Microsoft Surface Drowning?
Windows 8 does support right clicks via long clicks on the Desktop. There's a number of problems with the UI however. On most devices I have used (including and especially Surfaces) the right click menus and menu items are too small to hit accurately with a fingertip. You need to use a stylus to effectively use the traditional Desktop with a touch screen. Besides the targets being too small your finger occults the very target you're trying to hit. Your fingertip is larger than the Windows mouse cursor and it's attached to your hand which is vastly larger than the Windows mouse cursor. Without at the very least a stylus the Windows desktop is almost impossible to use effectively on a touch device.
just because it is capable enough to run a parallel full desktop interface doesn't mean the whole thing is stupid, it means it is trying to be 2 things at once. And that can be a brilliant thing, if you manage to pull it off.
Unfortunately for everyone involved Windows 8 does not implement its different UI paradigms well. The Metro interface is absurd when using a keyboard and mouse and the traditional Desktop interface is absurd when using a touch screen.
Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?
Now you might say that much of today's software is too complex to describe in a man page --- but IMHO - that's the bigger problem. If people write complex monolithic bloat, writing pretty documentation for it is the least of our problems.
I wouldn't say that today's software is too complex for man pages but instead man pages have never really been ideal for the tasks for which they're used. Software has always been complex. Man pages might have been appropriate for some short window of time but technology quickly left them behind.
Man pages do not have an effective system of hyperlinking, indexing, or even searching. They were meant to be read on a teletype or printed on paper. For documentation any more complex than instructions on how to use console commands they are completely inadequate. Even for looking up instructions on console commands they're less than adequate because there's no sort of authoritative hierarchy, if you don't look up the exact right term man won't point you to the correct documentation (or best guesses).
Besides man being inadequate it is difficult to write proper man pages. This is just adding insult to injury as it makes it less likely that developers will write even bad documentation.
Of existing documentation systems I'd most like to see GNU Info become the primary documentation mechanism for FOSS. It solves most of man's problems without introducing its own new ones. Even GNU Info isn't perfect and could use some improvements.
I don't disagree with the idea that FOSS desperately needs some reliable offline documentation. This idea might require that FOSS distributions themselves maintain their own documentation. The Arch wiki for instance is fantastic, it's some of the best Linux/Unix documentation around. While the Wiki is great it would be really nice to see this information turned into texinfo/manpage/whatever files so everyone could have good references and not need access to the internet.
Samsung Delays Tizen Phone Launch
Google got the message and Samsung killed most of their Tizen team and went back to focusing on Android.
They killed their engineers? Can't Google just call their bluff now?
Chromebooks Are Outselling iPads In Schools
If only tablets had on-screen keyboards or supported Bluetooth keyboards or keyboard docks! Those poor students with tablets! They're unable to do anything but watch Netflix!
This sort of commentary just sounds stupid. Even if you want to make a point that tablets don't have good native input solutions don't go full hyperbole. All you're doing is reducing the impact of the point you're trying to make.
In the real non-hyperbolic world tablets are perfectly capable of being typed upon. I would even suggest tablets (especially higher end ones like iPads, Nexuses, and Galaxy Notes) can be more capable than laptops in some situations when given to students.
It's entirely possible for a kid and with iPad to produce their own podcast or video presentation for a class. They've got an audio recorder, video camera, and still camera in their hands. There's also plenty of apps that let them splice all of that together into something coherent and interesting. They can also use that same device to type up a more traditional report.
The idea of kids putting together multimedia presentations has been around for a long time but the technology to do so has really sucked. It's either been overly complicated or vastly underpowered. There's room for both traditional written reports as well as multimedia projects. Having devices that can handle all of them is a good investment.
Hunt Intensifies For Aliens On Kepler's Planets
For starters the Drake Equation is not something to really be "believed". It's just a way to form a guess. It doesn't tell anyone anything useful.
As for nuclear wars on extrasolar planets, we're just at the edge of being able to detect terrestrial extrasolar planets. We do not currently have the ability to gather the sort of data that might suggest an extrasolar planet had been the site of a nuclear war.
Microsoft Finally Selling Xbox One Without Kinect
Microsoft has more or less annoyed. confused and alienated their potential user base.
Microsoft's big problem with their policies and backpedaling is that people like me simply cannot trust anything they say. Rational buyers aren't now going to run out and buy XBones because there's no guarantee Microsoft won't go back to their original policies once sales improve.
If anything they need to abandon disliked policies and declare publicly with some manner of legal obligation that they will never go back to them. Until then I won't even consider buying an XBone or any subsequent Microsoft console.
Astronomers Calculate How To Spot Life On an Alien Earth
Hence the line about "light gathering chemicals like it". There's a few different chemicals that can be used by organisms in photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is simply the most popular on the surface of the Earth. Other pigments are optimum for regions that receive different light spectra than the surface. On worlds whose stars had different spectral maxima than Sol these pigments would likely be more abundant in photosynthetic life.
