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Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Stand on Daylight Saving Time?

plasticsquirrel Here in China... (613 comments)

In China, there is one single time zone (Beijing Time, UTC+8), and there is no daylight savings time. This means that for all of China, throughout the entire year, everyone is on the same time and never has to monkey around with adjusting the time. Coming from the U.S. where we have multiple time zones plus daylight savings time, I feel like the simplicity of time here in China is a nice little luxury. The only time I ever have to worry about time changes or time zones are when I'm contacting people in foreign countries.

For the extreme west, Tibet and Xinjiang, there is an unofficial time zone (UTC+6), but this is just a common local practice, and Beijing Time is always the official time. During the Republic era, China actually had 5 time zones, but they learned their lesson and realized simplicity is a virtue.

about three weeks ago

Chinese Couple Sells Children To Support Online Game Addiction

plasticsquirrel Re:Silly season much (131 comments)

It depends on who you are and where you are. Ethnic minorities can have more than one child, so their ethnic group and culture do not become diminished. Rural villagers can also have more than one child sometimes, especially if their first child is not a boy. In some cases, they can keep having children until they get a boy. That is thought to reduce the incentive to engage in infanticide of female babies. Doctors are also not allowed to tell prospective parents whether their child will be a boy or a girl -- that is forbidden because it could also lead to infanticide. Finally, if the parents are wealthy, then they can simply pay the fine for extra children, and then it doesn't matter.

about 4 months ago

Prof. Andy Tanenbaum Retires From Vrije University

plasticsquirrel Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (136 comments)

Minix 3 will probably keep going as an open-source project, and maybe he will be even more involved?

I feel it necessary to point out, though, that OS X is not a microkernel system comparable to Minix. OS X is largely monolithic, so if one part of the core system crashes, the whole system crashes. Minix 3 is far more ambitious because everything that is not in the (truly tiny) microkernel runs as a separate server process. For example, drivers are running in their own process, so if a driver crashes, the rest of the system can continue running.

To manage the system, Minix has a so-called "reincarnation server" that restarts core system daemons if they go down unexpectedly. It's totally modular and redundant -- far more ambitious and advanced in its design than Linux or OS X. Minix is designed from the beginning to never go down. There is nothing else like that in the Unix world.

This talk by Tanenbaum describes the Minix 3 design in much greater detail:

Youtube: MINIX 3: a Modular, Self-Healing POSIX-compatible Operating System

about 5 months ago

China May Build an Undersea Train To America

plasticsquirrel Re:What American goods would China buy? (348 comments)

China buys many American cars, as well as European and Japanese cars. Chinese cars are generally held in disdain, as their quality is regarded as inferior. And in China, a car is a status symbol more than anything. You should try visiting China before claiming utter nonsense about purchasing habits. There is a lot of money in China, most of it held by a large upper-class that has more than enough cash to buy a Ford.

about 7 months ago

China Censors "The Big Bang Theory" and Other Streaming Shows

plasticsquirrel Re:One of these things is not like the others... (166 comments)

The Big Bang Theory is hugely popular among young people in China. It's one of the most famous American TV shows there, and it is (was) very widely circulated. There are many jokes they don't really "get," but they still really like it.

about 6 months ago

Linux 3.15 Will Suspend & Resume Much Faster

plasticsquirrel Re:Who cares? (117 comments)

You know, an idle kernel doesn't use much of your battery life. Bulky programs that crunch and munch on the CPU do. Saying, "Linux this" and "OS X that" doesn't make sense unless you know that it boils down to the kernel and kernel drivers. Have you run powertop to examine exactly which processes and drivers are responsible for draining your battery? Have you followed the recommendations given by powertop?

Finally, have you considered the possibility that your battery might be crap, and that a higher capacity battery that works properly may be the solution, rather than abandoning your entire operating system, or abandoning the entire computer?

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?

plasticsquirrel Elegant code is... (373 comments)

Elegant code is...

