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Interviews: Jonathan Coulton Answers Your Questions

pthisis Re:First Question (36 comments)

The first question should have been "Who are you and why should I care?".

He did the "Code Monkey" song, as you note. He also composed music for the Left 4 Dead 2, Portal, and Portal 2 soundtracks, and did the theme song for the TV show Mystery Diagnosis. He's featured weekly as the house musician/sometime question designer on NPR's game show "Ask Me Another".

And, yes, all Ask Slashdots should have a 2-3 sentence blurb with a link to a biography or wiki entry or something.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Does Your Employer Perform HTTPS MITM Attacks On Employees?

pthisis Re:Evil? (572 comments)

The client can detect it (on a plain install, view the cert for the page you're on and you'll see who signed it and whether it's a corporate cert or a self-signed cert). The "problem" at work is that once someone else has control of your hardware then it can't be trusted--they could as easily have installed a keylogger and screen scraper, or whatever. Or have installed a browser altered so that "view cert" shows a different cert from the one actually being used. The client isn't trustworthy, which means nothing at all is trustworthy.

You're relatively safe if you do your own OS install and keep things locked down, though even there the hardware manufacturer(s) could be snooping on things. At some point you have to weigh what is enough trust vs. having the tools you need to accomplish your goal (a powered down, non-networked machine is pretty trustworthy, but also relatively useless).

about a month and a half ago

Development To Begin Soon On New Star Control Game

pthisis Re:Old Doesn't Mean Good (160 comments)

And they are basically Starflight "resurrected".

about 4 months ago

Development To Begin Soon On New Star Control Game

pthisis Re:Star Flight 1 & 2 (160 comments)

I wouldn't even say they were "inspirations". Star Control 2 was a spirtual successor to Starflight, except for some cool arcade combat added in--aside from that, the game is mechanically pretty similar with the same kind of intergalactic maps, system maps, planet exploration, etc.

They're close enough that I'd almost say SC2 is a rip-off of Starflight, except that Paul Reiche was one of the lead designers on both and I'm not sure you can rip off yourself. But it's a much closer relationship than just "inspired by".

Reiche also the primary guy responsible for Archon (which is in some ways an inspiration for the combat arena part of Star Control 2, though very much more a loose inspiration than an obvious predecessor) and was one of the early TSR Dungeons and Dragons guys.

about 4 months ago

Physicist Unveils a 'Turing Test' For Free Will

pthisis Re:Oh, not again. (401 comments)

The Halting problem still doesn't apply to an iphone, though. Or the 2036 equivalent thereof. Or anything that can ever be built, as far as I can see. It relies on infinite memory to make the set of programs it can run innumerable.

about 6 months ago

Physicist Unveils a 'Turing Test' For Free Will

pthisis Re:appearing to have free will (401 comments)

Well, there is one small difference. With an AI, one can always, precisely, deconstruct why and how the system makes the decision that it makes

This is false. There are whole papers dedicated to how useless deeply trained neural nets are in actually understanding intelligence, because they're so complicated that we can't understand why they make particular decisions post-training.

about 6 months ago

Leaked Manual Reveals Details On Google's Nexus 5

pthisis Re: This is not at all a mildly revamped G2 (177 comments)

No, the sections I quoted are for the built in headset speaker used for calls. The numbers are all above average for call quality and average for volume. I'm not sure how their subjective judgement said "below average", given that every single one of the objective measurements was average or above. It's not the loudest or best speaker out there, for sure, but it's better than most.

about 6 months ago

Leaked Manual Reveals Details On Google's Nexus 5

pthisis Re:This is not at all a mildly revamped G2 (177 comments)

I hope it isn't a mildly revamped G2! The G@ has a below-average loudspeaker

There are a lot of decent criticisms of the G2. The SlideAside is pointless (and doesn't work with a ton of common Android apps), the screen is too big for some people, the buttons on the back are something you can adjust to but they're needlessly quirky and more prone to accidentally being pressed in your pocket than side-buttons are. I'm still not sold on having the headphone jack on the bottom instead of the top.

But the speakers? The G2 has virtually perfect frequency response and a very low distortion level according to:

GSMArena, for one, actually measure the volume. ...who also measure frequency response and other components of sound quality.

They note that the speaker on the G2 is better than average sound quality, though average volume-wise. There's absolutely nothing in their tests indicating a below-average speaker:


The LG G2 showed nicely clean output in both parts of our traditional audio quality test. The smartphone got pretty decent scores, but was led down by its volume levels, which were only average.
The scores stay close to perfect even when you plug in a pair of headphones. The stereo crosstalk worsens a bit but the rest of the readings are virtually unaffected (frequency response actually improves a bit). Unfortunately, the volume levels remained just as uninspiring.

Which seems like they're heavily over-weighting volume--unless you're hearing impaired enough that you normally max the volume on your handset, then maximum volume is far less important than the audio quality. But even by their weighting, it's still good audio quality with average volume level.

about 6 months ago

Leaked Manual Reveals Details On Google's Nexus 5

pthisis Re:This is not at all a mildly revamped G2 (177 comments)

But the Nexus 5 will probably be half the price of the G2. And run stock Android and receive updates.

The last sentence is why I wrote "the Nexus 5, presuming it follows the Nexus pattern, will run a standard Android OS and UI (and get faster OS updates)".

I'm not making a case for either phone being better, simply saying that the idea that one is a mildly tweaked version of the other is laughable.

about 6 months ago

Leaked Manual Reveals Details On Google's Nexus 5

pthisis This is not at all a mildly revamped G2 (177 comments)

the Nexus 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) seems like a mildly revamped version of LG’s G2.

