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Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

pmontra Re:Modula-3 FTW! (463 comments)

I just looked at https://github.com/torvalds/li... (picked almost at random.) There are some funny things in there but in general it's pretty readable. I realized that C starts looking as alien to me as assembly looked to me when I was writing C and Pascal at university. Not that I couldn't write in assembly but wow, it's so time consuming that it's only for when there are no alternatives.

yesterday
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Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

pmontra Re:Modula-3 FTW! (463 comments)

Well, do something in a Ruby block end didn't do any harm to that language. The form { something between braces } exists but it's used idiomatically only for one liners, so I don't think that Pascal has been haunted by it's verbosity (OK, probably do ... end is the only verbose part of Ruby.)

I believe that it succumbed to the competition of other languages that people felt to be better suited to the tasks that had to be solved in the 90s and 00s. Every language has its niches. Even C++ is mostly irrilevant on the web. Objective-C had to wait to be mandated for developing on the iPhone to become relevant. Pascal was eaten alive by C (with and without the ++) and VisualBasic on the desktop and never made its way to the web.

Why people liked VisualBasic more than Pascal, that's an interesting question. Maybe the feeling it was a language for the first year of CS courses, maybe the tooling (VisualStudio vs Delphi), maybe the costs? Unfortunately I can't remember how Delphi was sold 20 years ago and how it compared to VisualBasic for building Windows desktop apps, which was almost all it mattered at the time.

yesterday
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

pmontra Re:Chinglish (578 comments)

As I wrote, it was 40 years ago and it was already almost replaced by English. Anyway, this short paragraph is worth reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

about three weeks ago
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

pmontra Re:Chinglish (578 comments)

SI has a French name because France has been main driver beyond its adoption for centuries. France was the main cultural and scientific driver in Europe in the '700 and '800, on par with the UK. Why French was adopted more than English... I don't think the UK was a lesser bully (they built up an empire after all) but maybe the French were more interested in setting up international organizations, whilst the UK was more insular. Maybe it was only a matter of geography: one country on the continent, the other one an island. The USA moved past the regional power stage only in the '900. Given their size their language got all the world quickly. Russian got important for a while in the mid of the last century but the USSR didn't have the same cultural and scientific impact of the USA.

Yes, Pinyin. I forgot about that. It could be the only way to make Chinese mainstream quickly. However we shouln't overlook the power of generational changes: adults die off in a few decades (more or less the time English took to replace French) and children learn whatever language is thrown at them. Anyway I'm sorry for the burden of all those characters. I sincerely hope they'll be replaced by a phonetic alphabet.

about three weeks ago
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

pmontra Re:Chinglish (578 comments)

French was still more lingua franca in western Europe than English, when I was a child 40 years ago. That role still echoes in the name of many international organizations, especially in sports. Check the title at http://www.fifa.com/ and the name of http://www.fia.com/ The languages at http://www.olympic.org/ and at http://www.uci.ch/ are English and French (the original ones for the Comité international olympique and Union Cycliste Internationale). And wonder why http://www.fiba.com/ is FIBA and not IBF despite the title of the page is International Basketball Association. It used to be Fédération Internationale de Basket-ball Amateur. All of them were born at a time when French (the people) were internationally as active as English speakers are now, and English speaking countries where more centered on themselves than they are now. Ultimately the language follows the power and dinamism of countries: if you have to know a language to make money, you learn it. Chinese could be the next one but it's severely handicapped by the writing system. Nobody really wants to learn by heart thousands of characters unless you're born there and have to. I expect a very bumpy transition, if it will ever happen, and a lot of resistence. A Chinese written with latin alphabet would have more chances. Given the attitude of Chinese rulers maybe I'll see them mandating a switch to latin characters, and don't dare to protest. After all they already use qwerty to write Chinese.

about three weeks ago
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Microsoft's New Windows Monetization Methods Could Mean 'Subscriptions'

pmontra Re:I'm sorry (415 comments)

