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Browser To Facilitate Text Browsing In Emergencies

Trepidity Re:Get a Radio (36 comments)

A lot of AM stations are automated these days also, syndicating popular national talk-radio programs. Any idea how to find out which ones aren't?

8 hours ago
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How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

Trepidity Re:Not much different than the fire starting laser (175 comments)

The laws of war generally oppose weapons intentionally intended to maim rather than kill. Mostly dates to popular revulsion around the WW1 era over weapons designed to inflict nonlethal but gruesome casualties to hobble the other side by flooding their hospitals and supply chains. As a result, countries agreed to a ban on various chemical weapons, expanding bullets, weapons designed to blind people, etc.

yesterday
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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

Trepidity Re:They will all get an A (123 comments)

Also true in actual careers like nursing fwiw. There's a nursing shortage (at least in the U.S.), and men are very underrepresented in the field, so nursing schools have been going out of their way to recruit men.

4 days ago
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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

Trepidity Re:more a reflection of what Harvard decides (123 comments)

Isn't it pretty explicit that the lights are on? Review of applications isn't some kind of blind-review process.

4 days ago
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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

Trepidity Re:Linux, cryptography, HTML and JavaScript. (123 comments)

It seems to be structured as kind of an intro to programming, which is one way CS101 classes (in Harvard terminology, CS50) are structured. Not really an intro to CS the discipline, but a broad intro to computers/programming in general for people who may or may not go into CS. Traditionally MIT took the opposite approach, but many schools took this approach.

Fwiw, you can find the 2013 version of the curriculum here (it seems to have been also co-offered as a MOOC). It does seem a bit like a grab-bag of "random stuff in computers".

4 days ago
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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

Trepidity more a reflection of what Harvard decides (123 comments)

Harvard gets far, far more applicants in every area than they can possibly accept to their relatively small student body. So shifts among disciplines and interests almost entirely reflect decisions on the part of Harvard admissions policies. They don't necessarily reflect shifts in either broader society or even the subset of society that applies to Harvard. It's possible they do, but it's also possible Harvard explicitly decided to accept more CS applicants for various reasons.

4 days ago
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Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone

Trepidity Re:True North? (260 comments)

My guess, without having any particular knowledge, is that the factory will have some kind of internal grid system (fairly common), and aligning the factory with a compass direction means you can easily convert between internal coordinates and lat/lon GPS coordinates. Of course assuming you aren't converting by hand, it's not really hard to convert even if the factory were not axis-aligned.

I could be way off, but I can't think of another way that statement could make sense.

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?

Trepidity Re:My watch (635 comments)

Interesting that wearing a wristwatch might now, again, be more eccentric than wearing a pocketwatch.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?

Trepidity Re:slashdot (635 comments)

Sounds like weird innovation that as an old-school technologist I'm not comfortable with. I come to Slashdot for the opposite of those things.

about three weeks ago
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For Microsoft, $93B Abroad Means Avoiding $30B Tax Hit

Trepidity Re:tax by transaction (316 comments)

There's no consistent US/EU difference on that. Some states in the U.S. apply full sales tax to groceries (Alabama, Hawaii, Kansas, etc.), some apply a reduced tax (Georgia, Illinois, etc.), and some exempt groceries entirely (California, Texas, etc.). The same goes in the EU with VAT: some apply the full rate (Denmark), others apply a reduced rate (Belgium, France, etc.), and some exempt groceries entirely (UK, Malta).

about three weeks ago
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For Microsoft, $93B Abroad Means Avoiding $30B Tax Hit

Trepidity Re:Okay... and? (316 comments)

If it's earned there, yes, though that's not always the case. Companies play a lot of games with where they choose to book expenses and income. Lots of companies are officially earning a lot of money in places like Luxembourg and Ireland that is really earned elsewhere.

about three weeks ago
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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

Trepidity Re:Waaah. (338 comments)

I do think kettles are getting more common in the U.S., but in the '90s they were almost unknown. Another factor imo is that microwaves have been ubiquitous in American kitchens for decades, and are commonly used to heat water, so there's already a common alternative to the stove. They're not a great option for boiling water, but they're a common way (in the U.S.) of making near-boiling water for brewing tea or making ramen.

about three weeks ago
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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

Trepidity Re:Do the math (338 comments)

Where in the EU are you washing clothes? Most people here (Scandinavia) live in apartment buildings that have a laundry room with industrial-strength washers/dryers, which take only 25-30 minutes to wash.

about three weeks ago
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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

Trepidity Re:Waaah. (338 comments)

I think most people just add (cold) water and then microwave it, even though the instructions say to heat the water separately.

about three weeks ago
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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

Trepidity Re:Waaah. (338 comments)

I don't think I ever saw an electric kettle in the US. People who drink coffee make it in a coffee pot, and people who drink tea are deported to Europe.

about three weeks ago
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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

Trepidity Re:Do the math (338 comments)

There are manufacturers selling 2000-2200 W. vacuum cleaners.

