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Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

Prototerm Keeping it Simple (240 comments)

I'm with you on this. As a programmer, the thing I hate the most is "Gee, Mom, look what I can do!" code -- obtuse code written to impress rather than be simple, obvious and functional. And yes there are indeed times when something mind-bendingly complex is needed to achieve the required goal, but by and large, the KISS principle applies. As to the article's main point, I have to ask what is the purpose of breaking backward compatibility: Making it faster to produce readable, easily maintainable code, being the first one on the block to use something new and shiny, or simply to appear to be one of the Elite? Always keep in mind, however, that programing is more an art than a science, and creativity often comes from the simplest of tools, not the most expensive or the trendiest. And creativity is why we fiddle with all these bits, right?

about two weeks ago
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Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

Prototerm I don't think so. (478 comments)

As a wise old woman once said to me: "It ain't so old when you get there." Never give up and never give in. I have plans to go bungee jumping on my 100th birthday. Geronimo!

about a month ago
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Math, Programming, and Language Learning

Prototerm Re:Why Math matters (241 comments)

Bur how often do you need to understand those things to implement a typical computer program that helps a user get something done? Oftentimes, you simply need to know one is better than another and get on with it. Of course, you'd need that understanding to, for example, work on the TrueCrypt sourcecode. But generally? I don't think so/

about 3 months ago
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Math, Programming, and Language Learning

Prototerm Programming != Math (241 comments)

Programming isn't, strictly speaking, math. Not like calculus or algebra is math. It's something else entirely.

I have a rather annoying learning disability, and have suffered from it since I was in first grade: I have a great difficulty memorizing things. Now, even with that rather annoying problem, I managed to be near the top of the class in both grade school and high school. What happened is I learned early on how to analyze the patterns behind the subjects I was expected to memorize and when test-time came was able to reconstruct most of the required information based on those patterns. Perfect example of this is spelling. I figured out what phoenetic combinations ruled English, and used them to pass tests. Armed with those rules, I only had to remember one or two odd words per week. In history, I found myself being able to understand and explain historical trends and influences. Names and Dates, on the other hand, gave me (literally) a headache. Simple math was easy (just a small number of consistent rules, after all). Sort of. Word problems in math, on the other hand, were difficult at best.

After I graduated college, I bought myself a Commodore 64 (they were just on the market) and dove right into both Basic and Assembly language. Both were easy for me to analyze and comprehend. Logic may be a branch of mathematics, but to me it's more obvious than anything in the math textbooks. Calculus is (for me) as obtuse and illogical as it gets. "If a water tank with a height of 15 feet and a circumference of 20 feet is 2/3 full of water, with a 1/8 inch hole a foot above the bottom, how long will it take the water level to drop to the hole?" Just plug the hole, whydoncha? Jeez!

Interestingly enough, I also have problems with computer word problems. Just give me the code (any code -- C, C++, C#, pascal, basic, assembler, SQL) and a little time, and I'll tell you what's causing the bug you're seeing. Now, after all these years, I'm the one everyone comes to when faced with an intractable computer problem that no one else seems able to solve. And I still don't like math.

about 3 months ago
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The Feature Phone Is Dead: Long Live the 'Basic Smartphone'

Prototerm Re:Not the phone (243 comments)

I'll do you one better. My dumbphone costs me $100 US a year for voice and messages (I turn text messages off, though -- the phone's too small to type on with my fat thumbs), and any money I don't spend on calls gets rolled over to the next year. The phone doesn't use data, and I don't need it to. Email and Internet's what my laptop is for. Why would I want to spend $35 each month when what I've got now is more than I need? Oh, and that $35 is just the starting point. After you add state and federal fees, it's more like $50 a month.

about 6 months ago
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Linux Developers Consider On-Screen QR Codes For Kernel Panics

Prototerm Re:The matrix (175 comments)

Extra points for the Guru Meditation Error! C=

about 7 months ago
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Linux Developers Consider On-Screen QR Codes For Kernel Panics

