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Lead Mir Developer: 'Mir More Relevant Than Wayland In Two Years'

N7DR Re:I still don't see what's wrong with X (226 comments)

Seriously, what's so broken about X? Is it just a pain in the ass for developers to work with?

I taught myself X from scratch last year. I didn't find it hard at all. In fact, I found it a whole lot easier than either of the fancy modern GUI toolkits that I looked at first and tried to use to implement the project I was working on.

Out of desperation born of lack of progress over an extended period, I thought I'd take a look at X. And suddenly it became easy to get the interface to behave *exactly* the way I wanted instead in somebody else's idea of what I should want.

And the documentation was complete, correct, and easy to follow. I didn't have to keep asking people for help (often, with no resolution). In a word, both the documentation and the code for X are mature. Which I submit beats bleeding edge every time if you're trying to build something robust.

about a month ago

The State of ZFS On Linux

N7DR Magic (370 comments)

I've been using ZFS on Linux for about a year. I can summarise my position on the experience with two words: it's magic.

It is still tricky to run one's root system off ZFS (at least on Debian). That, I think, is for those who are brave and have to time to deal with issues that might arise following updates. But for non-root filesystems, ZFS is, as I said, magic. It's fast, reliable, caches intelligently, adaptable to a large variety of mirror/striping/RAID configurations, snapshots with incredible efficiency, and simply works as advertised.

Someone once (before the port to other OSes) said that ZFS was Solaris' "killer app". Having used it in production for a year, I can understand why they said that.

about 3 months ago

KDE Releases Plasma 5

N7DR Fixed what seem like fundamental GUI bugs? (108 comments)

Can someone who has tried this tell me whether two particular bugs that were present throughout the life of Plasma 4 have been fixed (OK, you may not think these are bugs, but I sure do: I can't imagine how they were ever allowed to persist, since to me they seem to violate pretty basic requirements of GUI behaviour):

1. If one has a menu present (for example, by pressing the K-Menu button), does an incoming notification still cause the menu to disappear, so you get the delightfully random experience of clicking on whatever happened to be under the item you were about to click on?

2. Can a single misbehaving plasmoid still cause the entire desktop to freeze? (This typically happens to me if the network connectivity is lost: poorly-written plasmoids that need network access can block and cause everything -- not just the plasmoid in question -- to freeze.)

about 4 months ago

Intuit Beats SSL Patent Troll That Defeated Newegg

N7DR Re:It's not the infringement that's the issue (59 comments)

it's the patents that are bogus. Judges need to invalidate more patents, they need to invalidate all software patents.

Putting aside the entire issue of software patents, the legal standards for invalidating a patent are rather high. I have seen many patents which we would all likely agree should be invalidated either for obviousness or because there's prior art; but actually meeting the necessary criteria to prove that conclusively to a judge or jury would have been impossible.

It has evolved this way because of the built-in assumption that the Patent Office does its job correctly, and therefore patents are assumed by courts to be valid and there is a fairly heavy burden imposed to prove otherwise. If the assumption is valid, then this isn't an obviously-bad system; but if it isn't valid, then it quickly becomes an expensive, frustrating situation for defendants.

about 5 months ago

DRM: How Book Publishers Failed To Learn From the Music Industry

N7DR Re:Been reading ebooks since the 90's (212 comments)

Now, as to what an actually reasonable price is for an ebook... that's an interesting question (and of course there's no one solid answer, because different types of book will command different prices). For your typical mass-market fiction novel of ~300-400 pages, the kind of thing that would be maybe $8 as a paperback at a bookstore, something around $3-$5

Yes, I price the e-book versions of my books between $3 and $4 for essentially that reason. I do feel guilty that the various e-book "standards" don't allow for anything remotely resembling decent typesetting, so people who read my books on electronic devices are having a definitely less-than-optimal experience. On the other hand, I go to great lengths to ensure that one doesn't see (as I have seen with e-books from big publishing houses) howlers such as the word "you" presented as "y-" "ou".

