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How Relevant is C in 2014?

melonman C++ is C (641 comments)

Modern, best-practice C can be compiled with a C++ compiler. (There are a few gotchas moving in either direction - http://www.cprogramming.com/tu... - but it's not hard to avoid them.) For all its object-oriented impurity and spec-bloat, the one thing I love about C++ is that you can write relatively high-level code when that makes sense, but you always have the option to grapple with all the fine detail when that's useful.

about two weeks ago
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Labor Department To Destroy H-1B Records

melonman H1B applicants are people too (190 comments)

The article doesn't seem to point out the obvious explanation, ie that H1B applications contain personal data (of the type Slashdotters are usually passionate about protecting), and that it is good practice not to keep such information hanging around once it has served its primary purpose. There are presumably solutions to the research concerns, such as aggregating the data before it is deleted or collecting the specific data necessary before the records are deleted.

about 2 months ago
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Spamhaus Calls for Fining Operators of Insecure Servers

melonman Another cure that is worse than the disease (170 comments)

This sounds great in theory but, in practice, it's going to be almost impossible to enforce (eg whose definition of 'vulnerable'?) and it would promptly create several new Internet plagues, eg the "Your server has a vulnerability, pay us now to stop us reporting it" spam email.

1 year,24 days
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Why Is Broadband More Expensive In the US Than Elsewhere?

melonman Re:That's overly simplistic - population density k (569 comments)

The picture you paint of Europe is a little simplistic too. France has a few large cities, but the tenth-biggest one has less than half a million inhabitants. It has tens of thousands of villages with 1000 or less inhabitants. And you get a choice of cheap ADSL provider in most of those small villages.

about a year ago
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Can GM Challenge Tesla With a Long-Range Electric Car?

melonman Not if, when (466 comments)

The answer to "Could someone else make this thing I just made" is always "yes", eventually. We have patents to slow the arrival of the "yes" answer enough so that the first person to do so gets to make a bit of money.

But in this case (and most other cases) there's more than one way to do it and a lot of relevant technology, a lot of which is general car technology. And in every case, sooner or later, the huge company with a huge patent portfolio and huge expertise in manufacturing is going to win the "lowest price point" game... if they want to.

At the moment, the big players don't think there's a big enough market to make it worth their while to compete aggressively. At some point that will change, and at that point GM and other huge companies will develop, licence or acquire whatever technology they need. At the moment, Tesla is selling a niche product. That's great, but it hardly the same as producing electric cars for everyone.

Or, to put it the other way round, does anyone see Tesla scaling production up to anything like GM's level while GM quietly hands them market share and eventually gets out of the car business?

about a year ago
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Writing Documentation: Teach, Don't Tell

melonman Re:Stack Overflow (211 comments)

My experience is that I have to read 10 Stack Overflow responses to find one that gives me a clue to the right answer... and that this is still usually a faster way to find a solution than trying to work it all out myself. It's usually one of the "No, that's wrong because..." post that turns the lights on for me.

about a year ago
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My SSID Is...

melonman Random (458 comments)

Smart ISP routers in France come pre-configured with a unique, obscure SSID and a unique, long and obscure WPA key.

about a year ago
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Ubuntu Edge Now Most-Backed Crowdfunding Campaign Ever

melonman Re:Superlatives are superlative! (104 comments)

I can't see how this tells them anything useful about price points for retail sale. The people who pledged money are agreeing to buy an untested phone in a year's time. That's way beyond even "normal" "early adopters". To do that, you have to be really passionate about new technology AND be able to pay a premium price for a phone you can't use for 12 months.

I've spoken to several people who, like me, might well have paid if the phone would be shipped today or in a couple of months. But with the timescales in the proposal the "price points" are for venture capitalists plus people with money to spare who just want a slice of a neat idea.

None of this tells us anything about how much they could sell production phones with this spec for in a year's time, and it's pretty much certain that to achieve any kind of market share they'd have so drop prices compared with the ones they tried this month.

about a year ago
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Excess Coffee May Be Linked To Early Death

melonman Thinly disguised non-story (220 comments)

They make this claim in the first paragraph and then spend the next four pages pointing out that they didn't check lifestyle, didn't distinguish caffeinated and decaff and that half a dozen other studies have shown health benefits of drinking coffee, and conclude by saying that health experts are not putting coffee on any lists for lack of hard evidence.

about a year ago
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Larry Ellison Believes Apple Is Doomed

melonman Re:Yeah, Larry Ellison's advice ... (692 comments)

Exactly. (For younger readers, Ellison was all over the media 20 years ago announcing that Network Computers would be the nemesis of Microsoft in the very near future. I don't think waiting for the Chromebook was part of the game plan at the time.)

about a year ago
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Maneuvering Continues For Control of Dell

melonman Worked example of the importance of namespaces (57 comments)

Does anyone else think this whole sage would be much simpler if the media consistently referred to people:dell or company:dell?

about a year ago
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Poll Shows That 75% Prefer Printed Books To eBooks

melonman Slow death despite nostalgia? (312 comments)

I'd be interested to see the answers broken down by age. It may well be that most of the people who love paper books will be dead in 20 years.

