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FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

MacTO Re:GPS and laser guidance systems for centuries? (115 comments)

Even as an outsider, I heard about many of the advancements cited in the article. However, I wonder if the project's intent is to reduce the cost of automation in agriculture. While that may not be a huge issue in developed nations, where food is already relatively inexpensive, surely it is an issue in developing nations.

13 hours ago
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Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

MacTO Re:Surprise? (535 comments)

My point was that you can find issues with every OS if you lean upon anecdotal evidence, so it's probably best to avoid assessing an OS based upon such evidence.

Clearly you can assess based upon your needs based upon your experiences. Yet your comments seem to generalize the issues for other issues based upon limited evidence. That isn't the greatest idea. To give you an example of what I mean: I've had issues with the stability of KDE across multiple versions and on multiple systems, so I don't use it personally. Yet I do not go around declaring how unstable KDE is because I am one data point. That data point may be useful when in assessing KDE in conjunction with other user experiences, but it is useless when considered on its own. Overall though, I trust that KDE is stable for enough users to sustain it for nearly two decades.

13 hours ago
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News Aggregator Fark Adds Misogyny Ban

MacTO Re:Sigh (613 comments)

You aren't being forced to like somebody because they are gay. You are being told that it is immoral to dislike a person based upon the sole criteria that they are gay. Of course, you are free to dislike that person for a variety of other reasons that are deemed non-discriminatory in the legal sense.

yesterday
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Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

MacTO Re:Surprise? (535 comments)

Oddly enough, I've had unrecoverable filesystem errors under Linux and OS X and Windows over the past year. On top of that, I've had random system errors on the above platforms and application crashes with proprietary and FLOSS software. So I guess none of the above are suitable for use?

yesterday
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Facebook Tests "Satire" Tag To Avoid Confusion On News Feed

MacTO Why the ridicule? (131 comments)

Sometimes satire is obvious, sometimes it isn't. In the latter cases, you have to be familiar with the source or familiar with background information. When you are talking about a medium that supports a profound number of sources, it can be difficult to judge whether a source that you are not familiar with is satirical. When you are talking about a medium that can deliver news from all parts of the world from varying perspectives, it can be difficult to have the necessary background information to judge whether a portrayal is satirical. Sites like Facebook only compound that problem because it is not a news site in the traditional sense, nor is it a news aggregator. It is simply a site where people post links, links that may be informative or may be whimsical based upon their mood. Making matters worse, a lot of people don't even know their Facebook "friends" particularly well, which makes it means that you can't even use the source of the link as a guage.

While I do have deep concerns about how Facebook would go about vetting links, I can understand why some people would see this as a valuable feature.

2 days ago
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Humans Need Not Apply: a Video About the Robot Revolution and Jobs

MacTO My main concern ... (303 comments)

At the end of the day, it is humans that control the bots. So unlike the cited example of horses, we are not going to be replaced. All of our jobs may be replaced, and a great many jobs have already been replaced. That is my main concern.

Now this isn't a concern about people having a place in society. We can do that without defining ourselves by our work. Rather my concern is about what we do.

A great many people will find constructive things to do. Think of our hobbies. Many will find neutral things to do. Think of passive consumption. Yet there will also be people who find destructive things to do. There always have been, and always will be, that type of person. The problem is that the bots will free up time for those destructive self-indulgers. How are we going to control that? Then again, maybe that's a job for robocop.

4 days ago
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Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?

MacTO A long time ago in a land not so far away ... (81 comments)

I recall reading an article in a university rag about 10 years back that was discussing how their campus was designed around telepresence for instruction many decades prior. Unfortunately things didn't go that way because it proved to be ineffective and not what the students wanted. But never fear, it was a great boon in our modern age because TV studios could easily be repurposed to server rooms and the buildings could easily be rewired for computer networks for the age of online learning.

While they were right about it being easy to repurpose that old infrastructure, they also missed the point: people want to learn on campuses and they learn more effectively on campuses. (At least that seems to be the case for programs of study. Learning particular skills is likely a different matter.) In otherwords, university administrators were forgot the lessons of the 60's and 70's while choosing to believe in some technology utopia.

That isn't to say that education should be devoid of technology. Computers and networks are clearly valuable learning tools. They have applications ranging from research to simulation, and from content delivery to content creation. The thing is that they're just a tool in the process, and not the core of the process itself.

Think of it this way: would we go around praising the merits of pencil based learning? Or, to choose something less absurd, textbook based learning? Of course we wouldn't. So why are we going crazy over computer based learning?

4 days ago
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Connected Collar Lets Your Cat Do the War-Driving

MacTO Re:Overstating cat's role? (110 comments)

Cats can wander around without arousing much suspicion. In residential areas, that includes going into front and back yards. In commercial areas, that includes going into secured lots. In that respect, cats would be able to perform better. Of course, that leaves the issue of getting cats to explore areas that you're interested in in the first place.

about two weeks ago
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Connected Collar Lets Your Cat Do the War-Driving

MacTO I initially thought that ... (110 comments)

... this was the best argument that cats are smarter than dogs. You don't exactly see dogs running around neighbourhoods to hack networks after all.

Then I realized that this was just another script-kitty.

about two weeks ago
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Comparison: Linux Text Editors

MacTO Re: You're welcome to them. (402 comments)

Another often overlooked advantage of vim is continuity. Thos of us who learned vi because it was one of the best editors at the time can still use those skills. When the need arises, we can also build upon those skills with a modern implementation. In all likelihood I'll be able to make the same claim 20 years from now, when most (if not all) of these upstarts will be long forgotten.

