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George R. R. Martin's "The Winds of Winter" Wiill Not Be Published In 2015

billstewart Re:Never finish (173 comments)

I read Books 1, 2, and 3 all pretty much around the same time. Five years later, when Book 4 came out, I'd forgotten who most of the characters were and found I didn't really care about them when I read it; I skipped Book 5.

yesterday
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George R. R. Martin's "The Winds of Winter" Wiill Not Be Published In 2015

billstewart Re:Never finish (173 comments)

The Hugo Award Nominees reading package last year includes the entire Wheel of Time series (which I thought was a classy move by the publisher, and a nice contrast to Orbit Books including only excerpts for their three nominees.) (If you're a member of the appropriate Worldcon, you're eligible to vote for the Hugos, and in recent years they've provided an electronic package of most of the written and graphical works that are nominated.) The bad part about this is that the tablet I use for reading has the bloody entire bloody Wheel of bloody Time series on it, and I'm about 90% of the way through :-)

I hadn't read it before Jordan died, and probably that wasn't my birthday anyway, so for me it wasn't the worst birthday present ever; for that one I'll have to thank my little brother for giving me chicken pox when I was 10. There wasn't a vaccine for it back then, but there is now, and if your parents didn't give you the vaccine and other kids didn't give you the disease, trust me, it's one of the vaccines you want to get. (I also got measles the hard way, but I was young enough I don't remember it very well. Got the polio vaccine, though, unlike a neighbor's kid who was a couple of years older and had to use crutches.)

yesterday
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George R. R. Martin's "The Winds of Winter" Wiill Not Be Published In 2015

billstewart What Neil Gaiman said about GoT future (173 comments)

@NeilHimself wrote a nice, sensitive blog post about the position writers are in with their stories and their lives, but the tl;dr punch line is (rot13 for spoiler) Trbetr E.E. Znegva vf abg lbhe ovgpu.

yesterday
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Serious Network Function Vulnerability Found In Glibc

billstewart Re:And here's the patch (211 comments)

Yeah, I probably should have blamed a different one of the non-length-limited strXXXX() functions, but strcmp() will still do Bad Things if you hand it one or two non-null-terminated pointers.

And yes, stderr would have been the better choice, but the important thing is to replace the implementations of dangerous functions with something that fails safely, and if you can't do it at compile or link time, it's still safer to do it at run time than to run the unsafe version.

yesterday
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Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Personal Archive?

billstewart Re:Periodic Re-copying, because format rot bit rot (250 comments)

It took my friends months to find working 8" floppy drives they could take to Guatemala to decode the files the police and army had created during the dirty wars there. I don't want to have to buy a 9-track tape drive to read the one 9-track tape I have (if I find it again, and if it's still even readable.) (I gave away the Sun cartridge drive along with the Sun-2.)

Much more reliable to copy the data every couple of years to some current medium, knowing that Moore's Law means that it's not going to cost much and the only problems will be data formats, not media formats.

4 days ago
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Serious Network Function Vulnerability Found In Glibc

billstewart And here's the patch (211 comments)

void *strcpy() { printf("Don't use strcpy, idiot! We told you that years ago!\n"}; exit(-37); }

void *strcmp() { printf("Don't use strcmp either, idiot! We told you that years ago too!\n"}; exit(-37); }

Also, according to the articles I've read about this, the somewhat more official patch came out in 2013, but wasn't marked as a "security" patch so it only made it into the newer OS versions, but wasn't retrofitted into the older ones. So it'd be fixed in Ubuntu 14.04, but not in the 12.04 LTS version.

4 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Personal Archive?

billstewart Periodic Re-copying, because format rot bit rot (250 comments)

Moore's Law is only partly your friend here - storage keeps getting cheaper rapidly, but that also means that not only do devices become obsolete, but the interface specs and data formats also become obsolete. You probably don't have an 8" floppy drive anywhere, or a working 5.25", or the right kind of cable to plug the 5.25" drive into, or a Bernoulli drive, or a 9-track tape drive (800, 1600, or 6250dpi), or the Sun cartridge drive, or anything to plug those MFM drives into, or SCSI-1, or probably SCSI-2. You might have something that can handle IDE / PATA, or an old laptop with PCMCIA, but even those are getting scarcer. If you can connect to that old disk disk drive, you can probably load a virtual machine running NetBSD that'll have drivers for the file system format, but maybe not; you certainly don't want to risk having Windows "update" the format. You might think that FAT 8.3 format will stick around for a long time (and maybe it will for reading, but it's rapidly getting replaced with FAT16, FAT32, ExFAT, NTFS, etc.