I believe that the way e-books *should* have been done is to compile TeX on the fly. That way gorgeous output could have been presented on all devices. Frankly, I wouldn't take e-books seriously at all were it not for the undeniable fact that these days the bulk of my sales occur in that medium. I think my view of e-books is decidedly colored by how poor they have turned out to be (as a reading experience) compared to what they could have been.

If anyone cares, I am: http://www.sff.net/people/N7DR.

about a year and a half ago

Internet Sales Tax Vote This Week In US Senate

N7DR Re:Getting the rates (434 comments)

Yes, I find that more than half the time I am charged the tax rate for the city in which the post office that serves my address is located; which is about triple the tax rate that actually applies at my address. I put this down to the use of some database somewhere that uses 5-digit ZIP codes instead of 9-digit ones to determine the tax rate.

And the vast majority of the companies that overcharge me in this way simply ignore requests to fix the problem. I vote with my dollars, and tell them that I'm doing so, but none of these companies (i.e., the ones who don't immediately respond and correct the tax on the order) has ever cared enough to fix the problem even after my complaint.

I have to wonder if it's even legal for a company to charge me tax that I shouldn't be charged. What do they do with the money? One assumes they send it to the city in question, but in any case the whole system seems remarkably free of any checks or chances to correct errors.


about a year and a half ago

Collaborative LaTeX Editor With Preview In Your Web Browser

N7DR Re:Latex outside academia (99 comments)

Does anyone have any stories where they use Latex outside a university?

I've never been a fan of LaTeX, but I use TeX for novels, and have done for about two decades now.

about 2 years ago

Sir Patrick Moore Dies Aged 89

N7DR Great Interviewer (130 comments)

I had the honour to meet Sir Patrick (then merely Patrick) in August 1989, and to be interviewed by him for the edition of "The Sky at Night" dedicated to the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYMfPsqJke8; for anyone that cares, my interview is about 10 minutes into the video). He always insisted that he was merely an "amateur astronomer", but I was impressed by his abilities as a scientific TV journalist: he knew exactly the right questions to ask to make a rather abstruse subject (radio emissions from Neptune) interesting to a non-scientific audience.

I count myself amongst the many who devoured some of his semi-infinite number of books on astronomy as a child, and who then made a career of the subject. A great example of someone without formal training who nevertheless made a great contribution by making a sometimes-difficult subject accessible to the general public. Would that even a fraction of professional astronomers were half as enthusiastic as he was.

about 2 years ago

Violation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle

N7DR Re:Magic (155 comments)

Bearing in mind that it's generally an error to try to summarise anything about quantum mechanics in a paragraph or two:

Actually, it's the equivalent of finding socks in the dark. If two photons are produced by an interaction of spin zero then the two photons will have spin up and spin down, although you can't know which is which without measuring one. .

I'm sorry,. but the way you write that makes it seem that they have spin up and spin down, and then you measure them to find out which is which. If that's indeed what you meant, I'm afraid that's fundamentally incorrect.

The whole point about the weirdness of quantum entanglement is that the quanta are NOT in a state where one is up and one is down prior to the measurement. Only when you make the measurement does this happen. Prior to the measurement, quantum mechanics says that they are both in a state that is BOTH up and down at the same time.

In other words, quanta are not like socks. We can be reasonably sure that socks' measurable properties are fixed before we actually look at them. Not so with quanta.

You can think of this in this way: when you make a measurement on one of the quanta, it flips a coin that tells it whether to be up or down. Its twin quantum is then bound to give the opposite result. But prior to the coin toss, neither quantum knows how it will respond to a measurement. The most that can be said is that whatever the result of measuring one, the other will give the opposite result.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't You Running KDE?

