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Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access?

JanneM Re:Government Intervention (469 comments)

Unfortunately, the US does not have free market capitalism on broadband communications. In most areas it is either monopoly or duopoly

That's what a free market will usually naturally gravitate to. Competition is bad for all competitors, so cartels or monopolies are strong attractors in the system. If you want competition and choice you need market regulation to make it happen.

2 days ago
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The iPad Is 5 Years Old This Week, But You Still Don't Need One

JanneM Re:I prefer a tablet for some things to a smart ph (298 comments)

I kind of want the opposite. I've got a big, capable laptop at home, and several computers at work. When I go out, though, I'm not going to do any real programming or make a presentation or things like that when I'm at a cafe with my wife, or sitting on the train home from work. I'll surf the web, read a paper or play games. A tablet lets me do that just fine.

A small, light laptop has too many compromises; little memory, slow CPU (that gets throttled after more than a few seconds at 100%), small screen and keyboard. And it's still much heavier than the Tablet Z I carry. The tablet is light and thin enough that I really don't notice it in my bag at all.

We're all hunting for the impossible: a matchbox-size computer with the power of a workstation and a 40" screen. Instead we have to compromise. And we all end up with different compromises. I've even thought of cancelling my smartphone and go back to a small, light feature-phone. It's cheaper, more durable and the battery lasts for a week. Use only the tablet for apps.

3 days ago
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Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

JanneM Re:Mmm... (174 comments)

I hadn't heard of minnows, and didn't know what it was until I looked it up now :) Apparently you can go through half a lifetime as a fluent second-language speaker - using the language both professionally and privately - without encountering it...

about two weeks ago
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Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

JanneM Re:Mmm... (174 comments)

We also all have an uvula, those trees can often have galls and many buildings have dormers. Doesn't necessarily mean they belong in a short childrens dictionary, though. After all, there are "real" dictionaries as well as the internet for anything not covered in the shortened one.

about two weeks ago
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3D Cameras Are About To Go Mainstream

JanneM Re:Image quality (141 comments)

Think passive near-field 3D-sensors, not holiday snapshots. User position, gestures, navigation, that sort of thing. Kinect-like functions everywhere. Fire phone, but with actual uses.

You could do a lot of subtle UI improvements if you can localize the users in space around the device for instance; you could figure out who is speaking and if they're turned toward the device. No more "Yo, googly Siri-man, what's mein wiener kapiche?"-keywords, as the device can figure out if you're addressing it or not.

about three weeks ago
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The Fire Phone Debacle and What It Means For Amazon's Future

JanneM Re:VERY INACCURATE (155 comments)

It is just the nature of a combined software / hardware solution that hardware teams tend to win. They have tangible manufacturing, costs and physical limitations that managers understand. While software has very different kinds of limitations -- often human limitations -- that managers don't understand.

Basically so, yes. Although - and I say this as a software person - there's good reason for that to be the case. Hardware incurs per-unit costs, so any design change that makes it cheaper to build will be paid back million-fold. If that increases the cost/time of developing the software you have to show that increase is higher than all the money you save in manufacturing. Unless the hardware changes are truly extreme, that is unlikely to be the case with a volume consumer product. Software has no unit margin cost, so the same logic doesn't apply in reverse.

The Rashomon reference was not an idle one, by the way. No matter how honest and well-intentioned, you're unlikely to have an unbiased or particularly correct view of what happened if you were involved directly in something. It's great to hear the point of view - but that's what it is, a point of view. Other teams and people at other levels certainly have others, and it'd be foolhardy to try to understand what happened based on ony one or two of them.

about three weeks ago
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The Fire Phone Debacle and What It Means For Amazon's Future

JanneM Re:VERY INACCURATE (155 comments)

I'll take a wild stab in the dark here and guess that you possibly were in the software team? I wonder what a hw team members version of this would read like. Or that of a manager overseeing both teams.

Rashomon is a really good movie, apropos nothing in particulal.

about three weeks ago
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"Disco Clam" Lights Up To Scare Predators Away

JanneM Re:Useless site (49 comments)

I block Javascript, and everything except the video displays just fine.

about a month ago
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The Next Big Step For Wikidata: Forming a Hub For Researchers

JanneM Re:EU grant (61 comments)

They have four partner universities and several other research institutions, most or all of who already have one or more full-time staff dedicated to help projects with their grant application process.

Yes, EU grant applications are big and cumbersone - though the payoff is commensurate - but the process is not going to be the main hurdle. With all the available expertise at their disposal, if they can't navigate the application process then they're unlikely to successfully steer a major project over several years either.

about a month ago
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What Northern Hemisphere Astronomers Are Missing From the Southern Hemisphere

JanneM Re:See nothing (104 comments)

What I tried to say was more or less that without regular exposure to the night skies, fewer and fewer people will be interested in ever looking. Just seeing the skies clear skies once or twice will give you a "wow!" experience. But it's only once that pretty surface is old and familiar to you that you start asking deeper questions about what you're seeing.

I think the same thing is happening in other fields. Naturalists, or green biologists, may be losing mind share to lab biology and to other fields - in part of course because there's more money in white biology, but also, I suspect, because fewer people are familiar with and interested in local biotopes, and don't realize there's a lot of interesting things going on.

tl:dr: you tend to never become interested in things you have no personal experience with or connection to. And as humans become more and more urban, then fields such as astronomy will gradually lose mindshare. Regrettable but probably unavoidable.

about a month ago
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What Northern Hemisphere Astronomers Are Missing From the Southern Hemisphere

JanneM See nothing (104 comments)

Of course, the majority of humans now live in urban areas, and see little or nothing of the night sky at all, whether northern or southern. Perhaps I'm taking this a step too far, but would it be possible that we'll see a continuing decline in interest and support for astronomy and space technology as more and more voters and influential people grow up and live their lives without ever really seeing the skies?

about a month ago
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Know Your Type: Five Mechanical Keyboards Compared

JanneM Re:No unicomp ? (190 comments)

And no Happy Hacking Pro. That's my go-to keyboard for any stationary use.

