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Ask Slashdot: Beginner To Intermediate Programming Projects?

djchristensen A puzzle solver (172 comments)

I recently had to refresh my C++ skills, so I decided to write a sudoku solver. The neat thing about this particular problem is that it can be as complex as you want it to be. There are a large number of techniques available to solve increasingly difficult puzzles (check the sudoku wiki if you aren't an avid fan of sudoku), and you can implement as many of them as you want as optimizations before resorting to brute force. You can further challenge yourself by setting different requirements. For example, I tend to work in the embedded space where memory resources are not plentiful, so I focused on solutions that were memory efficient.

about 2 months ago
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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

djchristensen Re:convergence of wealth, lawyers, and arrogance (440 comments)

"I've volunteered at the local food banks and base on what I've seen, Costco peanut butter is probably an upgrade to the various expired high fructose laden supermarket rejects"

The food banks I've volunteered at have very high standards and a big part of the volunteer's job is to weed out expired, leaking, or generally icky-looking packages and throw them away. I wouldn't be surprised if we threw out 25% of the stuff we inspected, especially on the frozen food line. Our instructions included something along the lines of, "if you wouldn't want it in YOUR pantry, throw it out." (It was understood, of course, that this applied to safety concerns, not palatability. As gross as I might think Lunchables are, they provide FDA-approved calories to kids who might otherwise go without.)

I know I wouldn't feed any of this peanut butter to my kids no matter how much testing it had received, so would it be morally right to feed it to the underprivileged?

about 4 months ago
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Eric Schmidt On Why College Is Still Worth It

djchristensen Re:Case in point is worse than meaningless (281 comments)

More importantly, who thinks Zuckerberg would be where he is if he had gone to vocational school or straight to work out of high school? Not finishing college is a very different thing from not going in the first pace. I don't disagree that college is not the best choice for some, but holding up Zuckerberg as an example is just stupid.

about 4 months ago
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Getting Evolution In Science Textbooks For Texas Schools

djchristensen Re:The irony is that. . . (710 comments)

You say that as if in jest, which means you probably don't live in Texas, where the GOP platform calls for eliminating teaching critical thinking skills to children lest it undermined the autority of their parents and possibly cause them to question their "fixed beliefs".

about 8 months ago
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Elevation Plays a Role In Memory Error Rates

djchristensen Re:Heat related? (190 comments)

Right, cosmic rays have a hard time penetrating through too much matter, even air, so it makes sense. I've been reading articles about high energy neutrino detection and maybe confused the two just a little. I stand corrected.

about 8 months ago
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Elevation Plays a Role In Memory Error Rates

djchristensen Re:Heat related? (190 comments)

That assumes that the rays tend to come down vertically. I don't know what the distribution would be, but I'd be very surprised if it was mostly vertical at any particular point on earth. So then it would depend on what the rays had to travel through to get to the memory chips. I'd further assume the computers were not exposed to the sky, so I remain skeptical of the cosmic ray explanation.

It would be easy to test though. Have a rack of servers with only the bottom one turned on. Then move that server to the top of the rack (again with the rest of the servers turned off) and compare error rates. That would eliminate heat effects (actually, it might reverse the heat effect if the server stays cooler when at the top of the rack) and allow for testing the shielding effect.

about 8 months ago
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Pastafarian Wins Battle To Wear Colander In License Photo

djchristensen Re:Hey (535 comments)

Mormons were instrumental in getting Prop 8 passed in California, so your argument falls at least partially flat.

about a year ago
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Orson Scott Card's Superman Story Shelved After Homophobia Controversy

djchristensen Re:I'm not even a fan, but (1174 comments)

Bullshit. The US Constitution is supposed to apply to everyone equally. I'd argue that if 30 years ago "there was no right to gay marriage", then it was because the definition of "everyone" was wrong at the time. By your argument, blacks and women should still have no right to vote since the definition of "everyone" did not include blacks or women at some point in the past. It takes this country a painfully long time to release its predjudices, but at least we keep moving closer to "ereryone" really meaning everyone.

about a year ago
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Orson Scott Card's Superman Story Shelved After Homophobia Controversy

djchristensen Re:I'm not even a fan, but (1174 comments)

The people who are against Card's politics/bigotry are not censoring his work. They are free to express their disgust and to make it clear they will not buy or sell his issue and possibly not buy other items from the publisher. The publisher then has to make a business decision as to whether or not publishing Card's issue would harm their profitability. Groups (religious and otherwise) pressure companies all the time in exactly the same way, and those companies go through exactly the same decision making process (JC Penney and Ellen Degeneres, Chick-fil-A, for example). DC has the right to decide what they publish and why.

