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Microsoft Killing Off Windows Phone Brand Name In Favor of Just Windows

dpbsmith Re:I don't know what made me come here (351 comments)

And you can't even tell me which one that is--because they are all called "Windows."

4 days ago
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Microsoft Killing Off Windows Phone Brand Name In Favor of Just Windows

dpbsmith They must be playing musical chairs quickly... (351 comments)

These days Microsoft is changing their branding around faster than a huckster playing the shell game. No end-user knows what the implied promise of any of their brands is, and none of their brands are stable for long enough to figure out whether the implied promise is kept.

I'm guessing this is a reflection of inner turmoil, and that whenever some internal group gets a new manager, that manager gets to pick new names for everything.

Microsoft, like some other companies, doesn't quite get it that perception is only part of the reality, the reality is also part of the reality. You can't solve the problem of inconsistent user interfaces just by calling it all "Windows."

4 days ago
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A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes

dpbsmith Why is this better than simulation? (56 comments)

It's sort of cool, I guess, but I don't see the benefit of actually building physical robots rather than running a simulation. What has been achieved in the real world doesn't seem to have any practical application, even as an advertising gimmick or a work of sculpture.

I can't imagine sending out 100,000 of these gadget to do the half-time show at a football game, for example.

I didn't sense that this was just the beginning and that the same devices that self-assemble predetermined shapes could, with more advance software, harvest wheat or perform laser surgery.

When they reach the point where the simulated behavior actually has some real-world utility, THEN it makes sense to build them.

about a month ago
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How long ago did you last assemble a computer?

dpbsmith Does the binary multiplier I built in 1961 count? (391 comments)

The one I built out of several dozen 12 volt DPDT relays I bought on Cortland Street? To be honest, it had no memory and no stored program, all it could do was multiply 5 bits by 5 bits... but I called it a "computer." I had the devil of a time powering it because my 12V DC HO-gauge train transformer couldn't supply enough current. Thank heaven for #6 ignition cells.

about a month ago
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An Accidental Wikipedia Hoax

dpbsmith Circularity-"reliable sources" trusting Wikipedia (189 comments)

It's a real problem, because Wikipedia's trustworthiness depends on its verifiability policy. Everything in Wikipedia is supposed to be traceable to a reliable source. Unfortunately, Wikipedia itself has become so trustworthy that supposedly trustworthy sources are becoming too uncritical about trusting Wikipedia.

Back circa 2004-2005 a respected editor added a statement to an article saying that Rutgers had been originally been invited to join the Ivy League but had declined. This interesting, plausible, and credible statement was in the article for a while, but was eventually challenged.

The editor originally had trouble providing a good source, but eventually came up with a newspaper article in a New Jersey newspaper, one that would usually be considered a reliable source. Other editors were inclined to accept, this, until one of them realized it was a fairly recent article, contacted the reporter, and asked for the reporter's source.

The reporter replied that he had read it in Wikipedia and used it (without attribution).

Now, it's not clear whether or not the statement is true. The last I knew, the editor said he had gotten it from an old issue of the "Targum," the Rutgers University newspaper, which would probably have qualified as a reliable source, but since he was unable to provide volume, issue, date, or page numbers, the statement was not verifiable at that time and was removed.

But it is an clear example of circular reference--an unverifiable statement almost being kept in Wikipedia, based on support from a "reliable" source that had gotten it from Wikipedia.

about a month and a half ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

dpbsmith The "Your mileage may vary" problem (550 comments)

Bodies vary. No two surgical procedures are the same.

People are always saying something like "a hernia repair is nothing," when what they mean is "MY hernia repair was nothing."

Even if YOUR LASIK went well... ...even if MOST LASIKs so well... ...even if ALMOST ALL LASIKs go well... ...you have to multiply the probability by the consequences.