I suspect there's also a "fake good" effect, in that people feel they ought to be supporting their local bookshop and therefore say that they do, even if, in fact, they buy a book a year in an airport and every other book on Amazon.

Personally, I really like paper, even for technical books, but all my colleagues look at me like I'm wearing sabre-toothed tiger skins and wielding a club.

about a year and a half ago
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Trying To Learn a Foreign Language? Avoid Reminders of Home

melonman Definition of "reminder" (200 comments)

If we take this to its logical conclusion, ex-pats should lose the ability to speak the local language whenever they look at their spouse. And Chinese staff in a Chinese restaurant outside of China wouldn't have a hope. This has not been my experience. I suspect that the experiment is not demonstrating what the experimenters think it is demonstrating.

about a year and a half ago
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OK City Data Center Built To Withstand Winds Up To 310 MPH, Says Contractor

melonman Re:Rather odd secret to keep. (139 comments)

Maybe to avoid Titanic Syndrome ("A boat even God couldn't sink"). Not that I think God goes around sinking boats and blowing down data centres to win arguments. But if your data centre does get damaged in a storm, and you haven't claimed that it's indestructible, you don't end up being used as a moral cautionary tale about the perils of pride for the next 100 years.

about a year and a half ago
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Ad Exec: Learn To Code Or You're Dead To Me

melonman Right conclusion, wrong arguments (339 comments)

I think that everyone should learn to code. Not because it will make them a programmer. Not because it will enable them to estimate how long something will take, not least because experienced programmers are legendarily bad at doing that anyway. Everyone should learn to program because programming makes the modern world go round, and it's good for everyone to have at least an inkling of what that involves.

We teach a lot of kids chemistry, without any expectation that they will invent a new compound that will change the world. We teach a lot of kids physics, without any expectation that they'll make a significant contribution to subatomic particle research. We teach most kids to do creative writing and poetry, without expecting the vast majority of them to produce fiction or poetry of publishable quality. I don't see why we wouldn't teach programming alongside all those other topics that most students never master and never "need".

One argument for teaching a lot of academic subjects widely is that the skills you learn along the way have wider application than the topic itself. And it seems to me that this argument holds at least as well for programming as for, say, pure math. As programmers keep saying, programming is about analysis, structure, models... is there really no application whatsoever for those skills outside of hardcore programming? Does no-one ever wish that their managers had a better grasp of "system"? Yes, of course, you can acquire these skills in other places. But the thing about programming, pretty much from the outset, is that your pious beliefs about system will stop your code from performing correctly unless those beliefs are reasonably accurate. I sometimes tell people that I do executable philisophy - it's all about logic, but, unlike the philosopher, my logic has to work.

No, a bit of Python won't enable people to produce estimates for projects. But it may enable managers to understand why writing code once to do something that needs doing often is often a good plan (and, also, why it sometimes isn't). It may enable managers to understand why "Can we just change this one assumption" at the end of a project may involve restarting the entire project.

Yes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But the little knowledge is out there already on the TV station of your choice. I don't even like Python that much, but I'd still much rather deal with erroneous assumptions based on a bit of Python experience than deal with erroneous assumptions based on watching Mission Impossible and NCIS.

about a year and a half ago
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Python 3.3.0 Released

melonman Re:Python 3 and its use (131 comments)

"It's probably now at the point where new projects are better off starting with Python 3, to ease the pain of upgrading later, unless there's a library they really need. Starting with a mature (but depreciated) platform is not a great idea."

Unless you want to use Python on Google App Engine, where Python 2.7 is what you get. And given that Guido himself works for Google on this project, that's not exactly encouraging.

Or unless you want a Python app to work out of the box on, well, just about anything, but OSX is the example that bit me.

I remember discussing Python 3 on /. when it came out. The decision not to even try to ensure backwards compatibility struck me as disastrous. The response was "No, because Python will never have a cruft problem because we are not Perl coders", or something like that. Many years on, I still think it was disastrous. Python now has a bigger legacy code problem than Perl - seen much Perl 4 recently? - precisely because the upgrade path is such a pain.

