiency tests. The labelling added information to customer and influenced their purchasing decisions. This created demand for more energy-efficient goods and the market responded by providing them. The eventually regulations banned goods below a certain efficiency rating but it was largely unnecessary because the market adjusted and most things were A rated or above when F ratings were introduced. It worked so well that they had to recalibrate the scale.

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                        Unfortunately, most of the time you hear about economics, it’s not from economists, it’s from people who play economists on TV

                        I can see how such usurpation could distort my view.

                        Markets absolutely have a purpose. It is always a policy decision whether to allow a market to exist.

                        Well… yeah.

                        Precisely what [markets] will optimise for depends a lot on the shape of the market and that’s something that you can control with regulation. The EU labelling rules on energy efficiency are a great example here.

                        I love this example. Plainly shows that often people don’t make the choices they do because they don’t care about such and such criterion, they do so because they just can’t measure the criterion even if they cared. Even a Libertarian should admit that making good purchase decisions requires being well informed.

                        You can avoid markets entirely in a planned economy (but please don’t, the Great Leap Forward or the early days of the USSR give you a good idea of how many people will die if you do).

                        To be honest I do believe some select parts of the economy should be either centrally planned or have a state provider that can serve everyone: roads, trains, water, electricity, schools… Yet at the same time, other sectors probably benefit more from a Libertarian approach. My favourite example is the Internet: the fibre should be installed by public instances (town, county, state…), and bandwidth rented at a flat rate — no discount for bigger volumes. And then you just let private operators rent the bandwidth however they please, and compete among each other. The observed results in the few places in France that followed this plan (mostly rural areas big private providers didn’t want to invest in) was a myriad of operators of all sizes, including for-profit and non-profit ones (recalling what Benjamin Bayart said of the top of my head). This gave people an actual choice, and this diversity inherently makes this corner of the internet less controllable and freer.

                        A Libertarian market on top of a Communist infrastructure. I suspect we can find analogues in many other domains.

                        1. 2

                          My favourite example is the Internet: the fibre should be installed by public instances (town, county, state…), and bandwidth rented at a flat rate — no discount for bigger volumes. And then you just let private operators rent the bandwidth however they please, and compete among each other.

                          This is great initially, but it’s not clear how you pay for upgrades. Presumably 1 Gb/s fibre is fine now, but at some point you’re going to want to migrate everyone to 10 Gb/s or faster, just as you wanted to upgrade from copper to fibre. That’s going to be capital investment. Does it come from general taxation or from revenue raised on the operators? If it’s the former, how do you ensure it’s equitable, if it’s the latter then you’re going to want to amortise the cost across a decade and so pricing sufficiently that you can both maintain the current infrastructure and save enough to upgrade to as-yet-unknown future technology can be tricky.

                          The problem with private ownership of utilities is that it encourages rent seeking and cutting costs at the expense of service and capital investment. The problem with public ownership is that it’s hard to incentivise efficiency improvements. It’s important to understand the failure modes of both options and ideally design hybrids that avoid the worst problems of both. The problem is that most politicians start with ‘privatisation is good’ or ‘privatisation is bad’ as an ideological view and not ‘good service, without discrimination, at an affordable price is good’ and then try to figure out how to achieve it.

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                            That’s going to be capital investment.

                            Yes, that’s the point: the most capitalistic something is (extreme example: nuclear power plants), the more difficult private enterprises will want to invest in it, and if they do, the more they will want to extract rent from their investment. There’s also the thing about fibre (or copper) being naturally monopolistic, at least if you have a mind to conserve resources and not duplicate lines all over the place.

                            So there is a point where people must want the thing badly enough that the town/county/state does the investment itself. As it does for any public infrastructure.

                            Not saying this would be easy though. The difficulties you foresee are spot on.

                            The problem with public ownership is that it’s hard to incentivise efficiency improvements.

                            Ah, I see. Part of this can be solved by making sure the public part is stable, and the private part easy to invest on. For instance, we need boxes and transmitters and whatnot to lighten up the fibre. I speculate that those boxes are more liable to be improved than the fibre itself, so perhaps we could give them to private interests. But this is reaching the limits of my knowledge of the subject, I’m not informed enough to have an opinion on where the public/private frontier is best placed.

                            The problem is that most politicians start with ‘privatisation is good’ or ‘privatisation is bad’ as an ideological view and not ‘good service, without discrimination, at an affordable price is good’ and then try to figure out how to achieve it.

                            Good point, I’ll keep that in mind.

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                              Yes, that’s the point: the most capitalistic something is (extreme example: nuclear power plants), the more difficult private enterprises will want to invest in it, and if they do, the more they will want to extract rent from their investment

                              There’s a lot of nuance here. Private enterprise is quite good at high-risk investments in general (nuclear power less so because it’s regulated such that you can’t just go bankrupt and walk away, for good reasons). A lot of interesting infrastructure were possible because private investors gambled and a lot of them lost a big pile of money. For example, the Iridium satellite phone network cost a lot to deliver and did not recoup costs. The initial investors lost money, but then the infrastructure was for sale at a bargain price and so it ended up being operated successfully. It’s not clear to me how public investment could have matched that (without just throwing away tax payers’ money).

                              This was the idea behind some of the public-private partnership things that the UK government pushed in the ‘90s (which often didn’t work, you can read a lot of detailed analyses of why not if you search for them): you allow the private sector to take the risk and they get a chunk of the rewards if the risk pays off but the public sector doesn’t lose out if the risk fails. For example, you get a private company to build a building that you will lease from them. They pay all of the costs. If you don’t need the building in five years time then it’s their responsibility to find another tenant. If the building needs unexpected repairs, they pay for them. If everything goes according to plan, you pay a bit more for the building space than if you’d built, owned, and operated it yourself. And you open it out to competitive bids, so if someone can deliver at a lower cost than you could, you save money.

                              Some procurement processes have added variations on this where the contract goes to the second lowest bidder or they the winner gets paid what the next-lowest bidder asked for. The former disincentivises stupidly low bids (if you’re lower than everyone else, you don’t win), the latter ensures that you get paid as much as someone else thought they could deliver, reducing risk to the buyer. There are a lot of variations on this that are differently effective and some economists have put a lot of effort into studying them. Their insights, sadly, are rarely used.

                              So there is a point where people must want the thing badly enough that the town/county/state does the investment itself. As it does for any public infrastructure.

                              The dangerous potholes throughout UK roads might warn you that this doesn’t always work.

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                                A lot of interesting infrastructure were possible because private investors gambled and a lot of them lost a big pile of money.