Leave aside the question of whether you can read a 20-year-old version of WordStar or WordPerfect format file (unlike my late-70s nroff files, which would be readable if they weren't on a 9-track tape I've probably lost.) You can probably read that 4-year-old TurboTax file, but if you need to get tax data back from when you bought your house, you'd better have everything on paper.

Just for physical format alone, you need to copy stuff every couple of years.

4 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Personal Archive?

billstewart Re:Best Medium? (250 comments)

Acid-free paper, otherwise you and your friends will just keep eating bits of your archives.

More seriously, paper's only good for some things, and only if you protect it well enough. Some years ago, my work hard drive crashed, and when I was driving to work a day or two later, my coffee cup bounced off the holder into my briefcase, taking out both the Palm Pilot and the dead-tree copies of my data. There were backups of some of my PC data, but my current calendar was gone.

4 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Anti-Virus Software In 2015? Free Or Paid?

billstewart Re:Rathaus (467 comments)

It especially explains why many colleges (at least before the US drinking age was raised to 21) have bars called "The Rathskeller", pronounced "Rat Cellar".

about a week ago
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Best 1990s Sci-fi show?

billstewart Re:Farscape (476 comments)

My local cable company didn't carry The Sci-Fi Channel until just about when Farscape went off the air (idiots! This is Silicon Valley, what did they *think* we wanted to watch? ESPN?) so I never saw enough episodes to really catch on, but it was kind of fun. And ST:TNG happened during the years I didn't have TV, so the few times I saw it were always the same annoying episode with Q in it for some reason.

about a week ago
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Dish Network Violated Do-Not-Call 57 Million Times

billstewart Call center design (247 comments)

This was back before the World Wide Web, when call centers were primarily toll-free numbers that you called to get information from companies, make airline reservations, etc. It was either people you wanted to talk to, or people you had to call anyway like the electric company.

about a week ago
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Best 1990s Sci-fi show?

billstewart X-Files vs. Bab-5 - ouch! (476 comments)

Babylon 5 vs. Star Trek ver N+1? Easy choice, Bab5 wins hands down.

But X-Files was why I had a TV in the first place. We'd had an old Amiga monitor and VCR to watch movies, which eventually got replaced by a TV/VCR combo, but my wife saw X-Files when she was staying at a hotel for a conference, came home and rented all the available videos at the video store (remember video stores?), and then one day I came home and there was a coax stretched down the stairs from the cable jack, and I was told that if I didn't like it I could move the cabinet that was in front of the living-room cable jack.

about a week ago
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Dish Network Violated Do-Not-Call 57 Million Times

billstewart Abandoned calls - heh (247 comments)

95-99% of the calls to my home phone are from robots. Some are friendly robots ("Your prescription is ready at CVS"), most are spammer robots. I finally got fed up and put the number on the Do Not Call List, and the main change has been that more robots call me and either don't play a recording at all, or else play a recording but if I press "1" to talk to their human, never connect me to a human. (And I almost always tell them I want to; usually I'll put the phone down, sometimes I'll chew them out, often I'll put the phone down and if somebody answers, I'll say "hello" and then put the phone down.)

Back when I used to design call center equipment, in the 80s, phone calls cost more per minute than operators. These days that's totally changed, so it doesn't cost them much to make calls and abandon them if they don't have a spare operator within a few seconds; it's not like they're worried about losing repeat business.

about two weeks ago
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Dish Network Violated Do-Not-Call 57 Million Times

billstewart Can't prosecute them if you can't catch them (247 comments)

My assumption, since the entire country has been annoyed at Rachel and her ilk for years, and since the FBI could easily get warrants to search for her even if the NSA didn't pwn the phone companies, is that either

  • - It's really a Russian scam, out of their jurisdiction, or
  • - They're a distributed scam, run by lots and lots of people who can buy a "Rachel from Cardholder Services" audio recording kit, hire work-at-home telemarketers, and run their own cottage industry, so if they do get caught, the scam keeps going, or (like old-fashioned spammers in trailer parks) maybe they don't make as much money as the folks selling the kit promised them, so they go out of business and other scammers take up the slack.

about two weeks ago
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NVIDIA Launches New Midrange Maxwell-Based GeForce GTX 960 Graphics Card

billstewart Re:What is a cuda core? (114 comments)