Killing Python 2 is going to be like killing IE6 and Windows XP - a noble goal that turns out to take decades. And it's a totally self-inflicted wound by the Python community.

more than 2 years ago
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Light Bulb Ban Produces Hoarding In EU, FUD In U.S.

melonman Re:All Edison's fault (1080 comments)

For households that heat electrically, incandescent lighting in winter has to be an excellent idea. You get the light, and in the end all the electricity turns into heat, which is distributed really efficiently across the room. Replacing the light bulbs just means the electric heating is going to work that much harder.

more than 2 years ago
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What Developers Can Learn From Anonymous

melonman Depends on your requirements (120 comments)

I was reading "The mythical man-month" only this weekend, which starts with the observation that "everyone knows" that two kids in a garage can do more than a corporate development team, and then points out that, if this was actually true without caveats, corporations would hire two kids in a garage every time. There's a difference between producing a standalone program and developing/maintaining a product system.

more than 2 years ago
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Startup Aims For $99, Android-Powered TV Game Console

melonman Re:Not that revolutionary (194 comments)

If you want to organise your address book with a joystick or find the nearest restaurant to your television, not at all. But if we're talking about games, I don't think there are "millions" of great games for Android. ISPs who already resell TV channels may have one or two ideas about how to licence games. For example, you don't need to read French to spot the logos and brands on this ISP's website

more than 2 years ago
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Startup Aims For $99, Android-Powered TV Game Console

melonman Not that revolutionary (194 comments)

In France, where almost all domestic broadband is "triple play" (phone, TV and Internet), at least two of the major ISPs offers gaming as part of the functionality of their latest glorified router package. You can't get much easier to install than "It's already there", and the ISPs already have a distribution model that they use to sell view-on-demand video.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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melonman melonman writes  |  more than 7 years ago

melonman (608440) writes "You register your domain with a a major registrar that is owned by a huge backbone provider. Then, when your domain comes up for renewal, they debit your account, produce an invoice for renewing the domain, but don't renew the domain. Your mail starts bouncing, your website vanishes. You google the problem and find that you are not alone. You contact support, and never receive a response. It looks like your domains are about to be lost, and that it will then cost $300 to reclaim them... That's the current state of several domains that our company manages for third parties. What are the options for regaining control over your domains when your registrar screws up and refuses to talk to you?"
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melonman melonman writes  |  about 8 years ago

melonman writes "When three teenagers were caught in the act of stealing money and causing criminal damage to a church in Montana, they probably weren't expecting to receive an early Christmas present from the church members:
The following Sunday, the church's main pastor, John Erbele, used the incident in his sermon to preach about the Christian virtues of mercy and forgiveness. "We've collected several hundred dollars' worth of gift cards, Xboxes and controllers, a DVD, a VCR,"
Is this a church with its heart in the right place, or it's brain on vacation, or both?"

Journals

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Iraqis angry with America in streets, Rumsfeld confused

melonman melonman writes  |  more than 11 years ago

A few days after the 'we saved a country in three weeks and everyone loves us for it' euphoria, reality is starting to set in. See here for example:

Hundreds of Iraqis have been demonstrating in the centre of Baghdad demanding urgent action to combat the wave of lawlessness that has swept the city.

British academics are arguing that the UK and the US are in breach of the Geneva Convention by not assuring the maintenance of law and order (you may remember that the US administration was very concerned about this convention a week ago).

And it is patently obvious that Rumsfeld just doesn't get it:

"Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," he told reporters.

"I don't think there is anyone in those pictures or any human being who does not prefer to be free and recognise that you have passed through a transition period like this and accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom."

There is more to freedom than regime change. Death or major mutilation because you happen to be eating in a restaurant where Saddam Hussein wasn't is not freedom. Watching your baby die because the incubator has been looted from the hospital is not freedom. Yes, most Iraqis are pleased that Saddam's regime has gone, but unless the coalition can deliver law and order, food and water, electricity and infrastructure in the next few days, that joy will turn to bitterness, and they will conclude that the Bush Party is no more to be trusted than the Baath Party.

And the Rumsfeld-Bush line of "it's your country, have fun running it, goodbye and see you at the superbowl" is guaranteed to create the worst case scenario. You can't remove the entire civil service from a country, along with a lot of the infrastructure, and then walk away. That's why it's against the Geneva Convention.

Out of interest, is Fox showing any of this in the States, or is it still Marines crossing bridges and those few no-longer celebrating Iraqis of a week ago?

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Cybercafe goes to Redhat 8

melonman melonman writes  |  more than 11 years ago

This week was network upgrade time. We reformatted our server that had been running RH7.3 and installed RH8. In the process, we also changed browsers and office suite.

It all went a lot more smoothly than last time, mainly I think because we knew what the potential problems were this time around, and we were serving customers within 3 working hours of putting in the CDs.

Things I like about the new setup:

  • RH8 looks a lot nicer than any other version of Linux I have seen. I guess it looks more like Windows, but then that doesn't upset our customers too much.
  • We found the rpm for getting embedded Acroread within Gecko browsers, which is going to save us a lot of messing around.
  • We upgraded from ccmsn to amsn, which seems to work somewhat better and look a lot more like the M$ version
  • We now have a browser running in French.
  • We finally set up a system to clean up user accounts after each login, which means no more porn on the desktop and no more saved passwords (or, once, credit card details)
  • Java 1.4.1 seems to work a lot better than whatever I had before, especially for chat clients.