                                Good point. We need to make sure that these gambles stay gambles, and not, say, save the people who made the bad choice. Save their company perhaps, but seize it in the process. We don’t want to share losses while keeping profits private — which is what happens more often than I’d like.

                                This was the idea behind some of the public-private partnership things that the UK government pushed in the ‘90s (which often didn’t work, you can read a lot of detailed analyses of why not if you search for them)

                                The intent is good indeed, and I do have an example of a failure in mind: water management in France. Much of it is under a private-public partnership, with Veolia I believe, and… well there are a lot of leaks, a crapton of water is wasted (up to 25% in some of the worst cases), and Veolia seems to be making little more than a token effort to fix the damn leaks. Probably because they don’t really pay for the loss.

                                The dangerous potholes throughout UK roads might warn you that this doesn’t always work.

                                It’s often a matter oh how much money you want to put in. Public French roads are quite good, even if we exclude the super highways (those are mostly privatised, and I reckon in even better shape). Still, point taken.

                      2. 1

                        The EU labelling rules on energy efficiency are a great example here. The EU mandated that white goods carry labels showing the score that they got on energy-efficiency tests. The labelling added information to customer and influenced their purchasing decisions. This created demand for more energy-efficient goods and the market responded by providing them.

                        Were they actually successful, or did they only decrease operating energy use? You can make a device that uses less power because it lasts half as long before it breaks, but then you have to spend twice as much power manufacturing the things because they only last half as long.

                        I don’t disagree with your comment, by the way. Although, part of the problem with planned economies was that they just didn’t have the processing power to manage the entire economy; modern computers might make a significant difference, the only way to really find out would be to set up a Great Leap Forward in the 21st century.

                        1. 3

                          Were they actually successful, or did they only decrease operating energy use?

                          I may be misunderstanding your question but energy ratings aren’t based on energy consumption across the device’s entire lifetime, they’re based on energy consumption over a cycle of operation of limited duration, or a set of cycles of operations of limited duration (e.g. a number of hours of functioning at peak luminance for displays, a washing-drying cycle for washer-driers etc.). You can’t get a better rating by making a device that lasts half as long.

                          Energy ratings and device lifetimes aren’t generally linked by any causal relation. There are studies that suggest the average lifetime for (at least some categories of) household appliances have been decreasing in the last decades, but they show about the same thing regardless of jurisdiction (i.e. even those without labeling or energy efficiency rules, or with different labeling rules) and it’s a trend that started prior to energy efficiency labeling legislation in the EU.

                          1. 2

                            You can’t get a better rating by making a device that lasts half as long.

                            Not directly, but you can e.g. make moving parts lighter/thinner, so they take less power to move but break sooner as a result of them being thinner.

                            but they show about the same thing regardless of jurisdiction (i.e. even those without labeling or energy efficiency rules, or with different labeling rules) and it’s a trend that started prior to energy efficiency labeling legislation in the EU.

                            That’s good to hear.

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                              Not directly, but you can e.g. make moving parts lighter/thinner, so they take less power to move but break sooner as a result of them being thinner.

                              For household appliances, energy ratings are given based on performance under full rated capacities. Moving parts account for a tiny fraction of that in washing machines and washer-driers, and for a very small proportion of the total operating power in dishwashers and refrigerators (and obviously no proportion for electronic displays and lighting sources). They’re also given based on measurements of KWh/cycle rounded to three decimal places.

                              I’m not saying making some parts lighter doesn’t have an effect for some of the appliances that get energy ratings, but that effect is so close to the rounding error that I doubt anyone is going to risk their warranty figures for it. Lighter parts aren’t necessarily less durable, so if someone’s trying to get a desired rating by lightening the nominal load, they can usually get the same MTTF with slightly better materials, and they’ll gladly swallow some (often all) of the upfront cost just to avoid dealing with added uncertainty of warranty stocks.

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                    Much like orthodox Marxism-Leninism, the Austrian School describes economics by how it should be, not how it actually is.

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                Only for a small minority of popular, successful, products. Buying an “orphan” was a very real concern for many years during the microcomputer revolution, and almost every time there were “seismic shifts” in the industry.

                The major problem with orphans was lack of access to proprietary parts – they were otherwise very repairable. The few manufacturers that can afford proprietary parts today (e.g. Apple) aren’t exactly at risk of going under, which is why that fear is all but gone today.

                I have like half a dozen orphan boxes in my collection. Some of them were never sold on Western markets, I’m talking things like devices sold only on the Japanese market for a few years or Soviet ZX Spectrum clones. All of them are repairable even today, some of them even with original parts (except, of course, for the proprietary ones, which aren’t manufactured anymore so you can only get them from existing stocks, or use clone parts). It’s pretty ridiculous that I can repair thirty year-old hardware just fine but if my Macbook croaks, I’m good for a new one, and not because I don’t have (access to) equipment but because I can’t get the parts, and not because they’re not manufactured anymore but because no one will sell them to me.

                It’s not supposed to achieve anything, in particular - it just represents the state of minimal initiation of force. Companies can’t force customers to not upgrade / repair / tinker with their devices; and customers can’t force companies to design or support their devices in ways they don’t want to.

                Deregulation was certainly meant to achieve a lot of things in particular. Not just general outcomes, like a more competitive landscape and the like – every major piece of deregulatory legilslation has had concrete goals that it sought to achieve. Most of them actually achieved them in the short run – it was conserving these achievements that turned out to be more problematic.

                As for companies not being able to force customers not to upgrade, repair or tinker with their devices, that is really not true. Companies absolutely can and do force customers to not upgrade or repair their devices. For example, they regularly use exclusive supply deals to ensure that customers can’t get the parts they need for it, which they can do without leveraging any government-mandated regulation.

                Some of their means are regulation-based – e.g. they take them customers or third-parties to court (see e.g. Apple. For most devices, tinkering with them in unsupported ways is against the ToS, too, and while there’s always doubt on how much of that is legally enforceable in each jurisdiction out there, it still carries legal risk, in addition to the weight of force in jurisdictions where such provisions have actually been enforced.

                This is very far from a state of minimal initiation of force. It’s a state of minimal initiation of force on the customer end, sure – customers have little financial power (both individually and in numbers, given how expensive organisation is), so in the absence of regulation they can leverage, they have no force to initiate. But companies have considerable resources of force at their disposal.

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        It’s not like there was heavy progress the last 10 years on smartphone hardware.

        Since 2015 every smartphone is the same as the previous model, with a slightly better camera and a better chip. I don’t see how the regulation is making progress more difficult. IMHO it will drive innovation, phones will have to be made more durable.