I for one think the government needs to be OUT of the marriage racket.

The main point as far as I understand of the marriage equality movement is to gain equal recognition by the government of the rights conferred by legal marriage. It makes no sense at all to say that government needs to be "out of the marriage racket". I did not get married (to my opposite-sex spouse) in a church/Church and have no real interest in the religious aspect of marriage, but I have a significant vested interest in the legal institution of marriage. It provides numerous protections/rights for myself, my wife, and my children/heirs. I've always thought it was unfortunate that the government institution of marriage shares a name with the religious institution, which allows (in this case) religious groups to coopt the legal rights of those whom they do not agree with.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Practices Impede Developers' Productivity?

djchristensen Re:fix it later (457 comments)

Spending an extra 5 minutes now to verify the documentation for a function you call can save days later on.

Not always. Case in point: I found the following code after a day and a half debugging (note that the dest and src addresses are guaranteed to be overlapping):

// delete the record. Supposes memcpy is implemented increasing.
memcpy(p+i, p+i+rec_size, env_size-(i+rec_size));

The problem was obvious to me once I narrowed down the area of the bug and saw the comment. So was the idiocy of the dumbass that knew memcpy wasn't safe for overlapping regions and did it anyway. I guess this only proves that bad developers are bad developers.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Do Coding Standards Make a Difference?

djchristensen Re:After 42 yrs programming I say... (430 comments)

It's not as simple as that. Sure, everyone is going to have bugs in their code, but some are much worse than others. No accountability at all can be just as detestable as incessant finger-pointing.

about a year and a half ago
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Why Facebook Is Stressing You Out

djchristensen Re:How about... (227 comments)

Also it's harder for a girl to ignore a wall post in front of all her friends ...

Now there's an auspicious start to a long-lasting relationship.

about a year and a half ago
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The Greatest Battle of the Personal Computing Revolution Lies Ahead

djchristensen Re:Walled gardens... (291 comments)

You're assuming that devices and the software on them are inherently insecure and can never be made secure. Instead you rely on walled gardens created and cultivated by the companies that are selling you those devices and that software (or at least controlling your access to that software). Granted, security is hard to do right, but what makes you think Apple or Google are so much better at it with their App stores than anyone else? And if they are so good at it, why don't they just make their OSes secure enough to obviate that excuse for the walled gardens in the first place?

about a year and a half ago
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Why Are We So Rude Online?

djchristensen Re:Let me explain with a car analogy. (341 comments)

Here in Texas at least, this extends to basic courtesy. I'm continually astounded at how polite people generally are in person but how few of them are courteous enough when in their cars to even use their turn signals. Vehicle code issues aside, signalling is an act of common courtesy like saying "please" and "thank you", and when in the anonimity of their cars, otherwise exceedingly polite people abondon said politeness.

about 2 years ago
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Global Bacon Shortage 'Unavoidable'

djchristensen Re:Gummi worms? Really? (293 comments)

Except that from the linked story: "But ruminant animals such as cattle can safely ingest a wide variety of feedstuffs that chickens and hogs can't." The gummi worms story was about feeding cows, not pigs.

about 2 years ago
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Can Anyone Become a Programmer?

djchristensen Re:There is nothing special about programming (767 comments)

Your slashdot example is idiotic. This is a self-selected group of "nerds" who would be expected to be above average at learning skills like programming.

I know from personal experience with my wife and daughter that some people just are not cut out to do any sort of software development. They don't naturally think in terms of the logical steps required to find and implement an elegant solution. If you made their food dependent on their usable code output, they might learn enough to survive, but they would be very hungry.

I encourage you to peruse some of the free apps in the app store of your choice. There's no shortage of almost completely unusable garbage there from "programmers" who figure anyone can write an app. A lot of people might be able to write an app, but not anyone can write a good app. In this case, these are people who had a desire to code well and still could not. Likewise books in the Kindle store. The assumption that a decent grasp of spoken language is enough to weave a compelling story is quite obviously fallacious.

