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Latest Windows 10 Preview Build Brings Slew of Enhancements

Art3x Polishing the brass on the Titanic (208 comments)

Cortana is probably a new and better Clippy. But besides that, the rest seems like polishing the brass on the Titanic.

New folder icons? I remember visiting gnome-look.org for the first time ten years ago and being blown away: page after page of themes, icon sets, etc.

Start menu tweaked again? Why is this so hard? And it still looks awkward to me. Program names are inside squares, instead of just being text items in a list. Or small squares at least, like the launcher in Chrome OS.

I've used Mac since 1984, Windows since 95, and Linux since '05. I've either not minded or actually liked all of the iterations of program launching in Mac and Linux. But I have never, never, like the Windows Start menu.

Let's start with the word Start, which is where you go to Shut Down. Makes sense. And while it was a little more straightforward than today's shenanigans, it wasn't exactly pleasant to dig through. Plus, I was always stymied by why Windows took several seconds sometimes to me just trying to open the submenu --- not launch a program, just open a folder within the Start menu to see what's in there. It's like Windows was going to the bathroom, and I had to wait for it to finish even to answer a simple question.

And then there was the My everything fiasco, where Documents became My Documents, Computer became My Computer, and so on.

There is the trash can that they still won't default to the bottom right, because if you ever resize the screen, it messes up the position, since Windows calculates everything as the number of pixels from the top left, apparently. So they put the trash can in the top left. This never looked right to me. A trashy-looking thing like a trash can should be in a minor part of the screen (bottom right) even if they call it a Recycle Bin. The Macintosh somehow figured out how to do this 30 years ago.

4 days ago

The Magic of Pallets

Art3x "Arguably" is the lazy writer's word for "not" (250 comments)

the humble pallet is arguably "the single most important object in the global economy."

The word arguably is "the lazy writer’s synonym for 'not.' For example: 'The Red Sox are arguably the strongest team in the American League East.'" --- Alex Beam

about a month ago

Microsoft's New Windows Monetization Methods Could Mean 'Subscriptions'

Art3x Clippy (415 comments)

CLIPPY: I see you're writing a letter. Would you like help? Please enter a valid credit card number.

about 2 months ago

Is Ruby On Rails Losing Steam?

Art3x Python (291 comments)

David Heinemeier Hansson was sick of PHP, found Ruby, and invented Rails in 2004. No mention is made of him toying with Python. I think that if he had found Python that he would have liked it just as much. Django had not come out though.

I guess that he did the best he could with what he had, but I wonder if he would he would have just switched from PHP to Django had he started five years later.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Starting and Running a Software Shop?

Art3x Getting Real (176 comments)

Just read Getting Real . I was thinking of recommending their second book, ReWork, but it's mostly a rework of the first. You either get Getting Real or you don't, and if you don't get it, you have problem about getting real.

about 2 months ago

Startup Assembly Banks On Paid, Open-Source Style Development

Art3x Hard Headline to Parse (33 comments)

Wow that was a hard headline to parse! "What's a start-up assembly bank, and why is it on paid, open-source development?"

about 2 months ago

Researchers Develop Remote-Controlled Cyber-Roaches

Art3x Is this the singularity? (35 comments)

I'm so glad technology has come to the point where I can stop reading science fiction novels for entertainment and just pick up a newspaper.

about 3 months ago

Mathematical Proof That the Universe Could Come From Nothing

Art3x Intellectuals (429 comments)

"There are some ideas so preposterous that only an intellectual could believe them."

--- George Orwell

about 3 months ago

Passwords: Too Much and Not Enough

Art3x Don't manage passwords (223 comments)

Don't roll your own password system. If you're a public site, use OAuth Connect to let them sign in with their account from Google, Yahoo, or some other company that specializes in this sort of thing. If it's a business-to-business site, use Kerberos or LDAP to let them sign them in with their own company's username and password. This also cuts down on the number of usernames and passwords users must remember.

about 3 months ago

Debian's Systemd Adoption Inspires Threat of Fork

Art3x Re:UNIX Philosophy (555 comments)

And then there's the launchd / inetd way of launching services that systemd also copies. The service config file can list a set of sockets that the service binds in order to service requests. For example Apache binds to port 80 and 443. So long as all services (including mounting filesystems...) describe *all* of their external interfaces, dependencies no longer matter at all.

