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Why Run Linux On Macs?

MacTO Responsiveness ... (586 comments)

OS X does a good job on my 2012 MacBook Pro, yet I have noticed that it becomes very unresponsive at times. It appears to be due to memory management issues, and switching to Linux is a far less expensive upgrade route than bumping up the memory. The other consideration is my ability to maintain the system. While OS X does make certain things easier, Linux is easier to maintain over the long-term.

about a week ago
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Crowdfunded Linux Voice Magazine Releases Second Issue CC-BY-SA

MacTO Re:Shame it's not open source (19 comments)

Third parties can charge whatever you want for FLOSS software, including Linux, because that is not what they mean by free. The only restriction is that they cannot violate the terms of the license agreement. That means, among other things, that they cannot place restrictions upon duplication and distribution. In other words, Linux is usually gratis because there is no incentive to pay for it unless services are bundled with it (e.g. technical support or development).

Yet none of that is relevant because we are discussing a publication about Linux. Anyone is free to write about Linux, place restrictions upon the articles or books that they write, and charge whatever they please. That is because they are not distributing open source software (beyond excerpts of code and documentation) so the license agreements simply do not apply.

about two weeks ago
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EFF Takes On Online Harassment

MacTO We need definitions for "speech" and "freedom" ... (189 comments)

A lot of people will be talking past each other on topics like this because we don't agree upon what is meant by freedom or by speech.

Sometimes the answers are easy. Many nations protect the people from the government with respect to the political freedom of speech. That's great, but harassment is rarely political and is usually an act of individuals or (non-governmental) groups. Yet expanding the definition of freedom of speech presents problems. Harassment is not about imposing upon people speaking loudly or frequently. It is about intimidation. This intimidation takes many forms: threats, diminishing one's sense of self, reducing a person in the eyes of others. All of this is to achieve a particular aim, by reducing a person's ability to respond to the harassment. That includes creating an imbalance of speech to favour the perpetrator (i.e. the victim cannot speak out). The question isn't so much, "is it a valid form of speech," as it is, "should one person's speech be able to suppress other people?"

about two weeks ago
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Is Kitkat Killing Lollipop Uptake?

MacTO Tried it, sort of ... (437 comments)

People have to wait for their vendor or carrier to release an update, or use an alternative ROM like Cyanogenmod. In the case of the latter, Cyanogenmod only started releasing official nightlies for a limited range of devices 2 days ago. Prior to that, it has been a case of scouring forums to obtain unofficial releases of alternative ROMs.

Even after the upgrade has been released, people actually need a chance to perform the update. For some people, that may be several months down the road -- e.g. when they know that they'll have a chance to perform the update and get used to the changes. It isn't a matter of being good enough. It is a matter of giving people an opportunity to perform the upgrade.

about three weeks ago
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After Outage, Sony Makes Peace Offering To Users of PlayStation Network

MacTO Why the anger ... (95 comments)

Sony is extending memberships to account for the downtime and offering a discount on top of that, for a type of "hacking" that they can only marginally protect themselves from. Yeah, it inconvenienced *some* PSN members by reducing their enjoyment of the service over the holidays. On the other hand, I suspect that many Sony employees had a much less pleasurable time of cleaning up the mess.

about three weeks ago
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What Isn't There an App For?

MacTO Lots of missing software ... (421 comments)

Quite frankly, I don't care about small single-purpose apps. The UI on phones and tablets aren't designed to help us find one app among dozens. In most cases, you bump into limitations as soon as you start using it. In many cases, you'll use it a handful of times then never use it again.

If you are looking for anything that is even moderately sophisticated, chances are that no one has made an app for it. There will already be an app in many software categories, but they provide basic functionality at best. Consider what passes for word processors and spreadsheets, or even web browsers and email clients these days.

