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The Amazon Fire TV Is Kind of a Mess

Graymalkin Re:Bullshit review - facts help (96 comments)

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.

about three weeks ago
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An SSD for Your Current Computer May Save the Cost of a New One (Video)

Graymalkin Re:Automatic SSD caching of spinning disks in Linu (353 comments)

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.

about three weeks ago
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Graphene Conducts Electricity Ten Times Better Than Expected

Graymalkin Re:We don't know that. (161 comments)

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.

about 3 months ago
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Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

Graymalkin It could'a been a contender (2219 comments)

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.

The beta is it seems to be promoting Slashdot's weaknesses and hiding or abandoning its strengths. Promote user commentary and support the users in commenting on and moderating stories. Fix the character encoding problems and support Markdown for markup. Give the comments a lot of room with readable fonts and don't add whitespace just to add whitespace. Lose the fucking JavaScript popups and animations, I should be able to park my cursor anywhere on the screen and not have to worry about some attention grabbing animation happening.

In short remember that Slashdot users are not an audience, they are a community of contributors. Without the users there is no Slashdot.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Reimagine a Library?

Graymalkin Make a library a place to go (231 comments)

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.

about 3 months ago
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1.21 PetaFLOPS (RPeak) Supercomputer Created With EC2

Graymalkin Re:1.21 PetaFLOPS (RPeak) (54 comments)

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.

about 5 months ago
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1.21 PetaFLOPS (RPeak) Supercomputer Created With EC2

Graymalkin Re:1.21 PetaFLOPS (RPeak) (54 comments)

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.

about 5 months ago
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Can Nintendo Survive Gaming's Brave New World?

Graymalkin Re:Nintendo's Biggest Weakness - ONLINE (277 comments)

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.

about 5 months ago
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Join the Efforts of a Manned Mission To Jovian Moon Europa

Graymalkin Re:Whyd do we need to send humans? (212 comments)

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.

about 7 months ago
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Join the Efforts of a Manned Mission To Jovian Moon Europa

Graymalkin Re:Whyd do we need to send humans? (212 comments)

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.

about 7 months ago
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Join the Efforts of a Manned Mission To Jovian Moon Europa

Graymalkin Re:Whyd do we need to send humans? (212 comments)

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.

about 7 months ago
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Hollywood's Love of Analytics Couldn't Prevent Six Massive Blockbuster Flops

Graymalkin Psst, Hollywood, here's the secret to success (1029 comments)

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.

  1. 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.

  2. Stop with the insane movie budgets. More money does not equal better movie. Really just cut back.

  3. 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.

about 9 months ago
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Intel Removes "Free" Overclocking From Standard Haswell CPUs

Graymalkin Re:Is it necessary these days? (339 comments)

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.

about 10 months ago
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Justice Department Calls Apple the "Ringmaster" In e-book Price Fixing Case

Graymalkin Re:Except its not. (192 comments)

Man I fucking love using market share as metric! Since it is a unitless number it can be used to say anything you want. So under the old model, Amazon controlled 90% of the [market for eBooks]. After publishers instituted their new pricing scheme Amazons market share fell to 60% of [the market for eBooks]. That sounds absolutely terrible!

Unless of course you realize market share is a unitless number that doesnt tell us jack shit. Before publishers changed their prices we dont know what the size of the eBook market was so we dont know what Amazons unit sales or dollar sales were for that time period. After publishers changed their prices we still dont know what the size of the eBook market was so were still unable to tell what Amazons unit or dollar sales were.

Without knowing Amazons unit or dollars sales it is impossible to know if they were materially affected by the change in publisher prices. With Apple entering the eBook retailer arena and thus bringing an eBook store to many tens of millions of iPhones, iPods, and iPads they very likely increased the overall size of the eBook market. Google also entered the fray selling books and magazines in this period of time.