First, start thinking about what a 1% chance means. For example, I've had blood drawn literally hundreds of times, and donated blood dozens of times. The phlebotomists always tell me I have "beautiful veins." It's nothing. Nothing at all. Then one day, for absolutely no reason I could tell, I was having a blood draw for some tests, didn't hurt, didn't feel clumsy... and ten minutes later there was a big black and blue lump that didn't go away for days and hurt enough to be annoying. That was probably an example of a "less than 1% chance" where the risk showed up.

The thing is, a 1% chance of getting an annoying bruise is no big deal. But a 1% chance of lousing up one of your eyes is.

Given a refractive error that can be completely corrected a) without surgery (i.e. a lens) or b) with surgery, one should be cautious about choosing surgery. It is, after all, UNNECESSARY surgery.

about 2 months ago
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Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

dpbsmith Thinking (300 comments)

Oh, if we're going to joke about a typo... obviously iamacat worked at IBM. (Good age test). (Yes, they really truly actually had little signs that said simply "THINK.")

about 2 months ago
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Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

dpbsmith Re:Chain effect (300 comments)

Indeed. I worked in a Fortune 500 company--I arrived in the middle of a new CEO's "three-year turnaround plan," and shortly thereafter he was replaced by another CEO and shortly thereafter the company collapsed with stunning speed.

One of the things that was interesting was seeing the effect of a layoff from inside. It isn't just morale, although since layoffs were done on the "night and fog" principle--they didn't post lists of those laid off--for about two days after each layoff, all worked stopped as everyone else in the company spent their time telephoning everyone they knew to see if they were OK.

But there was also an immediate, precipitous problem with any kind of customer support or service. The air was full of overheard conversations. "Let me put you on hold. Uh, Marie, this customer wants to order a license for a vestibulator spracket. Who handles that?" "It used to be Bob, but he was laid off yesterday. Uh, Lewis, do you know?" "No idea, maybe his manager would know. Let me see, his manager was Kelly Sundstrom." "Oh, she's no longer with the company..."

No joke. Customers wanted to buy stuff and couldn't. Customers with service contracts couldn't get gear fixed. The stock price went up because at that time Wall Street seemed to love layoffs, but there were, actually, reports in the IT press about customers being disgruntled at bad service, and Wall Street never seemed to connect THAT with the layoffs.

about 2 months ago
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Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

dpbsmith "Anonymous Coward" in another thread nailed it (300 comments)

here.. Satya Nadella said that he would "reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision" and this poster translated it:

"reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision = layoffs"

about 2 months ago
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Scientists Have Developed a Material So Dark That You Can't See It

dpbsmith "The Shadow and the Flash," Jack London, 1903 (238 comments)

Science-fiction comes true. Sort of. Jack London (better known for "The Call of the Wild") published a story in 1903 entitled "The Shadow and the Flash," online here. The plot in part turns on the concept of a perfectly black pigment. It is a good story--much better than you'd guess from a summary. As to the optics London was either confused or exercising creative license:

"'Color is a sensation," he was saying.... 'Without light, we can see neither colors nor objects themselves. All objects are black in the dark, and in the dark it is impossible to see them. If no light strikes upon them, then no light is flung back from them to the eye, and so we have no vision-evidence of their being.' "But we see black objects in daylight," I objected. 'Very true,' he went on warmly. 'And that is because they are not perfectly black. Were they perfectly black, absolutely black, as it were, we could not see them ... with the right pigments, properly compounded, an absolutely black paint could be produced which would render invisible whatever it was applied to.'"

Uh, no. But it sounds plausible. Wonderful descriptive touches: "When you are near me I have feelings similar to those produced by dank warehouses, gloomy crypts, and deep mines. And as sailors feel the loom of the land on dark nights, so I think I feel the loom of your body."

Two brothers who feel sibling rivalry to a homicidal degree, are both amateur scientists with private laboratories. (Well, OF COURSE they are, who isn't?) They decide to seek the secret of invisibility, one by developing a perfectly black pigment, the other by becoming perfectly transparent. Both methods are flawed. The title refers to the flaws. The brother who paints himself with perfectly black paint, unfortunately, still casts a shadow. The brother who becomes transparent, apparently does not refract light but does disperse it (???), so intermittently evokes bright rainbow-colored flashes.

