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Preferred smartphone screen size?

mrthoughtful SI Units for nerds, please (130 comments)

Can we have SI Units on slashdot please? Especially as this site if for nerds like me.

9 hours ago

50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal

mrthoughtful Re:I say BS (224 comments)

Why is BASIC bad?
(1) It encourages poor programming practices by
  a) not including good code block semantics.
  b) not supporting classes
  c) not separating library (or OS) calls from language primitives
  d) having no proper concept of scope
  e) not having a standard

(2) Being a suboptimal interpreted language - I remember that CLS was around 100 times slower than a Z80 routine.

Of course, you may be thinking of modern BASIC implementations - well, that's a different thing altogether.
The BASICs (eg on the Spectrum, C64, etc) I knew were just rubbish.
I guess you could argue that it's an implementation thing - but actually, it's hard to go wrong with something like Java, or C. I remember some LISP interpreters were pretty slow also..

about 6 months ago

C++ and the STL 12 Years Later: What Do You Think Now?

mrthoughtful I use it, love it. (435 comments)

We just migrated our codebase from C++ STL to C++11 and in general, it was worth the pain.
The main benefits for us were better awareness of modern character encoding - but stuff like lamda functions are pretty cool too, and we could probably tidy up a lot of our earlier code to use more C++11 features.

I was brought up on Assembler (Z80, 680x0) and moved to 'C', and then migrated to 'C++', so my early C++ was very C-like (not unusual). However, I've not looked back. I know that you are asking about C++11, but C++ itself is probably worth highlighting.

I also know Java, Obj-C, (and a bunch of other languages that I have used in less commercially sensitive contexts) and there's a lot to be said for them too. But when I feel like getting close to the metal, it's C++ for me. I guess it's b/c one can still (just about) follow the assembler generated by it.

But then I'm old in my approach. Modern optimising compilers, with coding strategies, static analysis (as well as excellent IDEs) probably have more effect on my productivity than any language sub-variant.

about 6 months ago

50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal

mrthoughtful I say BS (224 comments)

(1) It wasn't a language that made computers personal, it was the advent of the microchip, and, as a consequence, the microcomputer.
(2) The first language I learned was BASIC. It was so bad that I then learned assembler.
(3) My experience of BASIC was so bad that I didn't want anything to do with it, even though using it to compose LUTs would have been very useful
(4) Then 'C' became cheap, and then free. I haven't written anything in BASIC for over 30 years.

about 6 months ago

Can Reactive Programming Handle Complexity?

mrthoughtful Marketing Hype... (149 comments)

This is just marketing hype dressed up as a question. Having said that, anything that gets anyone enthused about programming is good, I guess.

What I really don't like is when Val Huber refers to a previous article he submitted as if it were written by a third party.
Now, I love SQL (and triggers are ok) - and so does Val Huber - I'm sure we would get along fine.
Val, you've been doing SQL for 20 years! woot. So that means you started back 'round '94.
(Aw. I started back in '85. I was doing websites in '94 - remember Lycos?)

But it's just using SQL Triggers, Val - why give it some sort of fancy name? Ohh everyone else does that, like "Web2"? or "The Cloud", etc?
Still stinks - but hopefully someone may actually pick up how to use some of the cool features of SQL.

about 8 months ago

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology Dumps Water Data Project

mrthoughtful Agencies taking their clients money (112 comments)

It sucks when some designers or an agency comes along and takes all your money and then produces utter shite, which you are expected to pay for, because you asked for their advice. Like Slashdot. What an epic mess.

about 9 months ago

Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

mrthoughtful Fail (2219 comments)

OMG, no UTF-8?! OMFG driving everything via javascript?

My fellow slashdotters, we have a voice. We know how to use it.

about 9 months ago

Sound System Simulates the Roar of a Rocket Launch

mrthoughtful In space no-one can hear you scream. (113 comments)

The obvious interpretation, that this device blasts satellites and spacecraft while they are in space, is impossible. Actually all sorts of things (including the aforementioned) are placed into a chamber for sonic vibration testing. Satellites are tested this way for launch-worthiness, not space-worthiness.

about 9 months ago

Drone-Mounted Laser Weapons Are On the Way

mrthoughtful Re:Someone at DARPA reads way too much Sci Fi. (116 comments)

If I'm understanding the summary correctly, the purpose isn't to have a way for the drones to defend themselves, but to have drones that can defend a Navy ship, an army base, etc.