I can't wait for those to be gone. Not because of the energy usage really, but because those monsters are incredibly loud.

about three weeks ago
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Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

Trepidity missing the point (611 comments)

A large portion of that ad revenue is going to sites that don't really provide any kind of value, but are spammy SEO deals. The best part of an internet with no advertising revenue (or at least a lot less of it) would be precisely that all these content farms would not be able to replace that revenue, and would hopefully go away.

about a month ago
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FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

Trepidity not true at all (133 comments)

Businesses across the globe have been innovating for decades, while farming has been using techniques that have been handed down from centuries ago.

That's not true at all. Maybe in some hobby farms, but at a large scale (which is where most food actually comes from), farming in 2014 is nothing like farming in 1914. Modern agribusiness is highly automated, which is why the proportion of the U.S. population engaged in farm work has declined from about 30% to about 2%, while food production has increased.

about a month ago
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Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

Trepidity Re:What a bunch of Wuss (579 comments)

Maybe they prefer fascism? ;-)

about a month ago
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Web Trolls Winning As Incivility Increases

Trepidity Re:Well duh (457 comments)

I used to think anonymity was part of the problem, but I haven't seen improvement when some forums have switched to real names, so I now no longer think that really helps. My local paper switched to Facebook as its commenting platform, with comments posted under real names, and the comment section is still as terrible as before.

about a month ago

Submissions

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Political Pressure Pushes NASA Technical Reports Offline

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Trepidity writes "The extensive NASA Technical Report Archive was just taken offline, following pressure from members of U.S. Congress, worried that Chinese researchers could be reading the reports. U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanded that "NASA should immediately take down all publicly available technical data sources until all documents that have not been subjected to export control review have received such a review", and NASA appears to have complied. Although all reports are in the public domain, there doesn't appear to be a third-party mirror available (some university libraries do have subsets on microfiche)."
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AI Systems Designing Games

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Trepidity writes "AI systems can (sort of) paint and compose classical music, but can they design games? Slashdot looked at the question a few years ago, and several research groups now have experimental systems that design board games and platformers with varying levels of success. I've put together a survey of the AI game designers I know of, to round up what they can do so far (and what they can't). Are there any others out there?"
Link to Original Source
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US Navy Admiral Questions Expensive Stealth Platforms

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Trepidity writes "United States Navy Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert stirred a controversy by questioning much of the thinking underlying current U.S. defense technology. He argues that stealth technology is unlikely to retain its usefulness much into the future, and so focus should switch towards standoff weapons. In addition, he criticizes the focus on expensive all-in-one platforms such as the F-35 fighter, arguing for a payload-centric, flexible approach he compares to trucks rather than luxury cars."
Link to Original Source
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Appeals Court rules TOS violations aren't criminal

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Trepidity writes "In a decision today (pdf), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act "does not extend to violations of use restrictions", and therefore violating terms of service and corporate use policies is not a federal crime. Law profesor Orin Kerr cheered the decision, but since three other Courts of Appeals have reached opposite decisions, it might be heading to the Supreme Court."
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MP3Tunes wins victory for cloud music storage

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "In a case being closely watched by companies like Amazon and Google, for the implications it could have for their own cloud-based "music locker" services, a judge ruled in the case of MP3Tunes that the way such services operate is generally legal. In particular, they are eligible for DMCA safe-harbor protections, and de-duplication of identical files uploaded by different users does not create a "master copy" that would make the company liable for public-performance royalties. Furthermore, if a fingerprint finds an exact match with an already-uploaded file, the company can legally skip the actual uploading step, rather than only de-duplicating after upload. While this is good news for many other such services, MP3Tunes itself partially lost, because they hadn't properly responded to DMCA takedown notices, and the company's founder had made the bone-headed move of personally distributing public links to some of the "privately" stored copyrighted music. Full decision here (PDF)."
Link to Original Source
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Gamification roundup