It is a much better story than it sounds from that description.

about 2 months ago
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New Microsoft CEO Vows To Shake Up Corporate Culture

dpbsmith End users experience the products, not the culture (204 comments)

I'd much rather hear him say:

"I use Windows 8.1 on a desktop and it sucks. Windows 9 is going to be good on desktops and we are not going to release it until it is.

AND, we are going to play fair with users and make sure that every security patch we develop for Windows Embedded Industry is also SQAed on and made available to all Windows XP users. It may not make us the most money but it's the right thing to do."

Corporate culture? I am an end-user, I don't care what Microsoft's corporate culture is, I care about its products.

about 2 months ago
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There's More Fiber in Fast Food Than You Realize

dpbsmith Sawdust is a classic, classic food adulterant (1 comments)

For example, H. G. Wells' novel, "Tono-Bungay," published in 1909, about the marketing of a patent medicine.

"The child made no end out of the [wood] shavin's. So might you. Powder 'em. They might be anything. Soak 'em in jipper,â"Xylo-tobacco! Powder'em and get a little tar and turpentinous smell in,â"wood-packing for hot bathsâ"a Certain Cure for the scourge of Influenza! There's all these patent grain foods,â"what Americans call cereals. I believe I'm right, sir, in saying they're sawdust."

"No!" said my uncle, removing his cigar; "as far as I can find out it's really grain,â"spoilt grain.... I've been going into that."

"Well, there you are!" said Ewart. "Say it's spoilt grain. It carried out my case just as well. Your modern commerce is no more buying and selling than sculpture. It's mercyâ"it's salvation. It's rescue work! It takes all sorts of fallen commodities by the hand and raises them. Cana isn't in it. You turn waterâ"into Tono-Bungay."

about 2 months ago
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Is The Future Actually Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Not Electric?

dpbsmith When GM canceled the EV-1... (4 comments)

...they said it was because, they said, hydrogen fuel-cell technology was better and all but ready. Remember the Hy-Wire? Demonstrated in 2002, and promised for showrooms by 2010.

What? You DON'T remember the Hy-Wire? Funny about that.

I just don't get it. We're not even close to having good nationwide ubiquitous infrastructure support for pure electric cars yet, and we're going to get that a long time before I can pull up into the corner Mobil and fill 'er up with hydrogen.

about 4 months ago
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How Dumb Policies Scare Tech Giants Away From Federal Projects

dpbsmith Whereas private DP projects.... (143 comments)

...never experience cost increases, schedule slippages, or fail to meet performance goals?

Big data projects fail all the time. They just don't get as much publicity when they are private.

about 4 months ago
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$200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?

dpbsmith Scripts and scores for musicals are the same way (252 comments)

It's not unprecedented. I don't know the legal details but anyone who's ever been an in amateur production of a musical will tell you that Music Theatre, International will not sell you a script or a score. I believe the statement is that you have rented them. You are warned to make any markings lightly and in pencil and to erase them completely before returning them.

about 4 months ago
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Book Review: Designing With the Mind In Mind

dpbsmith How do you get decision-makers to follow it? (52 comments)

It's nice to hear about UI research, but at the moment _nobody seems to be making use of the UI research that's already been done._

Consider, for example, the current fad for "mystery meat" UIs (affordances that can't be seen and thus can't be found unless you already know where they are). What's with that? Haven't designers read "The Design of Everyday Things?" Heck, haven't they read the 1983 edition of "Inside Macintosh?"

about 5 months ago
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Lytro Illum Light-Field Camera Lets You Refocus Pictures Later

dpbsmith It's still a solution without a problem. (129 comments)

It's still a one-trick pony, and not a trick that many people need to do very often. Sure, a professional may invest in any number of specialized $1,200 tools to get images under special situations. It's just the idea that this revolutionizes the field of photography, or that _everyone_ needs this to get good pictures of Tommy blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, that's crazy.

