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Unbundling Cable TV: Be Careful What You Wish For

dacut Re:Right Place (448 comments)

It's called an Antenna....

Increasingly, no. Many sports are switching to subscription channels (ESPN, Fox Sports, Root Sports, CNBC/MSNBC, etc.) with limited or no legal options for streaming. MLB is there today and has a decent product; Olympics are ok; NFL is pretty much absent. I'm not sure about the NBA or NHL.

Most of the channels I can receive over the air (networks) don't carry much of interest to anyone in my household. But we watched so little TV that we went ahead and got rid of cable anyway. I did subscribe to MLB.tv, though (and am much happier than what we had from basic cable since I can now watch the teams of interest to me).

I suspect cable companies will be in trouble should the NFL decide to start streaming their games. I doubt this will happen, though; they're getting a ton of money from ESPN to stay right where they are (and most folks are resigned to just keep paying for cable to watch NFL games).

about three weeks ago

Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

dacut Re:Repeat after me... (315 comments)

However, if I reach that limit I'm pretty sure I can pick it up like every other programming or markup language that I've needed.

Unfortunately, this is only sort of true. The basic syntax is easily learnable and readable -- certainly easier than mentally parsing most regular expressions.

But, oh god, does CSS have a ton of implicit modes. Are your sizes content box or border box? Is this div we're positioning being displayed as a block, inline, or inline-block element? Is there a float active? Has it been cleared? Did we duplicate the appropriate styles with -webkit- and -ms-? Why is it working in Firefox but not Chrome? ...

Layouts that would be a simple command in Tk (button .foo; pack .foo -expand both -fill 1) end up being head scratchers.

The purists then snootily point out, "Well, your problem is you're trying to build a GUI from a markup language." Fine, then: Give me a freaking proper GUI toolkit already. I'm reminded of Jamie Zawinski's quote (though he was referring to XWindows): Using these toolkits is like trying to make a bookshelf out of mashed potatoes.

about 6 months ago

USB Reversable Cable Images Emerge

dacut Re:Quick tip - USB logo is always on the top (208 comments)

So when you plug in a cable, the logo on the top is always correct. When it is a sideways plug, you are on your own. :)

I have a few cables which violate this spec (despite the USB spec being quite clear on this point). I'm not sure if it's a manufacturing error (cable assemblies sent to the molding process upside-down) or the manufacturer just being egotistical ("We want our logo to be visible to the user"). Western Digital, I'm looking at you...

I really ought to toss them (along with my collection of USB 1.1 cables and hubs).

about 10 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Experiences With Free To Air Satellite TV?

dacut Re:I used to have an FTA Setup (219 comments)

I have a FTA system which is half setup, cobbled together from some spare parts plus a new receiver and LNBF.

The terrain near my house has proven to be unfriendly. I live on the west side of Puget Sound, so the satellites are already fairly close to the horizon. We're in a old-growth forest area; most of the trees around my house are around the 100' mark. We're just on the other side of a few hills which block antenna reception from any of the local networks, hence my tinkering with FTA equipment.

Even so, Satellite AR shows that I should just be able to pick up AMC 6 which has the NBC feeds. Alas, despite a few hours of trying, I haven't been able to get a signal.

about 9 months ago

Microsoft Posts Source Code For MS-DOS and Word For Windows

dacut Re:Why are they posting old source code? (224 comments)

Why not DOS 6.22? They're not making a bundle on that, either.

Distributing the source code to a proprietary product has a number of potential legal hurdles. If there are parts of the source which were licensed from another company (as would be the case with MS-DOS and SCP, IBM, Stac, and possibly others), those agreements need to be revisited and you may need to get permission from that company (or its successors) to do so. (I include IBM because, I believe, they took over much of the development for the 4.x series.)

MS-DOS 2.x might be the latest version they (currently) feel confident in being able to release free of these restrictions.

about 10 months ago

Ubuntu's Mir Gets Delayed Again

dacut Re:PhD thesis or display server? (241 comments)

This brings a different kind of problem, which is that there becomes a whole new management level of keeping the two groups in sync. Otherwise, the "Canonical Labs" group might run off and do all kinds of things that are great, but which never get integrated into the main project.

But PARC was so successful! Oh, wait... ;-)

Your point is well taken. I believe it's a problem they already have, though: the Mir slip, shipping Unity before it was really ready, etc. Reorganizing -- even if it's done purely in Shuttleworth's mind and not on paper -- would bring these issues to the forefront.

about a year ago

Ubuntu's Mir Gets Delayed Again

dacut PhD thesis or display server? (241 comments)

I've found (as a rule of thumb) that, when asking a grad student "How much time do you think you have left before you can write up your thesis?", if the answer is two or more years out then it really means "I don't know." The student honestly believes this answer, but in reality he/she doesn't know how much he/she doesn't know.

