Sunday, September 24, 2017

Java 9 !

OK, I guess I should admit: I was one of those who thought It Would Never Happen.

But here it is!

  • JDK 9: General Availability
    I'm pleased -- nay, thrilled! -- to announce that JDK 9 is now Generally Available. We've identified no P1 bugs since we promoted build 181 seven weeks ago so that is the official GA release, ready for production use.

    GPL'd binaries from Oracle are available here

  • Java 9 and IntelliJ IDEA
    Java 9 is released today, so let’s do a quick recap of the Java 9 support in IntelliJ IDEA, and have a peek at some of the upcoming features in IntelliJ IDEA 2017.3 for Java 9.
  • Java Platform, Standard Edition What’s New in Oracle JDK 9
    Java Platform, Standard Edition 9 is a major feature release. The following summarizes features and enhancements in Java SE 9 and in JDK 9, Oracle's implementation of Java SE 9.
  • Java SE 9 and Java EE 8 arrive, 364 days later than first planned
    Java EE 8 includes 13 new or updated Java Specification Requests. Oracle says the most notable changes include HTTP/2 support in Servlet 4.0, a new JSON binding API and various enhancements in JSON-P 1.1 and a new security API for cloud and PaaS based applications.

Wow.

There once was a day when a new release of Java would have been accompanied with THOUSANDS of blog posts digging into the new code, and what it enabled.

Times have changed.

Friday, September 22, 2017

In which people discuss things I don't understand

  • Top Uber Investor Resists SoftBank Deal
    The opposition by Benchmark Capital is complicating a proposal by SoftBank and its $93 billion tech-focused Vision Fund, along with partners, to buy 17% to 22% of Uber--mostly through purchasing shares from existing shareholders.

    Benchmark has told fellow investors it is unlikely to sell any of its 13% holding to the SoftBank consortium, according to people familiar with the matter. And Benchmark's representative on Uber's board, Matt Cohler, was the only one of Uber's eight directors to vote against a term sheet granting SoftBank exclusive rights to an investment deal, the people said.

  • Alphabet’s Waymo wants Uber to pay $2.6 billion in damages for a single allegedly stolen trade secret
    Uber calls Alphabet’s damages claims “inflated” and “based entirely on speculative future profits and cost savings in a nascent market.”

    The damages Alphabet is seeking for each of the nine trade secrets vary and have been redacted within the document. So there’s still no indication of which trade secret claim Alphabet is seeking $2.6 billion for, nor what amount the company is asking for the other eight trade secrets.

  • Uber has a lot of reasons to settle its lawsuit with Alphabet
    Alphabet isn’t just taking Uber for a legal ride. It wants to cause some serious damage, which some inside think is part of an effort to slow down Uber’s self-driving efforts.

    But Alphabet’s endless legal and financial resources — and determination from top execs at the company to make an example of Uber — are powerful reasons that Khosrowshahi might seek a settlement.

  • Uber Loses Its License to Operate in London
    The agency took direct aim at Uber’s corporate culture, declaring that the company’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”
  • Uber Is Sorry for ‘Wife Appreciation Day’ Promo
    The promo, only valid on September 17, read:

    Dear husbands, a gentle reminder — today is Wife Appreciation Day. Order on uberEATS and leet your wife take a day off from the kitchen.

  • Chinese-backed rival takes on Uber in London
    Once the initial discounts end, Taxify still aims to be 10% cheaper than Uber, CEO Markus Villig told CNNMoney.

    "I think we mainly have a very strong second mover advantage," Villig said. "We don't need to do the hard work of actually establishing this market. We can rather come in, be more efficient, more lean and take a smaller cut for ourselves, and therefore undercut the existing incumbents."

Nope, never played it.