OK that's a possibility, but how could it possibly work? I mean, one goes to a mall and buys a PC for $500 now. That's it. Windows is included and it's supported until EOL for free. That could change to buying the PC for $500 and paying $5 per month for Windows. It's an obvious bad deal and somebody will discover that they don't really need Windows after all, and will install some Linux distro to stop paying. Who cares if they must use Open/Libre Office or Google Docs. They work good enough for most use cases and they have a PS4 or an XBOX for videogames. That would be suicidal for Microsoft. So... how about renting the whole PC? Suppose the average lifetime is 3 years. 500/36 = 13.88, round up to 15, round up more to 20, many wouldn't do the math. $20 per month for a PC with Windows included? Maybe people will like it, but would manufacturers? After 3 years the cashflow would be the same as usual but the transition could kill some of them. Is MS going to build their own PCs? Or: Windows is free (as in beer), copy it, torrent it, install it, but you pay for updates and if you don't you know you're at the mercy of virus and trojans. That won't work well because people feel Windows to be gratis right now: they pay for the PC and don't think about the share that goes to MS.

about a month and a half ago
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Hawking Warns Strong AI Could Threaten Humanity

pmontra Re:Unlikely ignored (574 comments)

And that's what worries me. Cats are hunters but they are at the mercy of smarter hunters, no matter what they are thinking.

about 2 months ago
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Hawking Warns Strong AI Could Threaten Humanity

pmontra Unlikely ignored (574 comments)

If it's intelligent it won't ignore other intelligent beings. What it will do with them, who knows. Help or exterminate? Maybe it will depend by what we'll do with it.

Anyway, if cats had invented men I bet they'll be saying something along these lines: "Those men are very good servants, but I'm sure that when they get out of our homes they do strange things and I don't understand what. Furthermore there is this thing that pisses me off every time I think about it: they took my balls!". Now, I'm not sure I want to be the next cat. Do you guys?

about 2 months ago
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Montana Lawmakers Propose 85 Mph Speed Limit On Interstates

pmontra Re:German autobahn is not an example for you guys (525 comments)

Better training is what I meant when I wrote "yes, there seem to be something wrong in the American approach to driving. Maybe it's time to fix it so you can eventually raise the limit and save a lot of time." I was continuing on AC's "huge difference in driving culture" between the USA and Germany.

I picked those data to demonstrate that less speed doesn't automatically means less deaths. I was not trying to demonstrate a correlation between more speed and less deaths, which I believe is false because of kinetic energy.

about 2 months ago
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Montana Lawmakers Propose 85 Mph Speed Limit On Interstates

pmontra Re:German autobahn is not an example for you guys (525 comments)

They have a column with fatal accidents per billion miles driven. German is still better off than the USA: 4.9 vs 7.6. Italy's value is not available. Not many countries are providing that value. The PDF you linked is about 1994, Wipedia is about 2012 but I confess I didn't opened the sources.

Anyway, most accidents are within cities in Italy (but there is where most people live and work almost in every country). They are almost 3 times the ones on highways and other roads but casualties in cities are 3 times less than the ones for crashes outside cities. So yes, speed kills. You can get a report about 2012 here http://www.istat.it/en/files/2... It's in Italian but you can look at the diagram at the end of the first page. Red line: injured. Gray line: casualties. Blue line: accidents. The scale on the left is for injuries and accidents, the one on the right for casualties. They are official figures. From a table in the next page you can see we had -45% casualties in 11 years. The innovations I can remember are: more stict limits with cameras on the highways (an average speed of 140 is usually safe now, you could do anything if nobody was watching years ago), more alcohol tests on Saturday night (the most dangerous time of the week), a penalty points system for driver licenses.

about 2 months ago
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Montana Lawmakers Propose 85 Mph Speed Limit On Interstates

pmontra Re:German autobahn is not an example for you guys (525 comments)

I live in Italy not exactly what you would think about as a model of driving culture (especially if seen from far away) but anyway... According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... these are the values for Road fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants per year and Road fatalities per 100 000 motor vehicles:

Germany, no limit on highways: 4.3, 6.9
Italy, 130 km/h (81.25 mph): 6.2, 7.6
USA: 11.6, 13.6

So yes, there seem to be something wrong in the American approach to driving. Maybe it's time to fix it so you can eventually raise the limit and save a lot of time. I had to crawl at 55 on the South West interstates many years ago and it's not the fondest memory I have of that vacation.

about 2 months ago
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Physicist Kip Thorne On the Physics of "Interstellar"

pmontra Re:Inconsistent fuel? (289 comments)

Point 1 was explained in TFA. They calculated that if the black hole was spinning fast enough and the planet was tidal locked to it, it could survive. They also explain how those huge waves work and why the sea was so shallow there. Furthermore, they say that the light comes from the accretion disk, which is cooling down and not falling in to the black hole at the moment. If it did it would produce X rays and zap the astronauts to death.

Points 2 and 3. I agree with you. Let's say that the pentadimensional aliens/humans found a way to get out of there. Anyway you can look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... and there was an article about that subject on Scientific American in February 2009. Gargantua's singularity wasn't naked but I remember a paper about how to remove an event horizon (adding more spin to the black hole) and another paper with a rebuttal of the technique. I can't find them again now.

Point 4. I don't understand that too. After all the light gets out. Why not radio waves?

Point 5. Agreed, it's a theory without a proof. Let's say it's an intuition. There might also be a casuality/time paradox there (Norad's coordinates being known because they've been sent after being known) but who knows how time really works.

Finally, to be pedantic, the main vessel didn't escape from Gargantua (it didn't have to). It just changed orbit to an higher aphelion with a slingshot manoeuvre to reach Edmunds' planet. Not different than getting from Earth to Jupiter with a sligshot around the sun. It takes less fuel than having to reach escape velocity.

about 2 months ago
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Physicist Kip Thorne On the Physics of "Interstellar"

pmontra Inconsistent fuel? (289 comments)

*Warming: (mild) spoilers follow*

They leave Earth with a Saturn V like rocket and they take 2 years to go to Saturn. That contrasts Cassini's and Pioneer 11's 6.5 years to get there and the 3 years for the two Voyager probes. Let's say that 2 years is within the bounds of what we could achieve with our technology if we really have to hurry up.

On the other side of the wormhole they do all sort of manouvres landing on (easy) and leaving planets (difficult) with only a small craft (the Ranger). One would expect you need at least a large rocket to lift off from a planet with 80% of Earth's gravity (the ice world).

It seems they burnt normal fuel in the Solar system and used some very energetic fuel later on. Anyway, who cares, it's only fiction :-)

By the way, does anybody know what kind of rocket would be required to leave Mars and fly back to Earth?

about 2 months ago
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Riecoin Breaks World Record For Largest Prime Sextuplet, Twice

pmontra Re:'Sextuplets' (51 comments)

Right :-)
Let me see... the smallest sextuplet is from 3 to 17 but this is not a sextuplet because max - min != 16. I don't want to prove already proved theorems (nor google them) but probably the extremes of a sextuplet made of large numbers must be separated by 16 because of the multiples of 2 3 5 and 7. Maybe there are occasionally more packed sequences of 6 primes but maybe there aren't past some not too large number. Again, it's either a theorem proved by somebody else or some already made conjecture :-)

about 2 months ago
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Riecoin Breaks World Record For Largest Prime Sextuplet, Twice

pmontra Re:'Sextuplets' (51 comments)

From TFA

A prime sextuplet consists of six prime numbers packed together as tightly as possible. For sextuplets, "as tightly as possible" means that the largest is 16 plus the smallest of the numbers.

