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Linus Torvalds: 'I Still Want the Desktop'

rdnetto Re:Infrastructure? (668 comments)

I think the main problem is that Linux is *TOO* configurable. "Normals" don't want hundreds of options. They want people to tell them which of a limited number of options will work for them.

Which distro should I pick? Which window manager should I pick? How do I configure my computer to be optimal for *ME*? I'm a techie and I can't tell you which distro is really the best for most people. I can tell you which ones are more stable.....but it isn't just ONE.

With Windows....and even Apple.....those choices are more or less made for you. All a "normal" needs to do is decide which apps they need to run and whether their OS supports those apps.

Being too configurable isn't a problem - needing to configure it is. Debian is about as configurable as Arch, but is significantly easier to use because it comes with a default configuration. You pick the most popular distro (Mint, according to distrowatch) and use whatever it comes with. Knowing how to customize it to suit you is something you learn over time, and is also completely unnecessary at the start of the learning curve.

The whole point of a distro is to make those choices for the user, while enabling varying degrees of customization. Choose the most popular distro, and you'll be fine.

7 hours ago

Interviews: Bjarne Stroustrup Answers Your Questions

rdnetto Re:Ah yes, for that we have D (101 comments)

I'm not the GP, but I thought I'd bite.
tldr; It's not perfect, but it's closer than you'd think.

D sounds like a neat language that I'll probably never be able to use. I'm a game developer, and C++ has a native compiler for every machine I would ever need my code to run on

DMD, LDC and GDC (the 3 most popular D compilers) work fine on x86 and x86_64.
LDC supports ARM and PowerPC with some issues. GDC apparently has better support for ARM

as well as an already mature ecosystem (engines, code libraries, sample code, all in C++).

D has very good interop support for C and C++ libraries. There's a significant number of wrapper libraries in dub as well.
In general, C code can be used as is, while C++ libraries often need a wrapper to work around issues like templates.

In fact, C/C++ is pretty much the only option I have if I want my code to be broadly portable.

Yes, C compilers exist for pretty much every architecture in existence, with C++ supported on most of them.
But this is a red herring, because the only instruction sets that really matter to someone in game development are x86, x86_64 and ARM. Whether or not you can compile your code for PIC is completely irrelevant. (That said, LDC uses LLVM for its backend, so it probably has the best chance of supporting unusual architectures.)

It's interesting how a lot of languages don't seem worry too much about backward compatibility, because they want to focus on a clean and better language. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are always massive amounts of legacy code that need to continue to work alongside whatever new whizbang features are introduced, even at the expense of a cleaner or more elegant language.

If I had to give any one reason for C++'s success, it would be the standards committee's stubborn (and in hindsight, wise) refusal to "clean up" the language by removing crufty features and syntax, a lot of which were leftover from C. C++ code from 20 years ago still compiles today mostly unchanged, and that's incredibly important when trying to build up or maintain a large ecosystem. You can see what a huge split it causes in the community when a language breaks compatibility like Python did (2.x vs 3.x), and ultimately, I wonder if it's more damaging than C++'s more conservative approach. As a developer, I'd be hesitant to heavily invest in a language that is more likely to break compatibility and leave me stranded.

Backward compatibility is always an issue with any piece of software. That said, I think there's something to be said for handling breaking changes well as opposed to handling them poorly - anything which creates a rift in the community is obviously an example of the latter.
Python was an example of the that, since it wasn't possible to combine code from old and new versions. While D had a breaking change with D2, there is only one person I am aware of who is still using D1. The standard library from D1 (Tango) was ported to D2, and the syntactic changes were fairly minor and easily remedied.
It's also worth noting that the D1 branch of DMD is still maintained, should you actually need to compile D1 code.

Pretty much every language is going to accumulate cruft over time. Even if D accumulates it at the same rate C++ did, it's relative youth means that it will be much more pleasant to work with, since C++ will always have more. I think the only real way to completely remove all that cruft is to create an entirely new language - no one would have complained about Python 3 if it were marketed as a new language, rather than as a new version with breaking changes (Nimrod is an example of this). This is what D is to C++ - a language with equivalent power that wipes the slate clean.

2 days ago
top Groupware 3.3 Release Adds Tags, Notes, and Dozens of Other Features

rdnetto Explanation & Thoughts (26 comments)

To put it simply, Kolab is a FOSS equivalent to Exchange. On the client side you can use Roundcube (a web UI), KDE Kontact, or anything supporting the IMAP-based protocol. It also supports ActiveSync for use with Android.

I set up Kolab 3.2 on a Debian a while back because I wanted a centralised calendar, etc. that didn't require me to trust Google with my life. It's worked pretty well, apart from a few issues. Configuration is a little tricky, especially as SSL is not the default and there are three different places it needs to be enabled. There are some minor bugs and instabilities, though hopefully they have been fixed in 3.3. Synchronization between the roundcube and IMAP clients can also be a little unreliable.

If anyone has any questions about it, I'll be happy to answer them.

2 days ago

Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

rdnetto Re:Surprise? (570 comments)

Which is the real issue in doing an office migration. That and replicating Outlook, I don't know about the whole kitchen sink but at least the whole mail/calendar/meeting bit. Somehow I'm amazed that in the last decade open source hasn't managed to pull it off, what the average office worker does is not rocket science. I guess it's just nobody's itch.

KDE Kontact is probably the best FOSS alternative to Outlook - it has email, calendar, contacts, todo lists, RSS feeds, newsgroups, etc.
There's a bunch of free alternatives to Exchange as well, though I'm less familiar with those.

