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Ask Slashdot: Workaday Software For BSD On the Desktop?

MacTO Do your own research first ... (267 comments)

If most of your applications are open source, switching to BSD will be fairly straight forward on that front. That's particularly since you're coming from Gentoo (i.e. you'll probably have to compile a lot of the software that you want to run under BSD).

The biggest hurdles are going to be the sorts of things that a generic question cannot address. Is your hardware compatible with the version of BSD that you've selected? Unlike Linux, where everyone is using the same kernel and has almost the same access to kernel modules, different implementations of BSD use different kernels. As such, selecting an implementation depends as much on low level details as it does on the userspace. (While I've pointed out hardware compatibility, any feature that is found in the kernel needs consideration.)

Another consideration is whether you're comfortable with managing BSD systems. Unlike hardware support, this is difficult to assess objectively. Some people like the core OS being a unified system that you update all at once. Other people like the piecemeal approach of Linux. Keep in mind that the core OS could mean everything from the kernel, to development tools, to the X server. (It does vary a bit from implementation to implementation.)

You will also run into a bunch of stuff that you'll have to relearn, particularly if you're accustomed to working in the shell. Software packaging and installation is the first one you'll bump into, but BSD also has it's own set of utilities. Some of these utilities are quite similar to the GNU utilities, but the extended functionality is quite different.

If you want to switch to BSD, I suggest doing it on a secondary computer first. If you run into specific issues, ask specific questions. Odds are that those issues can be resolved, but it will take time to sort through all of them. BSD can be an immense pleasure to use, but it involves a lot more than which applications are and aren't available.

about a week ago
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Is a Moral Compass a Hindrance Or a Help For Startups?

MacTO My guess ... (197 comments)

... and it is only a guess:

Most startups need a moral compass in order to recruit and retain employees who are invested in the success of the company. If the startup doesn't offer that, there is a high probability that quality employees will move on when better opportunities arise. (Examples are higher pay, better benefits, or a more stable job. These are all things that startups find difficult to provide.) Depending upon their clients, it may also serve to separate the startup from the competiton.

Yet Uber (and the likes) are not your typical startups. Since they are trying operate in a highly regulated industry, and in an industry where the regulations vary from place to place, they are very politicized. Unfortunately politicized issues make it very difficult to have a clean fight because those with a vested interest have the existing power structures (politicians, courts, etc.) on their side.

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program?

MacTO Ask other parents in your area ... (107 comments)

If you live in the city, there's probably after school programs or summer programs geared towards kids and computers. Some are technical while others are creative, but most of them provide a mentor who guides groups of children through creative projects. Depending upon your child's personality, she may find it a much more appealing environment.

about two weeks ago
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Crowdfunded Linux Voice Magazine Releases First Issue CC-BY-SA

MacTO Re:9 months? (62 comments)

Perhaps it is a good idea to read Linux Voice before commenting upon it's value, simply based upon the merit that it is a magazine.

While certain aspects of a magzine do go out-of-date quickly, others don't. Nine month old news, not so great. Nine month old reviews are okay. They'll introduce you to a product, even if some information is outdated. Nine old month tutorials can be useful.

Magazines do have merits other than content. The flow of information is more paced. Reading the news daily (or even hourly) means that you are more likely to run into redundant details across multiple articles. It also means that there is less time to write comprehensive stories, verify details, and edit the material. I'm not saying that they're perfect, but you really have to wonder about the quality of a lot of the online media when they publish as much a day as a magazine publishes in a month. Actually, I don't have to wonder. I've gone to many sites where the articles range from terrible to excellent, primarily because the authors range from terrible to excellent. Yet they won't cut the terrible authors because it's more important to have a continuous stream of updates than it is to invest in quality.

about two weeks ago
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Microsoft Releases Out-of-Band Security Patch For Windows

MacTO Re:Better go kick WSUS into a sync... (178 comments)

Even if you did have something better to do, would you rather be testing and deploying security updates or cleaning up a security breach?

It is easy to be unhappy about security updates because of the implied security bug, a bug that shouldn't have been in there in the first place. Yet we also have to remember that people are investing a lot of time into discovering and exploiting design/implementation flaws because we invest so much into computers and networks. It doesn't matter whether the mistake shouldn't have passed the muster of code review or it it's so obscure that it would take security experts years to understand its implications, someone is going to find it. It is, unfortunately, something that we've been seeing a lot of lately and it is something that won't disappear in the future.

(We also shouldn't be targetting Microsoft because most platforms have seen critical security updates and even critical security breaches lately. It doesn't matter how proficient the developers are, nor does it matter who they work for. What matters is the value of the systems and data being compromised.)

about two weeks ago
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MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate

MacTO Re:Deficit eating (323 comments)

The deficit they're talking about is around 1% to 2% of the annual production. Assuming that you sell the reserves prior to selling the new crops, and put the unsold new crops in reserve, the reserves could last for decades with none of the stock being over a year old.