The init system can bind all of the sockets that every service needs all at once, and either start the real service the first time the socket is used, or start them all at once. If one service connects to another, the first request will block until the other service is ready to handle it. Then all you have to worry about is the potential for deadlocking, which you'd have to consider anyway.

Thank you for the explanation. That sounds much more elegant.

about 3 months ago

Debian's Systemd Adoption Inspires Threat of Fork

Art3x Re:UNIX Philosophy (555 comments)

Thank you! That was very helpful, especially why you might want a script for each daemon instead of a single config file.

about 3 months ago

Debian's Systemd Adoption Inspires Threat of Fork

Art3x UNIX Philosophy (555 comments)

I like the UNIX philosophy and don't think it goes out of style just because it's a few decades old.

I am against systemd, for now, mainly because of the binary log files and how it was railroaded through the community.

However, do these programs follow the do-one-thing-and-do-it-well principle: web servers like Apache, database servers like PostgreSQL, the X Window system, the GIMP, OpenOffice? Is an init system more like one of these or more like sed and awk? That's not a rhetorical question. I'm a web programmer who loves Linux, but the kernal and start-up are still black magic to me.

Maybe an init system can be simple. I don't understand why even shell scripts are needed. Seems like they should be the exception, not the rule. Seems like configuration should be a single file that lists the programs to start from top to bottom. If you wanted add some parallel start-ups, it seems like you could just make the config file format a little fancier, maybe with some braces or indentation to express dependency.

Maybe instead of systemd we could come up with a start-up standard, sort of like the POSIX standard. Most programs seem already to be callable with the same arguments: start to start it, stop to stop it, restart to restart it. So the simple config file would call one or the other depending on which cycle we're in. Why the need for shell scripts? I've looked at them, and they mostly seem to be doing this anyway: call start on the shell script, and it calls start on the program. I see some checking, some setting of environmental variables maybe, but is this really needed? Can't programs be formalized to follow some init API? If the start, stop, and restart are not enough, maybe also an option, like --bg, that they'd all take, so the init system always calls $program --bg start, or $program --bg stop, or whatever; so that all we need is that simple config file. Those programs that don't yet follow the init API could keep using a shell script until they do.

Please have mercy if this question is terribly naive. I've tried googling . . . a little. I was hoping a real live human being could either explain it all. Or feel free to reply with some links that explain why SysV init needs all those shell scripts and can't be just a simple list or somewhat-simple declarative configuration.

about 3 months ago

The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Art3x Article doesn't make sense (350 comments)

The article seems to contradict itself:

While perpetual motion machines would violate known physical phenomena—like the conservation of energy—cold fusion is possible in principle.

Oh, so it's possible!

The combination of the energy barrier of normal matter, the Coulomb barrier of individual nuclei, the negligibly low probability of quantum tunneling at all but the shortest distances, and the fact that the physics of nuclear reactions is so incredibly well-understood (and verified) all tells us that low-energy cold fusion should be impossible.

Oh, so it's impossible. But even here, don't you mean it's just unlikely?

Even though I’m a theoretical physicist myself, I’m open to the possibility that physics has it wrong, and that cold fusion could be possible

Wait, you said it was possible in principle. Now you're saying that cold fusion contradicts theory.

about 3 months ago

HBO To Offer Online Streaming Without TV Subscription

Art3x Company websites should be like TV channels (139 comments)

MGM, Universal, Sony, and all copyright owners should just make all their content watchable on their own websites. Instead of clicking to channel 24, I should click to channel mgm.com, paramount.com, or whatever.

This usage of a middleman like Netflix, where most content isn't even available, doesn't make sense to me.

I guess they would have to figure out how to inject ads in or around all their content, or standardize on OAuth Connect or something so I don't have to sign up on each website. They would also have to be happy with micropayments per show or very small monthly credit card charges. I can't sign up on all of them for $10 a month.

about 4 months ago

Drupal Fixes Highly Critical SQL Injection Flaw

Art3x It's not that hard to do it right (54 comments)

I understand database abstration layers that let you write:

db_query('select * from table where id = 3')

instead of:

mysql_query('select * from table where id = 3')
pgsql_query('select * from table where id = 3')

But I'm not sure I understand why you would want even more abstraction that lets you write:

db_select('*').from('table').where({ id: 3 })


Sealing against SQL injection isn't that hard. Don't ever write:

select * from table where id = $id

If you see a dollar sign in an SQL string, it should catch your eye. Instead use parametric queries whenever you can:

select * from table where id = ? or
select * from table where id = $1 or
select * from table where id = :id or
whatever your programming language's syntax is.