If you are looking for anything that doesn't lock your data into an unsupported proprietary file format that is hidden in some unfathomable directory on your device, or forces you to use a network service to access your data -- well, good luck. While there are usually options for content consumption, content creation is hit-and-miss.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest one is profitability. Very few people want to make a cheap app that takes a lot of time to develop. A lot of people want to translate the sale of cheap apps into more profitable online services. So what we tend to end up with are a bunch of apps that go after the low hanging fruit and sound revolutionary, when in reality they are little more than toys that you could easily accomplish with a single generic application.

about three weeks ago
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US CTO Tries To Wean the White House Off Floppy Disks

MacTO Well understood technologies ... (252 comments)

There is a chance that the Whitehouse is using obsolete technologies because that's the way that things were always done. Yet there can be other reasons behind it.

Consider that floppy diskette. Assuming the OS is properly configured, a disk is a disk. Contrast that to a USB flash drive: is it behaving as a flash drive, or is the firmware causing it to behave as something else? Contrast that to a network connection: properly handled physical media has a clear chain of responsibility, while network connections (even internal ones) may be managed by many more people and have more access points. Yes, there are ways to deal with security in such situations. No, they are not foolproof. That's particularly true with high-stakes institutions like the Whitehouse.

Another consideration is the providence of the technology. It is bad enough when you have to go through a single vendor (e.g. Blackberry or Microsoft) or are dealing with contractors. Many modern technologies make things worse by being a service. Products become property of the government when purchased. Contractors can be replaced when contracts come up for renewal, or in the intervening period if terms are violated or appropriate clauses are added. Services are a different issue though, and that's exactly what a lot of modern "technologies" are. Does the Whitehouse want to create a situation where another party has control over their data. Even if they could guarantee the security and portability of the data, it could be difficult to find or create a replacement. Businesses take advantage of this difficulty all of the time, and literally milk the government because of it. In most cases it is because of the cost of complying with government regulations. In the case of services, it could simply be because there is no alternative.

about three weeks ago
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Vinyl's Revival Is Now a Phenomenon On Both Sides of the Atlantic

MacTO Re:Novelty Media is Novelty (278 comments)

I did go vinyl for a short time, when both record players and records were dirt cheap. That is the big benefit of being trailing edge. But when the hipsters entered the scene and drove prices up, there were no benefits.

about three weeks ago
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United and Orbitz Sue 22-Year-Old Programmer For Compiling Public Info

MacTO Re:Stop playing games with the courts ... (349 comments)

Oddly enough, some restaurants force customers to share meals. That is to say, customers can only order separate dishes and serve themselves according to their own tastes. Even more traditional American establishments will offer at least a few dishes in this fashion.

As for those that forbid it, I honestly don't see what their problem is as long as people don't bring in outside food. It is quite antisocial to suggest that people should not be able to accompany their friends in a restaurant just because they are sharing a dish.

about a month ago
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United and Orbitz Sue 22-Year-Old Programmer For Compiling Public Info

MacTO Stop playing games with the courts ... (349 comments)

I understand why the airlines price flights this way, and it benefits some consumers by reducing the cost of some flights. Yet the easily exploited flaw is a flaw of the business practice, not the consumer. If some consumers exploit it, there is no good reason to hold them accountable. It was the business' decision after all to use this practice, not the consumer's. If too many consumers exploit the practice, then the business should change the practice.

Put in other terms, using the courts to enforce the practice places too much control of a product or service that the consumer paid for into the hands of the vendor. Consumer's wouldn't be very happy if business told them they couldn't resell a product at a profit just because they bought it when there was a good sale, or if they couldn't split a meal because they bought the larger dish instead of two smaller ones. Why should they be happy about being told that they must use all of the tickets for a flight?

about a month ago
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5,200 Days Aboard ISS, and the Surprising Reason the Mission Is Still Worthwhile

MacTO Re:Shut it down (219 comments)

Different ways of looking at it:

The space program has been, on average, 1.15% of the US budget. Giving it a proportional share of the debt means that it contributed 204 billion.

Even if you consider space exploration as entirely frivolous, it has only contributed 508 billion to the debt (before interest). That amounts to 2.85% of the debt.