I cannot think of a single time in my life when I wanted to press the button once and get two different images, one with subject A in focus and subject B blurred, and the other with subject A blurred and subject B in focus.

If this camera could take "deep focus" pictures, a la _Citizen Kane_, in which all objects at all distances were in focus at the same time, that would be mildly useful and a lot of amateur photographers would like it, even if the effect were a little boring. But, as nearly as I can tell, it can't.

about 5 months ago
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Vintage 1960s Era Film Shows IRS Defending Its Use of Computers

dpbsmith The announcer's delivery! (146 comments)

"Viewers today are more likely captivated by the refrigerator-size computers and 1960s hairdos." No, the very first thing that struck me was the once-familiar announcer's "authoritative" style of delivery. Among other things, the voice often drops by about a musical fifth on the last word of the sentence.

This is not only standard for announcers (Edward R. Murrow being one example), but you even hear it in movie dialog.

I keep wanting to know some name for the change. It was not instantaneous, but it seems to me that it occurred over not much more than a decade or so. Walter Cronkite had a transitional voice style--somewhere in between what you hear in this movie and a more natural, conversational delivery such as you hear today. (Or, at least, I hear it as natural and conversational--maybe fifty years from now it will sound mannered and affected, too).

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

dpbsmith McGuffey's 4th New Eclectic Reader:"The Colonists" (737 comments)

A nineteenth-century schoolbook addresses this question. Post-apocalyptic society might not be too different from that of a "colony." Farmers, millers, carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, shoemakers, doctors, school-masters make the cut; barbers, just barely; silversmiths, soldiers, dancing-masters, lawyers, politicians, and "gentlemen" do not.