The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind of a Mess
Is there a astroturfing version of Poe's Law?
Once you have seen a Fire in action, you will be blown away.
Once you see the astroturfing for the Fire in action, you will be blown farther away.
An SSD for Your Current Computer May Save the Cost of a New One (Video)
There's a few methods to do this. The first is bcache which allows an SSD/Flash memory to be combined to form a hybrid volume. Another is Flashcache which is a little more transparent (as I understand it) with respect to the file system.
Graphene Conducts Electricity Ten Times Better Than Expected
To start: fuck the beta. Everyone involved in it should be ashamed of themselves.
The comparison to dinosaurs is a bit ridiculous. Slashdot fucking itself over is not the fault of the users, especially disgruntled long time users. It's the fault of myopic management with delusions of grandeur.
Slashdot is not a destination because it aggregates somewhat nerdy stories hosted on other websites. It is also not a destination because of the impressive grammar and spelling skills of the "editors".
It's a destination because nerds with an interest in the stories published will come and opine on them. Not only will they opine but they'll provide additional details or corrections. That's not something readily found on other news aggregation sites. The user comments section of most websites is something to be avoided at all costs.
The beta not only discourages the sort of commentary that has made Slashdot a worthwhile destination but the policies around it are driving away users. Without the users as a value-add Slashdot is really little different from any other news aggregator.
Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!
Timothy et al, please just stop and look at what you're doing. The beta is awful. The beta is awful because it seriously fucks up the one feature that has made Slashdot a site worth using since its inception: the user contributions.
The stories themselves are rarely why I bother to check Slashdot, I've always been more interested in the discussion. The discussion on Slashdot has been more interesting than the stories for several reasons. One major reason is the discussions would almost always add information about a story that wasn't linked to by the story itself or the editors. A Slashdot post would bring up a topic and then allow a bunch of nerds with an interest in that subject to chime in and share what they knew. Many times the people being written about in the Slashdot stories were Slashdot users themselves and could give first hand information.
Besides the contributions themselves the moderation system is actually pretty damned good. Positive discussion more often than not gets highly promoted. Because of the way mod points work there's little incentive to do anything but promote interesting commentary or demote outright trolling. Because of this system it's pretty easy to find worthwhile discussion no matter the topic.
It's because of these things that Slashdot's value comes almost entirely from its user contributions rather than news aggregation. In 1997 news aggregation like Slashdot was new and interesting. Today every site does it. What every site does not have is an intelligent and interested user base that will add value to the stories themselves.
The user comments section of almost every large website is a cesspool. Not only do they not have meaningful moderation but there's no community interested in promoting discussion. The design of the sites themselves also discourage long form commentary and encourage useless drive-by commentary.
In short remember that Slashdot users are not an audience, they are a community of contributors. Without the users there is no Slashdot.
Ask Slashdot: How To Reimagine a Library?
What ideas do you have to turn an elementary school library into an environment that fosters innovation and technology?
I'm really worried about this whole endeavor if you're asking that question. A library shouldn't need to foster âoeinnovation and technologyâ. If you want to foster innovation and technology build a technology lab. Libraries should be a place students can borrow books and other media to enjoy. It sounds like you've got an earmarked budget for one thing (libraries) and you're trying to shoehorn it into another area (technology).
Now if technology is your buzzword that draws funding then add media besides books to the catalog. Pick up some cheap (and/or durable) televisions and DVD players with DVDs of educational shows like Reading Rainbow. Put a few donated computers loaded with educational software in the back. LTSP terminals instead of full desktops might even be more survivable.
If you want to get really innovative and technological you could add hobby projects to the list of things students could check out. Hobby project kits like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. You could even lend out eletronic science lab kits. Besides stocking science and electronic books for kids sync up with a local Maker group and have them come in for special electronics lectures and demonstrations.
1.21 PetaFLOPS (RPeak) Supercomputer Created With EC2
There's several potential problems with renting out time on another university's cluster. For one there may simply be a lot of bureaucratic steps involved in renting out resources from another university. The second is that some cluster you don't own might not support your particular software/platform/project.
One attractive aspect of cloud services is the customer gets to load on whatever wonky configuration they want into a virtualized instance. Using someone else's cluster may not provide that sort of flexibility. Being able to load an EC2 instance with the same (or similar enough) configuration as your work laptop is a feature. Researchers aren't necessarily developers so the code/configuration they need to run may be very messy. A "cloud compute" service is more attractive in that case than a highly optimized HPC cluster.
