StonyCreekBare writes "What options are available for distributed storage for families? My two brothers, my daughter and her husband, and his mother all have homes in various parts of the country. We use various cloud storage providers to keep our shared data. This has numerous limitations and we are starting to think maybe we can do it better ourselves. We all have decent Internet connections, are all somewhat tech savvy, and think that by leveraging the Internet we can maybe provide for our needs better and at lower cost by buying some hardware and doing it ourselves. How would Slashdotters go about implementing such a family-oriented, distributed cloud platform? What hardware? What applications, beyond simply the preservation and sharing of family data, (grandkids photos, home videos and more) would be good to leverage such a platform? Security Cameras? HTPC? VoIP? Home Automation? Primary requirements are Cheap, Secure, Reliable." top
StonyCreekBare writes "How can an autodidact get past the jobs screening process? I have a long track record of success, despite limited formal education. Despite many accomplishments, published papers, and more, I cannot seem to get past the canned hiring process and actually get before a hiring manager. Traditional hiring processes seem to revolve around the education and degrees one holds, not one's track record and accomplishments. Now as an older tech-worker I seem to encounter a double barrier by being gray-haired as well. All prospective employers seem to see is a gray-haired old guy with no formal degrees. The jobs always seem to go to the younger guys with impressive degrees, despite a total lack of accomplishment. How can an accomplished, if gray-haired, self-educated techie get a foot in the door?" top
StonyCreekBare writes "I stared out programming in Z80 assembler in the 1970's. Then I programmed in Pascal. Then x86 Assembler in the early 90's. Over time I did a smattering of C, Basic, Visual C++, Visual Basic, and even played at Smalltalk. Most recently I settled on Perl, and Perl/Tk as the favorite "Swiss army Chainsaw" tool set, and modestly consider myself reasonably competent with that. But suddenly, in this tight financial environment I need to find a way to get paid for programming, and perl seems so "yesterday". The two hot areas I see are IOS programming and Python, perhaps to a lesser extent, Java. I need to modernize my skill-set and make myself attractive to employers. I recently started the CS193P Stanford course on iTunesU to learn iPad programming, but am finding it tough going. I think I can crack it, but it will take some time, and I need a paycheck sooner rather than later. What does the Slashdot crowd see as the best path to fame, wealth and full employment for gray-haired old coots who love to program?" top
StonyCreekBare writes "I maintain a number of documents, spreadsheets, and some small programs for personal use. Years ago I used a version control software system to track such things in my professional world. Lately I have been itching to move to some sort of a version control system to keep the various files better organized and track my changes in my personal world. I started looking at various systems available such as Subversion, and while it would definitely do the job, it seems a bit like using an elephant gun to swat a fly. I want something simpler, with less of a learning curb, that is suited for a single user, with a small number of files, in various formats. I mainly mean Spreadsheets, Doc files, and text files. Do Slashdot users have a smaller simpler solution they recommend?" top
StonyCreekBare writes "I am wondering what slashdotters have to offer on the idea of Linux based security systems, especially DVR software. I am aware of Zoneminder, but wonder what else is out there? Are there applications that will not only monitor video cameras, but motion sensors and contact closure alarms? What is state of the art in this area, and how do the various Linux platforms stack up in comparison to dedicated embedded solutions? Will these "play nice" with other software, such as Asterisk, and Misterhouse? Can one server host three or four services applications of this nature, assuming CPU/memory/disk resources are sufficient?" top
StonyCreekBare writes "Lately I've been re-thinking my personal security practices. Somehow having my Firefox "fill in" passwords automatically for me when I go to my bank's site seems sub-optimal should my laptop be stolen. Keeping passwords for all the varied sites on the computer in a plain-text file seems unwise as well. Keeping them in my brain is a prescription for disaster, as my brain is increasingly leaky. A paper notepad likewise has it's disadvantages.
I have looked at a number of password managers, password "vaults" and so on. The number of tools out there is a bit overwhelming. Magic Password Generator add-in for Firefox seems competent but is tied to Firefox, and I have other places and applications I want passwords. Plus I might be accessing my sites from other computers which do not have it installed.
The ideal tool in my mind should be something that is independent of any application, browser or computer, something that is easily carried, but which if lost poses no risk of compromise.
What does the Slashdot crowd like in Password tools?" top
StonyCreekBare writes "What does the Slashdot crowd say about the current state of Home Automation software. Preferably Linux based, but mainly the field in general, and principally the DIY flavors as opposed to the upscale turnkey systems. I am familiar with Misterhouse, HomeSeer and Automated Living's HAL2000, all of which have serious flaws and weaknesses, but which sometimes succeed well in specific areas. But in all cases, the state of the art seems to have moved little in the last decade.
Is any interesting work being done in this space? Or should I just grab one of the three and try to mold it to fit my vision of what it should be? Misterhouse at least is open source so I can add new features, but it has not had an update in a long long time and seems to be missing some modern stuff. The other two are expensive and closed source, and from all I can see, quite flawed, not the least by their dependence on intimate ties to Microsoft. Yet they seem to offer a lot more than Misterhouse despite their weaknesses.