Of course that is a highly simplified view, but it does allow for multi-year deficits without actually running out of cocoa. Of course a low reserve also means that there could be serious problems if the yields are particularly bad one year. (But at least it's just cocoa. A staple crop would be an entirely different issue.)

about two weeks ago
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R. A. Montgomery, Creator of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" Books, Dead At 78

MacTO Re:Got you, Mrs. Sampson (80 comments)

Either the eraser end or the tip of the pencil. The fact that a high school physics teacher couldn't answer the question doesn't surprise me. It isn't a high school level problem. It also isn't the sort of thing that would cause me to question everything that a teacher says. It simply represents a limit to the teacher's knowledge, rather than a teacher communicating incorrect information. It simply means that you have to take an extra step in learning: either looking for other resources or figure out the solution yourself.

about two weeks ago
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Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit?

MacTO Re:I use Uber over public transit (237 comments)

Services like Uber, Lyft, and taxies woud end up increasing road usage since drivers have to drive to pick up their fare. The only infrastructure they reduce the demand for are parking lots.

Besides, public transit has not been for "people who couldn't afford private transport" for a very long time. At least that is the case in major urban centres, where people will gladly accepted a higher cost of living simply to ditch the car.

about two weeks ago
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Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit?

MacTO Re:Public transit does not have to make money (237 comments)

Many transit authorities have profitable bus routes, particularly in higher density areas. They bleed money on suburban routes, where it's difficult to fill a bus. Perhaps a better option would be to fund companies like Uber with taxpayer money in order to eliminate those suburban busses that transport few, if any, passengers.

(I'm saying that tongue-in-cheek, since such a system would be rife with abuse by both operators and customers. Still, there are cases where it could be cheaper if you could magically make abusing the system disappear.)

about two weeks ago
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Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit?

MacTO This may be a good thing ... (237 comments)

Cities that offer good transit service don't have to worry about the competition. Those transit services already offer fast and reliable service at a reasonable price.

On the other hand, cities that offer horrible transit service need the competition. They need to realize that poor coverage, poor scheduling, unreliable service, and drivers with poor safety records are unacceptable. If they don't realize that it is unacceptable, then maybe they should shutter their doors and let the private sector take over. (This coming from someone who normally supports a strong public sector.)

To give you an idea of what I mean: I work two jobs in a city with poor transit service, so I decided to sit down and do some math one day. The end result is that taking the bus cost significantly more than taking a taxi. That's a single person in a regulated cab, and not the shared-ride service mentioned here. Yes, a great part of the cost was from lost income. Yet it was real lost income in my case because I had to negotiate my work hours around transit. For other people, the loss of income will come in other forms: being unable to accept a job due to transit coverage or scheduling, or losing a job because unreliable service results in an unreliable employee. For other people it will result in a diminished quality of life, simply because much of their time is spent waiting for or being in transit.

(To give you an idea of how inefficient transit is in my city: if it takes 30 minutes to walk somewhere, you may as well walk since the bus is going to take longer. If you have to be somewhere at a particular time, you can usually increase that 30 minute walking radius to 1 hour because that bus that "arrives 10 minutes early" will end up arriving 10 minutes late so frequently that you will end up unemployed.)

about two weeks ago
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Codecademy's ReSkillUSA: Gestation Period For New Developers Is 3 Months

MacTO Write code, sure. Programming, no. (173 comments)

There are plenty of high schools that teach people the basics of programming in the course of ten months. The advanced courses do a pretty good job of covering everything from languages to algorithms to software engineering. Yet I don't see businesses jumping at the prospects of hiring these graduates.

There's a reason for that: they only touch upon the basics because they only have time to touch upon the basics. While that may be enough to put together a website for a small business or create a basic smartphone/tablet app, only the tiniest minority will come away with the skills to make something as advanced as a salable indie game.

To do anything innovative, you need both the training and experience to handle the mathematics and design that goes into larger applications. That takes years, which is why university programs take years. Without that extra effort and the dedication behind it, very few people are going to be able to develop anything beyond the most basic program.

(Note: I'm not suggesting that the training and experience has to be formal, since a lot of self-studies have done amazing stuff in this field. Yet even teenagers who have created sophisticated programs have been building upon their skills for more than a year, never mind a few months.)

about three weeks ago
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Americans Rejoice At Lower Gas Prices

MacTO Re:Pot, meet the Fat Kettle (334 comments)

The motivation to get an SUV may be different from the motivation to get a burger, but willpower is a good word in both cases.

In some circles, an SUV is a status symbol. The people who buy them as a status symbol don't actually need an SUV, but they buy them because they think that an SUV reflects who they are or who they want to be. Well, they probably don't think in exactly those terms. They probably think of what they can do with it, just like I think of what I can do with a new computer. Either way though, that extra performance is about how we present ourselves to ourselves or to others rather than an actual need. Either way, if we can't afford it due to our income or the cost, we are less likely to buy it.