[note.â"Mr. Barlow one day invented a play for his children, on purpose to show them what kind of persons and professions are the most useful in society, and particularly in a new settlement. The following is the conversation which took place between himself and his children.]
Mr. Barlow. Come, my boys, I have a new play for you. I will be the founder of a colony; and you shall be people of +different trades and professions, coming to offer yourselves to go with me. What are you, Arthur?
Arthur. I am a farmer, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Very well. Farming is the chief thing we have to depend upon. The farmer puts the seed into the earth, and takes care of it when it is grown to ripe corn. Without the farmer, we should have no bread. But you must work very +diligently; there will be trees to cut down, and roots to dig out, and a great deal of hard labor.
Arthur. I shall be ready to do my part.
Mr. Barlow. Well, then I shall take you +willingly, and as many more such good fellows as I can find. We shall have land enough, and you may go to work as soon as you please. Now for the next.
James. I am a miller, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A very useful trade! Our corn must be ground, or it will do us but little good. But what must we do for a mill, my friend?
James. I suppose we must make one, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then we must take a mill-wright with us, and carry mill-stones. Who is next?
Charles. I am a carpenter, sir.
Mr. Barlow. The most +necessary man that could offer. We shall find you work enough, never fear. There will be houses to build, fences to make, and chairs and tables beside. But all our timber is growing; we shall have hard work to fell it, to saw boards and planks, and to frame and raise buildings. Can you help in this?
Charles. I will do my best, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then I engage you, but I advise you to bring two or three able +assistants along with you. William. I am a blacksmith.
Mr. Barlow. An +excellent companion for the carpenter. We can not do without cither of you. You must bring your great bellows, +anvil, and +vise, and we will set up a forge for you, as soon as we arrive. By the by, we shall want a mason for that.
Edward. I am one, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Though we may live in log-houses at first, we shall want brick-work, or stone-work, for +chimneys, +hearths, and ovens, so there will be employment for a mason. Can you make bricks, and burn lime?
Edward. I will try what I can do, sir.
Mr. Barlow. No man can do more. I engage you, Who comes next?
Francis. I am a +shoe-maker, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Shoes we can not well do without, but I fear we shall get no +leather.
Francis. But I can dress skins, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Can you? Then you are a useful fellow. I will have you, though I give you double wages.
George. I am a tailor, sir.
Mr. Barlow. We must not go naked; so there will be work for a tailor. But you are not above mending, I hope, for we must not mind wearing +patched clothes, while we work in the woods.
George. I am not, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then I engage you, too.
Henry. I am a silversmith, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then, my friend, you can not go to a worse place than a new colony to set up your trade in.
Henry. But I understand clock and watch making, too.
Mr. Barlow. We shall want to know how the time goes, but we can not afford to employ you. At present, I advise you to stay where you are.
Jasper. I am a barber and hair-dresser.
Mr. Barlow. What can we do with you? If you will shave our men's rough beards once a week, and crop their hairs once a quarter, and be content to help the carpenter the rest of the time, we will take you. But you will have no ladies' hair to curl, or gentlemen to powder, I assure you. Louis. I am a doctor, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then, sir, you are very welcome; we shall some of us be sick, and we are likely to get cuts, and +bruises, and broken bones. You will be very useful. We shall take you with pleasure.
Stephen. I am a lawyer, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Sir, your most obedient servant. When we are rich enough to go to law, we will let you know.
Oliver. I am a +school-master.
Mr. Barlow. That is a very respectable and useful profession; as soon as our children are old enough, we shall be glad of your services. Though we are hardworking men, we do not mean to be ignorant; every one among us must be taught reading and writing. Until we have employment for you in teaching, if you will keep our accounts, and, at present, read sermons to us on Sundays, we shall be glad to have you among us. Will you go?
Oliver. With all my heart, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Who comes here?
Philip. I am a soldier, sir; will you have me?
Mr. Barlow. We are +peaceable people, and I hope we shall not be obliged to fight. We shall have no occasion for you, unless you can be a +mechanic or farmer, as well as a soldier.
Richard. I am a dancing-master, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A dancing-master? Ha, ha! And pray, of what use do you expect to be in the "backwoods?"
Richard. Why, sir, I can teach you how to appear in a drawing-room. I shall take care that your children know """precisely how low they must bow when saluting company. In short, I teach you the science, -which will +distinguish you from the savages.
Mr. Barlow. This may be all very well, and quite to your fancy, but / would suggest that we, in a new colony, shall need to pay more attention to the raising of corn and +potatoes, the feeding of cattle, and the preparing of houses to live in, than to the +cultivatioa of this elegant "science" as you term it.
John. I, sir, am a +politician, and would be willing to edit any newspaper you may wish to have published in your colony.
Mr. Barlow. Very much obliged to you, Mr. Editor; but for the present, I think you may wisely remain where you are. We shall have to labor so much for the first two or three years, that we shall care but little about other matters than those which concern our farms. We certainly must spend some time in reading, but I think we can obtain +suitable books for our +perusal, with much less money than it would require to support you and your newspaper.
Robert. I am a gentleman, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A gsntlemanl And what good can you do us?
Robert. I intend to spend most of my time in walking about, and +overseeing the men at work. I shall be very willing to assist you with my advice, whenever I think it necessary. As for my support, that need not trouble you much. I expect to shoot game enough for my own eating; you can give me a little bread, and a few """vegetables; and the barber shall be my servant.
Mr. Barlow. Pray, sir, why should we do all this for you?
Robert. Why, sir, that you may have the credit of saying that you have one gentleman, at least, in your colony.
Mr. Barlow. Ha, ha, ha! A fine gentleman, truly! When we desire the honor of your company, sir, we will send for you.

about 5 months ago
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Why Are There More Old Songs On iTunes Than Old eBooks?

dpbsmith The late Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg (77 comments)

...had a lot of acerbic observations on the topic.

"I said this in 1971, in the very first week of PG, that by the end of my lifetime you would be able to carry every word in the Library of Congress in one hand - but they will pass a law against it. I realized they would never let us have that much access to so much information." http://samvak.tripod.com/busiw...

He was scathing on the topic of the attempts (which are largely succeeding) to convert us from an ownership society to a rentier society:

http://comments.gmane.org/gman...