Prototerm Re:Wish other OSs did this... (175 comments)

And suppose you don't have a smartphone?

about 7 months ago
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Linux Developers Consider On-Screen QR Codes For Kernel Panics

Prototerm Bad Idea (175 comments)

I'd file this under the "Gee, mom, look what I can do" school of programming. It makes the assumption that every Linux user in the known universe has a smartphone and enough data minutes left in the month to play around with a QR code and a web page. I'm a great believer in the "KISS" principle: Keep It Simple! Your powerful computer just fell down and can't get up, so now you want to make it create and display a fancy bit of graphics? This sort of error is too important to rely on playing "stupid computer tricks"! What if it's a text-only server installation and there *is* no GUI available to display the QR? What if displaying the QR code *itself* causes an error? I'd hate to be using version 1 of *this* change! Besides, this sort of fancy error display belongs in User space, not the Kernel (IMHO). Simplifying the error message with ordinary, everyday language the user can actually write down with (gasp) pencil and paper is a much better approach than trying to impress people with how 1337 you are. /rant

about 7 months ago
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YouTube-MP3 Ripper Creator Takes On Google

Prototerm Nothing New Here (141 comments)

When I was a teenager, I made copies of streaming audio all the time ... using a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a pair of alligator clips attached to the speakers of a table radio -- all to capture the latest "top 40" pop tunes in glorious monophonic sound. That was back in the sixties, and the music world didn't come to an end because I didn't spend money I didn't have in the first place, nor did the huge multinational music companies crash and burn in bankruptcy. However, later on, when I *did* have money to spend I collected thousands of record albums and 45's. Even later, I re-purchased everything on CD's.

Tell me again why this sort of recording activity is *costing* companies money? Seems to me that it's more of an investment in the future.

more than 2 years ago
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Roundabout Revolution Sweeping US

Prototerm New Jersey Just FInished Removing Them (1173 comments)

Until the 1990's, the main route between Philadelphia and Atlantic City had at least two Roundabouts. The earliest time I remember seeing them was during the late 1950's as a passenger in my parent's car. So, this is not a new invention this side of the Pond, but an old one that has been tried and abandoned after decades of use. I had the opportunity to drive this route before they were both redesigned, and I can tell you that the design is only effective when traffic is very minimal. It's extremely hazardous with high traffic volume.

The State of New Jersey clearly knows this, as does any American driver who has experienced what I believe is a misguided attempt at a "Can't we all get along" society. If you've ever seen the original Death Race 2000 movie, or played the Carmageddon series of video games, then you know what the highways are like in the Philadelphia area.

Properly configured traffic lights are much preferred to the risk of physical harm the Roundabout represents.

IMHO, YMMV

more than 3 years ago
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Mozilla Labs: the URL Bar Has To Go

Prototerm The real reason behind this change (591 comments)

Everybody's supposed to be using a touch-screen tablet or smartphone these days. Didn't you get the tweet? Why else do you think Gnome 3 and Unity were invented? Next up, Windows 8 with an enlarged version of the Win Phone 7 tile interface to replace that old computer-desktop GUI.

Bandwagon, anyone?

more than 3 years ago
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Why Has Blu-ray Failed To Catch Hold?

Prototerm Blu-Ray is Useless for Some (1162 comments)

Blu-Ray is pretty much useless for me, and not just because of the high disk cost or DRM-created issues.

First, all the televisions in my house are standard definition, the largest being 32 inches diagonal, the remainder 12 inches. Without large high-def screens, there's just no point as up-converted DVD's look fine. I suspect a lot of people are in the same boat.

Second, my son and I watch all our TV/movies on our computer screens, in a tiny window while we're doing something else. Now, what is the advantage of Blu-Ray once again?