TFA is about drone self-defence..

If a Predator drone were to get shot down [...] the bad side is that you just lost a $4 million piece of equipment. So, in a bid to keep drones protected, DARPA is funding research into drone-mounted laser weapons.


The project, called Endurance, is [...] being tasked with the development of "technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy EO/IR guided surface-to-air missiles."

Moreover, ships and bases already have great anti-missile defence technology - and the only advantage that would have using drones in a defensive role would be if there is poor LOS, in which case the strategists would be out of a job, if not court-martialed. Moreover, the ship/base airspace would be cluttered. Most UAV designs are for long endurance missions. the article refers to MALE UAVS (Predator / Reaper), and hints at HALE UAVs such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the RQ-170 Sentinel .

Note that the Iranians downed an ultra-secret RQ-170 Sentinel using EW (electronic warfare), not missiles. Lasers won't be much help with emerging EW technology.

about a year ago

Drone-Mounted Laser Weapons Are On the Way

mrthoughtful Re:Someone at DARPA reads way too much Sci Fi. (116 comments)


I believe this is a sign that an AI has gone rogue and managed to sneak this project in as a "DARPA Initiative" as a means to protect its fledgeling race of flying robot killers.


Hah, well assuming that you aren't merely posting for humour value, I would suggest that; as the primary cause of failure in these UAVs is equipment failure, operator error, and weather; the AI you refer to isn't particularly intelligent. If it were intelligent then it would be attempting to fund research into greater autonomy for AI systems...

about a year ago

Drone-Mounted Laser Weapons Are On the Way

mrthoughtful Someone at DARPA reads way too much Sci Fi. (116 comments)

Drone figures from WP show that as of Q1 2009, of the 223 USAF UAVs in operational service, only 4 were shot down. Whereas 11 were lost due to accidents (mainly flying into things), and 55 were lost due to equipment failure, operator error, or weather.

Importantly, the current failsafe for OOC UAVs is to shoot them down with AIM-9 missiles, which is what happened to a reaper on 13 September 2009. Developing an autonomous laser defence would preclude this failsafe.

In brief, the US government should be spending it's money on other problems. Given a vote, I doubt that the US populace would sign up for this particular budgetary spend.

about a year ago

NSA Scraping Buddy Lists and Address Books From Live Internet Traffic

mrthoughtful Cloud Service Security = Oxymoron (188 comments)

Yes. Posting all your contacts on the Internet is open to breaches of privacy (regardless of zero-day exploits).

Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft - all of them kowtow to the NSA, the CIA, the FBI. Why?
Because in return their lobbyists get to bend the ears of the legislators.

Why is anyone surprised by any of this?

1 year,9 days

What Are the Genuinely Useful Ideas In Programming?

mrthoughtful Assembler (598 comments)

I know this sounds strange at first, but before I learned assembler, I didn't really understand what was going on in the heart of the machine. If I were to introduce a programme starting from fundamentals, it would start with an easy assembler (eg Z80, 68000, PIC); this itself introduces the fundamental operations of programming, including assignment, de-referencing, LUTs, stacks, etc.

The next progression would be 'C'. This abstracts out the hardware dependency, but keeps the underlying structure.
This assists with more complex algorithm development, but also shows how the approach to programming developed from assembler.

Following that, I would move onto one of the modern 'C' successors. Personally I use C++, but maybe objective-C would be better.

It totally depends upon your purpose though.. If you want to cover UI/UX stuff, then you should think of a different approach. If you want to cover databases, that's something else again.

But in programming - IMO, the most genuinely 'useful' ideas are things like the registers and special registers that make up a CPU.

1 year,16 days

Should the U.S. bomb Syria?

mrthoughtful Eliminate the weapons, not the people. (659 comments)

In the last few hours it seems that the offer of yielding their entire chemical arsenal may put all of this into a different light.
First of all we must eliminate the possibility of the problem repeating itself.
Later on we can deal with identifying who is to blame and what the consequences should be.