  • Simple -- leveraging the "natural" way to use the programming language
  • Compact -- not cluttered with special cases and boilerplate
  • Logical -- like secondary documentation, acting as a clear description of how to solve a problem
  • Modular -- functions or classes should be clearly grouped as modules
  • Easy to understand -- not full of stupid hacks and "clever" tricks
  • Reasonably efficient -- performing reasonably well, not at the expense of simplicity
  • Maintainable -- any decent programmer could pick up the code without fear and trepidation
  • Commented -- some comments should be present, but not too much
  • Correct -- it should do what it is meant to do, and only this

There are also some languages that I view as inherently elegant, and others that I consider not to be so. C, Python, and Ruby all allow breathtaking elegance in their own way. C with its spartan manner of managing the machine, Python with its ridiculously readable pseudocode-like syntax, and Ruby with its pure object system and powers of abstraction. On the other hand, some other languages like C++, Java, Haskell, Javascript, PHP, BASIC, and Erlang will never be languages that lend themselves to true beauty and elegance. All of those languages either have serious flaws, or they do not allow programmers to express their ideas eloquently in code. In a good language, your ideas should pop out as the most important thing, not the language itself.

about 8 months ago

CDE 2.2.1 is released.

plasticsquirrel Classic Unix desktop (1 comments)

Great news for anyone who is interested in classic Unix desktop software. For many years, CDE was the standard Unix desktop environment, but one that was always missing from Linux and BSD. Having CDE as open source brings one of the last few pieces of proprietary software into the free Unixes, and it's nice to see that developers are hard at work fixing bugs and improving portability. Congrats to the CDE team for this release.

about 9 months ago

Yes, You Too Can Be an Evil Network Overlord With OpenBSD

plasticsquirrel Nobody is saying that this is "news" (49 comments)

This is an article helping people understand more about tools that ship in OpenBSD, and how they can be used in neat ways. Maybe you don't find anything informative or interesting, but I did and many others may too. Computing is a broad field, and not everyone has exposure to these networking tools. This is the sort of thing that should be on Slashdot, rather than "Why aren't there more female computer science majors so we can drive down wages?" type of "news items."

about 9 months ago

Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough

plasticsquirrel Re:Simpler answer: It was a con (160 comments)

You may want to read the article before jumping to conclusions. The authors have identified many of the plants and animals as those of the New World, including specific breeds of cattle introduced from Spain, animals like the Ocelot, and others. Their study is very thorough, and it includes study of texts they have found with similar scripts and languages. Their conclusion is that it came from 16th century Spain, and was written in an Aztec language by natives who had been educated by the Spanish (and their evidence for this is quite convincing). From the conclusion of the research:

We note that the style of the drawings in the Voynich Ms. is similar to 16th century codices from Mexico (e.g., Codex Cruz-Badianus). With this prompt, we have identified a total of 37 of the 303 plants illustrated in the Voynich Ms. (roughly 12.5% of the total), the six principal animals, and the single illustrated mineral. The primary geographical distribution of these materials, identified so far, is from Texas, west to California, south to Nicaragua, pointing to a botanic garden in central Mexico, quite possibly Huaztepec (Morelos). A search of surviving codices and manuscripts from Nueva España in the 16th century, reveals the calligraphy of the Voynich Ms. to be similar to the Codex Osuna (1563-1566, Mexico City). Loan-words for the plant and animal names have been identified from Classical Nahuatl, Spanish, Taino, and Mixtec. The main text, however, seems to be in an extinct dialect of Nahuatl from central Mexico, possibly Morelos or Puebla.

about 9 months ago

Finnish Police Board Wants Justification For Wikipedia's Fundraising Campaign

plasticsquirrel Soulskill and Timothy (252 comments)

I wrote to Timothy some of my recommendations in this comment), and it seems that some major ones have been addressed -- including the layout and amount of text that is visible. I don't know if that was in response to what I wrote, but either way I appreciate it. At this point, fixing Beta must be the most thankless job on Earth. ;-)

One other big recommendation I have is to not show pictures by default (icons are okay). Often these images are not directly related to the article, so they are just there to add some color to the screen, at the expense of the article text itself. (1) Maybe it's asking too much for the pictures to simply "go away" if they are unnecessary, but I think that would be positive. (2) Another option might be to default the users who are not logged in to see pictures, while default the readers who logged in to seeing just the text. The idea would be if you are not logged in, you're a peon who enjoys colorful irrelevant pictures, whereas if you are logged in, you just want to read the article. (3) Another possibility, the simplest, would be to resize these thumbnails to be smaller, so they intrude less on the article text. Ideas #1 and #3 would be the simplest approaches.