A very real use case for this sort of set up is "man my laptop doesn't have the power to churn through all this data, let me upload my project as-is to Amazon and throw a few petaflops at it". I've seen a few people use AWS for things like rendering 3D scenes (Blender et al). It's a nice option to have a few teraflops at your disposal when you need them for a relatively low price.
1.21 PetaFLOPS (RPeak) Supercomputer Created With EC2
Basically this article translates to "Amazon has a lot of computers and this guy rented out a bunch of them at once".
No the article translates to "if you've got embarrassingly parallel workloads you can use EC2 to churn through it without a massive infrastructure outlay of your own". Amazon isn't just renting out the actual CPUs but the power, HVAC, storage, and networking to go along with it. Infrastructure and maintenance is a huge cost of HPC and puts it out of reach for many smaller projects.
You're entirely correct that a massive Rpeak value isn't impressive in terms of actual purpose-built super computers but reporting of the Rpeak is only half of the story. The lede buried in the reporting is that for $33,000 a professor was able to take off the shelf software and run it on a 1.21 petaflop parallel cluster. That's high teraflop to petaflop computing at relatively small research grant prices. I think that's the interesting fact out of this story.
Can Nintendo Survive Gaming's Brave New World?
Nintendo's biggest weakness is clearly their complete distain and disregard for supporting online play. From tedious friend codes, to a lack of headset/mic support, to their stubborn insistence in going their own way with an online marketplace, their online/connectivity factor is woefully neglected and abused.
It's not so much disdain as it is compliance with the law. I wouldn't agree Nintendo's first party games are chilidish as many people exclaim but they do tend to be child friendly. This means that Nintendo has a large population of players under the age of 13. This is an important point because there's a lot of regulation around online services and children. Specifically the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The Wikipedia entry covers the major provisions of the law but it boils down to collecting just about any information from children under 13 is a really tricky situation.
Because of COPPA and other laws in the same vein more traditional online identities are not really practical if you intend the services to be used by children. With Friend Codes two players have to provide each with their personal code for each game. Ostensibly (and likely in the eyes of the law) these codes are not personally identifiable nor do they provide any sort of 1-to-1 correspondance to any particular person. It's just a code that corresponds to a particular game inserted into a particular console.
The lack of headphone support is likely largely informed by Nintendo's demographics as well. Instead of having to build all kinds of filtering or restrictions into a chat system they just don't bother including one. Since the multi-player focus of many Nintendo properties is for local split-screen play adding support for network voice chat is probably pretty low on the priority list.
I'll agree with you about their marketplace. It's not well thought out or at least the logic behind it is not obvious to anyone outside of the company. It's taken far too long to get any sort of parity between the Wii, Wii-U, and 3DS stores. The Virtual Console is the worst offender as there's no universal availability between devices for different titles. There's no reason an old NES game can't be played on a Wii and 3DS. If you've got a hacked console with an open source emulator you're in a better spot than going through the official channels.
Join the Efforts of a Manned Mission To Jovian Moon Europa
We've sent a number of automated missions to Mars and we should send quite a few more. To paraphrase myself from another reply; we lose a Mars probe due to a conversion error and no one cars, we lose a single astronaut and the whole program is shuttered.
For the money it would take to develop the infrastructure to send that one good field geologist to Mars we could send many probes designed by good field geologists with all their important tools built-in. If the probes last beyond their initial missions they can continue on with secondary missions. Look at the Mars Exploration Rovers, Deep Space 1, or the Voyager probes for great examples of this.
Once a human's food or water runs out their mission ends. Growing/recycling food and water sounds great but is extremely complicated and something we're barely able to do in LEO aboard the ISS. The ECLSS system on the ISS breaks down with alarming regularity. It's a learning experience to be sure but it's something that would need to be perfected and then re-perfected for any manned mission outside of LEO where resupply is unavailable.
Join the Efforts of a Manned Mission To Jovian Moon Europa
There's currently about a dozen active deep space missions including three Martian orbiters and two rovers. Robots can send back pretty pictures that make good magazine covers and desktop backgrounds (in addition to doing science) and they continue to get funding. There's also no sense of hurt national pride if one of them unceremoniously litho-brakes during a mission. Lose a Mars probe due to Imperial-Metric conversion error and no one bats an eye, lose some astronauts and everyone freaks out.
Join the Efforts of a Manned Mission To Jovian Moon Europa
The principal investigator for the Mars rovers said that if he were on Mars he could do in 45 seconds what the rovers do in a day.
I think you're talking about Steve Squyers, the principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover missions. He's a really smart guy and he's not wrong in his statement you're quoting. To wit, Apollo 17 astronauts collected about 110kg of lunar rocks during 22 total hours of EVA and drove a grand total of 36km while the Spirit rover only drove about 3.6km and examined (but did not collect) about 25 rocks over the course of 8 months.