I do like the feel of the new chicklet Lenovo Thinkpads as well; I don't know why many people don't like them. Whoever decided on the layout, though (PrtSc between right-alt and ctrl?!) should be sent to the unemployment line as fast as possible.

about a month ago
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Want To Influence the World? Map Reveals the Best Languages To Speak

JanneM Re:Interesting, but ... (150 comments)

Great idea! Now we all only need to agree on which language to standardize on. I'm sure that worldwide discussion will be calm, focused and productive. Please post the results here in the thread once it's been decided.

I suggest Swedish. It's just about equally well known by almost everybody in the world, so nobody is starting out with an unfair advantage. I get a lifetime gig teaching Swedish to everybody. And you get umlauts! Win-win.

Oh, and by "suggest" I of course mean "absolutely demand or I will refuse any part of this scheme".

about a month and a half ago
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Unity 8 Will Bring 'Pure' Linux Experience To Mobile Devices

JanneM Re:I use Unity. It's OK. (125 comments)

I pretty much agree. I'm an old-time Unix and Linux user, but Unity works pretty well for me. It mostly manages to get out of the way of my work - the single most important feature of any desktop - and things such as the single menu gives me vertical space for another line or two worth of visible code.

There are some real irritants. The window/app switcher has never gotten the distinction right (and I don't think it's possible), and the quick search misses things it should find. But these are smaller irritants on a desktop that does what it should do - be invisible unless I explicitly need any of it.

about 2 months ago
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Stephen Hawking's New Speech System Is Free and Open-source

JanneM Re:So why no neural interface? (56 comments)

"we've got monkeys that have rapidly learned to control a robotic arm using only signals from a tiny cluster electrodes in their brain,"

"rapidly" and "control" are very much relative terms in this case. And note the "in their brain" - you need to implant an electrode array to get good, reliable signals. With monkeys you can do it to half a dozen animals and hope than one or two get a fully working implant. And the array has to be working for a few months or so. With a human patient you need to get it right every time, and the array has to be viable for a decade at the very least.

about 2 months ago
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In UK Study, Girls Best Boys At Making Computer Games

JanneM Re:Interesting. Could be several causes (312 comments)

I can't get to the paper, but it doesn't actually say anywhere that the girls were uniformly better. All subjects improved their understanding of computation, but the girls as a group did significantly better.

about 2 months ago
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In UK Study, Girls Best Boys At Making Computer Games

JanneM Re:Which is why girls dominate game making... (312 comments)

Also, when you look at more interesting and original, less copy-pasty games, female developers and designers seem to be more common than in the industry overall.

about 2 months ago
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US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer

JanneM Re:Nice and all, but where's the beef? (127 comments)

How should one go about getting a job programming a large supercomputer?

Become a researcher in a field that makes use of lots of computing power, then specialize in the math modeling and simulation subfields. Surprisingly often it's quite easy to get time on a system if you apply as a post-doc or even a grad student. Becoming part of a research group that develops simulation tools for others to use can be an especially good way.

Or, get an advanced degree in numerical analysis or similar and get hired by a manufacturer or an organization that builds or runs supercomputers. On one hand that'd give you a much more permanent job, and you'd be mostly doing coding, not working on your research; on the other hand it's probably a lot harder to get.

But ultimately, why would you want this? They're not especially magical machines. Especially today, when they're usually Linux based, and the system developers do all they can to make it look and act like a regular Linux system.

If you want to experience what it's like, try this: Install a 4-5 year old version of Red Hat on a workstation. Install OpenMP and OpenMPI, and make sure all your code uses either or both. Install an oddball C/C++ compiler. Access your workstation only via SSH, not directly. And add a job queue system that will semi-randomly let your app run after anything from a few seconds to several hours.

about 2 months ago
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I'm most interested in robots that will...

JanneM Re:Basic jobs, but not to avoid talking (307 comments)

I do that on the train every day already. I mostly read, play games or study language. I have occasionally done light developing too, but it's too short a time frame to get into it and really get anything done.

about 3 months ago
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New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable

JanneM Re:What *is* the hard work. (212 comments)

Once a task has been automated to the point that a reliable mass market tool is available to do the work for you, what possible reason can there still be to do it by hand any more?

Fair point. But one remaining reason to have done it yourself is to understand how the tool actually works behind the scenes. And that deeper understanding is generally what separates a master of the craft from dabblers.

Slightly different field, but, for instance, if you are doing any amount of real numerical programming, you really should have implemented a floating-point system as well as algorithms such as FFT, matrix factorization, numerical integration and the trigonomertic functions at least once.

You should of course not use any of your own implementations in production; that's a recipe for disaster. But having done it once, and understanding some of the underlaying theory and the challenges of implementation means you're much better equipped to use the high-quality library versions in an intelligent manner. You'll understand why functions such as expm1() actually exist and how to avoid the common numerical pitfalls.

The same really goes for tools in any other field. You might want to do it manually not to actually use your work but to better understand when and how to use the tool. Or, for that matter, realize when the situation calls for implementing a completely new tool.

about 3 months ago

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