Cool. Our research folks at $DAYJOB have been building GPU-computing clouds, and have found that for many workloads, the GTX 750i was extremely cost-effective (that's the predecessor to this card, and costs include the server you plug it into and electricity as well as the graphics card), compared to much higher-end computation-focused systems. But they bought their lab hardware months ago; this looks to be about 50% faster, for a slightly higher price, so that's a win.

about two weeks ago
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Local Hackerspace Loses Solar Balloon, Creating Another UFO In New Mexico

billstewart Re: where the streets have no name (31 comments)

Friend of mine got to name streets in a lot of towns around Alaska. He was working for the Alascom phone company, and they got funded to put satellite dish phone access to a couple hundred small towns in remote parts of the state. Phone company offices need to have street addresses, and many of the towns hadn't bothered to name their streets (why, if you've only got one or two?)

Years earlier, I did some training at South Central Bell in Alabama. They were still converting their databases from paper cards to computers, and a lot of their rural customers had address descriptions like "take the third dirt road after you get to where the Jones place was before it burned down", because their official Post Office addresses were either just "Rural Route 6 Box 32" (which doesn't tell you anything about how to get there), or "P.O.Box 32, Podunk, Alabama" and they picked up their mail at the post office.

about two weeks ago
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Canonical Launches Internet-of-Things Version of Ubuntu Core

billstewart Actually, logging's optional :-) (43 comments)

The installation instructions says that logging isn't one of the services included in Snappy Ubuntu Core by default; you have to install syslogd or equivalent if you want it. (Presumably it's not just because it saves space, but because the system can be more flexible about whether or where to have writable storage if it's not logging things, and because one of the typical behaviours of Internets of Things is that they're for consumers who aren't going to bother reading logs anyway.)

about two weeks ago
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Local Hackerspace Loses Solar Balloon, Creating Another UFO In New Mexico

billstewart CIA says half of UFO sightings were them (31 comments)

UPI Story on CIA and UFOs says half the UFO reports in the 50s and 60s were really sightings of their U2 aircraft, which were secret because they still hadn't found what they were looking for, and which flew enough higher and faster than normal airplanes that people didn't recognize them. (Remember that propeller planes were still common, though jets were starting to be common.)

Even in the late 80s / early 90s, supersonic planes weren't common - the Concorde only went that fast over the ocean, mainly due to sonic boom concerns, and the new wide-area air traffic control system that was being developed then wasn't spec'd for them; you'd typically get one blip and then they'd be off the radar screen.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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US Senate passes Patent Overhaul Bill

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 3 years ago

billstewart writes "The US Senate passed a patent-reform bill, S.23 aka "America Invents", which changes US patents from First-to-Invent to First-to-File. (thomas.loc.gov Status Query, Computerworld Article, National Journal with comments pro and con, SF Chron). Patrick Leahy sponsored it. Passed 95-5, House expecting to introduce similar bill Real Soon. Silicon Valley businesses large and small were mostly against it, IBM was for it. Dianne Feinstein attempted an amendment to remove the First-to-File part, but voted for it anyway after that failed. Barbara Boxer voted against.

The US patent system has been first-to-invent for a long time, while Europe has been first-to-file. There's lots of other detail, largely intended to reduce the amount of patent litigation, improve the coordination with non-US patents, potentially improve the problems with patents on things with prior art and obviousness, and affect some tax issues."

Link to Original Source
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Pirate Bay is now Officially Notorious

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 3 years ago

billstewart writes "The U.S. Trade Representative's first global "Review of Notorious Markets" named Pirate Bay and Chinese search engine Baidu on a list of "notorious" sites for pirated goods and software. Most of the sites on the list were in China, and Pirate Bay's in Sweden, more or less, but other sites were in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Kiev, Jakarta, Hong Kong and Manila."
Link to Original Source
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Elonex announces £99 Linux laptop

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 6 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "Elonex is announcing a £99 Linux-based laptop for the UK education market. PDF Press Release. The debut will be at the Feb 28th Education Show and they won't actually be shipping until summerish. It weighs less than a kilo, has a 7" screen (no indication what resolution it is...), full qwerty keyboard, 1GB flash, 3 hour battery, speakers and headphone jack for playing MP3s. They're co-marketing it along with USB bracelets for kids who want to store more content (presumably supports regular USB sticks as well), and say that that will let kids use whatever laptop happens to be available. It doesn't say what Linux distro they're using, but they've got an online site for downloading more content.

While it's targeted for the education market (and part of a National Laptop Initiative), if they were selling it in the US I'd buy one — it sounds like a reasonable competitor to the Asus Eee, and closer to my toy budget.

