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Ask Slashdot: Workaday Software For BSD On the Desktop?

david.given Debian kFreeBSD (267 comments)

...is a Debian userland on top of the BSD kernel. It lets you use all the tools you're used to while also getting all the FreeBSD kernel goodness, like in-kernel ZFS, etc.

It's still a work in progress and not all packages are built for it, but it works really well and is very pleasant to use; plus you get dpkg and apt.

Of course, one possible downside is that you don't get the BSD userland, which has a flavour all of its own. Whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing is purely a matter of personal taste.

about 1 month ago

A Critical Look At Walter "Scorpion" O'Brien

david.given Re:Mediocre? How about godawful? Terrible? (193 comments)

For me it was Nicholas Montserrat's The Cruel Sea. A brilliant, brilliant book, but it was clearly written as therapy after a hellish time on the WW2 North Sea convoys, and by god it shows.

Peter Grant books: awesome, waiting for Foxglove Summer to show up. The Expanse: pretty awesome, although the authors have definitely been reading their Neal Asher; who these days pretty much defines the cheerful big-things-exploding-in-space genre.

Never heard of Scorpion. Never heard of the guy in the article. Sounds like I haven't missed much. And if you'll excuse me, I need to get on with Ancillary Sword...

about 2 months ago

Google To Require As Many As 20 of Its Apps Preinstalled On Android Devices

david.given Re:Disabled (427 comments)

Android devices have a read-write partition and a read-only partition. Out-of-the-box apps go in the read-only partition. There are several reasons for this, one of which is safety --- you can nuke the entire read-write partition and be sure of (a) getting a working factory reset phone and (b) that all user data has been deleted.

If an app's in the read-only partition, then it obviously can't be removed. (Although you can install updates --- the new versions go in the read-write partition and override the read-only one.) All you can do is mark it disabled.

(Of course, if you've rooted your phone, you can remount the read-only partition as read-write and tinker with it to your heart's content. I do this to move updated apps into the read-only partition to save space in the read-write partition. But that only works on rooted phones.)

about 3 months ago

At CIA Starbucks, Even the Baristas Are Covert

david.given Re:Typical Government Hypocracy (242 comments)

...are you thinking of hippos?

Although I have to admit a hippocracy sounds freakin' awesome.

about 3 months ago

Why the Z-80's Data Pins Are Scrambled

david.given Re:BASIC vs. Z80 assembly language (167 comments)

If you're interested in Z80 operating systems, go look at CP/M (seriously: get an emulator, some tools, and write programs for it). It's a fascinating look into just how minimal you can make an operating system and still have something that's not just functional but which spawned, back in the day, a vast ecosystem of tools and software. You suddenly realise just how much fat there is in a modern system (and also why modern systems have all this fat).

about 3 months ago

New "Crescent Bay" VR Headset Revealed and Demo'd At Oculus Connect

david.given Re:Slashdot Hate Machine (65 comments)

I rather like the StackOverflow moderation system, where it costs _you_ karma to downvote someone else.

In general, I don't think Slashdot's moderation system is effective at promoting interesting discussion. I think the bulk of the problems are the moderation cap at 5, which means there's a very limited dynamic range of interestingness; and there's no visible karma score, which means there's no point in taking the long view --- StackOverflow's system of gamifying karma so that people deliberately try to post good stuff so as to improve their score is total genius.

Plus, of course, the now-ingrained culture of ultra conservatism and whiny hate which permeates the comments section, but that's largely an artifact of the above. Sheesh, even Youtube comments can be better.

I, too, miss the old Slashdot. [sad face]

about 2 months ago

3 Recent Flights Make Unscheduled Landings, After Disputes Over Knee Room

david.given Re:The local paper had this tidbit (819 comments)

That's happened to me. I have a Macbook Air; it's kinda sharp on the front. The person in the seat in front dropped their seat back really abruptly, with the result that I ended up getting guillotined in the gut by the edge of the laptop. It was painful.

I forget which airline it was --- possibly Swiss; I doubt it was Easyjet, as their seats don't recline.

about 3 months ago

Deadmau5 Accuses Disney of Pirating His Music

david.given Enlightenment strikes (137 comments)

...I now finally understand what the roof-top party scene in Goat Simulator is all about.