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "Controversy continues over the seemingly unstoppable trend of "gamification" (something Slashdot's covered previously). The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business held a Gamification Symposium entitled "For The Win" this week, indicating apparent academic respectability. But in the opening panel debating definitions of "gamification", one participant, game scholar Ian Bogost, defined it as "bullshit". Elsewhere, Jon Radoff responds that it may not be bullshit, but is too focused on superficial behaviorism rather than deeper gameplay. For my part, I wonder if by claiming gamification is a completely new thing, rather than just a new word, we're missing out on important past lessons, like the very strange history of Soviet gamification."
Link to Original Source
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Places with the most Wikipedia articles

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "Wikipedia has been making an effort to mark up articles with latitude-longitude coordinates when they refer to a specific location. It's now done so for over a million articles (across all languages). I was curious which parts of the world have gotten the most coverage. The answer is: Florence, Italy has the most articles within a 1-km-diameter circle; and London tops both the 10-km and 100-km lists. Here are the full results."
Link to Original Source
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Cow Clicker tackles world hunger

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Trepidity writes "Cow Clicker distilled Facebook games down to their essence: clicking on cows. Since then, though, social games have upped their sights, focusing on lofty goals like solving hunger, disease, and poverty. Not wanting to miss this utopian gaming trend, Cow Clicktivism turns clicks on cows into real cows, via Oxfam America. Even better, anyone with a revolutionary idea for how clicking on cows can fix the world can now implement it, using the Cow Clicker API."
Link to Original Source
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Cow Clicker: The Essence of Facebook Games

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "Game designer and academic Ian Bogost announces Cow Clicker, a Facebook game implementing the mechanics of the Facebook-games genre stripped to their core. You get a cow, which you can click on every six hours. You earn additional clicks if your friends in your pasture also click. You can buy premium cows with 'mooney', and also use your mooney to buy more clicks. You can buy mooney with real dollars, or earn some free bonus mooney if you spam up your feed with Cow Clicker activity. A satire of Facebook games, but actually as genuine a game as the non-satirical games are. And people actually play it, perhaps confirming Bogost's view that the genre of games is largely just "brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money", which continue to work even when the users are openly told what's going on."
Link to Original Source
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Facebook retroactively makes more user data public

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "In yet another backtrack from their privacy policy, Facebook has decided to retroactively move more information into the public, indexable part of profiles. The new profile parts made public are: a list of things users have become "fans" of (now renamed to "likes"), their education and work histories, and what they list under "interests". Apparently there is neither any opt-out nor even notice to users, despite the fact that some of this information was entered by users at a time when Facebook's privacy policy explicitly promised that it wouldn't be part of the public profile."
Link to Original Source
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Library of Congress to Archive All Tweets

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "Continuing their recent push to archive more digital content, the U.S. Library of Congress announced a deal with Twitter to archive all public tweets, dating back to Twitter's inception in March 2006. More details at their blog. No word yet on precisely what will be done with the collection, but besides entering your friends' important updates on the quality of breakfast into the permanent archival record, the deal may improve access for researchers wanting to analyze and mine Twitter's giant database."
Link to Original Source
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Prison bans D&D for mimicking gang structure

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Trepidity writes "In a case that has been winding its way through the courts for a bit, a Wisconsin prison banned inmates from playing Dungeons & Dragons, using the justification that 'one player is denoted the Dungeon Master... [who] is tasked with giving directions to other players ... [which] mimics the organization of a gang'. The prison also cited some sparse evidence that a handful of non-inmate D&D players once committed some crimes that allegedly were related to their D&D playing. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld [pdf] the regulation Monday against challenges from inmates. The court appeared skeptical of the ban, sarcastically referring to it as the 'war on D&D', but nonetheless upheld it as having a 'rational basis'. Law prof. Ilya Somin suggests that the court may have had no choice, given how deferential rational-basis review usually is."
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The Murky Origins of Zork's Name

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

mjn writes "Computational media researcher Nick Montfort traces the murky origins of Zork's name. It's well known that the word was used in MIT hacker jargon around that time, but how did it get there? Candidates are the term "zorch" from late 1950s DIY electronics slang, the use of the term as a placeholder in some early 1970s textbooks, the typo a QWERTY user would get if he typed "work" on an AZERTY keyboard, and several uses in obscure sci-fi. No solid answers so far, though, as there are problems with many of the possible explanations, that would have made MIT hackers unlikely to have run across them at the right time."
Link to Original Source
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Supreme Court skeptical of business method patents