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          And, for most consumers, the better camera is the only thing that they notice. An iPhone 8 is still massively overpowered for what a huge number of consumers need, and it was released five years ago. If anything, I think five years is far too short a time to demand support.

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            Until that user wants to play a mobile game–in which like PC hardware specs were propelled by gaming, so is the mobile market driven by games which I believe is now the most dominant gaming platform.

            1. 8

              I don’t think the games are really that CPU / GPU intensive. It’s definitely the dominant gaming platform, but the best selling games are things like Candy Crush (which I admit to having spent far too much time playing). I just upgraded my 2015 iPad Pro and it was fine for all of the games that I tried from the app store (including the ones included with Netflix and a number of the top-ten ones). The only thing it struggled with was the Apple News app, which seems to want to preload vast numbers of articles and so ran out of memory (it had only 2 GiB - the iPhone version seems not to have this problem).

              The iPhone 8 (five years old) has an SoC that’s two generations newer than my old iPad, has more than twice as much L2 cache, two high-performance cores that are faster than the two cores in mine (plus four energy-efficient cores, so games can have 100% use of the high-perf ones), and a much more powerful GPU (Apple in-house design replacing a licensed PowerVR one in my device). Anything that runs on my old iPad will barely warm up the CPU/GPU on an iPhone 8.

              1. 3

                I don’t think the games are really that CPU / GPU intensive

                But a lot are intensive & enthusiasts often prefer it. But still those time-waster types and e-sports tend to run on potatoes to grab the largest audience.

                Anecdotally, I recently was reunited with my OnePlus 1 (2014) running Lineage OS, & it was choppy at just about everything (this was using the apps from when I last used it (2017) in airplane mode so not just contemporary bloat) especially loading map tiles on OSM. I tried Ubuntu Touch on it this year (2023) (listed as great support) & was still laggy enough that I’d prefer not to use it as it couldn’t handle maps well. But even if not performance bottle-necked, efficiency is certainly better (highly doubt it’d save more energy than the cost of just keeping an old device, but still).

                1. 4

                  My OnePlus 5T had an unfortunate encounter with a washing machine and tumble dryer, so now the cellular interface doesn’t work (everything else does). The 5T replaced a first-gen Moto G (which was working fine except that the external speaker didn’t work so I couldn’t hear it ring. I considered that a feature, but others disagreed). The Moto G was slow by the end. Drawing maps took a while, for example. The 5T was fine and I’d still be using it if I hadn’t thrown it in the wash. It has an 8-core CPU, 8 GiB of RAM, and an Adreno 540 GPU - that’s pretty good in comparison to the laptop that I was using until very recently.

                  I replaced the 5T with a 9 Pro. I honestly can’t tell the difference in performance for anything that I do. The 9 Pro is 4 years newer and doesn’t feel any faster for any of the apps or games that I run (and I used it a reasonable amount for work, with Teams, Word, and PowerPoint, which are not exactly light apps on any platform). Apparently the GPU is faster and the CPU has some faster cores but I rarely see anything that suggests that they’re heavily loaded.

                2. 2

                  Original comment mentioned iPhone 8 specifically. Android situation is completely different.

                  Apple had a significant performance lead for a while. Qualcomm just doesn’t seem to be interested in making high-end chips. They just keep promising that their next-year flagship will be almost as fast as Apple’s previous-year baseline. Additionally there are tons of budget Mediatek Androids that are awfully underpowered even when new.

                  1. 1

                    Flagship Qualcomm chips for Android chips been fine for years & more than competitive once you factor in cost. I would doubt anyone is buying into either platform purely based on performance numbers anyhow versus ecosystem and/or wanting hardware options not offered by one or the other.

                    1. 1

                      competitive once you factor in cost

                      That’s what I’m saying — Qualcomm goes for large volumes of mid-range chips, and does not have products on the high end. They aren’t even trying.

                      BTW, I’m flabbergasted that Apple put M1 in iPads. What a waste of a powerful chip on baby software.

                      1. 1

                        They aren’t even trying.

                        Uh, what about their series 8xx SoC’s? On paper they’re comparable to Apple’s A-series, it’s the software that usually is worse.

                          1. 1

                            Still a massacre.

                            Yeah, true, I could have checked myself. Gap is even bigger right now than two years ago.

                            Q is in self-inflicted rut enabled by their CDMA stranglehold. Samsung is even further behind because their culture doesn’t let them execute.

                            https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/iPhone-14-Geekbench-5-single-Android-980x735.jpeg

                            https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/iPhone-14-Geekbench-Multi-Android-980x735.jpeg

                            1. 1

                              Those are some cherry-picked comparisons. Apple release on a different cadence. You check right now, & S23 beats up on it as do most flagship now. If you blur the timing, it’s all about the same.

                      2. 1

                        It would cost them more to develop and commission to fabrication of a more “appropriate” chip.

                      3. 1

                        The high-end Qualcomm is fine. https://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?idPhone1=12082&idPhone3=11861&idPhone2=11521#diff- (may require viewing as a desktop site to see 3 columns)

                        With phones of the same tier released before & after you can see benchmarks are all close as is battery life. Features are wildly different tho since Android can offer a range of different hardware.

                3. 2

                  efficiency is certainly better (highly doubt it’d save more energy than the cost of just keeping an old device, but still).

                  It doesn’t for laptops[1], so I doubt it would for smartphones either.

                  [1] https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2020/12/how-and-why-i-stopped-buying-new-laptops.html

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            I think you’re really discounting the experiences of consumers to say they don’t notice the UI and UX changes made possible on the Android platform by improvements in hardware capabilities.

            1. 4

              I notice that you’re not naming any. Elsewhere in the thread, I pointed out that I can’t tell the difference between a OnePlus 5T and a 9 Pro, in spite of them being years apart in releases. They can run the same version of Android and the UIs seem identical to me.

              1. 2

                I didn’t think I had to. Android 9, 10, 11, 12 have distinct visual styles, and between vendors this distinction can further - this may be less apparent on OnePlus as they use their own OxygenOS (AOSP upstream ofc) (or at least, used to), but consumers notice even if they can’t clearly relate what they’ve noticed.

                1. 4

                  I’m using LimeageOS and both phones are running updated versions of the OS. Each version has made the settings app more awful but I can’t point to anything that’s a better UI or anything that requires newer hardware. Rendering the UI barely wakes up the GPU on the older phone. So what is new, better, and is enabled by newer hardware?

                  1. 1

                    I can’t argue either way for “better”, I’m not the market. Newer hardware generally has better capability for graphics processing, leading to more reactive displays at higher refresh rates, and enabling compositing settings and features that otherwise wouldn’t run at an acceptable frame rate.