Thanks, Disney!

about 3 months ago

Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production

david.given Re:One of the most frustrating first-world problem (191 comments)

You can actually get cables with a USB A connector on both ends. Yes, they're abominations of nature that make about less electrical sense than a mains cable with a plug on both ends, but you can actually buy them. They're typically only needed one some idiot who doesn't know what they're doing designs a piece of kit with the wrong socket. See, for example: https://www.sparkfun.com/produ...

I have one right here on my desk. It connects a cheapo (but effective) battery charger to a USB power supply. The charger has an A socket, and it connects to a standard charger via an AA cable.

I keep meaning to superglue it into the charger to prevent someone connecting two of my computers together and something horrible happening.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Dedicated Low Power Embedded Dev System Choice?

david.given Re:Solaris not well supported by OSS toolchain (183 comments)

Because this never works.

What happens instead is that people latch on to some irrelevant detail in your context and the discussion gets instantly derailed in that direction, thus ensuring that your question never gets answered. It's particularly fatal to mention motive, because that's completely subjective. The only way to actually get useful answers to questions these days is to trim the context as ruthlessly as you possibly can.

One day someone needs to write a "How To Answer Questions The Smart Way".

about 5 months ago

Update Your Shelf: BitLit Offers Access To Ebook Versions of Books You Own

david.given Re:Write your name with a pen? (82 comments)

I think that's the point.

I suspect the reasoning is that one physical copy == one license. By having the physical copy tied to you, by putting your name in it, they ensure you can't pass it on to anyone else, which means the license becomes non-transferrable. That means it's safe for them to give you a digital copy of the book, covered by the same license, in the knowledge that nobody else can claim a digital copy from the same physical book, without buying a new copy.

I would also be entirely unsurprised if each ebook was personalised, containing the image of your signature, so that if you gave a copy to someone else they'd know. I also see no mention of DRM (but the FAQ mentions using Calibre to convert ebooks, which suggests they don't use it).

about 6 months ago

Broadcom Releases Source For Graphics Stack; Raspberry Pi Sets Bounty For Port

david.given Not actually sou (77 comments)

The Videocore IV on the Raspberry Pi (which totally kicks arse, BTW, it's a beautiful, beautiful processor. Did you know it's dual core?) currently doesn't have an open source compiler that's any good[*] which I'm aware of. I have tried porting gcc, and got a reasonable way into it, but ground to a halt because gcc. I know another guy who's similarly about half-way through an LLVM port. And Volker Barthelmann's excellent vbcc compiler has a VC4 prototype which makes superb code, but that's not open source at all.

Without a compiler, obviously the source isn't much good, although the VC4-specific code is really interesting to look through.

In addition, having done a really brief scan of the docs they've released, this isn't what the article's implying: what we've got here looks like the architecture manual for the QPU and the 3D engine. The QPU is the shader engine. Don't get me wrong, this is awesome, and will allow people to do stuff like compile their own shaders and do an OpenCL port, but I haven't seen any documentation relating to the VideoCore IV processor. The binary blob everyone complains about runs on that.

It does looks like the source dump contains a huge pile of stuff for the VC4, so maybe they're going to release more later. But even incomplete, this is a great step forward, and much kudos to Broadcom for doing this.

[*] I have done a really crap port of the Amsterdam Compiler Kit compiler for the VC4. It generates terrible, terrible code, but I have got stuff running on the Raspberry Pi bare metal. It's all rather ground to a halt because there's still a lot of stuff to figure out in the boot process, but interested parties may wish to visit http://cowlark.com/piface.

about 10 months ago

Kentucky: Programming Language = Foreign Language

david.given Excellent news (426 comments)

This move makes absolutely perfect sense. Soon, everyone graduating from Kentucky high schools will have above average academic qualifications. Also, the senator is a genius and extremely good looking.

about a year ago

SpaceX Wins Use of NASA's Launch Pad 39A

david.given Re:Watch out (99 comments)

...actually, I misread the chart. GEO is 3.8km/s from LEO. Lunar orbit is 2.4km/s if you transfer from GEO, giving a total of 6.2km/s. If you go straight from LEO to lunar orbit, it's only 4.1km/s... barely more than GEO. So, yeah, I reckon a technology demonstrator is definitely doable right now.