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Trepidity writes "The U.S. Supreme Court held oral argument Monday in Bilski , a business-methods patent case that might also have important implications for software patents (Slashdot's previously covered the case several times). The tone of the argument appears to be good news, as the justices were very skeptical of the broad patentability claims. They even brought up a parade of absurd hypothetical patents quite similar to the ones Slashdotters tend to mention in these kinds of debates. Roberts surmised that "buy low, sell high" might be a patentable business method, Sotomayor wondered if speed-dating could be patentable, Breyer questioned whether a professor could patent a lesson plan that kept his students from falling asleep, and Scalia brought up the old-time radio soap opera Lorenzo Jones , featuring a hare-brained inventor with delusions of getting rich."
Link to Original Source
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Lori Drew case cyberbullying case dismissed

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  about 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "About 7 weeks after the judge tentative overturned Lori Drew's guilty verdict for "cyberbullying" following her online harassment of a teenager that was linked to the teenager's suicide, the case was finally officially dismissed. In a 32-page opinion [PDF], the court avoided a minefield of possible follow-on effects that civil-liberties groups had warned of by holding that merely violating a website's Terms of Service cannot constitute "unauthorized access" for the purposes of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. 1030)."
Link to Original Source
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Computing education on a treadmill?

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Mark J. Nelson writes "A recent op-ed discusses some educators co-opting cell phones to be used for educational purposes: "Among the exercises, students measured the area of a school hallway, recorded the geologic stages of the rock cycle and found mean, median, mode and range from a group of numbers. They sketched and even animated on the phones." While this might be a useful strategy, Prof. Mark Guzdial wonders if computers in education are on something of a fashion treadmill. Previously, students used graphing calculators for all these things; now we're reinventing the same thing on cell phones. In other areas, the "Hello World" of yore, having grown stale, has been replaced with playing a sound or displaying some graphics. Is progress in CS education really just a process of constantly updating the same fundamental stuff with a fresh look?"
Link to Original Source
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Harmful Effects of SPEC Storage Benchmarks

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "Sun engineer Bryan Cantrill, probably best known as one of the designers of DTrace and now working on storage servers, wrote an interesting thorough dismantling of the SPEC storage server benchmarks, accusing them of driving worse performance and especially worse performance-per-price for most workloads. In particular, they seem to be based on workload assumptions from 1986 with little revision (ironically, largely from 1986-era Sun documents), and have particularly egregious requirements for large, randomly accessed working sets that effectively make caching architectures useless, instead rewarding architectures that just throw a bunch of really fast, expensive drives into a box. Coincidentally, that's what the ultra-expensive products from entrenched market leader NetApp do. Cantrill isn't a neutral observer, of course: his current work is on cache-heavy storage architectures based around SSDs and ZFS. But his criticisms still seem pretty solid."
Link to Original Source
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Airport-Security Game iPhone Approval Woes

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "G4TV has a segment on the iPhone App Store approval process of JetSet, a game parodying airport security policies. While you might think Apple objected to the concept itself, they rejected it instead for "inappropriate sexual content", apparently because of the inclusion of items like underwire bras (which are notorious for setting off metal detectors). Worse, they initially didn't say what parts of the game they objected to, leading to a months-long guessing process to get the game eventually approved."
Link to Original Source
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Atari 2600 Book Released

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "AtariAge reports that 'Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System' was just published by MIT Press. It seems to be the first book-length retrospective on the Atari VCS (2600), covering its hardware, programming, business rise and fall, culture, aesthetics, and how all those interrelated to produce one of the most influential gaming platforms. Authors Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort chose six cartridges for particularly in-depth study: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars' Revenge, Pitfall!, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. (The title is a reference to the line-by-line video output required by the 2600's lack of a framebuffer.)"
Link to Original Source
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MIPS/Linux hacker Thiemo Seufer dies

Trepidity Trepidity writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Trepidity writes "Longtime Linux-MIPS hacker Thiemo Seufer died in a car accident on December 26. Among other things, he was a major contributor to the Linux kernel's MIPS port, served as the MIPS maintainer/co-maintainer for binutils for 5 years, was the main supporter of the Debian MIPS port, and produced thousands of patches to free-software packages ranging from SBCL to QEMU to get them working (or working better) on or with the MIPS platform."
Link to Original Source

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