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In IT, Beware of Fad Versus Functional

Dimwit Some practical examples (153 comments)

So over my nearly 20 years in IT/CS, I've seen a few:

I worked for a large retailer. We migrated from an old frame-relay leased-line network to a much more capable multihomed IP-over-VPN configuration to connect all of our retail locations around the country back to HQ. This new system worked well. Our CIO retired, and a new one was brought in. CIO Magazine a year or so later had an article about "Satellite Internet, The Future?" Our CIO then "spontaneously" started lobbying to get us to scrap our efficient, inexpensive, high-bandwidth network for a satellite system.

I can't tell you how many projects I saw rewritten in Ruby on Rails just because that was the new hotness, only to be abandoned later when everyone realized that Ruby is awful.

I myself wrote a bunch of stuff in Erlang not because it was the best language but because that was the new hotness.

Two unchanging things I've noticed are:

A lot of time, the new hotness makes common problems go away or common tasks easier, but ends up making more complex things harder. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but people tend to get stuck in the model of thinking that the new technology has to be used for everything, and they end up shoehorning their complex projects into frameworks that aren't the best choice.

No matter what the new technology is, and no matter how fantastic it is, it's not going to replace C/C++ for systems-level work, and Python and Perl aren't going anywhere. Truly successful technologies have long tails.

5 days ago
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Virtual Reality Experiment Wants To Put White People In Black Bodies

Dimwit Re:Easier method (447 comments)

I would genuinely appreciate any stories you have to share - not because I don't believe you, but because Slashdot has recently become so "angry white male" that it's depressing.

(I've been on Slashdot since 1998. I remember when article comments were a welcoming forum. Now it's yet another forum where "liberal" on its own is conisdered an insult and labeling someone as such immediately means they are no longer worthy of consideration.)

5 days ago
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The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait

Dimwit Re:Depends (567 comments)

Heh, right, I mean...I guess I don't understand why one is rotated 180 degrees...It's not that important. :)

about two weeks ago
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The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait

Dimwit Re:Depends (567 comments)

Reversed?

about two weeks ago
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Five Years of the Go Programming Language

Dimwit For those interested... (82 comments)

Go was developed in large part by Rob Pike who has a long history of concucrrency programming going back to Plan 9 from Bell Labs and earlier.

Some of his more interesting papers about concurrency are:

http://swtch.com/~rsc/thread/n... (The Newsqueak Programming Language)
http://swtch.com/~rsc/thread/n... (Newsqueak Implementation)
https://www.usenix.org/legacy/... (A Concurrent Window System)

You can even see some hints of what was to come in his paper outlining the design of the Blit terminal for Unix:
http://doc.cat-v.org/bell_labs...

about a month ago
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Study Shows How Humans Can Echolocate

Dimwit Chocolate (136 comments)

I read that as "eat chocolate" even after readreading it twice. I still would've been interested, though, since it's toxic to some mammals.

about a month ago
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HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show

Dimwit Re:While you're at it... (242 comments)

Greg Egan's stuff wouldn't translate well to the screen, I think. I absolutely love his work (Permutation City is one of my favorite books, and I loved Schild's Ladder, Quarantine, and all of his short fiction). The problem is that there's too heavy of a cognitive science/philosophical bent to them. You'd have to have a character sit down a monologue for a while to get everything out.

about a month ago
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HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show

Dimwit While you're at it... (242 comments)

Make a Rendezvous With Rama movie, would ya?

about a month ago
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Black IT Pros On (Lack Of) Racial Diversity In Tech

Dimwit Dear lord... (459 comments)

Okay, here's the deal. I am passionate about computer science and programming. It's what I do, both for my job, and as my only hobby. I write code for open source projects, and I write code for work, and I design little one-off projects for my own entertainment.

I stayed up all night every summer growing up teaching myself how to code. When I go to the used book store, I go to the section and buy old computer science textbooks talking about esoterica (I'm the only person I know under 45 who knows any APL, for example). My bedtime reading last week was the Oberon System manual that I got off eBay for $5.00.

All this was despite the fact that I grew up in rural Texas and got my ass beaten on a daily basis for being a "geek". The fact that my family was the only non-Christian family in town meant that I couldn't go to the school administration for help; when I tried it turned into a "let's pray for you, son." And yet, I kept doing it because I was passionate about it.

And guess what? If you're that passionate about something, you'll do it regardless of what your peers think. You'll *make* it happen. We didn't have any money growing up, so I'd stay after school and work on the computers there. When we finally scraped up enough money to buy a used Commodore 64 in like 1992, I had that hooked up to an old black-and-white TV and taught myself 6502 assembly.

So yeah, I'm sick of people saying "it's someone else's fault that I can't do this." No, it's not. If you're passionate enough about it, you'll *make* it happen.

about a month ago
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President Obama Backs Regulation of Broadband As a Utility

Dimwit Re:They ARE a utility. (706 comments)

Except that in other parts of the developed world where ISPs are much more regulated, speeds have gone up and prices have gone down. So, you know, the exact opposite of what you said.

about a month and a half ago
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In this year's US mid-term elections ...

Dimwit Re:no dimocrats (551 comments)

"I don't believe in hateful divisions on the lines of gender, race, heritage, etc, so therefore I'm logically going to vote for a party whose official platform includes denying women the rights to their own bodies, homosexuals the rights to marry the people they love, and actively attempted to limit access to democracy to people of color."