                    LineageOS is an AOSP build specifically designed to run fast and support legacy hardware, and is designed to look the same on all that hardware. It’s not a fair comparison to what people like to see with smartphone interfaces and launchers etc.

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                      I can’t argue either way for “better”, I’m not the market. Newer hardware generally has better capability for graphics processing, leading to more reactive displays at higher refresh rates, and enabling compositing settings and features that otherwise wouldn’t run at an acceptable frame rate.

                      So please name one of them. A 2017 phone can happily run a 1080p display at a fast enough refresh that I’ve no idea what it is because it’s faster than my eyes can detect, with a full compositing UI. Mobile GPUs have been fast enough to composite every UI element from a separate texture, running complex pixel shaders on them, for ten years. OS X started doing this on laptops over 15 years ago, with integrated Intel graphics cards that are positively anaemic in comparison to anything in a vaguely recent phone. Android has provided a compositing UI toolkit from day one. Flutter, with its 60FPS default, runs very happily on a 2017 phone.

                      LineageOS is an AOSP build specifically designed to run fast and support legacy hardware, and is designed to look the same on all that hardware. It’s not a fair comparison to what people like to see with smartphone interfaces and launchers etc.

                      If it helps, I’m actually using the Microsoft launcher on both devices. But, again, you’re claiming that there are super magic UI features that are enabled by new hardware without saying what they are.

        2. 4

          IMHO it will drive innovation

          All innovation isn’t equal. Innovation that isn’t wanted by customers or their suppliers is malinvestment - a waste of human capacity, wealth, and time.

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            Innovation that isn’t wanted by customers or their suppliers is malinvestment - a waste of human capacity, wealth, and time.

            What makes you think that this innovation is not wanted by customers?

            There is innovation that is wanted by customers, but manufacturers don’t provide it because it goes against their interest. I think it’s a lie invisible-hand-believers tell themselves when claiming that customers have a choice between a fixable phone and a glued-phone with an appstore. Of course customers will chose the glued-phone with an app store, because they want a usable phone first. But this doesn’t mean they don’t want a fixable phone, it means that they were given a Hobson’s choice

            1. 5

              but manufacturers don’t provide it because it goes against their interest.

              The light-bulb cartel is the single worst example you could give; incandescent light-bulbs are dirt-cheap to replace and burning them hotter ends up improving the quality of their light (i.e. color) dramatically, while saving more in reduced power bills than they cost from shorter lifetimes. This 30min video by Technology Connections covers the point really well.

            2. 1

              What makes you think that this innovation is not wanted by customers?

              Okay, that was sloppy of me.

              “Not wanted more than any of the other features on offer.”

              “Not wanted enough to motivate serious investment in a competitor.”

              That last is most telling.

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        This cynical view is unwarranted in the case of EU, which so far is doing pretty well avoiding regulatory capture.

        EU has a history of actually forcing companies to innovate in important areas that they themselves wouldn’t want to, like energy efficiency and ecological impact. And their regulations are generally set to start with realistic requirements, and are tightened gradually.

        Not everything will sort itself out with consumers voting with their wallets. Sometimes degenerate behaviors (like vendor lock-in, planned obsolescence, DRM, spyware, bricking hardware when subscription for it expires) universally benefit companies, so all choices suck in one way or another. There are markets with high barriers to entry, especially in high-end electronics, and have rent-seeking incumbents that work for their shareholders’ interests, not consumers.

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        Ecodesign worked out wonderfully for vacuum cleaners, but that’s an appliance that hasn’t meaningfully changed since the 1930s. (You could argue that stick vacuum cleaners are different, but ecodesign certainly didn’t prevent them from entering the market)

        The smartphone market has obviously been stagnating for a while, so it’ll be interesting to see if ecodesign can shake it up.

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          Ecodesign worked out wonderfully for vacuum cleaners, but that’s an appliance that hasn’t meaningfully changed since the 1930s

          I strongly disagree here. They’ve changed massively since the ’90s. Walking around a vacuum cleaner shop in the ’90s, you had two choices of core designs. The vast majority had a bag that doubled as an air filter, pulling air through the bag and catching dust on the way. This is more or less the ’30s design (though those often had separate filters - there were quite a lot of refinements in the ’50s and ’60s - in the ’30s they were still selling ones that required a central compressor in the basement with pneumatic tubes that you plugged the vacuum cleaner into in each room).

          Now, if you buy a vacuum cleaner, most of them use centrifugal airflow to precipitate heavy dust and hair, along with filters to catch the finer dust. Aside from the fact that both move air using electric motors, this is a totally different design to the ’30s models and to most of the early to mid ’90s models.

          More recently, cheap and high-density lithium ion batteries have made cordless vacuums actually useful. These have been around since the ‘90s but they were pointless handheld things that barely functioned as a dustpan and brush replacement. Now they’re able to replace mains-powered ones for a lot of uses.

          Oh, and that’s not even counting the various robot ones that can bounce around the floor unaided. These, ironically, are the ones whose vacuum-cleaner parts look the most like the ’30s design.

          1. 12

            Just to add to that, the efficiency of most electrical home appliances has improved massively since the early ‘90s. With a few exceptions, like things based on resistive heating, which can’t improve much because of physics (but even some of those got replaced by devices with alternative heating methods) contemporary devices are a lot better in terms of energy efficiency. A lot of effort went into that, not only on the electrical end, but also on the mechanical end – vacuum cleaners today may look a lot like the ones in the 1930s but inside, from materials to filters, they’re very different. If you handed a contemporary vacuum cleaner to a service technician from the 1940s they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

            Ironically enough, direct consumer demand has been a relatively modest driver of ecodesign, too – most consumers can’t and shouldn’t be expected to read power consumption graphs, the impact of one better device is spread across at least a two months’ worth of energy bills, and the impact of better electrical filtering trickles down onto consumers, so they’re not immediately aware of it. But they do know to look for energy classes or green markings or whatever.

            1. 13

              But they do know to look for energy classes or green markings or whatever.

              The eco labelling for white goods was one of the inspirations for this law because it’s worked amazingly well. When it was first introduced, most devices were in the B-C classification or worse. It turned out that these were a very good nudge for consumers and people were willing to pay noticeably more for higher-rated devices, to the point that it became impossible to sell anything with less than an A rating. They were forced to recalibrate the scheme a year or two ago because most things were A+ or A++ rated.

