Midnight Thunder writes "I have spent the past six months working on a software project, and while I can come up with ideas, I just can't seem to sit down in front of the computer to code. I sit there and I just can't concentrate. I don't know whether this is akin to writer's block, but it feels like it. Have any other slashdotters run into this and if so how did you get out of it? It is bothering me since the project has ground to a halt and I really want to get started again. I am the sole developer on the project, if that makes a difference." top
Midnight Thunder writes "There is an experiment being planned by the web site Shutdown Day. The idea is, on Saturday 3rd May 2008, to see how many people are able to go with out their computer for a day. A number of blogs are starting to cover the initiative, including Hexus and Geek News." top
Midnight Thunder writes "Most TV ratings are selected from a small portion of the population, by one monitoring system or another. How accurate the end results are is arguable and in turns affects what is shown on TV. How would you feel if you cable company or your satellite company started anonymously monitoring what their subscribers switch to, on the condition they provide you with an option to opt-out? It could mean better TV." top
Midnight Thunder writes "Today I was contacted by support staff of a company, whoes software solution we use, because we were having issues installing the upgrade software. Their product runs on, amongst others, Solaris. To help them, they establish a conference session to the local computer, so they can see what the user is doing and help them along. The catch is the conferencing solution requires MS-Windows and Internet Explorer to run. Luckily for me I was using an X-Windows server on a Windows based PC, but would have had issues if my workstation was Solaris or any other non-Microsoft system. My question is whether there are any similar solutions that a support site could use in this manner, but which works on multiple platforms?" top
Midnight Thunder writes "In a move that makes everyones fears about the limitations of DRM encumbered media files a reality, Microsoft will not allow you to play files purchased through the MSN store on the Zune. Their answer is for you to buy your files again. Is this another death blow to DRM or just Microsoft shooting itself in the foot?"
Computing has a great advantage over other sciences. This advantage is defined by its level of accessibility. The level of accessibility is defined by the cost of the tools required to experiment and the minimum amount of knowledge needed before you can even try to be taken seriously. Computers are readily accessible, they can be bought for a relativley low cost at your local electronics store. Once installed you can download, buy or write software fairly easily. Try doing this with any science and the first sticking point is where do you buy the stuff? You also need to get a fair amount of maths under your belt and then you can start learning about the subject. You can't get a job in a science field without at least a Masters degree.
Since you have to learn so much before you can do anything in most science fields, it has the effect of scaring many people off (the attitude of many people in the field doesn't alway help either). I feel that this has the effect of reducing the amount of unorthodox ideas that can enter the field, and thus slowing down the rate of progress. Because IT has the advantage of it accessibility, almost anyone get take their crazy idea and try to make it work. Try doing the same thing in sciences.
Sure you can see knowledge as an upside down pyramid, getting built up one brick at a time. What happens when there are bricks missing at given levels because orthodox thinking makes it difficicult to see what is missing. This is where I like to use my description of a pink elephant in multi-faceted sphere. Conventional thinking will look at the elephant through one of the facets and see just a trunk or just a leg. Without the ability to look at the elephant from other angles, then it is easy to conclude that what you see is a trunk. You could also just see two points of view, a trunk and a leg and not understand how they are related. You can then have people thinking that there is nothing is no link between the two. Of course there will always be the small group that believes that there is more than meets the eye, but they tend to be shuned because no one can see what they are getting at. Like brute force computing where you have many computers trying different combinations, science could have a huge advantage if more people were able to participate. Sure there the possibility of a lot of noise, but like any forum, you find ways to deal with this, for you realise that sometimes it there is an advantage in numbers.
What could be done to make science more accessible I am not sure. Maybe one method is to take advantage of the accesibility of computers and make advanced science applications easy enough for any fools to use and understand.
In the computer industry there is something known as the 'Killer Application'. Basically it is an application as revolutionary as the internet that will change the way we see and do things. Being able to create the killer application is the dream of many, as it is their chance to be able to say they made history.
I believe that anyone wanting to make a killer application shouldn't bother trying. What I mean by this is that it is the wrong way to about things. Such an application will result in someone doing what they are good at and just trying to make something different. The killer application is not defined by the application itself, but what effect it has on people's lifes. For example you could make a program that is wonderful and revolutionary in what it does, but for one reason or another it has zero effect on people's lifes. Maybe there isn't a need, maybe it is too hard to use or maybe you're trying too hard to make money from it, amongst possibilities. The internet succeeded because it was free and there was no cost in adopting it. It was only later, once it was established that businesses hard a market to make money in. Another possibility is that we expect so much these days that we may not recognise an application that has or is making a revolution.
Making a difference is what counts, not trying to make a revolution.
If you can make a tool that can simplify a task, or make it more accessible, then you have already achieved plenty. Imagine what astronomy would be like with out the telescope. In this case the telescope is the tool that provided the means to look beyond our solar system and even our galaxy.
If you are looking for applications that could make a difference, then, IMO, the best place is to look at professional applications and work out how they could be made simple enough for an idiot to use and understand. If an idiot can understand and do something that was once inaccessible to them, then you have already made a big difference. Another place to look at making a difference in, is something that you are interested in and understand, and wish others could share. Yes, in making such a tool you may invalidate your current advantage, but in doing so you open up doors to new opportunities, for you and everyone else.