So it's not 6 consecutive odd numbers that happen to be prime. That's impossible because of the multiples of 3 and 5. This is the lowest sextuplet: 3 5 7 11 13 17 19.

about a month ago
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Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County

pmontra Re:Paper ballots in Sweden since 40 years - cheap (127 comments)

Some companies over there figured out they can make money by selling voting machines abd started lobbying for them. We have less electronics companies in Europe so we've been spared with that until now. Paper and pencil are just right for the task.

about a month ago
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Can the US Actually Cultivate Local Competition in Broadband?

pmontra No, but yes (135 comments)

Due to a well known law of headlines I'd reply No, but if you copy Europe the answer will be Yes. In this case Europe has the advantage of a fragmented market. Different countries, different languages, different operators and different regulations led to competition. No pan-European monopolist.

I don't know if this is widespread (I think it is) but where I live (Italy) unbundling is mandatory and we have new operators using the cables of the former monopolist. In some areas the former monopolist is using the cables of newer companies. There are at least three different fiber networks, unfortunately not particularly fast. 100 Mb/s download and 10 Mb/s upload is the norm for fiber (ADSL goes up to 20 or 30 Mbps with the usual caveats of that technology). I got the feeling that the operators agreed to settle on that and save some money. Fiber was at 10/10 Mb/s 14 years ago. Competiion is never enough.

So, I don't recommend breaking up the US and switching to lots of different languages :-) but maybe you might break down your monopolists, create operators at state level and force unbundling. I read what happened to the Baby Bells and it seems that it worked well for a while. Do it again and by 2020 you'll evaluate what happened and adapt the legislation.

about 2 months ago
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Microsoft To Open Source .NET and Take It Cross-Platform

pmontra Re:Desparate Microsoft pulls a "Sun Microsystems" (525 comments)

Maybe not too little, but yes, it's too late. They should have embraced and estinguished the other platforms when they had a virtual monopoly on both the desktop and the server. In the late 90s it was common to write Java web applications and make them run on Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0. Enterprises were comfortable with Windows and were wary of Linux (unproven technology). It took over in the 2000s.

About being it too little: are they going to port Visual Studio to OS X and Linux?

about 2 months ago
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HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show

pmontra Won't watch (242 comments)

I read the Dune books when I was a kid and loved them. I watched the Dune movie and regretted it. Damage being done, I watched the Dune 3 episode serial years later and that was bearable but I learnt not to watch movies based on books I loved. Their images will prevail on my imagined faces and worlds and this is not good. Furthermore they can hardly improve on something that I already considered very good.

That's why I didn't watch the Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit, or Ender's Game and probably many other movies.

However I watched Bladerunner way before knowing it was taken from a book. I was too young to know about Philip Dick yet. Years later I read the book and was positively amazed about the duality between the book and the movie. Still don't know which one is better but they can coexist because of the differences. For sure the movie's images are stronger the the book's ones in my mind.

about 2 months ago
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The Effect of Programming Language On Software Quality

pmontra Re:More factors to normalise out. (217 comments)

There are only a few ten of thousand cars in the world that have to solve a win-the-race problem. Most of cars must solve the problem go-buying-something-at-the-shopping-center. An Honda Civic wins that race easily against an Indy Car especially if you buy a week's worth of stuff.

Computer analogy: programs written in not so efficient languages can win races to delivery and keep their business alive. An example: GitHub.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Spanish Firm Wins Tablet Case Against Apple

pmontra pmontra writes  |  more than 3 years ago

pmontra (738736) writes "A Spanish company has won a legal case against Apple and will be able to sell an Android tablet that Apple had claimed infringes on the iPad patent. It is now seeking damages from Apple for a temporary seizure of its products by Spanish customs. Furthermore they are pursuing an antitrust complaint against Apple, alleging abusive anticompetitive behavior."
Link to Original Source
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Free Wi-Fi for the Residents of Venice, Italy

pmontra pmontra writes  |  more than 5 years ago

pmontra (738736) writes "The City of Venice, Italy, started to offer free Wi-Fi to residents (Google translation from the Italian source) on July 3 2009. Tourists and other visitors will pay 5 Euros a day for the service starting from September. The hot spots are connected to a ten thousand kilometers (6.250 miles) fiber optic LAN the City started deploying in the '90s. The first day of free Internet access has been celebrated with a digital treasure hunt in the channels of the lagoon city."

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