              It turns out that markets work very well if customers have choice and sufficient information to make an informed choice. Once the labelling was in place, consumers were able to make an informed choice and there was an incentive for vendors to provide better quality on an axis that was now visible to consumers and so provided choice. The market did the rest.

              1. 1

                Labeling works well when there’s a somewhat simple thing to measure to get the rating of each device - for a fridge it’s power consumption. It gets trickier when there’s no easy way to determine which of two devices is “better” - what would we measure to put a rating on a mobile phone or a computer?

                I suppose the main problem is that such devices are multi-purpose - do I value battery life over FLOPS, screen brightness over resolution, etc. Perhaps there could be a multi-dimensional rating system (A for battery life, D for gaming performance, B for office work, …), but that gets unpractical very quickly.

                1. 6

                  There’s some research by Zinaida Benenson (I don’t have the publication to hand, I saw the pre-publication results) on an earlier proposal for this law that looked at adding two labels:

                  • The number of years that the device would get security updates.
                  • The maximum time between a vulnerability being disclosed and the device getting the update.

                  The proposal was that there would be statutory fines for devices that did not comply with the SLA outlined in those two labels but companies are free to put as much or as little as they wanted. Her research looked at this across a few consumer good classes and used the standard methodology where users were shown a small number of devices with different specs and different things on these labels and then asked to pick their preference. This was then used to vary price, features, and security SLA. I can’t remember the exact numbers but she found that users consistently were willing to select higher priced things with better security guarantees, and favoured them over some other features.

          2. 1

            All the information I’ve read points to centrifugal filters not being meaningfully more efficient or effective than filter bags, which is why these centrifugal cylones are often backed up by traditional filters. Despite what James Dyson would have us believe, building vacuum cleaners is not like designing a Tokamak. I’d use them as an example of a meaningless change introduced to give consumers an incentive to upgrade devices that otherwise last decades.

            Stick (cordless) vacuums are meaningfully different in that the key cleaning mechanism is no longer suction force. The rotating brush provides most of the cleaning action, coupled with a (relatively) weak suction provided by the cordless engines. This makes them vastly more energy-efficient, although this is probably cancelled out by the higher impact of production, and the wear and tear on the components.

      5. 6

        It also might be a great opportunity for innovation in modular design. Say, Apple is always very proude when they come up with a new design. Remember a 15 min mini-doc on their processes when they introduced unibody macbooks? Or 10 min video bragging about their laminated screens?

        I don’t see why it can’t be about how they designed a clever back cover that can be opened without tools to replace the battery and also waterproof. Or how they came up with a new super fancy screen glass that can survive 45 drops.

        Depending on how you define “progress” there can be a plenty of opportunities to innovate. Moreover, with better repairability there are more opportunities for modding. Isn’t it a “progress” if you can replace one of the cameras on your iPhone Pro with, say, infrared camera? Definitely not a mainstream feature to ever come to mass-produced iPhone but maybe a useful feature for some professionals. With available schematics this might have a chance to actually come to market. There’s no chance for it to ever come to a glued solid rectangle that rejects any part but the very specific it came with from the factory.

      6. 4

        Phones have not made meaningful progress since the first few years of the iphone. Its about time

      7. 3

        That’s one way to think about it. Another is that shaping markets is one of the primary jobs of the government, and a representative government – which, for all its faults, the EU is – delegates this job to politics. And folks make a political decision on the balance of equities differently, and … well, they decide how the markets should look. I don’t think that “innovation” or “efficiency” at providing what the market currently provides is anything like a dispositive argument.

      8. 2

        There’s a chance that tech companies start to make EU-only hardware.

      9. 2

        This overall shift will favor long term R&D investments of the kind placed before our last two decades of boom. It will improve innovation in the same way that making your kid eats vegetables improves their health. This is necessary soil for future booms.

    8. 9

      I’m certainly looking forward to read it, as an assembly and ISA geek… but that way to display a PDF on the web that the author chose is really egregious. ;)

      1. 2

        Agreed. If anyone finds a link to the pdf, and doesn’t feel it’s too ethically transgressive to post it, I and my e-reader would be most grateful.

        1. 4

          Here’s another web pdf viewer link for it, but this one includes an option to download it (in the double angle bracket menu on the top right).

        2. 3

          I thought I found it but it was only a copy of that weird format.

          I can’t find any seller either, so that leaves only shadow libraries :-/

        3. 3

          Anna’s archive and z-library both have it.

          But I’d suggest “Computer Organization and Design RISC-V Edition The Hardware Software Interface” (2021 version aka 6th edition aka 2nd risc-v edition) over it.

          “RISC-V Reader” is also a good read, for a turbo introduction for those who already know other assembly languages.

          And, of course, the RISC-V unprivileged and privileged specs themselves.

          1. 1

            But I’d suggest “Computer Organization and Design RISC-V Edition The Hardware Software Interface” (2021 version aka 6th edition aka 2nd risc-v edition) over it.

            Any freely available PDF?

    9. 3

      More fun generalisable space-engineering wisdom can be found in Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design:

      https://spacecraft.ssl.umd.edu/akins_laws.html

    10. 2

      You may also be interested in a presentation given by the author of this document about their process for writing software for the Curiosity mars rover:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16dQLBgOwbE

      Often for safety-critical software the other side of the coin (from computer-science principles) is a great paper trail and auditable trail to show you have formally followed whatever some (often external, like DO-178C in aerospace) process/standard specifies you must do. It can be hard to introduce a clever new bit of computer science that might be applicable to safety critical code into this sort of setting, because doing anything new within these processes is often extremely burdensome. JPL have some leeway here because it’s not actually humans-will-die safety critical.

    11. 5

      It’s a fad. Tesla started this, going to the max, and as Tesla was (is?) hyped and sold lots of cars, others followed. Like all fads, it will regress to the sane. At least that’s what I will hope will happen, just for my own safety as mostly cyclist. As driver, I don’t care, as my own car is 20 years old, hardly gets used outside of vacation and will probably not be replaced once it dies…

      1. 3

        Coming soon: a touchscreen-controlled derailleur.

        1. 2

          Well, that’s not that far of a stretch from the wireless ones one can buy today, is it :D

        2. 2

          bluetooth controlled derailleur have been a thing for a while, and I’m not convinced that it’s been designed with wireless security in mind.

        3. 2

          I was thinking yesterday morning on my cycle that the derailleur click is one of the nicest interfaces I have with a machine in my daily life. Entirely eyes on the road to anticipate the shifts I’ll need.

    12. 6

      Lots of arbitrary taxonomy here about how writing quant software is not ‘in tech’. It’s at least as ‘tech’ as working in advertising or order fulfilment companies like Meta, Twitter, Youtube, Amazon… How many of you are actually designing new CPU architectures?