Maybe variables in queries are unavoidable, if you have some kind of query building code:

if ($x) {
    $table = 'x';
} else {
    $table = 'y';

$q = db_prepare("select * from $table where id = ?");

Does anyone have a better way to build up queries?

about 4 months ago

CSS Proposed 20 Years Ago Today

Art3x Re:They _Should_ Replace It (180 comments)

For styling and formatting it’s ok, but for layout it is a convoluted mess.

I'm one of the few who think you should not use CSS for layout.

If you use CSS for fonts, color, bold, italic, margins, padding, it's fine. What do these things have in common? They're traits of a box with little consideration about its relationship with other boxes. Margin sort of is, but it's just saying, "Keep this far away from me." These CSS properties are all sort of self-centered.

And then for layout if you use HTML, in particular, HTML tables, life is easy. At this point I casually step behind an embankment, to hide from the onslaught by the standardistas. They complain that using a table is not "semantic." Well, guess what? If you use a list tag for things that don't line up vertically, then you're also being unsemantic, because "list" meant "strip" or "edge," because the text lined up along a common edge. "Paragraph" means "a mark beside," so if you're not putting pilcrows beside each paragraph you're being unsemantic.

What does it even mean that tables should only be used for "tabular data"? Isn't that a tautology? It's like saying, only pour water on things that are already wet.

Cascading Style Sheets come from the style sheets publishers have used for years. Pre-Internet desktop publishing software like Quark had style sheets too. And neither letterpress nor desktop publishers used these stylesheets for layout to the extent that people say we should use CSS for it.

about 4 months ago

Axiom Open Source Camera Handily Tops 100,000 Euro Fundraising Goal

Art3x Re:It will never get built ... (31 comments)

If they are planning to sell the camera for $500, with the FPGA/SoC costing about $100 alone, that can't work out.

No, the $100,000 they raised is purely for research and development. Backing the project puts you in line to later buy the AXIOM Beta model at cost, which will be around another couple thousand dollars.

I don't know the people behind this project, but because of my side interest in filmmaking I've been keeping tabs on it. For what it's worth, it's been going on for years, and this is the first time they've asked for money.

about 4 months ago

Lost Opportunity? Windows 10 Has the Same Minimum PC Requirements As Vista

Art3x Software should actually shrink (554 comments)

In my experience as a programmer, the more you work on software the smaller it should become, while the doing the same thing or even doing more. It's a paradox of software and also one of writing in general. Blaise Pascal once wrote in a letter, "I made this very long, because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter."

Not that I would expect a tech blogger to understand this, because most of them don't know much about tech or writing.

about 4 months ago



What's the cost of build quality?

Art3x Art3x writes  |  about 2 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Do cheap laptops have to be flimsy, with plastic shells instead of metal, dinky hinges, and mushy keys? I’m a programmer, not an industrial designer. Am I missing something? I would think that a solid build takes two things: good materials and fitting them together well. As for material, is metal really more than a dollar or so more per pound than plastic? As for fit, that’s a matter of knowledge and technique. If the manufacturer has well-built laptops at a higher price, they clearly have such knowledge. This same question applies to other devices, such as cameras. Why is anything over a few hundred dollars poorly made, especially by a company that can make it well?"

Where do you find good programmers?

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Kernighan said, 'Controlling complexity is the essence of computer programming.' My past four coworkers subscribed to the copy-and-paste method of code reuse, preferred long names (they sound more official), and built unrequested features so they "wouldn't have to code it later." The code samples from applicants indicate they believe the same. Where do you find programmers who believe in tight design, DRY, and less-is-more? I feel that it would be easier to find an architect, painter, or writer and teach him programming than to find a programmer and teach him good design — or even get him to acknowledge its existence."

The Internet is killing local news, says the FCC

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "The rise of the Internet has led to a 'shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting' says a a 475-page report by the FCC, and the consequences could be 'more government waste, more local corruption,' 'less effective schools' and other problems. Even though there are more media choices today than ever, newspapers have been laying off reporters, leaving a gap that is yet to be filled."
Link to Original Source

Google Chrome tag to abandon H.264

Art3x Art3x writes  |  about 4 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "As you know, HTML 5 introduced the <video> tag, so you don't have to use Flash, QuickTime, etc. It can even enclose several versions of the same video (H.264, WebM, Ogg, etc.) for different computers or browsers. Well, for Google Chrome in a couple months, you will have to provide it something other than H.264, because it is dropping support for H.246. 'Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies,' wrote Mike Jazayeri, Product Manager."