I'm starting to feel about the same with Mir and Canonical here. Shuttleworth is the tenured but aloof professor who casually coaxes his students (employees) toward completing milestones but without too much urgency. Money's not plentiful, but the professor has enough contacts and contracts to keep his lab going and give a stipend to his students. They put out a few papers (releases) each year, and each time the students think this grand project is "almost done"... only to discover that there's still more left to do.

There's tremendous value in this kind of exploratory research. I'm just not sure it makes sense to package it up for end users.

If I were Mark Shuttleworth's technical advisor, I'd suggest examining RedHat's Fedora model. Create a small group called Canonical Labs where stuff like Mir and Unity can flourish, with continuous releases and without the artificial constraint of a set release date. (If this makes the environment too lackadaisical and development isn't progressing fast enough, find some other way to instill discipline and/or motivation; don't make it the threat of moving alpha code to end-users.) When it's stabilized (no longer shuffling menus and window icons around, for example), then integrate it with the main Ubuntu branch. Something a bit more edgy and up-to-date than Debian Stable or RHEL, but not so much that it constantly upends your users.

about a year ago

South Carolina Woman Jailed After Failing To Return Movie Rented Nine Years Ago

dacut This is the problem with Netflix, etc. (467 comments)

How are we going to arrest people on frivolous charges when movies are streamed? I suppose we could make it a felony to fail to rewind a stream when you're done viewing it...

about a year ago

Good Engineering Managers Just "Don't Exist"

dacut Re:Wrong (312 comments)

I've know a lot of really food engineering managers.

Obviously you meant "good" here, but it made me pause: is there a correlation between food and good managers? I've been reading more than a handful of materials (e.g. Peopleware ) which have mentioned eating together as a helping to build strong teams (arguably the most important job of a manager). A number of companies have caught on, from the big (like Google) to startups (one of my favorites, The Omni Group here in Seattle even has a full-time kitchen staff who are listed by name on their about us page).

Obviously, it's not a catch-all solution; heck, I suspect it's more correlation (that is, the managers who get their teams to eat together are more likely to care about their teams) than causation. But still gave me a pause.

about a year ago

Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash

dacut Re:Misunderstood? (664 comments)

Japanese companies [...] genuinely want to know how to make the business better by finding out how people actually work.

Their website actually bears this out. The good use of this technology will map out how well teams are communicating (which can sometimes make or break a project). We say that inter-team communication is good, and sometimes have meetings to this effect; but this can show whether the company is practicing what it preaches.

Alas, I share the same concerns as the naysayers. I highly doubt this would be used by any American company in a way other than to penalize individual workers for brief moments of inactivity.

about a year ago

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft & More Settle Lawsuits With Boston University

dacut Re:Patent on blue LEDs? (129 comments)

Does p-doping Indium Gallium Nitride seem like a trivial process?

It's trivial with the right equipment and materials. Figuring out that you need to p-dope IGN to make an LED, on the other hand...

Reminds me of the story about the fancy car which, no matter what the shop mechanics tried, wouldn't start. So they call in an old mechanic buddy who had retired a few years ago to come take a look. He studies the engine carefully, making a note of the various fluid levels and temperatures as well as the sounds made by the engine. After going at it for a few minutes, he takes a bit of chalk, marks a spot on the engine, and then hits it with his hammer. With that, the engine roared to life.

He then handed the customer a bill for $100. Aghast, the customer replies, "I'm not paying you $100 for hitting the engine with a hammer!"

The old mechanic replies, "Hitting the engine was free. Knowing where to hit it is $100."

1 year,16 days

End of Moore's Law Forcing Radical Innovation

dacut Re:Ends of Moore's Law in software ? (275 comments)

This guy managed to get it into 145 bytes (142 on his website, but he printed "Hi World" instead of "Hello world") with no external dependencies.

The smallest ELF executable I've seen is this 45 byte example. It doesn't print anything and it violates the ELF standard, but Linux (or at least his version) is still willing to execute it.

That said, there isn't much point in optimizing away libc except as an academic exercise. Yes, it's a few megabytes in size, but it's shared across every running userspace program (likely including init). Sluggish and bloated programs, in my experience, are almost always the result of poorly thought out algorithms, data structures, and use cases. (That said, the analysis on how to achieve the 45 byte ELF program is very interesting and educational.)