I think addressing the image thing would be a big improvement to Beta, and is one of the major things at the heart of what all the protest is about. Basically, that Slashdot as a technical site is about text, not just a slideshow of pretty pictures. Slashdot can keep pictures, but they should be resized appropriately since they are not really the point of the site (just colorful distractions).

about 10 months ago

Not Just Healthcare.gov: NASA Has 'Significant Problems' With $2.5B IT Contract

plasticsquirrel Feedback for Timothy (176 comments)

I was reading this review of Slashdot Beta made last October, which shows a variety of screenshots and also has explanations from Timothy in it.


Honestly, I was impressed by at least some of the reasoning, and I can see how some changes would actually be positive. The problem, though, is that not all the changes are good, and it's far too much at once. There is a potential to lose what is special about Slashdot including its moderation system. They need to examine Beta and see and what needs to change for it to be accepted by the Slashdot community. Off the top of my head:

  1. Less whitespace, fewer pictures: Slashdot is all about the text and what the community writes here. It needs to be clear and easy to see a lot of information at one time. How many times do we have to say this? Just change the fucking CSS already.
  2. The moderation system needs to either stay the same or change only slightly. Major changes are going to disrupt the community and the flow of the discussion. Nobody wants Slashdot reduced to +1 and -1 like this is Facebook and we're all retards posting pictures of hamburgers and ugly babies.
  3. It would be nice if someone from Dice had the balls or the ovaries enough to make a formal apology to the community about how this has been handled. This isn't all Timothy's problem, and he shouldn't have to take all the heat. The future direction of Slashdot is the responsibility of Dice and Alice, so they should be responding and taking responsibility.
  4. Stop forcing everyone to switch over and stop forcing redirection until the actual site is finished. To do otherwise is confusing and disrespectful. Wait until you have a finished product.
  5. Do a better job explaining everything to the community and respecting the community. Hell, we would be doing a lot of this work for you and making recommendations for you, but Beta was forced on everyone without proper feedback (not to mention the fact that Beta is still unusable and broken).

Here's a real and serious recommendation for Timothy if he wants Beta to eventually succeed without disrupting the Slashdot community: do redirections one day out of the week, and on that one day, have a story posted by Timothy asking the community for feedback -- one day each week for experimentation ("Slashdot Labs Day"). Then for the next 6 days, they can fix the site, while readers continue to use the classic interface. Keep doing that until the big problems in Beta are ironed out and the community is halfway satisfied with it. That is seriously a simple and reliable way that they could fix this and make people happy again. You can take that one to the bank. Unfortunately I don't know if they have the sense to do so because they haven't accepted feedback very well and they haven't kept in contact with the community.

about 10 months ago

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology Dumps Water Data Project

plasticsquirrel Re:Boycott, vote up anti-beta submissions (112 comments)

I'm pretty sure "Slashdot Headquarters" consists of a few cubicles with a few underpaid admins. Dice Holding Company's headquarters are probably much nicer, but I doubt that there are many employees there either! I'm willing to bet that there are just enough to get by and make profits by dismantling websites and genericizing acquisitions according to an unimaginative formula that they believe will help them make net profits in the long run.

about 10 months ago

iWatch Prototypes Could Be Ready, Apple Hires Fitness Physiologists For Tests

plasticsquirrel Re:Re (100 comments)

Am I the only one who really misses those old days and still thinks that the older layout was better? Remember when the pages just loaded all the comments without JavaScript bullshit? Remember when it was still fast despite offering so much, because it was simple? It was easy on the eyes and seemed to be teeming with life and information. :-)

The current design is not as good as that older design, but one thing is certain:


about 10 months ago

iWatch Prototypes Could Be Ready, Apple Hires Fitness Physiologists For Tests

plasticsquirrel Re:They've responded! (100 comments)

There's a perfectly valid alternate design for Slashdot already:


Still looks great -- I prefer it to this design and to Beta. Admins, please bring back the design used around 2000. There is little whitespace, so little wasted space, larger clearer fonts, and still a lot on each page, and little or no JavaScript cruft. Besides those significant improvements, it looks warmer and more classic.


about 10 months ago

The Standards Wars and the Sausage Factory

plasticsquirrel I'm not Slashdot.... (234 comments)

I am not Slashdot -- I am part of the Slashdot community, and the community can go elsewhere. Old Slashdot was pretty good (certainly not perfect), but it was mostly the people here that made it great, and they were just guided by a sensible and intelligent framework (the moderation system was special), and a common goofy culture (Soviet Russia, Natalie Portman, insensitive clods...).