Is the Home Automation field as bleak as it appears? Or have I missed the forest for the trees?
StonyCreekBare writes "A client wants to build a kiosk system intended to interact with the user entirely via speech. Speech Recognition is absolutely key to the success of the project, so an excellent speech recognition engine is absolutely key to success.
Key requirements are Speaker Independence, and a large vocabulary, with a great deal of flexibility for recognizing arbitrary speech. The system needs to interact with arbitrary speakers on a walk-up basis.
I have built a reasonable "Proof-of-concept" prototype using an L&H / Windows based system. I was quite pleased with the overall performance of the system, and believe an optimized system could do even better. My goal is not so much to improve the recognition performance (although there is room for improvement), as to improve the system reliability and to have more control at the system level.
There seems to be two candidates to supply the system. Microsoft and Nuance.
The Microsoft Speech SDK has the unfortunate circumstance of being innately wedded to Windows, and all the other viable systems (such as L&H, and Viavoice) seem to have been acquired by Nuance. Microsoft's system seems to require a lot of training to perform well, which is unacceptable. At least the L&H system is truly speaker independent. I would greatly prefer to use a Linux or BSD solution, if viable, so that requires a *nix compatible solution.
I have seen some other systems, mostly proprietary systems for telephony applications. e.g. Sprint, to name one. I hear about other systems such as Sphinx from Carnegie Mellon, and a system from Phillips, both of which I do not know much about and do not know anyone actually using.
What are Slashdot users experiences with the various systems available? Have I overlooked any good candidates? What is the "bleeding edge" in reliable speech recognition? Am I going to be forced to use Windows?
StonyCreekBare writes "I've had a casual interest in Artificial Intelligence for a while. I've read a lot, both online and not, about the topic, but really haven't absorbed much. It's a complex topic. I've poked around CPAN for Perl Modules to play with, but haven't found much of anything particularly useful at my current stage of ignorance.
In the past I have seen basic starter kits for all sorts of things from radios to robotics, "Dummies" books for those just learning almost any topic. Every complex field has it's beginner's kits. But I'll be darned if I find anything equivalent for AI.
I envision something like a 'Black Box' of callable code modules with enough instructions (simplified for beginners) to do something more-or-less useful, and pointers to documentation to help the beginner grow. There are a few perl modules on CPAN, but they seem to assume a level of knowledge way over my head. How does a curious layman get a leg up? I'm not looking to build a massive AI application, just play around and learn some the concepts. But getting over that initial learning curb seems awfully tough.
Is there such a thing as an AI Tool-kit? I mean, where's 'AI For Dummies'? I know it's a complex science. But hasn't someone built a basic instructional beginners system?
StonyCreekBare writes "We all initially expected optical media to be very reliable for archive purposes. I think. Despite some early stories of CD Rot, and later DVD Rot, my CDs, CDR and commercial DVDs have been perfectly fine. But I seem to be encountering a different story with DVD R media.
What has been the/. crowd's experience with DVD R media? Have I made a serious mistake committing my video library to a frail and unreliable media? Or have I just hit a few uncommonly bad instances in my first look at the situation?
In the last few weeks I am starting to notice a lot of discs are giving errors when read. Some video players play them fine, some do not. Older players have the most trouble. I have six DVD drives on various computers, and I find that extracting.iso files for the DVDs gives varying results. Some drives read almost all the discs perfectly except a couple that have obvious, visible flaws. Other drives fail a rather large percentage of tested discs, approaching 25%. Interestingly, the drive that burned most of the discs is the one most finicky about reading them. Incidentally, in my testing, each disc was cleaned before being read, lest a random bit of dirt skew the results, and the failures are not necessarily the oldest discs. I have had many that were recorded within the last 6 months give errors as well.
In addition to the vagaries of reading marginal discs on different drives, I am appalled at how easily some of the discs that do have visible defects have been damaged. These discs have minor surface scuffs that would be ignored in a commercial DVD and yet seem to instantly render the DVD R un-readable. I have seen rental DVDs that looked horribly scuffed and scratched yet played fine, but the slightest surface scuff on a DVD R seems to kill it completely. Maybe some of these can be polished out and recovered, but my concern is that even a minor scuff seems fatal to a DVD R, much more so than a commercial DVD.
I'm starting to wish I had never abandoned tapes.
Should I begin copying any media that show errors to new media while they are still readable on ANY drive? Or are some DVD drives and/or DVD Video players simply too finicky for DVD R and thus the drive should be tossed? Are these discs that show errors on some drives degrading, soon to be unreadable on any drive? Or are they stable, merely needing an extra good drive to read them?
What steps should I take to preserve my videos? I am considering buying some big hard drives and extracting.iso images to them as backups. But hard drives fail too, and losing a few hundred videos because a HD failed is scary.
So far, my testing has been rather casual, but I need to get more serious. What is the best way to qualify the media's error rate, readability, etc. Is there software that is suitable? How is this done in the professional world?"