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Cuba's Pending Tech Revolution

Theovon How do I send my old computers to Cuba? (121 comments)

I have some "old" computers that really aren't that old and are in fabulous condition. Is there an organization I can contact to send it to Cuba so that it ends up in the hands of people who would make good use of it (instead of one of those scams that makes it end up in a dump in China)?

For that matter, I have other things like old clothes destined for the garage sale I could send there too. Seriously. I would feel good about sending clothes that no longer fit me (I lost weight) to people who would benefit.

about a week ago
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WSJ Refused To Publish Lawrence Krauss' Response To "Science Proves Religion"

Theovon Jesus comes to all alien worlds (556 comments)

Quoting someone's comment on the article: "Distilled down, this is your argument for god. God set the fine scale variation so that 13.8 billions years later, we could evolve and Jesus could visit so we could kill him and save the universe. So if someone were to dispose of this error in your thinking, would you dispose of god."

What some people don't quite realize is that we can have Jesus'es without God. A Jesus is just a cultural archetype that arises in times of (societal) turmoil who teaches some (ethical) principles, which are then spread by followers. This sort of thing happens all the time, with Jesus being a particular case. There were lots of messiahs at the time of Jesus, and Jesus is just the one who became the most famous. Buddha is another Jesus. In Science, Einstein is a Jesus of sorts. Also, there are other kinds of cultural architypes besides Jesus'es.

If you restrict yourself to political and social Jesus'es, which has happened many times on Earth, it seems inevitable that Jesus will come to "visit" alien societies. The alien world will experience some very alien concept of societal difficulty. Someone (or lots of someones) will arise in this time and teach some useful lessons. One of those Jesus'es will become the most famous (although many of the others' lessons will be attributed to this individual), and some of those messages will survive in an alien religious way. This all assumes alien worlds that have "individuals," which is surely not always the case.

What is Christianity anyhow? It's just a set of ethical principles (which have been horribly bastardized by most of the followers). Everyone is created equal under the eyes of [Abstract Deity], even women and slaves. Everyone has done some bad things. Forgiveness is available to those who acknowledge that they've done bad things and truly prefer to not do bad things. Most of the rest of it (accepting Jesus as your savior, the virgin birth, his death and resurrection, various Hebrew rules, etc.) is all fluff there to perpetuate the religion, which is only maintained due to cultural natural selection (those religions without properties like this don't survive, so those things are just artifacts).

about three weeks ago
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Professor: Young People Are "Lost Generation" Who Can No Longer Fix Gadgets

Theovon The number of idiots remains constant (840 comments)

I'm using the word "idiot" as a hyperbole to refer to "people naturally disinterested in anything remotely techncal." Most people are this kind of idiot. Scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, architects, writers, and others who think abstractly are RARE.

Perpetually, many who ARE interested in technical things lament that those people seem to have missed out on the right opportunities or education, which is a sad, sad thing. The truth is that MOST people who are naturally inclined to care about technical things will learn technical things. Sure, there's the occasional person who is otherwise missed, but mostly, those efforts to educate disinterested people in technical things result only in incompetent, disinterested people CLAIMING to know technical things. Force someone disinterested to memorize a bunch of technical facts, and all they'll ever know is a bunch of disconnected facts. This does not lead to competence. Really, they still don't care and pretty much don't get it and would be better off, for everyone's sake, doing something else. You can't MAKE someone think abstractly; it's either present as a talent, or it's not.

That does not imply that everyone with abstract thinking ability will be competent. You also have to have passion for something. That's rare too.

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

Theovon Always lame compensation (95 comments)

Reminds me of a recent bad experience with Jet Blue. Not only was the flight an hour late, but when we arrived, they lost our stroller, which we had to check at the gate. We ended up leaving about 2 hours late. If it weren't for the constant screaming of our 2-year-old, that wouldn't have been so bad. I realize that people deal with a lot worse, but the $30 off our "next" flight was really lame, considering that we're unlikely to be flying with them again within the year they give us to redeem it. Really, all that discount is is lock-in to ensure they get more of our business, which makes it not really a discount.

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

Theovon Modern signaling techniques applied to vinyl? (278 comments)

This makes me think of the technological progress of communications between computers. (Note: This is not a totally accurate depiction of history.) First, we had serial communication, like RS232. When that wasn't fast enough, we went parallel, like Centronics. That reached a certain speed limit due to signal skew between the parallel wires. But by then, on-chip transistors were so fast that we could modulate differential serial in a way that beats the heck out of parallel. (Notice that modern highspeed interconnects, like USB3 and PCI-Express, are all differential serial, where any parallelism has decoupled phasing.)