However you simply cannot use this data to imply that humans sent into space are magically more productive than robotic probes. A field geologist would need to do a day's worth of work in 45 seconds on Mars because they would die of asphyxiation in about three minutes. To prevent that they would need to carry around their own oxygen. To keep it from floating free it would need to be contained in some sort of mask. The freezing temperatures would then kill that geologist within a few hours so instead of a mask they would need a whole insulated airtight suit. To keep from dying of dehydration within three days they would need water. Now that they would survive the night they would need food or else they would be ineffectual in their explorations after a few days and dead of starvation within a few weeks.
From there it only gets worse. In order to do really interesting work the field geologist would need some tools, not the least of which is a camera and a transceiver to talk back with Earth about their findings. To do anything more complicated would likely require more complicated tools. To keep these out of the elements (dust storms, intense UV radiation, Martian attack, etc) the field geologist would likely need some sort of habitat.
So really the field geologist needs literally tons of logistics behind them to do the work of an automated probe. That's a lot of non-mission specific mass to send to Mars just to support the single capable field geologist. With the extra mass comes expense and added complexity of the whole system.
Why not skip the extra bullshit and send more automated probes to Mars that were designed by an army of field geologists? You could send a dozen such missions for the same cost as a single manned mission and end up covering every major geologic region of the planet. You could also fill up its orbit with a squadron of multispectral imaging satellites that could relay data as well as collect their own.
I understand the desire to plant a human being on Mars but at the same time the pragmatic part of me interested in the actual science would rather see a dozen automated missions sent first. Putting inanimate objects in space is Hard, putting living things in space and getting them home still alive in Very Hard, putting people on the surface of other bodies is Extremely Hard, and putting people on the surface of other bodies having them do useful work while there is a damn moonshot (pun intended). Getting them home from said body is a "nice to have" and a minor miracle when it occurs.
Humans can be more effective in some places than robots but they're not necessarily more efficient than robots. If you've got limited will/funds the robot is usually the better option.
Hollywood's Love of Analytics Couldn't Prevent Six Massive Blockbuster Flops
Offer me something of fucking value!
Here's the product I'm being offered by Hollywood: I'm asked to pay $12 to sit in a crowded theater to watch a movie with the volume set to "deafen". If I want anything to eat or drink I'm expected to pay another $12 for the shittiest example of "food" someone is legally allowed to sell. Multiply this by two since I'm usually seeing a movie with my significant other. Paying upwards of $50 to experience all of this inconvenience is not something to which I attribute value. The value is lessened when someone brings a screaming baby into the theater or decides they want to talk on the phone or text in the middle of the movie.
With that in mind I'm not about to run out and watch the latest tripe release by Hollywood. They're not geting any money out of me, not because I'm pirating the material, but because I'm not bothering to participate. I'm happy to spend money on things I value but seeing movies in theaters are not those things. Here's my helpful suggestions for Hollywood that would actually get my ass to happily pay to get into a theater.
First and foremost please concern yourselves with the writing a little bit more. I know complaining about Hollywood plots is cliche at this point but I am not interested in paying to see a plot written using Madlibs. If I do want to watch a silly popcorn flick don't think you can charge me through the nose to do so.
Stop with the insane movie budgets. More money does not equal better movie. Really just cut back.
Let me avoid the theater entirely by letting me rent a movie on the dya of release. You're more likely to get money out of me for a shitty movie if I can watch it at home. Don't complain about "box office" returns. The option is you let me rent it for non-zero dollars or I avoid it and you get zero dollars.
Intel Removes "Free" Overclocking From Standard Haswell CPUs
Wow, way to give a classy response to a perfectly valid comment.
In the era of the eminently overclockable Celeron 300A the whole process was extremely worthwhile. You ended up with an amazingly cheap CPU that performed like it's far more expensive cousin. This was also an era was so many tasks were CPU bound so a free 50% CPU speed improvement was a great reward for the effort. Even moderate overclocking of Athlon XPs could give some nice performance gains.
The era that such gains were easily achievable through overclocking is over. Since both Intel and AMD have gone to multi-core designs and added hyperthreading the raw clockspeed of an individual core matters far less. There's also far fewer tasks that are solely CPU clock speed bound anymore.
Because of this even when modern CPUs can easily get 50% clock speed increases the actual performance difference is not orthogonal to that increase. More cores, larger caches, faster interconnects, more and faster RAM, and more powerful GPUs all do more to increase system performance than CPU clock speed. If you had an old Core 2 Duo machine an SSD and extra RAM would do more for performance in day to day tasks than overclocking the CPU.
Ergo the OP is correct in suggesting that overclocking is no longer the huge performance booster that it was in the past. The fact that it is a simpler and more reliable process today than it was decade and a half ago doesn't obviate that point. There's going to be an infinitesimal number of people this change is going to materially affect.