Google and Apple selling eBooks likely increased the total size of the eBook market which means unless Amazons sales grew in that same period at the same rate as the total market their share of that market could only decrease. This isnt rocket surgery. Market share simply cannot show that competitors ate Amazons market share or if their share decreased from market growth. As such market sahre cant possibly be used to show that publishers changing their pricing model positively or negatively affected Amazon. This isnt about defending megacorporations but about not using stupid numbers to make definitive arguments.

about a year ago
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BlackBerry CEO: Tablet Market Is Dying

Graymalkin Re:tablets are not a fad, but... (564 comments)

The major use case of tablets is casual consumption of content, they are the tool that allows that consumption to be casual. A tablet lets me browse Slashdot and reply to your comment while comfortably laying in bed. I don't need to be hunched over a laptop or sitting up at a desk to casually browse the Internet. I've also got some music playing and I may go back to the book I was reading. I'm able to do all these relaxing things very casually and from a comfortable position. It's not about sexiness but my desire to be comfortable while I do low key activities.

Consuming content is not some automatic sign of societal corruption. I read a lot of academic/technical papers and books, a tablet with a high DPI screen makes this much easier than a laptop or even in many cases paper versions of the same. Work might require a traditional computer but my leisure time rarely does. It's ok for tablets to be better for consuming because that's often what I want to do in my leisure time.

The ergonomics of a tablet and especially a touch interface make some types of content creation nearly impossible. Futurist commercials and futurists in general are wrong as often or more often tan they are right. Decades ago AT&T told me that I would have video pay phones to call video landline receivers. Instead I use my wireless video capable handset to call other wireless video handsets. Just because some fanciful advertiser sad you could type a novel on a touch screen or have flawless voice dictation doesn't mean that it can or will exist. Futurists don't have to consider ergonomics/physics/psychology when they come up with blue sky ideas.

about a year ago
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Google Pledges Not To Sue Any Open Source Projects Using Their Patents

Graymalkin Re:Darwin and Motorola (153 comments)

...exploit the free labor of hobbyists...

The free labor or hobbyists meme might have been true a decade and a half ago and maybe not even then. A good portion of open source software is written by people gainfully employed by otherwise closed sourced organizations. They're paid to accomplish X and use an open source solution and contribute code back to the project. Other times they are students or faculty of universities. Increasingly they're paid by an ISV that is selling support/features built on some OSS. Of course there are some hobbyists write code that scratches an itch but to suggest all OSS is written by these types of developers is intellectually dishonest.

It's also intellectually and factually dishonest to suggest that they're "exploiting" these mythical hobbyist developers in some fashion. Apple's been on the level with all of the OSS projects they use, submitting patches back to those projects when changes are made and making changes that are conditionalized for Apple's platforms. No hobbyist developer has been abused or tortured because Apple shipped some software with an OSS license underneath their proprietary UI.

1 year,27 days
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Is Code.org Too Soulless To Make an Impact?

Graymalkin Passion is not the issue (384 comments)

Code.org doesn't have a messaging problem, they've got a core conceptual problem. Trying to teach more people to program, especially by making it part of a core academic curriculum, is amazingly foolish. Anyone that's taken an introductory programming class at a university can tell you it is foolish. Jeff Atwood pointed out this paper seven years ago that expands on this idea. The skinny is that 30-60% of computer science students fail at introductory programming classes and consistently do so despite changes in languages, IDEs, and teaching methodologies. Some students simply could not form mental models needed to be able to program effectively. Keep in mind this was a self-selected group of students, ones who had chosen to take up computer science as a major.

Based on this it seems apparent that if "everyone" was required to take programming courses then a majority of them would simply fail to learn the skill and only pass because schools don't like to fail students. No greater number of students would learn to program and they would have no deeper understanding of how computers or software works. Computer programming is a fine elective and is something that should be available to high school students but it is simply absurd to think that trying to teach everyone to program would lead to everyone magically enriching their lives.

Teaching advanced mathematics to students is unlike teaching programming despite the two being advanced skills. With mathematics there's a consistent domain specific language that can be used. The language of calculus builds on the languages of algebra and geometry which themselves build on simple arithmetic. If someone learns calculus (and continues to use it) it will be applicable for the rest of their lives. The language used for theory is the same one used for applications.