Blu-Ray was invented by electronic companies to get us to re-purchase all of our movies, nothing more. If that works, they'll re-release them again in 3D. If it doesn't work, they'll blame piracy for the failure.

more than 3 years ago
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Toyota Adds External Speakers To Warn Pedestrians

Prototerm The Wildwood Solution (531 comments)

I'm reminded of the Tram Cars that traverse the boardwalk in Wildwood, N.J.. Anyone who has ever vacationed there knows well the sound of a woman calling out (via a recording) "Watch the Tram Car, please", since they've been doing that (with the same woman's voice) for at least 50 years now. Since the woman is still alive that recorded it all those years ago, it'd be a hoot to hear her voice coming out of every Prius that passes by.

more than 4 years ago
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Time To Dump XP?

Prototerm Running XP? (1213 comments)

I'm still on 2000, you insensitive clod! I'm planning to *upgrade* to XP in the next year or so. Provided my hardware can run it, that is. Everyone knows that XP is a resource hog. :)

more than 4 years ago
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Russia Doubles Price For Launching US Astronauts

Prototerm What about carry on luggage? (370 comments)

But does each astronaut have to pay extra (say another 45 million per bag) for their carry-on luggage?

more than 4 years ago
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Math Skills For Programmers — Necessary Or Not?

Prototerm Math Skills Handy But Nkt Required. (609 comments)

I've been a professional (and quite successful) programmer for nearly 30 years, and am not too shy to admit that my math skills are practically non-existent. However, that being said, an equally poor memory has polished my *logic* skills to the point where I'm quite adept at designing and understanding computer software (particularly those written in C and assembly language). Although these days, I have the most success (and fun) writing "impossible" SQL queries.

So, I suppose the lesson here is that you can't really generalize that math is vital for computer programmers. Unless you include *logic* as math (and I never have -- it's really a very different animal IMHO). After all, that's why God created computers in the first place, right? To do the math *for* us.

more than 4 years ago
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Whatever Happened To Programming?

Prototerm You know Programming is in trouble (623 comments)

You know Programming is in trouble when being "the goto guy" has become a compliment, rather than an insult.

more than 4 years ago
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Ars Technica Inveighs Against Ad Blocking

Prototerm The Problem is Third-Party Ads (1051 comments)

Ok, here's a really radical idea: Maybe the problem isn't the ads, but that the ads are provided by third party hosting sites that are out of the control of the web site *using* those ads. If the web site hosted the ad file, then *they* would be held responsible for the singing, dancing gophers trying to sell you the latest in prophylactics, and ad-blockers would be less effective.

But in general, the reason ad blocking exists, and will continue to exist is:
1) animation (any kind)
2) sound and/or music
3) popups, pupunders, and any other sort of ad that *demands* your immediate attention like a little kid jumping up and down, waving his hands because he has to go to the bathroom.

Advertisers need to understand: we *tolerate* you. But make yourself too annoying, and we *will* cut you off at the knees. This is true of Television (Tivo), Radio (iPod), Newspapers (yeah, just flip the page here), and now the Internet. Push us too far, and someone *will* develop ad blocking software that happily tells you we are viewing your ad, while at the same time dropping the whole thing in the trash. Please don't turn this into a war. It's one you can't win.

more than 4 years ago
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Ubuntu Gets a New Visual Identity

Prototerm Alternative Schemes (683 comments)

As long as it's not blue and grey. God, I really *hate* desktops that are in shades of blue. It's cold and depressing. Not that the new orange and purple is much better. But at least, you can change it to anything you want.

I use a custom scheme that most of my friends find awful (of course *they* run some variant of Windows so the feeling is mutual). While I dislike the traditional Ubuntu brown and orange, I do like a brown palette. So, here's my preferred combination:

Base Theme: Clearlooks
Icons: ubuntu-sunrise
Wallpaper: Custom dark woodgrain
"Selected Items": medium brown (#752A2A), or for those who dislike brown, dark green (#005830) works
"Windows": medium tan (#D8C0A0)
"Input boxes": off white (#F0E0D0) to reduce eyestrain in terminals and text editors.

more than 4 years ago

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