Things I am less impressed with:

  • Phoenix, which I generally find to be wonderful, blows up consistently on the French Yellow Pages site, which meant I ended up installing Galeon instead.
  • Galeon seems to seg fault if people click more than once on the icon bar icon, which of course all Windows users do
  • Open Office seems to die permanently if you double click, and the only solution I have found is to delete the .openoffice directory, which is not exactly convenient. I'm going to write a short wrapper script to detect double clicks...
  • The cp command doesn't seem to work as advertised in man!!! Force doesn't, and it doesn't seem to copy dot files. I ended up writing my own copy routine in Perl...

Still, on balance, I think we have a better system than we had before, and the punters seem to like it, which is what pays the bills :-)

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Why I hate pop-ups more than spam

melonman melonman writes  |  about 12 years ago

So there I am typing away, and suddenly my server starts grinding to a halt. I trace the problem to client account 3, I have a look at his terminal, and, 4 windows behind the one he is looking at, there is a pop-up ad with some wonderful javascript-enabled animated gif thingey whirring away in the background. The trouble is that this ie enough to pretty well saturate the local network and tie up the server.

On the other hand, deleting spams takes me a few seconds a day. If it became a problem I would set up a filter, but, for the moment, it just isn't worth it.

Why don't I block pop-ups? Because a lot of sites used by my clients use them for legitimate purposes. The AOL site is a classic (and annoying) example. In a cybercafe, the last thing you want is to have to teach your clients to reconfigure the system. Some people will never get it, and the ones that do will promptly reconfigure everything else Because They Can.

So I'm all for making pop-up ads illegal, and sending the spam merchants a Christmas card...

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melonman melonman writes  |  about 12 years ago

At last it happened! Well, it would have been nice to have my first fan before my first freak, but such is life.

Wish I knew what all this friend and foes stuff was about though. As far as I can tell, the main way you make friends on /. is to violently disagree with someone for a while. Very odd. But probably ressuring. It's nice that people can disagree without feeling the need to blow each other up.

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melonman melonman writes  |  about 12 years ago

Mentioned my slashdot habit to the wife. Big mistake. I keep telling her that this is important research, keeping up to date with issues of burning importance, but she insists I'm frittering my day away. That's women for you...

Of course what I'm really frittering my day away doing is

  • replying to emails that don't really need answers
  • Reorganising my filing system
  • Reorganising my email folders
  • Setting up filters to reorganise my email folders
  • Trying to work out where all my email has been filed by the filters

And so on. Which is not actually wasted time at all, it's an investment for the future. Honest.

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What is it about chat anyway?

melonman melonman writes  |  more than 12 years ago

I suppose I would stand more chance of fixing my webchat problems if I ever used any of these sites myself. I've tried, I really have, but I always seem to end up watching 74 illiterate 13 year-olds having a swearing contest.

Well, I did spend a few hours on the ltsp chat line once. Didn't manage to solve my problem, but I helped a couple of people who understood ltsp even less than I did to get started. Which made me feel very good about myself. Until I realised that it was 3:30am and I had to go to work the following day....

Maybe this chat thing works better if you meet up with people you already know. But for the people who would fall into this category in my case, swapping emails seems to work. Sure, the answers take a bit more time to arrive, but at least there is some hope of the content of the messages making sense.

Or maybe I'm just too old. My parents persist in writing emails that look like letters. Maybe I'm trying to use chat as email.

Or maybe chat just sucks and my clients haven't noticed yet :-)

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Why do my browsers keep dying?

melonman melonman writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Good day in the cybercafe. All ten ltsp terminals at work, including 2 copies of Star Office and 4 java chat sessions. 85% CPU usage. Whatever that means, but the result was that everything was slooooow. Maybe I'll see if Father Xmas can get me a new CPU.

Rather less sanguine about the fact that java chat sessions are so flakey. I really don't get it, as

  • Some days everything works fine, other days the sessions fall over every 32 minutes
  • Sites seem to go through phases of not working. Yahoo went through a not working phase for a week a while back, fine now. Caramail is the most popular, and the most random
  • In the case of Caramail (very popular French site, only works with NS4), I can have one user for whom it works like a dream sitting next to another user for whom it won't work at all, or freezes every 4 mouseclicks.

The customers have all sorts of theories about which machines work the best, but since they disagree about which machines to go for I'm not convinced. Our one disked terminal does seem better, sometimes. It's not the famous mozilla flash problem: fixed it with crossover plugins. Seems to get worse when the machine is busier, or is the machine busy because of all the dead and decaying java?

Still, I guess life would be dull if our computers were as deterministic as they are supposed to be...

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