Kotaku take a long, loving look at The Notorious Board Game That Takes 1,500 Hours To Complete

The game itself covers the famous WWII operations in Libya and Egypt between 1940 and 1943. Along with the opaque rulebook, the box includes 1,600 cardboard chits, a few dozen charts tabulating damage, morale, and mechanical failure, and a swaddling 10-foot long map that brings the Sahara to your kitchen table. You’ll need to recruit 10 total players, (five Allied, five Axis,) who will each lord over a specialized division. The Front-line and Air Commanders will issue orders to the troops in battle, the Rear and Logistics Commanders will ferry supplies to the combat areas, and lastly, a Commander-in-Chief will be responsible for all macro strategic decisions over the course of the conflict. If you and your group meets for three hours at a time, twice a month, you’d wrap up the campaign in about 20 years.

There DEFINITELY was a time in my life that this would have Been My Thing.

Who knows? Perhaps that day will come again.

All is Lost: a very short review

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Although, if you haven't already seen All is Lost by now, you're probably never going to see it, or at least you're not going to feel too broken up by my spoilers, I hope?

I think there are probably at least two reasonable "readings" of the marvelous Robert Redford movie, All is Lost.

A straightforward reading is to see it as an adventure story, with the setting for the adventure being "solo sailing on the open ocean":

  1. What would you do if your boat was suddenly and unexpectedly damaged?
  2. How would you keep yourself alive as long as possible?
  3. What actions could you take to increase your likelihood of being discovered/found/rescued?
  4. How would you keep your mental health and motivation high under a time of great stress?

And so forth.

Another reading, perhaps equally valid, and perhaps equally interesting, is to see the movie in a more spiritual way, as a metaphor for your life and existence. You'll think this is a stretch, but consider:

  1. At the beginning of the movie, Redford is sleeping, comfortably secure and at rest in the "womb" of his sailboat.
  2. He is awoken by a fierce and terrifying event (the mid-ocean collision with the submerged shipping container) which pulls him out of his simple and trivial existence and immediately poses immediate and life-threatening problems for him to solve.
  3. As he goes, he solves one problem after another, adapting to his surroundings, using what he has been given at "birth", learning from his experiences, exploring his world.
  4. At the end, when all is, in fact, lost, and Redford is sinking below the waves, looking up, he sees first a halo (the doughnut-shaped life raft, on fire), then a bright light, then, as he reaches out, there is a disembodied hand that reaches down from above, to pull him up to his next life.

I'm sure there are other readings as well, but these are two that occurred to me.

Honestly, we aren't given an awful lot of information about how to choose a reading for this movie, which makes it very similar to another lovely-but-odd-movie-set-aboard-a-boat-with-much-symbolism, Life of Pi.

But, getting back to All is Lost, the most important input into the reading of the movie, I think, is the short speech that is delivered at the start of the movie, in a flash-forward (see, I told you this was nothing but spoilers), which goes as follows:

I'm sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried, I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn't. And I know you knew this. In each of your ways. And I am sorry. All is lost here, except for soul and body, that is, what's left of them, and a half day's ration. It's inexcusable really, I know that now. How it could have taken this long to admit that I'm not sure, but it did. I fought till the end. I'm not sure what that is worth, but know that I did. I have always hoped for more for you all. I will miss you. I'm sorry.
From the reference to 'soul and body', to the topics of being 'true' and 'right' and 'hoping for more', to the overall framing of this speech as something that might occur on Judgement Day, it's quite hard to see this speech as being included in the movie for any reason other than to promote the "spiritual" reading of the movie.

The "this movie tells the story of the life of a human" reading.

I don't have much more to say about any of this (not even sure this much was worth saying), but there it is.

And, of course, this wasn't a very challenging reading: plenty of others noticed this the first time they saw it

And, of course of course, it wasn't really the best movie to learn about sailing.

But anyway: Robert Redford! Sailing! Movie!

I enjoyed watching it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

News of the weird, part 4 (of four)

Well, this isn't exactly news, and I guess you'll have to judge for yourself whether it's weird or not.

But I thought both of these were pretty interesting.

  • How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind
    There's this universal shorthand that epic adventure movies use to tell the good guys from the bad. The good guys are simple folk from the countryside ...

    ... while the bad guys are decadent assholes who live in the city and wear stupid clothes.