In general, it is nonsensical to surmise that hitters deserve to be hit. The regression indicates that the entire world would be hitting each other.

about a year ago

British Prime Minister Promises Default On Porn Blocking

mrthoughtful Strengthens the TOR userbase (311 comments)

Every time some government gets really stupid, they push more people into finding ways around it. IMO, it would be good to see more people using TOR - which at the moment seems to be filled with idiots, but could serve a much better purpose providing political safety.

about a year ago

The Free State Project, One Decade Later

mrthoughtful Re:Taxation wrong? Sorry, don't get it. Foreign. (701 comments)

No, not really.
Although I was talking about the US health system, and you are clearly not a supporter (who is?!) what I haven't heard is any alternatives that you offer, except for the right to self-determination.

The problem with that is that it sort of forgets that a market economy is governed by the inefficiencies of marketing - and profit-making. Neither of which are beneficial to the end-user. I wish it were so that humans were less prone to the mechanisms of advertising, but we are, and we make bad decisions on this.

You aren't stupid - but neither of us are going to change our views - let's agree to differ on this. No-one else is here, I think.

about a year ago

The Free State Project, One Decade Later

mrthoughtful Re:Taxation wrong? Sorry, don't get it. Foreign. (701 comments)

all those things were old in our species long before the modern state was dreamed up

Of course - derived from the greek city states. But states are indeed an extension of society. Look how the concept of the nation state has provided the R&D opportunities to open up the world. The convention of the 'nation state' is a powerful one, which appears to have served us well. National pride, identity, and patriotism, all are focussed by the perception.

As the world gets smaller, it's true that the idea of the nation state begins to lose it's strength over to larger federations of states - something which you feel threatened by. The end-game is a world government. Not the puppet show that is the UN, but a global administration - but don't worry, it won't happen in our lifetimes. Especially while the US chooses to arbitrarily attack impoverished nations based upon trumped up charges.

about a year ago

The Free State Project, One Decade Later

mrthoughtful Re:Taxation wrong? Sorry, don't get it. Foreign. (701 comments)

Once, I guess, you believed that your mind was free.

Look at the marketing budget used by your top healthcare providers, and talk to me about efficiency.
I suggest you learn about Health economics, and likewise recognise that in the US, which has rejected universal healthcare to date (thanks to the lobbying made by big industry there), the per capita cost of healthcare is about $8,233 whereas everywhere else it's less, by about $3,000. Considering that the US has some of the worst healthcare provision, which itself is pretty dehumanising, I suggest you get back to your calculator and policy books.

about a year ago

The Free State Project, One Decade Later

mrthoughtful Re:Taxation wrong? Sorry, don't get it. Foreign. (701 comments)

Brother states help, because they know that they can receive help in kind when they need it. It's a form of mutual assurance, which is what we are pretty good at as a species. The difficulty, for me, is to envisage how a libertarian state could organise itself to assist anyone. Likewise, how would it involve the powerful from becoming miniature despots and tyrants or worse? Taxation is taxation, regardless of whether it goes to the state, or to the country.

In Europe, we have the EU, which is, in some ways, like a federation of states with an extremely diminished, non-executive, central government. Yes, about 0.5% of my income tax goes to the EU. while about 1% goes to foreign aid. The remaining 98.5% goes to the state, who spends it looking after the aged and destitute (35%), provision of universal healthcare (18%), provision of universal education (14%), national defence (5%), policing (3%), roads and rails (3%), and the remainder on things like investing in industry, and paying off the state debt, with a tiny amount going to intelligence, and the civil service.

about a year ago



Neutrinos: Yup, they're faster than light.

mrthoughtful mrthoughtful writes  |  more than 2 years ago

mrthoughtful (466814) writes "The CERN team who announced neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment — and found the same result.

Acknowledged critics of the first report had said that the long bunches of neutrinos used could introduce an error into the test.

The new work, posted to, used much shorter bunches.

It has been submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, but has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community."

Link to Original Source

How can we get a user-base for our GPL language?

mrthoughtful mrthoughtful writes  |  more than 2 years ago

mrthoughtful (466814) writes "Obyx is an innovative GPLv3 licensed, C++ based, XML-syntax, web template language and engine that we have been developing over the last seven years; and we have used it successfully in the field for the last three years or so for many willing and happy clients.

