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An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

dentin Noob burner making obvious suggestions (342 comments)

Bennett, please just shut the fuck up about your improvements to burning man. For your traffic flow 'improvement', you notably didn't provide simulations, suggested a broken alternative, and didn't even bother to fully understand the situation before jumping in with both feet. For this one, you've done something similar.

In particular, the problem when the ice line is backed up is -not- because the ice wasn't prefetched. It's because half the time they can't get it out of the trucks any faster, and half the time they can't get the customers out of the way faster. Adding prefetch to a throughput bound system does not improve performance. If you had the experience of going through the lines more than a few times, you'd have maybe picked up on that before offering your advice.

I'm not going to say that traffic isn't a problem, or that ice queues aren't stupidly long at times. But these are hard problems, and they have been thought about extensively by smarter people than you, smarter people who have more information and experience than you. You insult all of them by discounting that so blatantly.

about a month ago
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Experimental Drug Stops Ebola-like Infection

dentin Re:So? Old news. (53 comments)

The FDA has -safety concerns- testing a drug that might be effective against a -contagious disease with a 90% fatality rate-?

Somebody's priorities are in the wrong order.

about 3 months ago
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Scientists Baffled By Unknown Source of Ozone-Depleting Chemical

dentin Re:Source is HVAC Contractors (303 comments)

Don't be a dumbass. CCl4 isn't used in HVAC, CFC's are, and no, they aren't liquid at room temperatures.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Is the complexity of C++ a practical joke? (427 comments)

Oh yeah, (a) is definitely true, but that's no reason to blackhole it immediately, especially if it does something good at the parsing layer. There have been plenty of instances of 'deprecated' features being used for several years with compiler switches to allow it.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Which feature would you add to C++? (427 comments)

It would be better if you asked along the lines of "If you could change any aspect of C++ and have it immediately adopted/supported" - you never know, his preference might be to change template syntax or something similar instead of adding something new.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:C++ is an over bloated monster (427 comments)

Personally, I do a lot of the following:

- learn the minimum aspects of the language needed to navigate your specific codebase, and learn them very well
- copy/paste of terrible syntax to avoid compiler failures
- avoid using templates if at all possible
- create strongly typed specific-use classes that export only the minimum functionality of the underlying libstdc++ classes without using templates
- keep all pointer casting to well defined, central locations
- all production code runs with asserts on all the time
- thou shalt never use multiple inheritance. Ever.

Regarding managing inheritance and figuring out inheritance trees and which classes own what functions where, I'm still basically at a loss and I've been fighting that problem for years. The best advice I can give is try to keep your inheritance trees as shallow as possible; but for real world systems, it often doesn't make sense. I have a set of socket libraries which pretty much has to be 4-5 levels deep in spots to do what it needs to do properly, and it's disconcerting to have to look back to for example layers 1 and 3 to try to figure out what's going on.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Defining subsets of C++ (427 comments)

Even when they do fully implement the entire language, the 'compiler dependent' aspects of the language allow compilers to produce arbitrary results.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Defining subsets of C++ (427 comments)

No. No no no no no. No.

Just, no.

Having lived through the embedded C/C++ debacle, I can't stress 'no' hard enough.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Multiple Return Types? (427 comments)

Hopefully, not for a long time. C++ doesn't need more complexity at the moment. It needs less.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Multiple Return Types? (427 comments)

The last thing C++ needs right now is another complex feature which adds more syntax and fundamentally new operation.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Is the complexity of C++ a practical joke? (427 comments)

Further, in my opinion, we should look at the most common coding conventions and consider adding pieces of them to the compiler and language specification if it makes sense to do so. Naming of functions almost certainly doesn't make sense; but requiring braces after all conditionals very well might (and may make compiler parsing of other constructs easier to handle.)

The most common coding styles almost always touch on what would be 'best practices' in the field. Adding those 'best practices' to the core language specification seems like something that should at least be considered.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Is the complexity of C++ a practical joke? (427 comments)

This is a very good set of observations, and I also feel that C++ has become a 'niche language for insiders'. The syntax is difficult; it's remarkably easy to shoot yourself in the foot in unobvious ways; and porting can be problematic, as no two compilers compile the same code the same way. Trivial mistakes such as pointer aliasing are often compiled -silently and without error-, producing different results at different optimization levels, and -this is considered normal-. Over the years, you learn these things and you figure out which things to avoid, but for new people coming into the language, it's a huge barrier to entry.

If the goal is to really get a lot more programmers to use it, the base syntax almost certainly needs to be improved. Rather than providing some obscure syntax to do some obscure library feature, make it easy to do simple things and make the language as idiotproof as possible. Make compilers either strictly produce well defined output as per the spec, or throw an error. Do -something- to improve template syntax.

Pretty much all of the new features I've seen in the C++11 spec are niche features, things used by high-end library writers with 20 years of experience to do complicated library things. That's good, libraries are important. But libraries will not translate into users if normal users cannot use them, and libraries will not translate into users if the language itself is the bulk of the learning curve.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Re:Do you ever feel bad? (427 comments)

Further, since C++ is often called 'a better C' and is not backwards compatible with C compilers, will there be specification changes to sanitize and improve the lower level C aspects that are problematic? Examples would be strict parsing of the language without compiler dependent ambiguity, removal of duplicate constructs such as the ternary operator, requiring braces after all conditionals, strictly defining the bit width of standard types (int = 32 bits, short = 16 bits, char = 8 bits), etc.

about 3 months ago
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Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

dentin Complexity (427 comments)

"Are there any plans for future c++ specifications to focus on readability and debugging at the source level, as opposed to adding new features?"