"I worry that 100 years from now that 99% of foods will be GMO's [Genetically
Manipulated/Manufactured Organisms] and hence under copyright. . .and this
will enforce a copyright-powered hunger/starvation/malnutrition of the body
just as current copyright extensions are powering such for the mind.

The goal of WIPO is that EVERYTHING should HAVE to be paid for, plus a
royalty for the intellectual property. . .at a time when everyone COULD
have everything pretty much free of charge from replicator technology.

100 years ago the atom-powered Nautilus and atomic bomb were fiction,
only 50 years later the Nautilus was being built, and it sailed into
my own home town and their crew came to my school. . . .

Do you REALLY think it won't be even more different in the future?

But WIPO still wants to charge hugely for replicated food, just as
it does for replicated books."

about 6 months ago

Submissions

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Male hunter-gatherers: deep voice pitch = success

dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 6 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes ""Deeper voice pitch predicts reproductive success in male hunter-gatherers, according to a new study from researchers with Harvard University, McMaster University, and Florida State University," according to the Harvard Gazette.

Anthropologists studied "the Hadza, a Tanzanian hunter-gatherer tribe that lives much the same way that most human beings did 200,000 years ago." The tribe does not use birth control, a factor which interferes with studies of reproductive success in modern populations. They found that males with lower voice pitch had more surviving children.

According to the article abstract they found that "men with low voice pitch have higher reproductive success and more children born to them" and hence "there is currently selection pressure for low-pitch voices in men," but that "voice pitch in men does not predict child mortality. These findings suggest that the association between voice pitch and reproductive success in men is mediated by differential access to fecund women," i.e. the chicks just prefer deeper-voiced guys.

The researchers found that "Voice pitch is not related to reproductive outcomes in women.""
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Has audio gone about as fur as it can go?

dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "I was listening to a CD remastered from a 1972 recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and I was thinking to my self "1972? Really? That sounds pretty damn good." Then I was listening on my iPod to a 1957 recording of the Boston Symphony that I had recorded off the air in analog FM with my RadioShark, and I was thinking to myself "1957? Really? That sounds pretty damn good."

I'd summarize the history of audio over the last fifty years by saying that from the forties to the mid-fifties, what happened was magnetic tape recording, and "hi-fi," i.e. high fidelity becoming available to any well-heeled, knowledgeable audiophile. What happened in the sixties was two-channel stereophonic sound. What happened in the seventies was the elimination of tape hiss, through direct-to-disk, Dolby, and digital recording.

What happened in the eighties, nineties, and this decade was... nothing much, as far as actual sound quality. The big advance was that integrated circuits, digital audio, rare earth magnets for speakers, offshore manufacture changed changed the population that got to hear mid-fi sound. Today anyone who wanders into Best Buy and spends $500-$1000 dollars will just automatically get a quality of sound that only serious audiophiles in the 1970s got to hear. (The people who bought expensive prepackaged "hi-fis" and "stereos" during the 1960s and 70s got crap in a pretty cabinet).

I know I'm going to get flamed by the high-end fans, but I still say that except for the advances represented by stereophonic sound and the elimination of analog tape hiss, everything else has been subtleties appreciated only by cognoscenti. The acceptance of compressed digital audio and the apparent market failure of SACD and DVA would seem to support this.

So, is that all there is?

Can anyone imagine a future advance in audio, impossible now due to cost or technical factors, that would produce an improvement in sound so dramatic that it would make the ordinary lay listener say "wow?" What would it be? Wavefront reconstruction? Headphones that sense head movement and rotate the stereo sound image in the opposite direction (so as to keep it stable?)Cheap cochlear implants for people without hearing deficiencies that would extend hearing up to 30 kHz?"
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "When the company you work for "reconditions" or "refurbishes" gear, what, exactly, do they actually do?

Actual stories, please, from people who actually know the process."
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "Today most code editing tools now offer syntax coloring...