Look, when you've got a shit sandwich and a crazy guy who wants to shoot you in the head, well...shit sandwiches aren't that bad.

about a month and a half ago
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Google Fiber To Launch In Austin, Texas In December

Dimwit I live in the Northeast part of Austin... (88 comments)

...and I'm never getting fiber internet. Certain parts of the city are completely ignored for infrastructure upgrades. We just spent $10 million putting bicycle repair kits and air pumps in the richer parts of town, while delaying the sewer installation in my part of town (we were annexed by the city in 2007 and were supposed to have sewers hooked up in 2012...it's 2014 and now they're saying they "hope" it'll get done by 2015). We spent another $1-2 million on "sharrows", which are little arrows that go in the roads to show that we should share those lanes with bikes. We also just spent something like $30 million finishing a bicycling bridge over Town Lake.

In other words, rich people in the south and southwestern parts of town get whatever they want on the taxpayer dime while people in the north and east have to put up with roads without sidewalks, failing sewer systems, and lackluster police protection. Yay.

about 2 months ago
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KDE Releases Plasma 5.1

Dimwit Re:Does anyone still use Gnome? (60 comments)

KDE is too "busy". There's drop shadows everywhere and HUGE icons and constant distracting animations. Plus, it's the only desktop I've ever stat down at and couldn't immediately understand how to use it. What's an "Activity"? Is it a workspace? Without trying, I was able to get myself into a situation where I had zero controls on the screen and no idea how to get out of it. GNOME "just works".

about 2 months ago
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Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

Dimwit Re:Communism Inspired Tyranny (652 comments)

As opposed to Libertarianism and "Fuck you, I'll fuck up all of the things we share because fuck you, I got mine"?

about 2 months ago
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Conservative Groups Accuse FCC of Helping Net Neutrality Advocates File Comments

Dimwit Conservatives and hearing the people (283 comments)

For a group that just loves to scream "democracy!" and "republic!" they sure don't want the wrong sort of people having a say in their government, what with fighint tooth and nail to reduce early voting, vote-by-mail, and now, apparently, making it harder to file opinions with government agencies.

about 3 months ago
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Remote Exploit Vulnerability Found In Bash

Dimwit Terminal vulnerabilities (399 comments)

My favorite of this sort of thing is CVE-2009-1717, which was a bug in Apple's terminal emulator in Mac OS X. Sending certain escape sequences to it caused it to blow up and potentially execute code. What was fun is that putting a "telnet://" link in a web page would automatically cause Mac OS X to automatically open a terminal and connect to a remote host with no prompting by the user. It was a pretty neat vulnerability.

about 3 months ago
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Reanalysis of Clinical Trials Finds Misleading Results

Dimwit Drug companies and profit motive (74 comments)

Let's compare two companies that depend on science - IBM and GlaxoSmithKline.

Let's say IBM discovers a new method of lithography for building microchips. They publish their results, and their results are replicated. More importantly, IBM gets a new, presumably better way of making microchips.

GlaxoSmithKline makes a new drug that treats a psychological illness. To some degree, because there are no objective physical tests for most psychological illnesses, the determination of effectiveness is made subjectively.

Both companies want the science to turn out right, because it makes them money. One of them has a much easier time massaging the results of any studies.

about 3 months ago
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Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life

Dimwit The web of life... (211 comments)

I blew my wife's mind the other day when I pointed out that we are literally just a small component of a single, globe-spanning, four billion year long chemical reaction. A single, very long running checmial reaction. It's pretty neat when you think about it.

about 3 months ago
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Linus Torvalds: 'I Still Want the Desktop'

Dimwit Re:Oh it'll happen... (727 comments)

This is a much bigger deal than people seem to think. I tried getting my father set up on Linux not that long ago.

"I need help, this says GNOME needs updating, I thought I was running Linux?"
"You are, Linux is the kernel, but GNOME is the desktop environment."
"Well, what's Debian? It says Debian needs updating."
"You're running the Debian distribution of Linux."
"I thought it was GNOME?"

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

Dimwit Re:Big problem: Linux won (430 comments)

No, I think it's a good thing. I just think the Linux community (and the wider modern OSS community) need to realize it and write their documentation accordingly. Very few people today know how to use traditional Unix tools, so why does GNU's documentation still only document the differences?

about 5 months ago

Submissions

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Practical mathematics for programmers?

Dimwit Dimwit writes  |  about a year ago

Dimwit (36756) writes "The best part about programming is that I can decide that I want a new text editor or a new video game or a new multiprotocol router, and I can write it, and when I'm done, I have a new text editor or video game or multiprotocol router. Mathematics has never been that way for me — I never sit and think "I sure would like to find the area under a curve!" and then come up with a way to do it. So what's a good path for the practical programmer to take towards mathematics? One with goals and problems to solve that aren't the same old boring word problems?"
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Mathematics for Programmers

Dimwit Dimwit writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Dimwit (36756) writes "The best part about programming is that I can decide that I want a new text editor or a new video game or a new multiprotocol router, and I can write it, and when I'm done, I have a new text editor or video game or multiprotocol router. Mathematics has never been that way for me — I never sit and think "I sure would like to find the area under a curve!" and then come up with a way to do it. So what's a good path for the practical programmer to take towards mathematics? One with goals and problems to solve that aren't the same old boring word problems?"
Link to Original Source
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A New Scheme in the Heavens!

Dimwit Dimwit writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Dimwit writes "The R6RS electors have cast their votes, the Steering Committee has counted them, and the results are in: there is a new Scheme out there! Major improvements include a formalized module subsystem, new syntax (you can use square brackets now for clarity!), and many others. It sure made my day."
Link to Original Source

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