    The theme expresses itself in several ways -- primitive vs. advanced, tough vs. delicate, masculine vs. feminine, poor vs. rich, pure vs. decadent, traditional vs. weird. All of it is code for rural vs. urban. That tense divide between the two doesn't exist because of these movies, obviously. These movies used it as shorthand because the divide already existed.

  • I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You.
    Pervasive among the people I talked to was a sense of detachment from a distant elite with whom they had ever less contact and less in common.

    ...

    Trump has put on his blue-collar cap, pumped his fist in the air, and left mainstream Republicans helpless. Not only does he speak to the white working class’ grievances; as they see it, he has finally stopped their story from being politically suppressed. We may never know if Trump has done this intentionally or instinctively, but in any case he’s created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare-state right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. For these are all based on variations of the same Deep Story of personal protectionism.

News of the weird, part 3

This one, for a change of pace, does not come out of the pages of Wired.

But it's just as weird.

So let's turn the microphone over to the great chess blogger Dana Mackenzie: Scandal Ruins World Cup’s Best Day

everybody is talking about the stupid dispute that caused the Canadian player, Anton Kovalyov, to forfeit his game and withdraw from the tournament — all over a pair of shorts.

Probably most of my readers are already familiar with the sad details, but for those who haven’t heard yet, these seem to be the facts:

  • Kovalyov showed up for his game against Maxim Rodshtein wearing a pair of shorts. He had worn the same shorts for his previous four games. Yes, apparently he only packed this one pair of shorts for a potentially month-long chess tournament. Cue jokes about chess players’ dressing habits.
  • The chief arbiter spoke to him and told him that the players’ dress code (which is in a legal contract they sign before the tournament) requires more dignified wear. He told him to go back to his room and change.
  • Kovalyov went back to his room but never reappeared. His opponent played one move (1. d4) and won by forfeit.

Even from these facts, it seems to me that the FIDE approach was very heavy-handed. From a legal point of view it seems to me that they have greatly weakened their case by allowing Kovalyov to play four games (!) in the offending garment. The arbiter said that nobody noticed earlier. Come on! If it’s a rule, then enforce it from the beginning. If it’s not enforced, then it’s not really a rule.

Kovalyov is actually Ukrainian, playing as a Canadian citizen, but living in Brownsville, Texas, where he studies computer science and got a chess scholarship!.

Kovalyov later wrote about this on his Facebook page, then tried to delete what he wrote, then tried to close his Facebook account, then re-opened his Facebook account, then wrote about it some more.

More at The Guardian, where we find that the REAL issue may have involved an ethnic slur:

Azmaiparashvili refused to back down, said Kovalyov. “At this point I was really angry but tried not to do anything stupid, and asked him why he was so rude to me, and he said because I’m a gypsy,” he said.

He continued: “So imagine this, the round is about to start, I’m being bullied by the organiser of the tournament, being assured that I will be punished by FIDE, yelled at and racially insulted. What would you do in my situation? I think many people would have punched this person in the face or at least insulted him. I decided to leave.”

Assuming that is what actually happened, it's a shame, but clearly he made the right decision.

The internets took to calling this "shortsgate" for a little while.

But it has now passed from public interest.

News of the weird, part 2

There are a lot of strange, disturbing, bizarre aspects to this long book excerpt that ran on the Wired website: Meet the CamperForce, Amazon's Nomadic Retiree Army.

The article is an excerpt from an upcoming book, by the way, it's not intended to be a stand-alone article on Wired.

Still.

The article winds through a long and close examination of what it's like to chase jobs in Amazon distribution centers around the country, camping out in your R.V. at night, getting up at 4:00 A.M. to get to work on time, taking advantage of the "the free generic pain relievers on offer in the warehouse".

You won't be surprised to hear that this is No Fun At All:

Chuck was a picker. His job was to take items down from warehouse shelves as customers ordered them, scanning each product with a handheld barcode reader. The warehouse was so immense that he and his fellow workers used the names of states to navigate its vast interior. The western half was “Nevada,” and the eastern half was “Utah.” Chuck ended up walking about 13 miles a day. He told himself it was good exercise. Besides, he’d met another picker who was 80 years old—if that guy could do it, surely he could.