New and improved is great. Constantly relearning skills that you already have, to adapt to new interfaces, isn't so hot.

about three weeks ago
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Chromebooks Are Outselling iPads In Schools

MacTO Re:What do I think? (225 comments)

Writing by hand remains an essential skill, and will continue to be an essential skill for the foreseeable future. It is true that it is no longer the domain of people who author reports or books, corresponding with friends and businesses, and many other areas. Yet it is still used extensively for note taking, completing forms, and in many situations where it is easier to use the pen than the keyboard (diagrams, equations, etc.).

In time, that may change. In time, it will probably change. Yet I am getting quite tired of reading the handwriting of adults that wouldn't pass the muster of a grade 3 teacher.

about a month ago
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Mac OS X Yosemite Beta Opens

MacTO Re:Flat UI Design (165 comments)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

about a month ago
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Meet Carla Shroder's New Favorite GUI-Textmode Hybrid Shell, Xiki

MacTO What's old is new again ... (176 comments)

MPW did something similar, only they used their own command set. This had a unique benefit: the output from MPW utilities often included commands that could be executed by clicking on the line with your mouse and pressing enter. It worked very well since the utilities themselves generated those executable commands, and users could extend upon the system with their own utilities. (MPW was a development environment after all.)

Here's the thing though, Xiki cannot do that because its trying to use existing Unix utilities and development tools. While the output from that software is usually intended to be used by other software (e.g. via pipes), it is rarely intended to be used by the shell itself. That means Xiki needs to understand how to interact with each piece of software. As a result, it will end up being an unwieldy mess of plugins and unsupported commands.

Don't get me wrong. The Xiki demos were doing some pretty neat and fairly useful stuff. In that sense, it is a success. The problem is that you'll never be able to use the full power of the metaphor because the software that it interacts with was never designed to interact in the way Xiki needs it to.

about 2 months ago
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Norway Scraps Online Voting

MacTO Re:What logic! (139 comments)

Calculators didn't present the risk of undermining mathematics. (Some people suggested that calculators would reduce people's proficiency at arithmetic, but it calculators didn't create invalid results.) Electronic voting does run the risk of undermining democracy. Even if the systems were secure with respect to voter privacy and vote tampering, the mere suspicion could influence people not to vote to change their vote or the question the results of an election.

about 2 months ago
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NYC Loses Appeal To Ban Large Sugary Drinks

MacTO Tax, don't ban ... (532 comments)

I'm not sure if it's appropriate in this case, but I'm far more in favour of sin taxes than outright bans.

Like I said, I don't know if I'm in favour of that in this case.

On the one hand, it is clearly a harm that a person is doing to themselves if it is even a harm at all. (On the latter: there are days when someone may drink excessive amounts of sugar water, even though their nutrition is good over all. Do we really want to place restrictions on that?)

On the other hand, poor nutrition is a huge social problem that industry contributes to. Even if you ignore their attempts to persuade people to make unhealthy choices through advertising (and yes, the bulk of advertising seems to be geared towards unhealthy choices), you also have to consider product availability. Consider the bulk of grocery stores. While they do offer plenty of healthy choices, the bulk of the floor is dedicated to prepared foods (including drinks) that are chock full of sugars. Consider eating out. Many places offer nothing beyond sugar water and coffee. Even the things that pretend to be juice aren't terribly different from soda, outside of the lack of carbonation. When they do offer proper juice, it typically has sugar added -- though certainly not to the degree that non-juices have. So if you don't have a healthy choice, people are usually going to make an unhealthy choice.

about 2 months ago
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College Offers Athletic Scholarships To Gamers

MacTO Re:Title IX (102 comments)

Some universities have a disproportionate number of women, so it is quite likely that the only gender related issue with a this scholarship is that it will probably attract applicants to programs that are male dominated.

about 2 months ago
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First Phone Out of Microsoft-Nokia -- and It's an Android

MacTO They're a business ... (193 comments)

and their goal is to make money. Given the lack of popularity of Microsoft's mobile platform, it makes far more sense to ship Android devices with their products layered on top than it does to ship a fully Microsoft phone that will likely have limited uptake.

about 2 months ago
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World's First Large-Scale Waste-to-Biofuels Facility Opens In Canada

MacTO Re:Jerk off material for the Greenies (96 comments)

Oddly enough, you are talking about a part of Canada that known for its petrochemical industries and right wing ideologues ...

about 2 months ago
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China Leads In Graphene Patent Applications

MacTO Re:So now we can steal their IP? (86 comments)

I highly doubt that the solution is to abolish patents, though a great deal of patent reform is certainly necessary.

What we should de doing is looking at when patents are and are not useful, and modifying patent law accordingly. A lot of the analysis should be fairly straight forward to do. Patents themselves have to be registered, so we have records. When patent disputes are taken to the courts, we have records. Many, if not most, of the businesses that license patents have to publish financial reports. (Again, there are records.)

Questions can be asked and answered through all of that data. We can look at the optimal duration for patents for different sectors. We can look at what types of patents stimulate innovation, and what types of patents stifle innovation. We can even look at licensing practices in an effort to reduce the burden that patents place upon the courts.

It isn't all or nothing. Patents are neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. We simply need a way to separate the good from the bad so that we can keep the former and discard the latter.

about 2 months ago

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