One feature I'd really like to see on laptops these days is mechanical — it's having a USB jack that's set in some kind of indented docking space, so you can plug in a USB memory stick without having it stick out where it can get banged. There are some that have slots for compact flash or various SD cards, which can be a reasonable alternative, but memory sticks have become pretty universal."
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Microsoft to unveil virtualization strategy Tues

billstewart billstewart writes  |  about 7 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "The San Jose Mercury News reports that Microsoft will be announcing a virtualization strategy on Tuesday, including
  • an alliance with Citrix Systems (owners of XenSource),
  • acquisition of privately held Calista Technologies of San Jose, which has software that speeds up the performance of applications running in a virtualized environment, and
  • lower price for Windows Vista used on virtualized computers. (More at Bloomberg.)
The company confirmed its plans to deliver its Hyper-V hypervisor within six months of the launch of Windows Server 2008 (betas available now), which is expected this quarter. And of course there's hype about competing with VMware."
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XenSource releases product, gets bought by Citrix

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 7 years ago

billstewart (78916) writes "XenSource has been in the news twice this week — Monday they release a product, then Tuesday they get bought for $500m by Citrix. Here's Network World's take on the buyout and on the product. It looks like the product is packaging new releases of several of their components — there's a 64-bit hypervisor version 3.1 that uses the Intel and AMD hardware tricks, APIs, management tools, and XenMotion, which lets you move running virtual machines around. According to Xen's product page, the free-beer XenExpress version gets the hypervisor, APIs, and some of the management tools, but not the fancier management or XenMotion, and it's somewhat crippled in terms of capacity (max 4 VMs, 2 CPUs, 4GB RAM, while the commercial versions support 128GB total RAM, larger VMs, and unlimited VMs and CPUs.)

(But will it run Linux?) It will run Linux — one of the data sheets implies that Linux only runs in 32-bit mode, while Windows can run 64-bit. Perhaps there's more documentation that provides more details."

Link to Original Source
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billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 8 years ago

billstewart writes "Network World has an article on networks of pneumatic tubes, which are still around in some cities, and also used in places like hospitals. As the article says, "Try delivering bottles of pills over Ethernet." There have been a number of proposals to take unused city pneumatic networks and run fiber optic telecom lines through them. Unfortunately, according to the article, most of them haven't actually worked out — 9/11/2001 interfered with the plans to do that around Wall Street, and city governments haven't always been cooperative, especially when their water&sewer departments want to run fiber through their own tubes. One company has some patents on doing it — the business model may be obvious, but getting the fiber actually blown through the tubes without damaging it apparently has some non-obvious techniques to it."

Journals

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billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I usually give positive moderations lots of slack - I may think a joke or an article is lame, but if somebody wants to moderate it Insightful or Funny, fine - I'll mark those moderations as Unfair/Unfunny if they're promoting obvious trolls or whatever, but that's not common.

Negative moderations are usually obvious also, but the one that I don't give much slack is "Redundant". If an article really was duplicating existing content at the time it was written, or is just adding a content-free me-too, then it's redundant, but if it's a +1 article written two minutes after the main slashdot article, and somebody posts something similar but much more insightful an hour later that makes it up to +5, the first one is still Not Redundant. Maybe it's Overrated, maybe it's Flamebait, and I'd let those moderations through, but I'll call a "Redundant" as "Unfair" if it wasn't redundant enough.

"Flamebait" gets a lot more slack - sometimes there are articles that I strongly agree with (even if I've written them myself :-) that are aggressive enough that they get Flamebait, and I'll usually let those stand - but I try to ding any moderations where the moderator's calling something Flamebait just because they disagree with it.

The one meta-moderation I have trouble with is when somebody rates something as "Funny" that looks like it was intended to be serious, not funny (and wasn't accidentally funny either.) Does marking the moderation Unfair undo the moderation, decreasing the posting's status? Or does it just ding the moderator's karma, which is fine...?

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Wow! A Journal! It's like Blogging! :-)

billstewart billstewart writes  |  more than 12 years ago Wow! This says it will go down on my permanent record - that's pretty scary, given the recent Congressional activity....

Blogging is lame enough - it's a way of nagging people who don't write their own HTML into at least writing text and links. Guess I can't flame them too much, given that I've done almost no edits to my web page in years :-) So here *I* am, not even getting my own Blogging software for my web pages, much less writing it myself - I'm just using /.s.

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