If you're so sure programmers are nothing special, then let me pick a few to write the flight control software for the next plane you fly on or the engine and brake control software of your car or the user interface software of your TV (okay, that last one might be a bad example given some of the crap I've seen in things like TVs, but that helps make my point).

about 2 years ago
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How Viable Is Large Scale Wind Energy?

djchristensen Re:Ah yes, the anti-wind shills are here (345 comments)

Energy is extracted from the wind and used elsewhere, same as with wave energy and solar. Slowing down the wind or waves or absorbing heat from the sun will all have a non-zero effect local to the harvesting mechanism. For example, harvesting a significant amount of wave energy might change beach dynamics or tidal flows or whatever, maybe in a negative way. Maybe the impact is negligible. That kind of thing needs to be reasonably well understood, or we might end up in the future with the same sort of problem we are facing now with fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. Or we might be able to use the effects in a beneficial way if we understand them well enough. We humans have a history of barreling ahead without really considering the long-term effects we might create. I realize it's wishful thinking that we will change that behavior in any significant way, but at least I can point at this conversation and disclaim any responsibility for future catastrophes.

about 2 years ago
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How Viable Is Large Scale Wind Energy?

djchristensen Re:Ah yes, the anti-wind shills are here (345 comments)

Effects of multiple wind farms: since the net result of one is zero, the net result of many will be zero.

The net result can't possibly be zero, energy is being extracted from the system. Now it may very well be that, as another poster suggested, the amount of energy being extracted is so small as to have no net measurable effect, and while that may be understood to the the case on a very small scale, I personally don't have a good intuitive feel for that when you scale up to many gigawatts. Extrapolating the effects from a very small wind farm to a massive one (on a global scale) would seem imprudent to me. I'm not completely ignorant in the matter, but neither have I researched it in enough depth to satisfy my curiosity. Your response of "it's zero, now go away troll!" doesn't help. Perhaps you have pointers to some research or even just some well-written articles from science journalists to back your opinion. Your personal intuition doesn't count any more than mine does.

I have similar questions about all-electric cars. Sure, an electric car emits effectively zero emissions when it's driving around, but the energy to move it around came from somewhere. Given our current power infrastructure, it's far from clear to me just how much better an electric car is from a fossil fuel car. My intuition is that it likely is measurably better, but I'd really like some science that backs that up. I think the larger benefit to electric cars is that any improvements made to power plant efficiency and cleanliness directly translates to less emissions attributable to the electric cars that are already on the road, but I'm nowhere near convinced that today's electric cars are significantly superior to the higher fuel efficiency internal combustion cars. That doesn't mean I'm an anti-electric car troll. It used to be that critical thinking and skepticism were valued, especially in scientific discussions, and not considered the hallmark of trolls and shills and subjected to automatic ridicule.

However, putting up sufficient wind power means we can reduce the use of other kinds of power which actually do have a negative effect on climate (from our POV.)

Certainly. And given the difficulty in deploying wind farms on a massive scale (on the ground or in the atmosphere), there will be plenty of time for scientists to measure and understand the possible effects of such scaled-up deployments. Despite the propensity of the anti-science religious right to use scientific skepticism as an argument against science in general, that's how science must always be conducted.

Rather than attacking as a troll someone for asking what was likely an innocent question based out of ignorance (not stupidity as you so arrogantly suggested), it might be more constructive to simply point out their ignorance and maybe even point them in the direction of some useful materials to educate themselves. Reflexively calling them a troll or stupid just eliminates any credibility you might have had, at least in my opinion.

about 2 years ago
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Side-Effect of the Apple v. Samsung Trial: Increased Sales for Samsung

djchristensen Re:Bias (385 comments)

That line of reasoning is almost completely non-sensical and doesn't really deserve a response.

But "anti-Apple fanboyism"? "Fanboyism" involves an irrational devotion (or repulsion in this case) to a product or company. A reasoned explanation for liking or disliking a product or company does not automatically elevate someone to fanboy status. I think you making that claim only exposes your own fanboyism.

Apple's walled-garden approach makes me queasy, but not enough to dissuede me from considering their products. But their offensive (in both senses of the word) legal attacks are too much for me to further consider purchasing their products. Samsung, Motorola and others are heading in the same direction with all the lawsuits filed all over the world. I'm looking for a tablet for myself and find that Android-based tablets may be my only option, although the fragmentation and version update issues in that market concern me greatly and have kept me from making a choice. And waiting for a Microsoft Surface tablet is out of the question. While I take offense at being characterized as an anti-Apple fanboy, I'll proudly wear the anti-MS fanboy label. I just don't like MS and am not inclined to bother with explaining why (I do have a number of reasons, but it's easier to just hate them).

about 2 years ago
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Side-Effect of the Apple v. Samsung Trial: Increased Sales for Samsung

djchristensen Re:Bias (385 comments)

I stand corrected (multiple times). Perhaps instead of "most valuable company in the world, EVER", I should have said "a company as phenomenally successful as Apple (in valuation)". Serves me right for only half paying attention to the media reports about Apple being the highest-valued company, I really should know better.

about 2 years ago

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