...so why don't they also offer syntax-aware searching, such as the ability to exclude comments from searching (or to search comments only)?"
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "On second thought, it occurs to me that submitting a Slashdot story about a site whose servers are overwhelmed is... just plain stupid. If you wouldn't mind, please just ignore that submission. Thank you kindly."
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "Conservapedia appears to be undergoing an interesting evolution. Or meltdown. The site was started last fall, initially as a project for about sixty homeschooled students to learn their assigned subject matter by writing encyclopedia articles about it.

However, its rather grandiose home page makes claims for the site that are extravagant compared to the reality. It bills itself as a "a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia." In reality, it has about three thousand "articles" that are amateurish dictionary definitions, extracted from the students' textbooks in an effort to rough out a topic list for the encyclopedia; a score of high-school-term-paper quality articles; and a score of personal essays by Andrew Schlafly on topics in which he has an interest, an expertise, and a fairly right-wing point of view.

After some admiring mentions in conservative blogs by writers who apparently did not really look at the site, it was discovered by non-conservative circles. It has been quite interesting to perform successive Google searchs on "Conservapedia" over the course of the last twenty-four hours, as the conservative mentions get overwhelmed by non-conservatives making mocking fun of the site.

At the moment there appears to be a vicious circle taking place. Vandals are being attracted to the site. The typical vandalism consists of adding over-the-top satiric parody of what the contributors imagine to be Conservapedia's point of view. Non-conservative readers are apparently failing to judge what is real (Conservapedia's bee in its bonnet about Wikipedia's occasional use of British spellings, and CE/BCE for dates instead of AD/BC) and what is vandalism ("However, God has recently revealed on His blog that Jesus is actually His nephew, not His son.")

Their server is currently quite slow. When it is possible to get in and access Recent Changes, there is some evidence that the administrators are not managing to block vandal accounts or delete joke pages as fast as they are being created.

At the moment it almost appears as if the founders of the site have provided free Wiki space to non-conservatives, who are using it to build a satiric website that mocks the founders' opinions.

On December 22nd, an article on Conservapedia was deleted from Wikipedia, either because it did not have a high enough Alexa rank to be considered notable, or because of Wikipedia's liberal bias. Unfortunately, the vandals apparently are not using the Alexa Toolbar, as Conservapedia's Alexa rank still stands at 1,985,594."
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "The Detroit Free Press reports that some kind of "Windows Automotive" software suite named "Sync" will be featured in some cars available Spring 2007, all 2008 Ford models, and Lincoln and Mercury later.

The software does not, apparently, run the engine or do anything directly connected with transportation.

It will, rather, allow the user to "use their vehicle as a computer in key ways, such as hands-free cell phone calls or downloading music or receiving e-mail."

Bill Ford and Bill Gates were reported as saying Ford and Gates said that having high-definition screens in vehicles, speech recognition, cameras, digital calendars and navigation equipment with directions and road conditions will set car companies apart from their competitors in the future. "There are going to be those who have it and those who don't. And even those who get it later are going to be a generation behind," Ford said.

(The higher the screen definition, the better you'll be able to concentrate on driving? Mental note: re-read Marshall McLuhan on "hot" and "cold" media...)"
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "A Boston Globe story The Vision of an MIT Physicist: Getting rid of pesky rechargers says that Marin Soljacic "has a plan that would mean the end of rechargers."

  "In a paper awaiting publication... he has shown that it is possible to use a carefully designed magnetic field to deliver power to anything within about 10 or 15 feet. To recharge a device, the person would just have to leave it within the field — say, in a home office — where it would pick up power using a built-in antenna without harming anything else in the room."

The device "makes use of a concept in physics called resonance... Soljacic realized that he could build a simple antenna that would resonate with a particular kind of magnetic field, allowing the antenna to draw power while the other objects in the room would not. The field is about as powerful as the earth's natural magnetic field, he said."

What's the opposite of turning over in one's grave? Tesla must be smiling down from heaven..."
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "So I bought a nice little digital voice recorder to replace my old cassette. It came in one of those ultrasonically-welded blister packs that's not designed to store anything, and cannot be opened without destroying it utterly.