Note: I'm not saying that nobody uses an SUV. There are certainly people who will find an SUV more practical than a minivan or a pickup truck. Yet it is doubtful that the people who needed an SUV stopped buying SUV's in the first place. Similarly, I doubt that people who need a quick family meal while on the road would shun that Big Mac (which is what fast food is about, rather than as a regular meal replacement as we seem to see it as today).

about three weeks ago
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MPAA Bans Google Glass In Theaters

MacTO Re:Go ahead, restrict yourself out of business (357 comments)

That is actually a very good idea, and it is something that I would appreciate given that I sometimes have difficulty hearing dialogue over background noise.

However, that would also entail some sort of arrangement between device manufacturers and theaters since the only way it's going to happen is if they're guaranteed that the device cannot record audio and video in the theater. While I'm not against that in principle, I am against it in practice. (Telling a device, "no recording," is one thing. The layers of malware that they'd layer on top of that, and resulting loss of control of the device both inside and outside of theaters, makes me jittery to the point of paranoia.)

about a month ago
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Most Planets In the Universe Are Homeless

MacTO Re:Planetary System Without A Star? (219 comments)

It depends upon how stable orbiting systems are formed. There has to be a transfer of angular momentum. That angular momentum is probably transferred via magnetic fields. The magnetic field needs something to interact with, such as ionized particles. Ionizing particles requires an energy source, such as a hot central body. For Jupiter and it's moons, that could very well be the Sun.

(Note: it has been a while since I studied this stuff, so I may be a bit off. But the most important point is that it is difficult to create stable orbiting bodies.)

about a month ago
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Mark Zuckerberg And John Doerr Donate $1M To Expand The Hour Of Code Campaign

MacTO Re:Zuckerberg and Gates are coge gurus? (24 comments)

Everyone who receives a high school diploma is, in a sense, exposed to wiring a house. It is called the electricity unit in science. These units are a mandatory part of the science curriculum in the primary and secondary grades. They teach you everything you need to know to wire a house except how to do it to code.

In the same vein, I would argue that children and youth should be exposed to programming. It doesn't have to be a standalone course that you need to pass in order to graduate. It may be a unit in an existing course, such as mathematics. Regardless of what form it takes, it should be enough to give children/youth an idea of what programming is and whether they're interested in it. If those units/courses go a step further and teach transferable skills (e.g. various approaches to problem solving) it would be going far beyond most of the existing parts of the curriculum, such as those electricity units.

about a month ago
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Apple 1 Sells At Auction For $905,000

MacTO Re:Retro computers as DIY kits? (81 comments)

There are kits, and it would be nice if the museum picked up a few to create an interactive exhibit. Just imagine being able to walk into an exhibit hall where the original is maintained in working order, but also being able to use one of the kits to get a taste of computing back in the day.

about a month ago
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Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected

MacTO Re:This is good (398 comments)

The problem is that a lot of people either feel entitled to speed, or that they believe that they believe the whole thing is a government conspiracy to generate revenue by fiddling with the equipment and posted speed limits.

Quite frankly, I don't buy into any of that. People were trying to talk officers out of tickets even when there was an actual officer pulling you over after reading your speed off of a radar gun. If that didn't work out, a number of those people would still go to court to challenge the ticket.

Indeed, the only real issue with these cameras is the slow feedback via post. Yet the only issue with that are successive tickets being issues prior to notification, since the motorist isn't given an opportunity to modify their behavior. Even so it is possible to provide immediate feedback to motorists by posting their measured speed on electronic signage. (This sort of thing is common in awareness campaigns in school zones, where volunteers with radar guns and electronic signage will measure and post your speed, without ticketing.)

about a month ago
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Man Walks Past Security Screening Staring At iPad, Causing Airport Evacuation

MacTO Re:WTFBBQ (217 comments)

He may have been screened. Airport security measures seem to depend upon the type of airport and the type of flight. This means that it is possible to enter some secure areas of an airport with no screening whatsoever by simply booking a flight to that airport.

about 2 months ago
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E-Books On a $20 Cell Phone

MacTO Re:"Book Deserts"? WTF? (116 comments)

Sigh. May I suggest working on your reading skills? Determining meaning from context and imagery are important aspects of literacy. While they may not have a place in technical writing, where the precision of language is essential, they do allow for more engaging reading experiences.

about 3 months ago
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E-Books On a $20 Cell Phone

MacTO Re:Seriously? (116 comments)

Reading on a 3.2" screen isn't all that bad, but I wouldn't present that as a solution for children. Books for the youngest are illustrated, and present part of the story as part of those illustrations. Early chapter books use larger text, presumably because the audience is still learning the shape of letters. Even later chapter books have illustrations that would be difficult to enjoy on a small screen.

Yet the real problem with closing libraries in favor of elending is the lack of availability of ebooks for lending. (That, and libraries offer much more than books.)

about 3 months ago

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