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Oregon vs. Oracle: the Battle of Blame Heats Up

TythosEternal What a Forehead-Smacker (83 comments)

As an Oregonian and engineer, I was so surprised when they went the Oracle route. For a situation like this, you've basically started out guaranteeing the result they've seen. Oregon state politics is interesting enough as it is without getting contractual corruption and national party machinery in the mix. I also happen work in the defense industry, where contracts and results like this are practically de rigueur, and it really makes me wonder how blind/naive/ignorant you have to be to expect anything other than what happened. Vote 'em out, fellow Oregonians, and replace them with two rub-able cents!

about 7 months ago
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Google To Close Its American Moto X Factory

TythosEternal One Less Reason to Buy A Good Product (154 comments)

I'm very picky about my phones: had an HTC from 3.5 years ago, but when the 2 years came up I couldn't find a suitable replacement until I finally went with the MotoX. First off, let me make it clear--this is a fantastic phone, one of (if not the) best, and for many reasons. One of the reasons I went with it was the made-in-America bit, but honestly, I don't see another alternative--made in America or elsewhere--that's this good. That having been said, the next-closest contender was a Samsung, and I would still stick with the Google flagship phone over the Samsung regardless of manufacturing location--unfortunately, Lenovo's entrance has completely turned me off from buying another Motorola phone after this. I hope my MotoX lasts a long time...

about 7 months ago
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Russian GLONASS Down For 12 Hours

TythosEternal Re:So much speculation... (148 comments)

The "...could conceivably occur with GPS, Galileo, or BeiDou" part of the article isn't entirely true, though. Galileo is not operational (only four satellites have been launched, all proof-of-concepts), for starters. Beidou is a mixed constellation for which half the coverage doesn't have the access issues of a pure-MEO constellation. A GPS satellite could conceivably have the same problem, but it's easily corrected because GPS is supported by a network of ground stations with global coverage--corrected ephemerides can be uploaded virtually at a moment's notice.

The specific issue with GLONASS (bad ephemerides) would be easily corrected with a better ground network. As it is, you can only upload the appropriate data when they are over a limited, high-latitude portion of the earth. It's very much a single point-of-failure issue, which one can interpret as either a poor design decision or a by-product of pride / stubbornness (which, in engineering design, are frequently one and the same). It's a good reminder that, despite good scientific and technological underpinnings, the Russian space program still suffers from underdeveloped support and very limited global / international cooperation (not to mention testing and quality assurance issues).

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Introduce Someone To Star Trek?

TythosEternal Re:Series guide (634 comments)

To this excellent summary, I would add a short list of places in TNG that offer excellent entry points:
  * 2x10 The Dauphin for its light-hearted humor, rounded introduction to a variety of crew personalities, and a storyline which non-Trekkies will find more relateable. Start my wife (then finance) with this one--she actually enjoyed it, which shocked me.
  * 4x19 The Nth Degree for a more science-fiction episode that retains some light-hearted humor and an interesting story.
  * 4x25 In Theory is where you can start to introduce some of the more serious questions of the thought-provoking 'what does it mean to be human' theme, without becoming too dry or hard-core science-fiction-y.

more than 2 years ago
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Why 'Nigerian Scammers' Say They're From Nigeria

TythosEternal Den of Scum and Villainy (209 comments)

Interesting analysis, particularly the original paper. It's almost like a two-step optimization problem--very much a game theory topic.

I happened to marry into a family of Congolese immigrants. My in-laws have told me in no uncertain terms that Nigeria has a strong reputation among central & west African cultures for being, if you will, a den of scum and villainy. If there's a scam, theft, or petty crime that involves an African individual, one of the first thoughts is, 'they must be Nigerians.'

Of course, this strikes me as a strong stereotype. I've met several Nigerians at family events (I've even attended the wedding of a real, bonafide Nigerian prince, I kid you not), and they're pretty much normal people. Surprise! (That doesn't change the fact that the Nigerian restaurant down the street ripped me off last Sunday... On the other hand, I've never had spiced goat larynx before, so I guess I came away from the experience with something new.)

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For a Laptop With a Keypad That Doesn't Suck

TythosEternal Dell Latitude = Pleasant Surprise (300 comments)

It wasn't something I even considered when purchasing my current laptop, but I've since fallen in love with the keyboard (including keypad) on my Latitude E5520. Great action, no extraneous buttons, and very comfortable layout & size.

Whatever you chose, I'd recommend a close review of the layout (and trying the action, if you can get your hands on a demo) to make sure it's not too weird. Some manufacturers make some VERY interesting adjustments to fit keyboards onto their laptops. I purchased a standalone keyboard a couple of years back that was dirt-cheap and had great action, but the home-end-insert-delete block was rotated (arranged vertically) and it somehow became a major headache.

more than 2 years ago
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Watson Wins Jeopardy Contest

TythosEternal Color me unimpressed (674 comments)

It seemed to me that the victory came down to two critical advantages: First, the buzzer. When all contestants had the answer at the earliest possible moment (and you could tell both humans did, many times), Watson won the points purely based on speed. Meh. Second, the questions. I estimated that about 2/3rds of the questions could be answered by a Google search in roughly equal time. The most difficult part, something touched on by the concurrent RPI lectures / commentary, was sorting out the right word from the resulting search context. This was particularly obvious on the 'fill-in-the-blank' style questions, and the Beatles category in the first round of Part 1 favored Watson with a straight-out search so much it was painful to watch. I know the point of the project was to demonstrate lingual awareness, but I suspect a more evenly-distributed set of questions (when do you design an algorithm for the best case, anyways?) and a distributed response time would make Watson's efforts considerably more meaningful. I greatly enjoyed the comment on Ken's part 2 Final Jeopardy question, though.

more than 3 years ago
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Why Teach Programming With BASIC?

TythosEternal Not too big of a surprise (709 comments)

While high-level abstractions like .NET and Java are splendid modern tools, nothing teaches you the fundamentals of how a computer thinks and works like a line-by-line BASIC program. Two reasons off-hand: a) The leap to assembly language is natural and easily understood. b) The leap in the reverse direction, to functional languages, is mostly a simple matter of wrapping blocks in headers and return statements. If you start in a language with these two attributes, you're already 1 - 2 years into a collegiate computer science degree.

more than 3 years ago
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X-37B Robotic Space Plane Returns To Earth

TythosEternal Step back and enjoy the achievement (55 comments)

This platform is a thing of beauty--a lot easier to list what it CAN'T be used for that what it can. If it was my toy, I'd start with orbital assembly. Yes, they're probably going to utilize it as an incredibly dynamic observation vehicle and stuff it full of sensors, but the fact that it's now a proven technology (and was up for seven months, with multiple controlled orbit changes!) is a big milestone. We don't see very many leaps forward in space technology now adays, but this is one of them.

about 4 years ago

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