Netflix likes open source

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Netflix's VP of Systems and E-commerce Engineering, Kevin McEntee, just blogged his appreciation for open-source software and open standards. 'At Netflix we jumped on for the ride a long time ago and we have benefited enormously from the virtuous cycles of actively evolving open source projects,' he writes, and he says that Netflix not only uses but has contributed back to projects such as Hudson, Hadoop, Hive, Honu, Apache, Tomcat, Ant, Ivy, Cassandra, and HBase. Instantly streamed in a bunch of comments asking why there's no player for Linux."
Link to Original Source

Google puts forth new image format: WebP

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Google has come up with another image format: WebP. Based on the intraframe compression of VP8, it shrinks JPEG files another 39%, on average, in their test of a million pictures across the Web. 'Images and photos make up about 65% of the bytes transmitted per web page today.' said Google. 'They can significantly slow down a user's web experience.' While some images shrank a mere 10%, some were 75% smaller than a JPEG at the same quality. Still, do you think a new web image format will take?"
Link to Original Source

Lightworks video editor to turn open source

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "EditShare will release its video editor as open source this summer. Lightworks handles high-definition media, DPX, and RED, shares projects with Final Cut Pro and Avid, and was recently used by Academy-award-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker on Shutter Island. Introduced in in 1989 and bought by EditShare last year, it 'has come from over one million hours of software development,' says EditShare's James Richings. But he says releasing the source will 'generate concepts and capabilities never seen before. I expect that the Lightworks Open Source initiative will transform not only the technology, but also the opinions on what a professional editing tool can achieve.'"

Will the iPad usher in HTML5 video?

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "A page on the Apple web site lists a dozen major web sites publishing their audio or video with the HTML 5 tags, including: CNN, the New York Times, ESPN, NPR, The White House, People magazine, CBS, and National Geographic. It might be that the HTML 5 media shows up just if you're on the iPad, but I was surprised by so many so soon."

Microsoft lost by ignoring search query long tail

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Microsoft focused on returning good results for popular queries but ignored the minor ones. 'It turned out the long tail was much more important,' said Bing's Yusuf Mehdi. 'One-third of queries that show up on Bing, it's the first time we've ever seen that query.' Yet the long tail is what makes most of Google's money.

Microsoft is so far behind that now maybe they won't crush Google but can live side by side, with Bing specializing in transactions like plane tickets, said Bing Director Stefan Weitz.

I doubt that will ever take off."

Link to Original Source

Google Chrome Extensions Gallery Opened

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "The Chromium team opened the extensions gallery today. If you are running a beta version of Chrome in Windows or Linux (Mac still to come), then you can now browse a gallery of about 300 extensions.

The closest thing to the coveted Adblock equivalent is Adsweep, but it is right now broken. Who wants to take this on?"

Link to Original Source

Google releases JavaScript Library

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Google has released an open-source, modular JavaScript library called the Closure Library," which it developed in house for its own web applications like Gmail and Google Docs. "Web developers can pull just what they need from a wide set of reusable UI widgets and controls, as well as lower-level utilities for the DOM, server communication, animation, data structures, unit testing, rich-text editing, and much, much more.""
Link to Original Source

Convincing my company to use open source

Art3x Art3x writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Art3x (973401) writes "Are there any good resources for helping move a company from Microsoft to open source? I work for a self-proclaimed "Microsoft shop." From time to time I have the a chance to present to the leaders, and I would like at least to plant a seed. Most of them think Microsoft is THE software vendor. Upon mention of open source, they say "Oh, yeah, freeware," — the hobby of a single hacker instead of a serious worldwide effort. Especially, software without "support" is an anathema to them.

I'm sure I could comb the Internet and cobble something together. But are there any good articles or books — or even companies — for just this purpose: to systematically guide an IT department to exchange (no pun intended) each of their Microsoft products for the open-source equivalent?

As a bonus, any article that clearly tells the story of how Microsoft came to dominance (i.e., not by merit) would also be appreciated."


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