As everyone well knows, maintenance and debugging are by far the most time intensive aspects of software engineering. Over the years, I and many of the others I work with have evolved various 'personal standards' in our use of C and C++; these personal standards are almost entirely to aid in debugging and readability. A few examples from the C side:

- pretend that the return type of the = operator is void, disallowing both "a=b=c" and "if (a = b)" constructs
- all 'if', 'while', 'for' etc statements must be braced
- certain types of simple arithmetic operations, for example a signed 16 bit integer multiplied by an unsigned 16 bit integer, may only be handled by dedicated macros to ensure proper operation. These macros must be manually tested and verified on each platform the software is ported to.

Many of these things seem trivial, but they add up. I have seen many hours lost to unbraced 'if' statements; I have seen five different compilers require five different sets of casts to ensure that a 16x16->32 bit integer multiply produces the correct results. There are many holes in the language specification which allow compilers to silently generate arbitrary code, requiring extensive debug and testing time when porting to new platforms.

Both porting and maintenance would be eased by truly looking at the lower layers and making some difficult decisions to improve parsing and deprecate dangerous or confusing constructs. Are there plans in future specifications to do this?

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

dentin Experience (637 comments)

The problem isn't so much that new grads are missing some specific piece of technology or some specific piece of information. It's that new grads are typically missing, quite frankly, everything.

Programming and software engineering are -hard-. If you're a couple standard deviations above the average IQ, you can become barely passable in four years and reasonably good after ten. 'Reasonably good' is ideally the minimum standard that most companies would prefer to hire at, and the percentage of new grads which meet that standard is quite low.

Your best bets are two-fold: maintain one large personal/open source project for many years to demonstrate that you understand software engineering, and work on many smaller projects to gain diversity of experience. Optionally, you can pour your effort into the large project if it supports sufficiently diverse requirements. As an example, my large project was a mud server, which exposed me to everything from web server management, volunteer team building, and customer support to memory management, unix sockets, reference counting and coroutines.

In short, nothing substitutes for experience and breadth.

about 4 months ago
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Larry Page: Healthcare Data Mining Could Save 100,000 Lives a Year

dentin Re:How about collective health sensemaking? (186 comments)

Stuff like this can help, but keep in mind that nutrition is, in the long run, a dead end. Even the best of nutrition and exercise will see you very lucky indeed to reach one hundred years old; for an indefinite lifespan, we will need actual repair and maintenance techniques. http://sens.org has more information on what will be necessary, and areas where research is (at the moment) particularly weak.

about 5 months ago
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Larry Page: Healthcare Data Mining Could Save 100,000 Lives a Year

dentin Re:Ridiculous fear factor (186 comments)

It's not at all that I don't care. It's that I care more about the hundred thousand people per day dying terrible deaths in pain and fear due to completely preventable and repairable biochemical failure. Taken in isolation, yeah, I'd prefer privacy - but when weighed against that level of suffering and death, it's not even a contest.

about 5 months ago
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Larry Page: Healthcare Data Mining Could Save 100,000 Lives a Year

dentin Ridiculous fear factor (186 comments)

I'm actually shocked by the shortsightedness of the slashdot crowd on this one. I expected at least -some- positive responses to be moderated up. Instead, I see a lot of misconceptions and ignorance of the actual problem Page, like Aubrey Degray, is trying to address.

We have a hundred thousand people worldwide dying due to various medical problems and the diseases of old age. These medical problems and diseases are complicated. They consist of tens of thousands of interlocking subproblems, so many that we often take several thousand specific issues and lump them together to call them something like 'cancer'. Fixing these problems - all of them - isn't something that a single drug company, or a single nation is going to do.

It's going to take everybody, everywhere. And in order to fix all these things - cancers, diseases of old age, genetic problems, and more - is going to take research, time, and data. Lots of data.

Lots and lots of data.

People whine about privacy, oh no the bad guys are going to steal my information, ignoring the fact that a hundred thousand people a day die and that thier information could help. All of these medical problems are tractable, all of them are soluble, but they'd be a hell of a lot easier to solve if researchers weren't hamstrung by ridiculous information privacy restrictions.

I don't want immortality in good health just for me, I want it for everyone, and this idiotic fear of having information released is standing in the way of that. A hundred thousand people a day dead, because we fear someone might discover an abnormally BPH score, HIV, or a genetic propensity for Alzheimers. What a steaming load of shortsighted crap.

about 5 months ago
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Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California

dentin Re:Higher paid? Why? (519 comments)

My point still stands.

about 5 months ago
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Teacher Tenure Laws Ruled Unconstitutional In California

dentin Re:Higher paid? Why? (519 comments)

Frankly if teachers are only contributing 1-14% to test scores then I have to wonder why we employ them at all. That's an abysmal number. We could replace them with scarecrows or hobos and still get those numbers.

Also, as I said before, I'd much rather have guesses based on data that is "fraught with error, inaccurate, and unstable" than guesses based on nothing. And right now, we have nothing.

about 5 months ago

Submissions

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Games: Balancing a Gold Economy

dentin dentin writes  |  more than 5 years ago

dentin writes "This article on gold economy balancing in MMOs talks about the various systems in place that serve to balance the economy of the MUD Alter Aeon. The systems are scalable to much larger environments, and hopefully will be useful to other game developers. [Disclaimer: I wrote the article in question.]

From the article: "All too often, articles talking about gold balance or economies do little more than state that 'most MMOs have problems with their economy'. Instead, I'll describe a successful example of a gold economy, and give some details on what it took to get there.""

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