So imagine we computed the transfer function of the "typical" record player, accounting for all the distortions in the needle, amplifier, and speaker. Then we took the waveform we WANT to get and reverse engineer exactly the groove we need on the record to get the exact sounds we want. It might take a decent amount of compute power to do it, but we could do a far better job than we ever could back in the 1970's.

about three weeks ago
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How We'll Program 1000 Cores - and Get Linus Ranting, Again

Theovon SOME THINGS ARE NOT PARALLELIZABLE (449 comments)

There are many common algorithms at the heart of important workloads that are not parallelizable. Consider sorting and shortest path algorithms that are important for managing data and route finding. The O(n-squared) versions can be parallelized (Bellman-Ford vs. Dijkstra's), but for any useful input size, the n-log-n version will be faster on a single core than the n-squared on a supercomputer (no hyperbole there). Even for workloads that do have a lot of parallelism, the inter-process communication often dominates. Except for benchmarks with no application to reality, there is always SOMETHING that serializes computation. Amdahl's law always bites you in the ass.

So much for parallel computing.

If you have many INDEPENDENT tasks, then sure, parallel computing is great. Web servers with many clients, graphics, etc. But that's for servers.

On end-user systems, the amount of thread-level parallelism is very limited. Unless you're compiling Gentoo, you're going to top out at a handful of cores. This is not limitation of the languages people use. It's a practical limitation of the parallelism inherent (or not) in the workloads people run, and it's a hard mathematical limitation of the optimal algorithms people use for common low-level tasks.

http://crd-legacy.lbl.gov/~dhbailey/dhbpapers/twelve-ways.pdf
http://www.davidhbailey.com/dhbpapers/inv3220-bailey.pdf
http://www.cs.binghamton.edu/~pmadden/pubs/dispelling-ieeedt-2013.pdf

There are some people in parallel computing who need to go back to school and learn computational complexity.

about three weeks ago
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Quake On an Oscilloscope

Theovon Re:IBM LCD (71 comments)

I got to play with the IBM T221 back when I worked at Tech Source. One dual-link DVI didn't have enough bandwidth for a decent framerate, so I helped adapt one of our dual-head air traffic control video cards to drive the display. That monitor was awesome. Retina display before its time!

about a month ago
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BU Students Working On a Cheaper, Gentler Suborbital Rocket

Theovon Binghamton University? (43 comments)

When someone says "BU", I'm sometimes not sure if they're referring to Boston or Binghamton.

about a month ago
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Drunk Drivers in California May Get Mandated Interlock Devices

Theovon Alcohol intolerant (420 comments)

I suspect that if I could drink alcohol, I might do so on occasion. However, even small amounts make me feel awful. As a result, I'll never get a DUI (unless it's a false positive or someone spiked my drink, but in the latter case, I probably would be unable to stay awake). Does that make me fortunate or not?

When I was in my 20's and would go bar-hopping with my friends, they'd smoke and drink alcohol. I'd smoke and drink espresso.

about a month ago
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High Speed DIY M&M Sorting Machine Uses iPhone Brain

Theovon Because the brown ones taste different! (85 comments)

Are you trying to match the M&M's to the decor of a room or something? Do the brown ones clash with your shoes?

Ok, sure, I realize that the green ones have some special magic that improves your chances of making a home run in baseball. But I just don't see any way that the brown ones are otherwise special.

about a month ago
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Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

Theovon Worse things "cause" autism than vaccines (1051 comments)

Vaccines don't cause autism.

There are two legal causes I know of where autism was linked with vaccines. In one case, the girl had mitochondrial disorder and was given too many shots at once. In general, doctors don't recommend getting too many shots at once, because it's a burden on the immune system, so if your immune system is compromised, you have to take it easy and spread out the shots.

As for things that MIGHT "cause" autism (or more precisely, some autism-like symptoms that may or may not really put you in the autism spectrum), I think we should reflect on all the other crap we put in our bodies. Pollution in the air and water, pesticides, the really shitty diet Americans eat, and so forth. A highschool in the southeastern US changed its lunch program to include primarly healthy foods: Behaviorial problems and absenteeism were reduced substantially. Eat better, and you'll think more clearly. This works on anyone, and helps alleviate some of the symtoms experienced by people with ASD.