1 year,5 days

SpaceX Wins Use of NASA's Launch Pad 39A

david.given Re:Watch out (99 comments)

Even better --- they've just demonstrated the ability to go to GEO, which is about 14km/s from the Earth's surface. Lunar orbit is only another 2.4km/s, and the moon's surface another 1.6 on top of that!

Chances are that with the technology they have right now, that is, using a modified F9 with the GEO upper stage, they could send a probe on a free-return trajectory to the moon. Or even easier, an impactor. I suspect they won't; Elon Musk appears to have his sights firmly set on the upgraded F9 Heavy and the rocket-landing Dragon, and with that setup you could probably remote land a complete Dragon capsule. I'd be really interested to know what sort of delta vee the Dragon's internal rockets will have...

1 year,5 days

Chinese Lunar Probe Lands Successfully

david.given Re:First (250 comments)

As an interesting addendum:

Luna-9's pictures were sent back using one of the standard encodings used for wireless newspaper photography transmission. During the transmission, the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in the United Kingdom was listening in (well, wouldn't you?) and the astronomers there recognised the encoding, phoned someone at the Daily Express, and as a result the first pictures from the surface of the moon ever were printed in a British newspaper while the USSR was still wondering what to do with them.

There is some speculation that the encoding scheme was picked deliberately to make sure this happened...

1 year,6 days

Chang'e-3 Lunar Rover Landing Slated For 13:40 UTC Saturday

david.given Successfully landed (90 comments)

CCTV's live coverage showed a textbook landing and solar array deployment, including some very shiny live pictures from the descent imager. Next steps are self-testing, instrument deployment and releasing the rover, which they've said will take up to 24 hours. Although I'd imagine that they'll release images from the panoramic mast camera as soon as possible.

1 year,6 days

Dual-Core Allwinner A20 Powered EOMA-68 Engineering Card Available

david.given Re:Lets try to clear up some missinformation here (98 comments)

The RPi is an ARMv6, while this (along with pretty much every other modern ARM device) is an ARMv7. The ARMv6 has hardfloat but implements a slightly different version of the spec. Most OSes have standardised on the ARMv7 version which means that their code won't run on the ARMv6. So Debian armhf will run on this but will not run on the RPi: you have to use Raspbian instead, which is a version of Debian specifically compiled for the ARMv6. (Of course, Debian armel will run on both, but then you don't get any hardware floating point support.)

The Broadcom GPU is significantly awesome. It is, however, almost totally undocumented. There's a reverse engineering project which has mostly nailed down the instruction set, and there are even some C compilers for it (one of them is mine!) even though there's no gcc or LLVM support for it. You can write programs in C and run them on the bare metal. Unfortunately the GPU doesn't support double-precision float and the MMU is kinda weird, and it's probably going to be slower than the ARM for non-DSP-heavy code anyway, so it's unlikely you'll see Linux for it any time soon. But it's a beautiful, beautiful architecture to write code for. (And it's dual core! Not very many people know that...)

1 year,24 days

Duke Univ. Device Converts Stray Wireless Energy Into Electricity For Charging

david.given Re:Units! (216 comments)

Back in 2009, a UK artist set up an... installation, I suppose you'd call it... which was 1301 flourescent lighting tubes in a field under a 400kV megagrid power line. It's worth checking the pictures out, as they're actually quite striking:


The total amount of power used here would be negligible, of course. But I'm surprised they didn't come down on him for improper disposal of mercury...

about a year ago



Dr Robert Bussard dies

david.given david.given writes  |  more than 7 years ago

david.given writes "Dr Robert W. Bussard, nuclear physicist and fusion physics researcher, died from cancer on October 6. Most people here will know him for the Bussard Ramjet, a theoretical space drive that uses magnetic fields to scoop up interstellar hydrogen to power a fusion drive. In recent years he has been working on the Polywell electrostatic inertial confinement fusion reactor, which promises to produce a cheap and simple fusion power plant without the cost and complexity of magnetic confinement. Rumours are that the Polywell was recently funded by the US Navy and may start producing results in 2008."
Link to Original Source



This is another test of the journal system...

david.given david.given writes  |  more than 9 years ago This is not a real journal entry. This is only a test. If this were a real journal entry, you would be reading this right now.

Hmm. Can I attach files? Or is it just plain text?

I seem to be able to edit them, too. That's quite handy.

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