1 year,24 days

6TB Helium-Filled Hard Drives Take Flight

dacut Re:10 Years of Research & unpressurised (297 comments)

Not Bernoulli; Navier-Stokes. The flyheight is regulated in a manner similar to fluid flow between parallel plates; Bernoulli uses lift generated by flow around a single wing with differential path lengths.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: When Is It OK To Not Give Notice?

dacut Give the two week notice (892 comments)

At many companies, not giving two weeks notice will make you ineligible to be rehired. While you might not care, future employers might. It's a legal gray area, but one of the questions sometimes asked of former employers is, "Is X eligible for rehire?" as a way to skirt the we-can't-give-references issue. A "no" answer raises questions -- the impression it gives ranges from "Well, that company is just a bunch of jerks to their employees" to "He's has a bad attitude and makes it uncomfortable for everyone else" to "He was walking out the door with cash and half of their servers; they just couldn't catch him." If you're up for a position with multiple applicants, this could sink you.

While it might provide fleeting catharsis, not giving notice can't help you. At best it will do nothing; at worst, block you from a job you really want later on. Don't do it.

about a year and a half ago

Neurologists Shine Light On Near-Death Experiences

dacut Re:Out of Body? (351 comments)

It's not a hoax -- it's an actual study being performed at 25 hospitals. No results yet; this article quotes September or October of this year for the release of preliminary results.

The lead for this is Sam Parnia, a critical care physician who just happens to be into this kind of near-death stuff.

about a year and a half ago

Disney Algorithm Builds High-Res 3D Models From Ordinary Photos

dacut Re:I think this has been done for some time now (80 comments)

See this page; the Campanile movie is from SIGGRAPH 97. How is Disney's tech different?

I saw similar technology at CMU in around that same timeframe (late 90s).

My memory will be obviously hazy here, but the resulting output was much less refined. A simple box-shaped house, for example, ended up having wickedly jagged walls. The technology showed promise, but it was far from realistic.

The Disney folks, while not inventing the tech itself, seem to have taken it a step further. Their key claim -- "Unlike other systems, the algorithm calculates depth for every pixel, proving most effective at the edges of objects" -- certainly jives with my memory.

about a year and a half ago

Confirmed: F-1 Rocket Engine Salvaged By Amazon's Bezos Is From Apollo 11

dacut Re:There's just one thing to say. (100 comments)

They remain the property of NASA, and Bezos acknowledges as much: "If we are able to recover one of these F-1 engines[...], I imagine that NASA would decide to make it available to the Smithsonian for all to see. If we're able to raise more than one engine, I've asked NASA if they would consider making it available to the excellent Museum of Flight here in Seattle."

about a year and a half ago

9th Grade Science Experiment: Garden Cress Won't Germinate Near Routers

dacut This is newsworthy... (327 comments)

... but not due to the results; this is an example of good, solid science coming out of a secondary school with limited resources. Given what I could read of the translation, I don't think this is irresponsible journalism at all -- think of it more as journalism on the state of education, not science.

It is, of course, an extraordinary result, and will require extraordinary proof. I suspect the claims will not be reproduced; at the same time, I hope these kid-researchers keep their interest level in this experiment up regardless of outcome. From this, they'll learn about experimental errors, uncontrolled factors, and -- most importantly -- to divorce their ego from their results. That last bit is perhaps the hardest for most scientists to achieve.

about a year and a half ago

Will "Group Hug" Commoditize the Hardware Market?

dacut Re:pci-e X8 is limmted IO why not at least X16? (72 comments)

They're only using the PCIe x8 physical connectors; the electrical signals do not resemble PCIe at all.

Presumably, they're also relocating the actual slot location to avoid stupid errors (like plugging one of these into an actual PCIe x8 slot or vice-versa).

about 2 years ago



Microsoft attacking crapware on PCs

dacut dacut writes  |  more than 5 years ago

dacut (243842) writes "Are they the evil monopolist trying to take over another market, or a benevolent entrant trying to free us from the bonds of crapware? Todd Bishop reports that Microsoft is now selling "Microsoft Signature PCs" in its new retail stores. While they did remove the trialware and adware familiar to most folks who purchase from major vendors, they do install various Microsoft add-ons (Security Essentials, Silverlight, Bing 3D Maps, Zune 4.0, etc.), plus Adobe Flash and Reader — perhaps less insidious than other programs commonly installed, but some pieces (e.g. Zune) are arguably just Microsoft's own version of crapware. Of course, the existing solutions — running removal tools targeted at crapware, building your own PC and playing OEM, or using an alternative operating system — are still fine alternatives."
Link to Original Source

Playing a DVD: Harder Than Rocket Science?