In computer science there's the theoretical topics where "language is an implementation issue" and then more practical topics where the language and platform is paramount. Teaching high school students high level computer science topics isn't going to leave them with practical skills since it is often non-trivial to apply those theoretical concepts (which back practical topics) to a specific language and platform. Teaching more practical programming is going to leave them in a lurch when the school's choice of language and platform doesn't end up the future of the industry. There's thousands if not millions of kids that learned BASIC on Apple ][s and C64s that have not only never used those skills since but have absolutely no conception of how to apply the core concepts learned in this classes to more modern languages and platforms.

If the goal of a programming curriculum is to teach critical thinking, problem solving, or logic there's much better ways to teach those things. Limited school budgets shouldn't be trying to cover programming for everyone. Kids would be much better off being taught how to balance a check book, plan a household budget, and if you want to use computers some basics like don't send naked pictures to your boyfriend or girlfriend because shit stays on the internet forever.. Kids interested in programming will take programming electives and focus in that area. Trying to get everyone to program simply is not going to work and it a waste of time and money that could both be better spent.

about a year ago
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Tim Cook Never Wanted To Sue Samsung

Graymalkin Re:Allow me to join in here (197 comments)

Equating market share to success is short-sighted and ultimately foolish. The Android segment of the market is dominated by low power phones and tablets that have out of date OS versions and no upgrade path. The people buying them don't buy much in the way of third party apps. To the Android platform these buyers are a black hole.

The iPhone may have a smaller share of the quarter-over-quarter market but the platform is far healthier. People that buy iPhones and iPads buy apps and actually use their devices every day.

Apple doesn't need to sell a billion iPhones to be successful in the market. There's no need to dominate in raw numbers if that domination is doesn't bring with it platform health.

about a year ago
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Experience the New Slashdot Mobile Site

Graymalkin You should all be ashamed (384 comments)

The mobile site is absolutely terrible and it has gotten no better for as long as you've been bugging me to use it. Do any of the slashdot web people even have a fucking smartphone? Have you tried using the damned site? These questions are completely rhetorical as I know the answer is "no". The abomination that is the mobile site is caused by the same systemic failure in leadership and programming skill that's made the "Web 2.0" slashdot homepage such a clusterfuck.

It is really not difficult to make a website that loads well and looks good on both desktop and mobile browsers. You don't need fancy JavaScript, CSS3, or buzzwords. Shit you've already got the state of the art Palm optimized homepage. Update the HTML template in that spaghetti code and you'll have yourself a nice workable mobile site.

I know a terrible user experience is part and parcel of the Slashdot experience but I really expect a little more out of the site. I'll keep using aggregators that just slurp the RSS feed so I can avoid the UI vomit that is modern day Slashdot.

about a year ago
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3D Printable Ammo Clip Skirts New Proposed Gun Laws

Graymalkin Re:Why can't we have rational gun control? (1862 comments)

What would you do if you wanted to kill a bunch of people in an incredibly short amount of time? Get handguns? No, you will get a gun that can shoot as fast as possible with the largest capacity magazine you can buy.

You're making a poor argument from a point of extreme ignorance. A rifle like the one used in the CT shooting fires no faster than any semi-automatic handgun you can buy. There's no magic fairy dust in a civilian AR-15 clone that makes it shoot any faster than a Glock 19, both will fire a single round with every pull of the trigger. You can get high capacity magazines for the Glock just as you can for the AR-15 clone. A crazed shooter can go on a killing spree just as easily with a Glock as they can with an AR-15 clone, easier actually since the Glock is easier to conceal.

At the ranges seen in "spree" shootings there's very little advantage a rifle offers over a pistol. Rifles are harder to conceal, weigh more, and high capacity magazines are bulky. Those features might not be a detriment to a soldier on a battlefield but they are a major detriment to someone wanting to get their weapon into a public space unnoticed to go on a rampage. A pistol would allow the shooter to carry way more rounds on their person than a rifle with detachable box magazines. Banning "assault rifles" and high capacity magazines wouldn't do a damn thing to stop a deranged person from going on a killing spree.

about a year ago

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