Barb was a stower. That meant scanning incoming merchandise and shelving it. Stowers didn’t have to walk as far as pickers did, though Barb’s muscles still ached from the lifting, squatting, reaching, and twisting motions that her job required. Much of the strain was mental. With the holiday season nearing, the warehouse’s shelves were crammed, and one day she wandered around the warehouse for 45 minutes—she timed it—looking for a place to stow a single oversized book. Barb murmured, “Breathe, breathe,” to herself to stay calm.

On days off, many of Barb and Chuck’s coworkers were too exhausted to do anything but sleep, eat, and catch up on laundry.

Much of this article won't be a surprise, as this part of America has been documented for decades (see, e.g., More retirees keep one foot in workforce for pay and play and More Help Wanted: Older Workers Please Apply and Older Workers Survey, Working Longer, Younger Employees, Dear Abby).

And, though CNBC rather sunnily quotes an expert on "Aging & Work" as saying that

"We're in a new era of retirement, and we're not going back."

He added that "most people assume that seniors keep working due to financial necessity, and some do, but the majority do it to keep active and stay alert."

the reality, clearly, is much closer the converse of that viewpoint, as bluntly explained by the AARP, or by the Times, which observes that
The recruitment efforts for the elderly are reaching a willing audience, as more older people seek work because they need extra cash and health benefits and sometimes because they miss having a 9-to-5 routine with other workers.

I mean: duh. I DO know some people who are, perhaps, deferring retirement because they really enjoy their current job and don't (yet) have enough saved up to be able to retire as they choose.

But, really?

"They don't want to go fishing; they want to stay sharp," said Jeanne Benoit, principal director of human resources at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, a military research contractor in Cambridge, Mass., that creates prototypes for aerospace projects.

Wrong.

They want to go fishing.

And they don't appreciate you telling them that they aren't sharp, you young whippersnapper.

Anyway, back to the Wired article.

One of the things that drives me crazy about this whole situation, and which seems vastly under-reported, is how people got into these situations in the first place.

And the Wired article provides some fascinating detail in this area.

For instance:

Chuck still remembers the call from Wells Fargo that brought the 2008 financial crisis crashing down on his head. He had invested his $250,000 nest egg in a fund that supposedly guaranteed him $4,000 a month to live on. “You have no more money,” he recalls his banker saying flatly. “What do you want us to do?”

And,

Bob worked as an accountant for a timber products firm, and Anita was an interior decorator and part-time caregiver. They thought they would retire aboard a sailboat, funding that dream with equity from their three­ bedroom house. But then the housing bubble burst and their home’s value tumbled. Neither could imagine spending the rest of their lives servicing a loan worth more than their house. So they bought the trailer and drove away. “We just walked,” Anita says. “We told ourselves, ‘We’re not playing this game anymore.’”

Bob blamed Wall Street. When he spoke about his decision to abandon the house, he’d rush to add that, before that moment, he’d always paid the bills on time.

I mean yes, finances are complicated!

But it doesn't take much more than elementary school mathematics to be able to look at a $250,000 "nest egg" and realize that, if you withdraw $50,000 a year, it will only last (wait for it...): 5 years.

Nor should it take much more sophistication to understand that, if your entire plan for retirement is to depend on your house doubling in value so that you can sell it and buy a sailboat, well, you're gambling. You were a professional ACCOUNTANT? And you blamed "Wall Street"?

Now, part of this shame does indeed belong to the bankers and real-estate professionals and others who sold everyone a pipe dream back in the early 2000's.

They were con artists, and a lot of pain was caused by all that speculation, lying, pyramid schemes, and "financial engineering."

But, really, part of this shame is simpler to understand; it seems undeniable that, as a country, we are clearly failing our people.

We should be teaching basic "financial sense" in elementary school.

We should be making retirement savings accounts MANDATORY.

We should be providing universal health care to all. Yes, even if you're not working. Medicare for all.

And otherwise legitimate media organizations like CNBC and The New York Times should be flat-out ashamed of themselves to publish rot about "staying alert" or "pay and play" or "staying sharp" or "missing that 9-to-5 routine."

Call it what it is: elder abuse.