dacut dacut writes  |  more than 5 years ago

dacut (243842) writes "After successfully repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts aboard the shuttle Atlantis found themselves with a free day due to thunderstorms which delayed their return. They attempted to pass the time by watching movies, only to find that their laptops did not have the proper software, and Houston was unable to help. No word, alas, on what software was involved, though we can assume that software/codec updates are a tad difficult when you're orbiting the planet at 17,200MPH."
Link to Original Source

CFLs causing utility woes

dacut dacut writes  |  more than 5 years ago

dacut writes "We've seen compact fluorescent lamps start to take over shelf space at the local hardware store. Replacing a 60 watt incandescent with a 13 watt CFL seems like a great savings, though many consumers are disappointed with the slow warm-up times, lower-than-advertised lifetimes, and hassles of disposing the mercury-containing bulbs. Now EDN reports they may use more energy than claimed due to their poor power factor. Mike Grather, of Lumenaire Testing Laboratory, "checked the power factor for the CFLs and found they ranged from .45 to .50. Their 'real' load was about twice that implied by their wattage."

The good news: you're only billed for the 13 watts of real power used. The bad news: the utilities have to generate the equivalent of 28 watts (that is, 28 VA of apparent power for you EEs out there) to light that bulb.

Until they fix these issues, I'll hold on to my incandescents and carbon arc lamps, thanks."

Link to Original Source

How to write 200,000 books for fun and profit

dacut dacut writes  |  more than 6 years ago

dacut writes "A search on Amazon for Philip M. Parker turns up over 85 thousand books, in fields ranging from economics ( The 2007-2012 Outlook for Lemon-Flavored Bottled Water in Japan ) to medical topics ( The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Sleep Apnea ) to crossword puzzles ( Webster's English to French Crossword Puzzles ). For once, however, this is not a case of a search engine returning irrelevant results or finding multiple authors. In an article titled, "He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)," the New York Times (registration required) describes how Mr. Parker "has developed computer algorithms that collect publicly available information on a subject" and "turns the results into books in a range of genres," relying on on-demand print services to keep the cost of publishing down.

These books, however, do not add to our general knowledge base. Parker concedes, "If you are good at the Internet, this book is useless." This is merely reformatting and visualizing data that is already out there. However, given the demand for "research" firms as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc. (and as anyone who has been told to regurgitate data into PowerPoint form for PHBs can attest), there is demand out there for this type of service.

He has put up a YouTube video demonstrating the program. Alas, the process has been issued a patent."

Link to Original Source

Audit: 39% of mobile calls below minimum quality

dacut dacut writes  |  more than 6 years ago

dacut writes "In news which surprises nobody who owns a cell phone, Test & Measurement World reports that an audit by Ditech Networks showed that 39% of mobile calls fell below industry standards for voice quality. Unlike most carrier tests which focus solely on problems originating in the carrier's network, these tests factored in "the places where people make calls, codec impairments, and mobile devices like phones and headsets." These problems are more widespread in rapid growth markets (India, South America, and the Middle East), with 59% of calls below the minimum vs. 23% elsewhere.

The associated commentary does note that, "not surprisingly, Ditech offers technology that can help fix the problem in the form of its Voice Quality Assurance product," which helps reduce the types of problems uncovered by the audit. But if they're right, the carriers best pay some attention to the problem: poor call quality caused 66.5 million subscribers to switch providers in 2007, costing carriers $23.6 billion."

Link to Original Source

Charter accidentally wipes out 14k e-mail accounts

dacut dacut writes  |  about 7 years ago

dacut (243842) writes "Charter Communications, which provides cable and internet access to 2.6 million customers, accidentally and irretrievably wiped out 14,000 active e-mail accounts while trying to clear out unused accounts. From the article:

There is no way to retrieve the messages, photos and other attachments that were erased from inboxes and archive folders across the country on Monday, said Anita Lamont, a spokeswoman for the suburban St. Louis-based company. "We really are sincerely sorry for having had this happen and do apologize to all those folks who were affected by the error," Lamont said Thursday when the company announced the gaff.
They're providing a $50 credit to each affected customer, which seems a paltry sum for anyone who was less than diligent about backing up their e-mail."

Link to Original Source

AT&T to Sell Equipment to Monitor Workplaces

dacut dacut writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dacut (243842) writes "According to an article in the New York Times, "AT&T plans to introduce a nationwide program today that gives owners of small- and medium-size businesses some of the same tools big security companies offer for monitoring employees, customers and operations from remote locations. Under AT&T's Remote Monitor program, a business owner could install adjustable cameras, door sensors and other gadgets at up to five different company locations across the country."

This isn't necessarily new technology — ADT and Digital Witness have similar offerings — but it is coming from a company which allegedly monitors all web traffic through its facilities."


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