Yes, the US needs to get its "house in order". Yes, NASA needs to produce better results in order to justify its existing budget. On the other hand, attacking the space program will do very little to address the debt problem. Actually, it will do very little to address the deficit. (Again assuming that space exploration is completely frivolous, it only accounted for 2.48% of the deficit in 2013.)

about a month ago
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White House Touts Obama's 1-Liner as 2014 Tech Highlight

MacTO Re:Did he.. (65 comments)

It's a symbolic gesture. I doubt that many people expect the president to learn programming while in office. They have many other affairs to take care of.

about a month ago
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Newest Stealth Fighter's Ground Attack Sensors 10 Years Behind Older Jets'

MacTO Re:Put this same government in charge of healthcar (279 comments)

First of all, those older jets are upgraded while the F-35 is being delivered according to a contract. That's not government incompetence. That's contract law, and no respectable contractor is going to write an agreement where the specifications can change at the last minute. In all probability, the military has already accounted for this and has planned upgrades.

Second, very few people are saying that government should control healthcare. They are saying that the government should control health insurance. Other countries already do this and have had very positive outcomes.

about a month ago
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Should Video Games Be In the Olympics?

MacTO Re:One year, as a demonstration (232 comments)

I never said that they were a sport, and stuck the quotation marks around "sport" in the comment subject to imply they aren't. Video games do have certain elements of sports which may make them an interesting element as a demonstration sport.

about a month ago
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Should Video Games Be In the Olympics?

MacTO One year, as a demonstration "sport" ... (232 comments)

I think it would be good as a demonstration sport for one of the games, if they select the game carefully to align with what the games are.

The thing is, the games are mostly about physical competition along with physical factors that have a strong psychological element such as endurance and reaction time. Video games are poor at the former but rely heavily upon the latter, which is why I think they would be excellent as a demonstration sport but not as an ongoing element of the games.

about a month ago
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Study: Light-Emitting Screens Before Bedtime Disrupt Sleep

MacTO Re:How about a traditional ebook? (179 comments)

This study doesn't really address that since it is based upon a very narrow selection of devices (i.e. the iPad). Indeed, none of the studies that I have encountered have addressed that because they are based upon a narrow range of technologies. I have seen anecdotes suggesting that eink based devices are less disruptive to sleep cycles, but my opinion on that is: if it works for you, great, but don't attribute it to anything more than wishful thinking and selection bias.

A study like this doesn't apply to eink based readers because it doesn't isolate the cause. Is it the intensity or spectrum of the light? Is it our response to the type of device in question (e.g. iPads are more exciting than ereaders)? Is it the difference between the screen brightness and ambient light? For all we know it has something to do with polarization or how the screen is refreshed. While some of the variables that I mentioned are dubious, they are still unexamined variables so we cannot make a comparison across a broader range of devices than those studied. (Then there is the sample size ...)

about a month ago
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The Driverless Future: Buses, Not Taxis

MacTO Re:I disagree (257 comments)

Reading the article may help: they are talking about small buses which often have a dedicated lane. There is, of course, a desire to use this for regular buses.

As for the difficulties presented by public transportation, I can assure you that there are many problems presented by private vehicles. Even if you ignore the need for high capacity roads to handle an a large number of vehicles, you also have to dedicate a large amount of infrastructure to parking (may that be straight out land use or parkades). Large numbers of vehicles being operated by people with different skill levels and motivations also make roads very unpredictable places, which increases the probability of accidents. A dependence upon vehicles also radically changes the social environment.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Making a 'Wife Friendly' Gaming PC?

MacTO Just have fun playing games ... (720 comments)

It sounds like you're more interested in having a gaming machine than you are in enjoying the games, thus the presumably high spec machine that needs to shed excess heat. Well, most games don't actually need that. Just tone down the settings, reenable your PC's power management settings, and enjoy the bloody games for their entertainment value.

If that's not enough, then it's time to consider other things. It may be a purely technical problem, such as cleaning out the system or replacing noisy fans. It may also be a social problem, i.e. your wife is trying to find time to spend with you when may be spending your time gaming.

about 2 months ago
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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 2 months 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 2 months ago

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