Recently, autism was linked with some neocortical malformations. I'm not sure what is the cause of the malformations. But in some cases of mild autism, dietary changes anecodotally appear to help. Lowered immune system load and toxin load may be associated with some reduction in some autism symptoms. In my case, dietary changes have helped substantially with fatigue, brain fog, and OCD. I haven't narrowed down exactly which changes have helped the most, but I avoid wheat, soy, and dairy, and I take vitamin supplements only in their biologically active forms. My wife has Hashimoto's disease, so she got on the auto-immune SCD diet (similar to paleo), and following that to a degree has helped me too, and I also lost weight. Also, it's good to maintain a good array of intestinal flora, so eat your cultured vegetables, and drink kombucha and kefir. These things don't treat autism, per se; they just mazimize your baseline health, which can help with all sorts of disorders that might otherwise cause you more trouble.

about a month and a half ago
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The Cost of the "S" In HTTPS

Theovon Compression: Reduced RF energy (238 comments)

Now, I'm not sure how HTTPS works, but when you use something like PGP, it first compresses the data in order to increase the entropy, making it harder to crack. So while we're spending more CPU cycles on compression and encryption, doesn't the reduced transmission payload more than offset the cost of the computation? In general, communication is WAY more expensive (in terms of energy) than computation.

Damnit, I'm going to have to read the article to find out if they did this right. :)

about 2 months ago
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Gangnam Style Surpasses YouTube's 32-bit View Counter

Theovon It's a JOKE, people! (164 comments)

Do you really think that the database that Youtube uses to store view counts is limiting that field to 32 bits? Ever? Or that it can't handle overflow in a graceful way that automatically upgrades the value? Or that Google didn't notice this YEARS ago and do a system-wide type change on that table column?

This is FUNNY, but not a technical problem. Of course, many of you may be making jokes in response, pretending to believe it's limited to 32 bits, when you realize it's not. But for those of you whose realities are limited to 32-bit chunks, I just though I'd clarify at the risk of possibly just destroying all the humor value.

As an aside, it amazes me when students first learning circuit design feel compelled to make registers and buses that are all in multiples of 8 bits. There's nothing preventing you from making a circuit component that is 47 bits wide.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source?

Theovon Assistant professor -- can't contribute (488 comments)

I'm an assistant professor. In my job, it's publish or perish. If I don't get enough funding and publications before the ene of my 5th year, I'm FIRED. And this doesn't just affect me. My family and I would be SOL, and we live in Binghamton, so it's not exactly easy to find other tech jobs. So I really don't have time to contribute to FOSS projects.

Except that I do:
https://sourceforge.net/p/vortexman/
https://sourceforge.net/p/visualcpu/
https://sourceforge.net/p/openshader/
https://sourceforge.net/p/minuteman/
https://sourceforge.net/p/lsann/
https://sourceforge.net/p/gterm/
https://sourceforge.net/p/ftllm/
https://sourceforge.net/p/educpu/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Graphics_Project (founder, but it's dormant)
https://github.com/jbush001/NyuziProcessor (some minor contributions)

about 2 months ago
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Montana Lawmakers Propose 85 Mph Speed Limit On Interstates

Theovon Upstate NY too, please (525 comments)

Even for states as relatively small as New York, a higher speed limit would be great. Putting aside downstate, we have long stretches of nothing between a handful of major cities. We also have deer, fog, and bad weather, which would require that raised speed limits be restricted to high-visibility daytime conditions.

about 2 months ago
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Debian Forked Over Systemd

Theovon Re:Forking is good, whiny bitches (647 comments)

My main assertion is that many forks are done with good intentions. This new fork, on the other hand, is not necessarily based on the best motivations.

about 2 months ago
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Debian Forked Over Systemd

Theovon Forking is good, whiny bitches (647 comments)

On the one hand, forking is what drives Free Software. It allows us to innovate, adapt software to new needs, etc. Without it, the FOSS community would not be as strong as it is.