N7DR In some areas, its design seems wrong-headed (818 comments)

the desktop today is fully-functional and polished

I'm sorry, but I cannot regard as "fully-functional and polished" any desktop environment in which menus disappear just as I am about to click on them just because the desktop has received a notification. When KDE4 receives a notification it doesn't simply display the notification message, it also causes certain classes of other windows to be removed... and this includes the "K" menu. Several times a week that menu disappears as I am about to select an item, and I end up clicking on whatever was underneath the item just because I can't react quickly enough to the sudden removal of the menu.

I have other gripes with KDE4, but they pale into insignificance compared to what is, to me, the bizarre notion that it's ever acceptable for menus simply to disappear. Obviously, the developers must disagree with me, but I honestly can't imagine why they think this is reasonable behaviour.

Mostly my other gripes are along the lines of "feature X that was in KDE3 is either absent or poorly implemented in KDE4". Many things in KDE4 are better than they were in KDE3 (which I admit I often tend to forget), but the fact remains that when I switch back to the machine on which I keep KDE3, I always find myself somehow feeling more relaxed and in control.

more than 2 years ago

ITC Judge Calls For US Xbox Import Ban

N7DR Re:Compromise time boys! (255 comments)

Pretty much this. Let's be honest. No one involved in this patent-war-on-twelve-fronts gives a flying fuck at a rolling donut about "the public interest."

When rendering an opinion, an admninstrative law judge at the ITC is required to consider the public interest. Most likely, bith sides in the instant investigation will have briefed the judge with the aim of convincing him that their particular position is in the public interest. In many cases (I don't know if this was one, although it seems likely given the scope of the investigation) there an internal ITC lawyer is appointed specifically to argue "the public interest" case before the judge.

more than 2 years ago

The Patent Mafia and What You Can Do To Break It Up

N7DR Re:What happened to innocent ? (205 comments)

Another problem that nobody seem to notice is that the patent system is the wrong way arround. In normal criminal cases it is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant perpetrated a crime. Inocent until proven guilty.

The patent system works the other way around it is up to the defendant to prove that they have not violated a patent. Guilty until proven innocent.

That is simply incorrect. The plaintiff has to convince the jury that every limitation in the claim(s) in question is infringed by the defendant. In a typical claim this means that perhaps half a dozen requirements must be shown to be met, and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that every one of those limitations is met. The standard by which the jury decides the case is the "preponderance of the evidence".

And each individual limitation will typically have several debatable words in it, so the plaintiff also has to convince the judge and/or the jury that those words mean what they say they mean (usually, but not always, that is decided by a judge).

If the plaintiff fails to make a convincing case at any point in this sequence, then the patent is not infringed.

(Invalidity is another matter entirely. It's a different standard -- clear and convincing evidence -- and so it's less common for a patent is judged invalid, although it certainly does happen.)

more than 2 years ago

Happy World Amateur Radio Day

N7DR Re:Like BBSes - the range is too short (82 comments)

I quit BBSes because they only had a range of ~100 miles (the local area code). I was involved in HAM for a while but quit for the same reason..

Huh? I have made two contacts today using amaterur radio. Both were with people well over 5,000 miles away.

more than 2 years ago

Music Player Amarok 2.5 Released

N7DR Re:Amarok 1.4.6 For life (152 comments)

I stuck with it, but recently (and for the second time) an update completely blew away my database. Last time this happened I figured out a way to recover it, but now that amarok uses mysqle I don't know how to recover from the loss and so far no one has been able to provide me with a method that actually works. Goodbye, amarok; life is too short to deal with stuff like this.

more than 2 years ago

Fracking Disclosure Rules Approved In CO

N7DR Re:Great! (279 comments)

Apparently the greatest concentration of fracking sites in the US (possibly the world) is in south-western Weld County in Colorado. Which is where I live. From my house I can see perhaps a dozen of these drilling sites. It's always seemed bizarre to me that it's even legal to push chemicals into the ground under and around my house -- but apparently it is, because around here very few people own the mineral rights associated with the ground on which their house stands.