Don't feel discouraged, and don't think that this current Slashdot is the only option. New Slashdots can replace it because the website code ("Slash") is open-source. AltSlashdot is looking at getting this code up and running. Maybe there will be a variety of Slashdots in the future, who knows? In any case, we know that we don't need Dice, and we don't necessarily need the past history of Slashdot. New frameworks can be set up, people can go to a new site, and the electrons will flow elsewhere. In open-source terminology, we can fork Slashdot at anytime, and since Cowboyneal isn't an editor anymore here, I won't feel bad about leaving him behind.


about 10 months ago

Sony Selling Off VAIO Computer Business

plasticsquirrel Re:So who is left (204 comments)

East Asian companies, basically. Acer (Taiwan), Asus (Taiwan), Lenovo (China), Samsung (Korea), and Toshiba (Japan). In Japan and Europe, they also have NEC (Japan) and Fujitsu (Japan). Not all of them are selling traditional desktops in western markets, though, which is unfortunate. As for western companies, the number of big manufacturers has really been cut down to a tiny number -- Dell and HP, basically.

about 10 months ago

Sony Selling Off VAIO Computer Business

plasticsquirrel Re:Fuck Beta (204 comments)

Indeed, a company that neglects the views of a site's user community is truly clueless. Slashdot has its own traditions, and Slashdotters like the fact that it has an older and faster design that allows more content on the page. That's part of what makes this site special. If Dice doesn't understand some of these very basic matters, then I don't trust them with the future of Slashdot.

The new design is really ugly Web 3.0 crap, by the way. Just a bunch of huge pictures, excessive whitespace, and fade effects -- treating a technical website like a picture book for Joe Sixpack! Part of the greatness of Slashdot was always its special moderation system, also, which controlled discussions in a positive way (not just +1 or -1 for dumb-dumbs). Talk about not understanding your demographic...

about 10 months ago

North Korea's Home-Grown Operating System Mimics OS X

plasticsquirrel Re:Serious question (252 comments)

That is one feature of CJK fonts. Most characters are square (same width as height), originally aligned along a grid. When you want to typeset western languages like English, you need to figure out how those foreign letters match into this East Asian typographic grid. The result is the division of characters into full-width and half-width. As a result, the Roman characters in East Asian fonts are often half-width, which looks jarring to us (full-width would look even worse to us). Unfortunately, CJK punctuation is also divided into full-width and half-width. If half-width characters for western languages and punctuation are used a fair amount, that destroys the original grid alignment. This means that the whole thing becomes pointless unless there is some formatting policy or typographic engine to handle the matter. Since ancient times, the ideal has always been to have a grid of characters where characters are aligned horizontally and vertically:


I would show some real examples, but apparently Slashdot only allows a very small range of Unicode characters, meaning that I can't even post some basic Chinese here. :-(

about 10 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Are Linux Desktop Users More Pragmatic Now Or Is It Inertia?

plasticsquirrel Re:I'm using FVWM... (503 comments)

Why would anybody laugh at that? I've used FVWM for years, and I don't intend to switch for many more years. It's basically MWM with virtual desktops and total programmability. It basically does all the things that a window manager needs to do. New versions still come out (the last version came out less than 2 years ago), and it has all the bells and whistles for a window manager like antialiased fonts, transparency, etc., and it's highly programmable and customizable (you run scripts and issue commands at runtime even).

If you really want primitive, look at TWM. That's basically stayed the same since the 1980s, and can be seen on many old workstations of that era. It's also common to see TWM on servers that need an X11 session, but don't need a full desktop environment, like if X11 is only running for remote VNC access on a headless server.

about 10 months ago



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