On the other hand, Debian's board took a vote, and the anti-systemd people lost. Democracy happened. Democracy is good. Those people who created this fork are a bunch of malcontents that are whining because they didn't get their way. This isn't a "downstream branch" like Ubuntu, which strengthens the community by sending patches upstream. This is breaking up of a strong community, and it's now going to be inherently weaker.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

Theovon Maximizing profit (516 comments)

Although they are regulated to death, power companies want to maximize profit, and there are no rules that say they have to invest in improving infrastructure "as long as everything is working fine." They have no motivation at all to seek out aging sections of their power grid and replace them during normal operation. Rather, they are entirely reactive. When power goes out, they fix it on demand. Nothing more. Moreover, whenever there are major storms that take out massive swaths of their network, they cry for help from the government to pay for the repairs becuase they "can't afford it." The only reason they do anything at all when power does go out is because they'd be slapped by regulators if they didn't. Otherwise they'd be perfectly happy to leave paying customers without power the way Comcast leaves paying customers without internet service.

Just imagine if power delivery were government-run. It would be even worse, because there would be no profit incentive.

about a month ago
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Eizo Debuts Monitor With 1:1 Aspect Ratio

Theovon Re:ATC (330 comments)

For a while there, there were some 2560x2048 monitors being marketed for ATC as well. And then there was the IBM T221, which did 3840x2400.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Ask Slashdot: Any really good texts on evolutionary details?

Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Theovon (109752) writes "To me, that we evolved from earlier life forms is a straightforward conclusion. We have mountains of evidence, and current theories are sound given that data. But I'm not a biologist, so I find it a challenge to get access to much of that data. I'm looking for a single coherent tome (or maybe multivolume set) of biological data used to develop specific theories of evolution of many ancient and modern family trees. I don't want mere drawings of fossils in sequence like in a high school textbook. I want to see photographs of the original fossils, along with data about geologic strata, measurements of numerous morphological features, and explanations of the lines of reasoning that lead to particular conclusions. Sections on DNA analysis would be great too, along with any other interesting lines of evidence. The conclusions that scientists draw are fascinating, and I'd like to dig deeper into the data they started from. Would the slashdot crowd be able to help me find a top example of such a resource?"
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'Something is deeply broken in OS X memory management'

Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Theovon (109752) writes "Ever since Apple released Lion, countless users have been complaining about performance problems, even on top-of-the-line hardware. OSX point releases have been coming out, but this issue has remained completely unaddressed by Apple, as per their usual "it's not our fault" approach to their mistakes. Well, some researchers have been investigating this. Perhaps Apple will finally take notice. The original article is here, and the OSNews article is here."
Link to Original Source
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Pampers Dry Max diapers, chemical burns

Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Theovon (109752) writes "Despite the self-deprecating jokes, many of us slashdotters do indeed have the social skills to find mates and have children. This is why articles like the recent one on delayed umbilical cord cutting are of interest to us. Well, here's another one for us parents, something my week-old daughter is experiencing first-hand. Procter and Gamble is putting their heads in the sand and denying all responsibility in response to a spate of reports that the most recent version of their "Dry Max" diapers are causing severe rashes that appear to be chemical burns. There are articles all over the place, with questions and blogs and even P&G's lame response trying to suggest that it's a mere coincidence that rashes are increasing at the same time that their new diapers came out. The feds are investigating, and hopefully, there will be a recall soon. My little girl's rash isn't quite as severe as what I've been reading about, since we caught it early and are using liberal amounts of Desitin. We're accustomed to seeing corporate greed stand in the way of product quality, every one of us who is forced to use Microsoft products. But it's one thing to lose some work. It's entirely another when helpless babies are physically injured by a product that we're supposed to trust, and even worse when the manufacturer tries to tell us that we're the ones at fault."
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Linux Not Quite Ready for New 4K-sector Drives

Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Theovon (109752) writes "We've seen a few stories recently about the new Western Digital Green drives, including this one on slashdot. According to WD, their new 4096-byte sector drives are problematic for Windows XP users but not Linux or most other OS's. There's an article on OS News that suggests that Linux users should not be complacent about this, because not all the Linux tools like fdisk have caught up. The result is a reduction in write throughput by a factor of 3.3 across the board (a 230% overhead) when 4096-byte clusters are misaligned to 4096-byte physical sectors by one or more 512-byte logical sectors. The author does some benchmarks to demonstrate this. Also, from the comments on the article, it appears that even parted is not ready since by default, it aligns to "cylinder" boundaries, which are not physical cylinder boundaries and are multiples of 63."
Link to Original Source
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OGP releases video of VGA emulator booting

Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Theovon writes "Slashdot hasn't seen much news about the Open Graphics Project for some time now, but the OGP has been quite busy, especially recently. As you may recall, the OGP's goal is to develop a fully open-source graphics card. All specs, designs, and source code are released under Free licenses. Right now, they're using FPGAs (large-scale reprogrammable chips) to build a development platform that they call OGD1. And they've just completed an alpha version of legacy VGA emulation, apparently not an easy feat. They have posted a Youtube video of OGD1 driving a monitor, showing Gentoo booting up in a PC. This completes a major step, allowing OGD1 to act as the primary display in an x86 PC. The announcement can be seen on the OGP home page, and there's an OSNews.com article. Finally, the Free Software Foundation has taken notice of this and is asking for volunteers to help with the OGP wiki."
Link to Original Source
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Dedicated compute box: Persistent terminals?

Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Theovon (109752) writes "I just built an expensive high-end quad-core Linux PC, dedicated for number-crunching. Its job is to sit in the corner with no keyboard, mouse, or monitor and do nothing but compute (genetic algorithms, neural nets, and other research). My issue is that I would like to have something like persistent terminal sessions.

I've considered using Xvnc in a completely headless configuration (some useful documentation here, here, here, and here). However, for most of my uses, this is overkill. Total waste of memory and compute time. However, if I decided to run FPGA synthesis software under WINE, this will become necessary. Unfortunately, I can't quite figure out how to get persistent X11 session where I'm automatically logged in (or can stay logged in), while maintaining enough security that I don't mind opening the VNC port on my firewall (with a changed port number, of course). I'm also going to check out Xpra, but I've only just heard about it and have no idea how to use it.

For the short term, the main need is just terminals. I'd like to be able to connect and see how something is going. One option is to just run things with nohup and then login and "tail -f" to watch the log file. I've also heard of screen, but I'm also unfamiliar with that.

Have other slashdot users encountered this situation? What did you use? What's hard, what's easy, and what works well?"
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Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Theovon (109752) writes "It's only been two days since the announcement of the official release of Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft), and the fallout has been very interesting to watch. By and large, fresh installs of Edgy tend to go well. A few problems here and there, especially with installation of closed-source ATI and nVidia drivers, but for the most part things have been smooth. Many people report improved performance over Dapper, improved stability, better device support, etc. A good showing. But what I find really interesting is the debacle that it has been for people who wanted to do an "upgrade" from Dapper (6.06). Installing OS upgrades has historically been fraught with problems, but previous Ubuntu releases, many other Linux distros, and MacOS X have done surprisingly well in the recent past. But not Edgy. Reports are flooding into Ubuntu's Installation & Upgrades forum from people having myriad problems with their upgrades. One user described it as a nightmare. Users are producing detailed descriptions of problems but getting little help. This thread has mixed reports and is possibly the most interesting read. Many people report that straight-forward upgrades of relatively mundane systems go well, but anything the least bit interesting seems not to have been accounted for, like software RAID, custom kernels, and Opera. Even the official upgrade method doesn't work for everyone, including crashes of the upgrade tool in the middle of installing, leaving systems unbootable, no longer recognizing devices (like the console keyboard!), reduced performance, X server crashes, wireless networking problems, the user password no longer working, numerous broken applications, and many even stranger things. Some of this is fairly subjective, with Kubuntu being a bit more problematic than Ubuntu, with reports that Xubuntu seems to have the worst problems, and remote upgrades are something you don't even want to try. Failed upgrades invariably require a complete reinstall. The conclusion from the street, about upgrading to Edgy, is a warning: If you're going to try to take the plunge, be sure to make a backup image of your boot partition before starting the upgrade. Your chances of having the upgrade be a total failure are high. If you're really dead-set on upgrading, you'll save yourself a lot of time and headache by backing up all of your personal files manually and doing a fresh install (don't forget to save your bookmarks!)."
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Theovon Theovon writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Theovon writes "Back in the 1920's a blight all but completely wiped out Chestnut trees in the United States. As such, my uncle's 1100-tree chestnut farm is a rare sight indeed. From the article, "... someone found a single tree in Ohio that the blight did not kill ..., crossed it with the Chinese chestnut, resulting in a nut with the characteristics of the Chinese variety but with the larger nut of the American tree." The article goes on to describe some interesting things about chestnuts themselves, such as the spiny burr that they grow in on the tree."

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