Inside the package was the recorder, a leather case, a belt clip, a lanyard, a pair of earbuds, two AAA batteries, a USB cable with a unique connector on the recorder end (unlike the device-end USB connectors on any other device I own), a USB docking station, an instruction manual (a funny little perfect-bound book that's too small to shelve with other books and a different size from the funny little perfect-bound books that came with my other devices), a quick-start guide (a laminated plastic trifold card that's a different size etc.), a software CD, a warranty card, and a partridge in a pear tree.

At least there's no wall transformer, thank goodness.

I'm rarely going to connect it to my computer but I don't want to lose all this stuff (much of which is probably hard to replace).

The situation is similar for almost little electronic gadget I buy lately. They come with perhaps an average of a dozen pieces of paraphernalia. All of them (except perhaps the warranty card!) are fairly important to keep. Even when a device comes in a cardboard box rather than a blister package, the box is usually poorly designed for storage, about ten times as bulky as it needs to be, and is unique in size so it won't shelve or stack neatly with other boxes.

What solutions have Slashdotters found for efficiently storing and organizing the paraphernalia associated with the little electronic devices in their lives?"
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  more than 7 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "After a few years... probably as a result of the blue and UV content of fluorescent light... the popular "beige" plastic that houses so many computer components, originally a dignified if boring R=231, G=224, B=210 has become a slightly-mottled yellowy-grey, somewhere around R=241, G=220, B=171. No amount of cleaning will restore the original color.

Clean-looking surfaces acquire subtle fingerprints, then obvious fingerprints, then thin and surprisingly-hard-to-dislodge little dark films or crusts of finger oil. If you virtuously soak a paper cloth in Windex or Mr. Clean or 3M Desk and Office Cleaner or isopropyl alcohol, you discover previously-unnoticed little bezels and grooves and things that are suddenly revealed as telltale dark-brown lines of uneven weight.

That plastic cling-wrap stuff protects the little LCD screen and control panel of that little portable device during shipping, and then the moment you peel it off the surface underneath start to accumulate scratches. (Or if you leave it on, little bubbles form underneath).

I'm tempted to single out Apple as a particularly bad offender, but it's not really true. It just seems worse because a) Apple gear looks better to begin with, and b) it feels like more of a betrayal because Apple gear gives the impression that they did not "cheap out" on the enclosure.

Now, spare me the obvious "planned-obsolescence" explanation. Sure, that's part of it. But they can't really expect you to buy a new computer every six months. If it were planned obsolescence, they'd design the computer that looks brand spankin'-new for exactly three years and then suddenly and swiftly deteriorate into crud... like Dorian Gray.

Seriously... If They Can Put A Man On The Moon... and increase the speed and storage capacity of everything to the point where we need to learn a new SI prefix every few years, why can't they design enclosures that look good for more than a few months? That resist finger-soil and scratching? That don't accumulate cat hairs and lint between the keyboard keys?"
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dpbsmith dpbsmith writes  |  about 8 years ago

dpbsmith (263124) writes "One thing I've noticed is that the people who are told by the TSA that they have been "randomly" selected for baggage inspection have a tendency not to believe it.

I know one couple whose wife has been "randomly" selected four times, while the husband never has been. The wife believes that it is because each of those times, she was travelling by herself, without checked baggage, (whereas she has never been inspected when travelling with her husband with checked baggage).

In "Uncommon Carriers" John McPhee accompanied a truck driver to write about the experience, and buying a trucker's cap to blend in. He says "I would pay for my freedom at the Seattle-Tacoma airport when, with a one-way ticket bought the previous day, I would arrive to check in my baggage." His baggage was "randomly" selected for inspection, and later he was "once again 'randomly selected' for a shoes-off, belt-rolled, head-to-toe frisk."

So, what about it? Is the TSA simply flat-out lying when they tell you that you have been "randomly selected?""

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