    13. 6

      I’m very proud of my workstation, mostly because I built it myself. It is a Metalfish G5 case (small form factor, this thing is really tiny) with a water-cooled Ryzen 5950X and a 2080 Ti. I also really enjoy the Keychron keyboards (I have three of them at this point). It does appear that my cable management game is weak. Awesome to see all the other posts here 😊

      1. 4

        That’s a very fine case, and makes me feel rather nostalgic.

        If you don’t mind me making a personal observation, it seems like you’re a little dehydrated…

        1. 2

          That is hilarious 😂

    14. 18

      Depressing as this is, it seriously underestimates the number of independent cores. A few years ago, someone pointed out to me that a Cortex M0 is about the same size as a pad (the blob of solder for connecting a wire to the chip). The CHERI microcontroller that we’re working on is about as big a 4KiB of SRAM. When cores are this small, it’s cheaper to solve a lot of problems by sticking a core and a few KiBs of SRAM on a chip and solve it in firmware than to build some dedicated logic.

      1. 4

        ISTR a teardown of an SD card somewhere and the microscope view showed the whole thing was run by its own ARM microcontroller.

        1. 8

          Oh for sure, a sea of addressable flash memory that you can read and write arbitrary bytes to is absolutely an abstraction presented by the computer onboard the sd card, which is doing a lot of work behind the scenes. Nowadays this often includes wear leveling.

        2. 4

          I’d be pretty surprised if it’s a single one, though maybe that’s all you need for a cheap SD card. I know that WD’s interest in RISC-V comes from the fact that their SSDs used 7 Arm cores on the controller and in such a low-margin business the license fees ate a lot of their profits.

    15. 6

      I wish the puzzles were more.. Abridged? I find hard them hard to understand because you have to first make sense what the puzzle is from a wall of text.

      1. 5

        Once the difficulty starts to ramp up you begin to appreciate the verbiage.

        Once you strip away the contrived backstory, the text is quite clear.

        Ofc there were the dark days of 2018D15, but I believe that was a team effort and Wastl wasn’t as involved as he was before and since.

        Here’s a puzzle I still haven’t cracked, compare and contrast: 2019D18

        1. 1

          Unfortunately this is clearly not for me. :(

        2. 1

          I hate that when you mentioned 2018D15, I knew what puzzle it was. Still unsolved for me.

          1. 1

            So many moving parts! And boring as well.

        3. 1

          I just checked and that was the last day I completely gave up trying to complete a puzzle. They were very difficult.

      2. 4

        But this is just the conceit of the first year of any engineering degree, no? Some sort of arbitrarily complicated prosey description of a vat of a chemical discharging into a pipe, or a long description of a bell in a church tower loosing 100ms a day because of air buoyancy, or an oscilloscope input not reacting to higher speed signals because of the thickness and permitivity of the fibreglass substrate… your job is to realise that all of these are just dressed-up instances of a simple differential equation, and the skill of engineering is to identify the underlying equation or algorithm and know an efficient way to solve it.

        1. 3

          I dont have engineering degree, so i wouldnt know.

          I just dont find reading these kind of huge walls of texts fun to decipher for many reasons. My friend simplified the first task well for me like this:

          given a list of numbers, where each group of number is separated by an empty line:
          --
          10
          10
          
          20
          20
          
          30
          --
          find the largest sum
          

          This is all i want basically. English not being my native language makes the big blocks slightly difficult to read at first, then my low attention span ruins the rest of it. So, not fun.

          Basically i want to have fun too but it’s not very accessible to me.

          Ah well, such is life.

          Now if i would get paid to decipher the text, things would be different. :)

      3. 2

        It’s a lot of fun. If you do competitive programming a lot you’ll start reading through the lines, as most problems have playful descriptions. I guess AoC is a fair bit heavier on that front, but people still manage to read it all and do it very quickly, and to be honest, that’s most of the fun for me, because if I just wanted some puzzles to solve, there’s plenty of other sites that can offer that.

    16. 1

      In a similar vein then (field-specific advice that’s actually generally applicable), this one is popular in my domain:

      Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design

      1. 1

        Oh thanks, that’s a really good one but I couldn’t remember what it was called and lost it.

    17. 9

      I do data engineering for an electric grid optimization company. We work with commercial and industrial energy consumers to reduce load on the grid at times of peak demand. Grid operators pay us to reduce load, and we pay our customers who reduced the load. It is unfortunately difficult for our customers to directly interface with the grid to bid in their energy consumption during peak demand events, so we are a necessary middleman. With less peak load on the grid, less of the dirty peaker plants are spun up to meet peak demand. I find the work rewarding and important.

      1. 1

        Cool! I work for a load forecasting company, i.e. we try to predict how much electricity people are going to use so that energy retailers can buy the right amount and less electricity and money gets wasted overall. It feels good to contribute to something as central to modern life as the grid, plus if we can make renewables more predictable, we can help make them more profitable too. I also find it pretty rewarding. :)

      2. 1

        I find this fascinating and am curious about if you as a company have any plans for the future as grids get ‘smarter’ and the loads more complicated - for example, when everyone has their own house-mounted solar/wind/community-batteries and large charge reservoirs in the form of electric vehicles and so on, what is the plan? It will be a large graph of heterogenous sources and sinks (as opposed to what you describe now which seems to be more like a few large power plants and a few big industrial users) and there is presumably a lot of room for optimisation over this graph, so everyone can say ‘i want my clothes dry and my car charged by the morning please’ before they go to bed and the grid can then balance all that out throughout the night as it sees fit.

        Presumably it is too large a problem for a single central data center to command and control all the sources and sinks centrally, so will there be a sort of message-passing/belief propagation thing between local sub-branches in the grid that can optimise locally or ? Or am I completely wrong? It seems like a very interesting but tricky problem from the outside, but an important problem to crack.

    18. 17

      I’ll paraphrase a bit of our Twitter discussion about Jack Rusher’s talk. I can certainly see how he came across as arrogant and generally that’s a huge turn-off for me too. But I think Rusher was mostly playing a character deliberately in order to try to be provocative enough to get people to actually take a step back and question some of their assumptions about programming languages. I think it takes a certain gusto to get programmers out of their ruts and Rusher did a good job of that.

      1. 14

        I originally had a 300 word miniessay on exactly what I hated about his talk but decided it was living rent-free in my head and axed it, so this is the less incendiary response :D

        FTR I tried a couple of the technologies he was shilling and they all had serious problems, and I looked up his claims about NASA and common lisp and it’s a much worse picture for lisp than he claimed.