But then, it's also illegal for me to capture rainwater, which seems at least equally strange.

more than 2 years ago

Amazon Is Recruiting Authors For Its eBook Library

N7DR Re:WHY (130 comments)

Heh heh I love the irony! I have to agree, I tried some of the $3 books on Amazon and probably won't try any more. The books were sorely in need of not only basic error correction but some professional editing. Contradictory plot elements, repetitive characters, and other nightmares were common. I wouldn't look forward to self-published world, unless 'edited by xxxx' became a valuable marketing tool where people shopped editors as well as authors. Meanwhile, I don't begrudge a few extra dollars for the added service of a professional editor.

Blatant self-vertisement. Try mine: http://www.sff.net/people/N7DR or http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001HD36FU. You will not find the kind of errors you mention. I work very, very hard on the content of my books and the formating for the hard-copy versions (I use plain TeX). The weak point is formatting for the e-book versions. I hate the lack of control. It's still better than most of the others I've seen, but it's far from the perfection I seek in other aspects of my creations.

The huge problem is how to distinguish oneself from the dross that, as you say, fills the self-published universe. I haven't got that figured out at all.

more than 2 years ago

Adobe Demos Photo Unblurring At MAX 2011

N7DR Re:Interpolated missing data is still just a ficti (251 comments)

It's cool, but not magic.

Right. I did exactly this with at least one ring image from Voyager 1's encounter with Saturn, and that was in 1980 (although I think I didn't get around to writing the code and actually de-blurring the image for two or three years after it was taken). I believe we used a VAX 11/730 to perform the computations.

FYI, Voyager pictures were 800x800 pixels, taken in monochrome with a filter applied in front of the camera. I don't recall whether this particular picture was a single image or a colour image taken with three filters. If the latter then there would have been an interesting twist: the three images would have been taken 48 seconds apart, so the spacecraft would have moved detectably from one colour to the next, so some semi-clever stuff would have been necessary to deblur three individual images and then merge them. But I honestly don't remember after all this time whether we had to do that.

more than 3 years ago

Linux Desktop Summit Program Announced

N7DR Re:I agree, but not with Ulysses... (121 comments)

Simple: switch to KDE (4.6) instead

I beg to disagree with that advice. It seems to me that any "desktop" that causes the menu on which you are about to click to disappear because some notification has suddenly appeared elsewhere on the screen is fundamentally broken. Ditto any desktop where a single blocked desktop-eye-candy-thingy can cause the entire desktop to grind to halt.

There are certainly some pieces of KDE that are quite nice. But I really wonder about such fundamental and obvious design flaws that have persisted through to version 4.6. Or maybe I'm the only person who gets annoyed when I click on a menu that suddenly isn't there, or I have to wait for a widget thingy to time out before responsiveness returns to the entire desktop.

more than 3 years ago

Dr. Who's Sonic Screwdriver Exists

N7DR Re:Plot holes (179 comments)

Yep. The sonic screwdriver was initially introduced because it was deemed silly to have the Doctor confounded by simple locks. Essentially its job was to allow the real plot to proceed when the Doctor was confined to a locked room or was in some similar mundane situation.

As such, it was not unreasonable.

Now, though, it has evolved into an extremely annoying gadget that seems to short-circuit the plot rather than further it. Is there nothing that the current incarnation of this device can't do? Frankly, I wish he'd just lose it somewhere.

Of course, now we also have magical mobile phones. Those should all be destroyed by the sonic screwdriver before the Doctor loses it.

more than 3 years ago

Canada To Mandate ISP Deep Packet Inspection

N7DR Re:Time for all websites to go https (313 comments)

Good idea. It made me think, "Why do I ever browse anything that doesn't support https?" Then I realised that I was browsing slashdot on an insecure connection. So I typed "https://slashdot.org" in the address bar... I'lll let you try that for yourself.

about 4 years ago


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