No, it really doesn't. The two most-often mentioned features of the G2 are:

a) The gorgeous 5.2" screen; and
b) A 3000 mAh battery; and
c) The rear-panel placement of the only buttons (power/volume), as opposed to the traditional volume rocker on the side that most smartphones have.

This has none of those--it has a 4.95" screen and a 2300 mAh battery. And the buttons are laid out like a standard smartphone. Those things alone are significant alterations that make these phones different in the most visible and usable ways.

The G2 also has a 13 megapixel rear camera; this has an 8 mp camera.

The G2 also has a customized version of Android with knock-on and other features; the Nexus 5, presuming it follows the Nexus pattern, will run a standard Android OS and UI (and get faster OS updates).

Without digging into it for more than 30 seconds, I see a phone with a different screen, different camera, different battery, different physical button layout, and different UI, and with significantly different physical properties (e.g. wireless charging on the Nexus)--these might be distant cousins, but they are most decidedly not "mildly revamped" versions of the same thing.

about 6 months ago

First Cases of Flesh-Eating Drug Emerge In the United States

pthisis Re:Opportunity (618 comments)

Right, and then let's start mixing it into aids victims treatments, and then let's mix it into the food at homeless shelters, and then let's coat welfare checks with it, and then let's let's let's...
And then let's... http://art-bin.com/art/omodest.html

about 7 months ago

First Cases of Flesh-Eating Drug Emerge In the United States

pthisis Re:Reefer madness bullshit (618 comments)

For some reason, it's not considered an epidemic when a doctor being paid by insurance companies prescribes methamphetamine manufactured by a pharmaceutical corporation under the brand name "Desoxyn"

Yes it is.

NIH: "The original amphetamine epidemic was generated by the pharmaceutical industry and medical profession as a byproduct of routine commercial drug development and competition" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2377281/

White House: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as an epidemic". http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/prescription-drug-abuse

about 7 months ago

Linus Responds To RdRand Petition With Scorn

pthisis Re:you have the source (566 comments)

Not true... I have no opinion either way, but it's entirely possible to have a very good understanding of how semi-random numbers affect cryptography, and also of how rdrand generates them, without having the programming background to be able to safely remove it from the kernel. Crypto is about math, not programming, and contrary to popular opinion (apparently), the two do not always go hand-in-hand.

RdRand could generate entirely non-random numbers and it still wouldn't make the output of /dev/random any less random. It's designed so that additional inputs can only increase the entropy, never decrease it. There's a danger if you over-estimate the amount of entropy that a particular input adds to the pool, but the bits mixed in from rdrand don't increase the entropy counter so that's not a problem in this case.


about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Linux Security, In Light of NSA Crypto-Subverting Attacks?

pthisis Re:Not much worry with a source build (472 comments)

It only unlocks the wallet for the user it's running as, it doesn't have crazy admin privileges.

If you care about security, you're already running the browser as a restricted user anyway--even if you did stupidly share passphrases between wallets (or accidentally mistype the wrong passphrase into the browser unlock window) it still shouldn't have FS permission to your primary wallet.

Plus you can run Chromium if you want to be able to audit the source, presuming you don't think someone's Ken Thompson'd chrome into gcc (or CPU microcode).

about 7 months ago

How Africa Will 'Leapfrog' Wired Networks

pthisis Re:Something new? (183 comments)

Seriously. Even in 1999 there were stories about how cell reception would leapfrog copper wire not just in Africa but in South America (where I was living, and it happened in a total no-brainer). There might as well be a story saying that Lagos won't see a huge Blu-Ray rental infrastructure built out.

about 8 months ago

For Education, Why TI-83 > iPad

pthisis Re:I beg to differ, sir (340 comments)

You can indeed run interpreted stuff on iOS. You just can't downloadand run interpreted code.

Yes, you can. Point the browser at slashdot. Congratulations, you just downloaded and ran interpreted code. Developing for the browser is both potentially a useful skillset to learn for the future and doesn't require any Apple dev kit or App Store approval or anything.

It's far from ideal, but it's not like the TI-83 was exactly giving you a full comparative environment to contrast Haskell, Scheme, Prolog, Forth, and Dylan (or whatever). If you really want something to learn to code on, an actual computer or unlocked tablet (with keyboard) of some sort is going to be a better bet than either.

about 8 months ago

Google Breaks ChromeCast's Ability To Play Local Content

pthisis Re:more like (329 comments)

Works fine with NFS, FWIW.

about 8 months ago

The Greatest Keyboard Shortcut Ever

pthisis Re:New Slashdot feature: RTFM Sunday! (506 comments)

If you mean the rtfm command, it was part of the Andrew system; it was implemented first at CMU.

If you mean RTFM as an acronym, the earliest known citation comes from the LINPACK manual in 1979, but oral tradition has it originating in the US Air Force in the 40s or 50s.

MIT's "rtfm" ftp server (which hosts USENET FAQs) came later.

about 8 months ago

How Companies Are Preparing For the IT Workforce Exodus

pthisis Glut of IT workers? (248 comments)

If you think there's a glut of contract IT workers now ...then you lack a basic understanding of labor markets.

Computer Programmers: 3.7%
DB Admins: 1.3%
Network and sysadmins: 3.9%
Network and data analysts: 3.9%
Software devs, application, and systems software: 4.0%

Those are the current unemployment rates for workers in those occupations. It's pretty much the same for all IT occupations; there are few enough workers that companies are having a tough time filling jobs, and even moderately skilled employees aren't having trouble finding jobs.


about 8 months ago


pthisis hasn't submitted any stories.


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