        1. 3

          I mean okay yeah he’s pretty arrogant…but he also emphasizes that he’s not shilling Common Lisp/Erlang/Clojure/whatever…he’s pointing out that we should take lessons from their better parts and things like interactive environments and richer debugging should be the norm.

        2. 2

          I haven’t watched the talk, and this is probably the smallest error, but I did notice he got my name wrong while reading it from a screenshot.

        3. 2

          The reason to drop common lisp was poor interoperability with the other stuff they were doing right?

          1. 8

            Yeah, but also the key benefit he claimed— remote debugging and code reload— is something NASA routinely does with their C and Java code.

          2. 3

            For the curious, Lisping at JPL, by Ron Garret: https://flownet.com/gat/jpl-lisp.html

            And a (beautifully transcribed) podcast interview with him, by Adam Gordon Bell who is also a user here: https://corecursive.com/lisp-in-space-with-ron-garret/

        4. 1

          FWIW I didn’t find the talk arrogant – I’ll even say it’s interesting and worth watching – but I 100% agree that it’s seriously flawed.

          He left out all the reasons that people don’t use such programming environments, thus depriving the audience of a path to address those problems and put the ideas into wider practice. For people who are building production systems, it falls down with a tiny amount of scrutiny, as you allude to.

          Though one thing I was thinking during the talk is that the browser itself is one of the few programming environments that does come with rich GUI dev tools, and it’s also arguably the most popular environment !!!

          (caveat: I recently learned that iOS Safari dev tools are quite crippled; I think you have to have a Mac to debug there, which is a shame.)


          Also thanks for signal boosting the P talk! I remember wanting to look into it a few years ago, but never got around to it … and I missed that there was a Strange Loop talk about it.

      2. 14

        I don’t find the talk particularly arrogant, at least anymore so than the average Rust/Haskell evangelist. Dude just seems very passionate and opinionated. I rather suspect people are overly sensitive.

        (disclaimer: I’m 30 minutes into a 43 minute talk, perhaps the really obnoxious stuff comes next)

        1. 8

          I also enjoyed this talk, and am a little surprised people thought it was arrogant

          1. 1

            Yeah, I know a number of people who make big claims to be provocative and to get people talking so I’m used to that bluster. Often times with those kinds of people you can corner them and they’ll break from the performative persona and start talking about the real tradeoffs.

            I don’t know the speaker though so I can’t say that he is specifically like that. I’ve just seen a pattern with others.

            1. 1

              But is that really a fitting behavior for strange loop talks?

              1. 9

                I think so, yes. A big part of the Strange Loop experience for me is “Here’s someone passionate about something crazy you may not have even considered.”

                Do they always work out? No, of course not. But I’d rather see a talk from someone opionated, way out there, and 50% wrong, then a talk that is bulletproof but only a tiny incremental step from where I already am. I come to be inspired. I want a random pile of crazy ideas because even the ones that don’t work might lead to a further idea that does.

                1. 1

                  I agree, those have generally been some of the best talks at Strange Loop. What crazy or interesting ideas were presented here though?

                  1. 3

                    I bet a lot of what he talks about would not be particularly new to the lobsters crowd, might might be for more orthodox developers. I’m always surprised at how many programmers I encounter out in the world haven’t heard of any of these systems, and who simply accept that the Unix way is just how it has to be.

                    1. 2

                      Yes lobsters being its own echo chamber is also something I’ve also experienced. At least in regards to new technology and completely different programming languages (apart from rust, and even then..).

              2. 1

                I feel like answering this question would stray into an extra layer of theoretical speculation. I don’t know this person and I don’t feel qualified to say whether or not a proposed rationale for the tone of their talk would be appropriate for a given context. I only offer up this rationale as an explanation for why I didn’t find it arrogant.

      3. 7

        It’s not provocative to use the trope of “everything is complicated because they didn’t have the superior point of view that I have” though. That’s the central point of the talk - that we got to where we are, because everyone along the way was dumb. It’s just a tired argument, and it reeks of hindsight bias.

        Now I’m really not an apologist of older technologies either. When it’s time to move on, we move on. The proposed solution to all of these problems though is… spreadsheets, repls, and / or notebooks?. Things that have been around for pretty much equally as long as the “dead languages,” but somehow haven’t saved the entire industry either?

        The speaker seems legitimately cool, and fun, and interesting, and smart. No disrespect to them as a person. But the talk itself is isn’t provocative, or interesting, and most importantly provided completely zero fixes for any of the presented problems. And the only reason I’m commenting is hopefully somewhere, people learn from this: instead of 30 minutes of problem statement and 10 minutes of solutions, give a talk with 10 minutes of problem statement and 30 minutes of solutions.

        1. 4

          His point is not that “older technologies” are dumb…Lisp is old tech and he probably emphasized that the most out of any of the things he likes. The point is that we shouldn’t settle for the way things are, and that the solutions are at hand. In other words it’s not an argument about intelligence so much as motivation.

          It’s not like “spreadsheets, repls, and/or notebooks” have become ubiquitous and found to be a mistake, it’s that they’ve barely been tried. I mean, what language outside of Clojure or CL actually can be said to have an interactive environment that supports REPL interactions that are that rich? I work in Python at $DAYJOB and I would love to have a REPL half as good as Clojure’s there.

          1. 3

            It’s not like “spreadsheets, repls, and/or notebooks” have become ubiquitous and found to be a mistake, it’s that they’ve barely been tried. I mean, what language outside of Clojure or CL actually can be said to have an interactive environment that supports REPL interactions that are that rich?

            Lisp, Smalltalk, and Ruby all have REPLs that are considered “acceptable” by all of the people that have made this argument before this talk. All of them had their 15 minutes of fame, none more than Ruby. You cannot say that the features being presented here have barely been tried. They have all been tried, and have not led to the magical outcome that is supposed to happen. I mean, you’re referencing Clojure’s REPL. Clojure exists right now. If it’s the savior that it’s supposed to be, why is it barely used? Because the proposed benefits don’t actually matter.

            The best things he said in the talk was about static types, where he said he doesn’t like them, but if you do you should use them. Exactly! There’s a free market of tools out there. Usage is completely organic, meaning people use the tools that they want to. That’s why it’s arrogant and patronizing to say that we are using bad tools because the savior tools have “barely been tried.” They have been, they just have different problems, and they do not produce an outcome that is an order of magnitude better than any other tool. You know this is true, because if they did have any meaningful impact on development speed or quality you know that managers would be chomping at the bit to switch to these technologies.