The language is designed to be easy to learn and to encourage Model-View-Control development. With an XML syntax, and working on XML, it could also be called a Formatting engine (think XSLT but easier), or a Pipeline language (think XProc but more developed); and with a trivial extension to the XPath syntax it does away with the need for FLWR expressions; it is also strongly integrated with RMDBS (either Mysql or PostgreSQL) for storage, having been designed for LAMP architectures.

Because we are a small team, we haven't got the budget or the human resource available to take up membership with W3C, or go out and spend fortunes on marketing. We aren't a great university, or some mega corporation. So far, we can count the number of users on the fingers of one hand. There are lots of other languages that do the same sorts of thing, like PHP.

So, how can we pick up a user base? What kind of community involvement should we expect to invest?"

Link to Original Source

mrthoughtful mrthoughtful writes  |  more than 7 years ago

mrthoughtful (466814) writes "We have worked for several man-years on the development of various proprietary software components, some of which we have no decided to release under GPL, including a new xml scripting language.

What we are looking for is a checklist, or a licensing migration guide in order to best manage the transition regarding the distribution, maintenance and management of OSS under GPL.

Unfortunately, most of the links I can find are based on how users may convert from proprietary to GPL software — but there is little I can find regarding the migration process from the supplier's point of view."



A (possibly) new didactic metaphor for the photon.

mrthoughtful mrthoughtful writes  |  more than 11 years ago As a non-scientist, theoretical and experimental science appears to be concerned with:

  • Recording (in a communicable and replicable manner) an experiment.
  • Interpreting the result to improve our understanding.

At a didactic level, a model normally uses a metaphoric representation of the interpretation. A criteria of success for the improvement of our understanding is whether the proposed didactic model is one (or more) of the following:

  1. Provides a better platform for predicting future results ...
  2. Provides more consistent results ...
  3. Without compromising 1 or 2, is easier to grasp ...

... than prevailing models.
What intrigues me is that if we agree with the above, we do not need to be professional scientists to open new theory, but it helps!

This Article
The well-known didactic metaphors for light are particle, wave, and wavicle. All of these have their strengths and weaknesses, and the purpose of this article is to propose an alternative metaphor, (on the lines of point 3) which may be less paradoxical or restricted than current metaphors. Not being a scientist or a mathematician, the goal is not to eliminate current theory, but merely to provide an easier view into current theory, therefore there must be no wild claims that effect experimental evidence.

The Metaphor
The idea behind this metaphor is first of all a photon is:

  • NOT an itty-bitty thing (aka a classical particle)
  • NOT a wave
  • NOT a wavelike-itty-bitty-thing or 'wavicle'.

All of these have a commonality which we want to get rid of: The photon travels over time and distance.
This is an important flaw in current models: While we are dealing with the idea of an instance travelling over distance and time, we cannot easily reconcile experimental behaviour.

In this model, we shall bring a wave in, but the wave is NOT the photon. The wave is a 'cone' of potentiality of instance, which propogates at the speed of light. The released photon energy occurs within that cone according to the well-known theories that tell us where a photon will 'arrive'.
Let's trace a photon's life.

  1. An electron drops an orbit and a photon-event is initiated.
  2. The photon-event propogates a directed potentiality-of-instance cone at light-speed.
  3. The photon energy manifests probabilistically within than cone (manifests, such as raising an electron up an orbit).

So, the energy does NOT travel. Merely the probability for the energy to arise. This may be (remember, I'm not a scientist) similar to the way an electron does NOT travel between one orbit and another; but for the photon distance is not similarly restricted.
Regarding wavelength, this does not need to be covering distance either. It can be considered to be just a part of the shape of the probability cone.
Regarding conservation of energy - the photon exists in zero-time in all models. There is no time for a traveller while moving at light speed; so conservation is preserved, because in order to leave, the photon must always arrive!
Now we can explain light to non-scientists to our hearts desire, with no problem! No wave, no particle! No Paradox! No contradiction of results!
Why is this not different from photon-as-a-wave?
We are not identifying the wave with the photon. If we do, we have problems associated with dispersal of energy. (I.e. the particle's energy is distributed across the wavefront, and then simultaneously absorbed at a single point!)
Why is this not different from a wavicle?
A wavicle is a poor didactic model, because it implies a sort of tilde-shaped particle, which fails when visualising e.g. grating experiments.

Maybe the photon as a particle goes altogether!
Maybe it is nothing more than a function of probability of instantiation of the electron-shell energy propogating at light-speed!

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