            But the opposite seems to be happening in industry. If dynamic types and REPLs are our savior, then why are people who are free to choose their own tools moving more and more to static types and compilers? Could it be that those solve more practical problems for the working programmer than interactive environments do?

            1. 3

              They have all been tried, and have not led to the magical outcome that is supposed to happen.

              and they do not produce an outcome that is an order of magnitude better than any other tool. You know this is true, because if they did have any meaningful impact on development speed or quality you know that managers would be chomping at the bit to switch to these technologies.

              Culture is a powerful inertial force in these matters, and there is definitely a strong mainstream computing culture that is hard to break from. I think this interferes much more with any “free market of tools” than we are normally willing to acknowledge.

              1. 3

                Another explanation is that language choice has a very minor effect on how profitable a software business can be.

            2. 1

              [Edited bc I fat fingered this on my phone]

              Lisp, Smalltalk, and Ruby all have REPLs that are considered “acceptable” by all of the people that have made this argument before this talk.

              I’ve heard people make the argument that Ruby is an acceptable Lisp because of its metaprogramming features, but never that its REPL rivaled a Lisp REPL. I’d be curious to learn more about that.

              If it’s the savior that it’s supposed to be, why is it barely used? Because the proposed benefits don’t actually matter.

              Or it could be because there are other disadvantages to Clojure that preclude widespread adoption, like the steep learning curve and Lisp’s reputation as exotic. (And, I’ll admit, some arrogance.) Perhaps the benefits actually matter, just not enough for people to overcome their (understandable) aversion to (what I maintain are) the few languages where these features are actually central to the workflow.

              why are people who are free to choose their own tools moving more and more to static types and compilers? Could it be that those solve more practical problems for the working programmer than interactive environments do?

              Sure. Could be. Are you now making the argument that static types and compilers are an order of magnitude more productive?

              1. 2

                but never that its REPL rivaled a Lisp REPL

                This isn’t really what I’m saying, only that the features that the talk mentions is the ability to inspect and modify the language environment at runtime, which is most certainly possible in Ruby, and Ruby’s usage has been in steep decline recently.

                Are you now making the argument that static types and compilers are an order of magnitude more productive?

                No.

    19. 4

      I think the problem here is as much this problematic notion of ‘developers’ is an extremely unhelpful abstraction for what we’re talking about.

      Imagine that in the civil engineering world we called people who make benches and people who make bridges some equivalent catch-all term like ‘constructors’. You’d have blog posts from Chair Industry Thought Leaders saying ‘Stop Telling Constructors they need to know Calculus’ and simultaneously 18 year olds applying to do Civil Engineering at univeristy/college, in order to one-day build bridges, wouldn’t even get past the entrance exams if they didn’t know what the chain rule was (i.e. basic calculus, which SICP assumes you know as part of a motivating early example, iirc).

      Constructors would be talking past each other on Maker News about how you can’t possibly design supporting structures without knowing calculus, it would be professionally negligent, buses full of school children will die etc, whilst other constructors would counter that they just sold their chain of Swing Seat shops for $100M to Lowe’s and they never once studied Calculus in all their life so stop being such elitist gatekeeping douchebags.

      It’s the same with ‘developers’. Obviously you need caluclus as a pre-requisite in almost any scientific or [non-software] engineering discipline, Machine Learning, Signal Processings, computer vision, whatever it happens to be. Many people taking any form of technical degree at a research university will go on to be in one of these camps.

      But there are also millions of people just making chairs and they can live happy and productive lives without having come across the chain rule, or needing to.

      There is no great discrepancy here unless you insist on viewing these disparate camps as part of the same mass, and then it all breaks down.

    20. 36

      I used Arch for years, even before they switched to systemd. I find it a little too hand-holdy now. I use NixOS, by the way.

      1. 47

        I think it says a lot about both Arch and Nix that I legitimately have no idea whatsoever if you’re being serious or trolling.

      2. 31

        NixOS users are the vegans of the family

        1. 16

          As a vegan, I resent this. I never talk about being vegan unless someone asks. Or to take a shot at NixOS users apparently.

          1. 3

            If food comes up, I tell people. I don’t try to preach to people, but I’ll engage (to some extent) when asked. I do not engage when people ask questions such as “what do you even eat?” or when people are just being dicks about it—not usually worth it.

        2. 16

          Are you saying NixOS is trendy and less cruel, and better for the environment?

          1. 13

            They are probably saying there’s a stereotype of many vegans being absolutely insufferable to be around with, and vilifying anybody that isn’t a vegan. At least in my experience that stereotype (unfortunately) has some truth to it.

            1. 3

              It’s not vegans in general, it’s PETA. PETA knows that they can’t convert anyone who isn’t 95% of the way already, so their strategy is to remain in the public eye through shock marketing, on the “all publicity is good publicity” theory.

              I know lots of vegans who never say anything about other people’s food choices, and only mention their own choice when it comes up.

              1. 2

                How do you tell if someone’s vegan?

                Say “Look, I’m happy to make vegan entrees, sides, and desserts for the party, but you have to tell me now, instead of three hours in when I see you aren’t eating anything and ask if you’re okay.”

                1. 1

                  I was a vegetarian for 20 years, including when I met my wife. My wife was never vegetarian but she doesn’t eat cheese.

                  We visited a friend and found that they had made a three part pizza for the evening: one part with pepperoni and cheese, one part with cheese but no pepperoni, and one part with pepperoni but no cheese.

                  We were very grateful but a bit embarrassed by the effort on our behalf.

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                    If it helps, they probably saw it as a chance to challenge themselves. Or a chance to flaunt their cooking skills. I def feel both when cooking for restricted diets

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              There’s not the same moral dimension to Nix, compared to veganism; people who don’t use Nix are not somehow morally deficient or inappropriate. The main reason that we share Nix is to ease the suffering of users, not the suffering of computers or packages.

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              Yeah. I get it. This is me not being confused, and deflecting this stupid comparison.

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            Given your homepage declares your veganism in its second sentence, I don’t think you can feign too much indignation about the grandparent jibe.

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              Huh? I live a vegan lifestyle, yes. Do you have a problem with that?

              Jesus. Mechanical engineers are insufferable.

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                You announce you’re a vegan. That’s literally the reason for the “btw, I’m vegan/arch user” joke. There’s nothing wrong with that, but as you can see the stereotype matches reality.

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                  They announce it on their webpage… that you chose to go and read…

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                  I am fully aware.

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            If you’ve used NixOS, you’ll know less cruel doesn’t apply

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              It’s been a long time, but I gave up pretty quickly. 😀