2 days ago

Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

rdnetto Re:Is the complexity of C++ a practical joke? (425 comments)

A practical joke? Are you joking? C++ is not designed so that every feature must be learned and used. It's complexity derives from the fact that it supports OOP, functional programming, generic programming and I'm sure others that Bjarne would happily describe to you and the reasoning behind supporting features being included in the language.

I disagree. D has feature parity with C++, but is significantly simpler and easier to learn. (This is supported by the fact that their eponymous books, The C++ Programming Language and the D Programming Language, are 1368 and 460 pages respectively.)
C++'s complexity arises from a combination of legacy features and inconsistency.
For example, it has two different kinds of enums - plain/C-style enums and enum classes. Enum classes were created because adding scoping to existing enums would have been a breaking change.
Inconsistency can be seen in things like the runtime initialization rules, where the contents of int x[10]; is uninitialized, but the contents of vector y(10) are initialized to zero.
Essentially, poor decisions were made in the long history of C++, and while it's easy to say that hindsight is 20-20, the reality is that those bad decisions are constraining the direction the language is taking and increasing its complexity.

There is an excellent talk here by Scott Meyers discussing how inconsistent C++ is. These inconsistencies are responsible for the vast majority of the unnecessary complexity in the language.

about a week ago

The Technologies Changing What It Means To Be a Programmer

rdnetto Re: COBOL was better than JavaScript. (291 comments)

'The C++ Programming Language' refers to plain enums, enum classes, and unnamed enums. Unnamed enums are just anonymous plain enums stored as integers though, so it's arguable whether or not they count a third type or not.

about two weeks ago

The Technologies Changing What It Means To Be a Programmer

rdnetto Re:COBOL was better than JavaScript. (291 comments)

Ah, good old Stockholm Syndrome. Don't worry, I feel the same way about C++ ;^)

What's not to love about a language with 3 different types of enums?

about two weeks ago

Google Will Give a Search Edge To Websites That Use Encryption

rdnetto Re:OK fine but give us a free CA (148 comments)

The entire point of a CA is trust.

Agreed. But SSL is about encryption - authentication is merely an optional extra (if it weren't, self-signed certs wouldn't even be an option).
No intelligent person trusts the majority of websites, but they may still have valid reasons for not wanting their browsing habits eavesdropped upon.

Using a non-trusted CA would actually be a step backwards.

That depends on your priorities - on whether authentication or privacy is more important to you. Quite frankly, I find it hard to understand how encryption without authentication is worse than no authentication at all.

Even worse would be convincing people that manually installing a cert for a random website is a good idea.

Besides, I do believe that every single major browser now includes dire warnings if you go to a site with a cert from a non-trusted source.

Frankly, this is a usability problem. A user should not receive dire warnings for a self-signed cert; they should get some indication that it's inferior to a trusted cert, but that's it. (I like the red-yellow-green approach Chrome takes with the address bar.)
Dire warnings should be reserved for when a website's cert changes significantly, because that's the best indicator of malicious activity. Using them for self-signed certs just raises the false positive rate.

Certs are cheap. A quick Googling reveals a number of options for under $50/year

Cheap is relative. But more importantly, consider the implications of this. The web is slowly moving towards deprecating the use of unencrypted HTTP. Sure, it won't happen immediately, but it's going to happen sooner or later, especially given the way the IETF responded to the Snowden leaks. Meanwhile, CAs stand poised to charge an annual fee to anyone who doesn't want their site to be decorated by scary warnings. Stuff like this centralizes the internet and makes it more fragile and prone to interference by a single party. We need to be looking at more decentralized options, and making self-signed certs a viable choice is a good start to that.

about two weeks ago

Google Will Give a Search Edge To Websites That Use Encryption

rdnetto Re:OK fine but give us a free CA (148 comments)

So far all Google has said is that they will boost sites which use HTTPS - as far as I can tell, they haven't said anything about requiring the use of a trusted CA.
Self-signed certs are free, and just as (if not more) effective than the paid ones if your goal is to prevent eavesdropping and not to verify the identity of an unknown server. (Known servers can be reasonably expected to use the same certificate as last time, or at least the same CA).

Given that the centralised CA model seems to have largely failed, not to mention how likely it is that this is being driven by the Snowden revelations, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the approach Google took.

about two weeks ago

PHP Finally Getting a Formal Specification

rdnetto Re:its why devs cringe. (180 comments)

Putting aside the whole whitespace debate(*), I'm pretty sure that python has its own list of issues.

My understanding is that Python's two biggest issues are a lack of static typing (justifiable, but annoying) and the ability to use arbitrary objects as dictionaries. The latter causes significant issues when trying to optimize code, because something as simple as reading a value from a property becomes a hashtable lookup.

about three weeks ago

Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

rdnetto Re:Web = Garbage (315 comments)

It'll be interesting to see where C# is in 10 years. With Microsoft open sourcing it and the multiple compilers that recompile into different environments that are here and are being developed I'm wondering if it'll be everywhere or if it'll be fading away like VB is?

I don't believe C# will ever flourish outside of Windows, unless Microsoft starts supporting it on non-Windows platforms. Mono has had a lukewarm reception, and in my experience isn't as solid/reliable as .NET.

D on the otherhand, has similar syntax and is much more portable. I can easily see it overtaking C# if it gets some proper corporate support behind it...

about three weeks ago

World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use

rdnetto Re:Finally! (474 comments)

As far as I can tell, the only issue with the workhouses was that they provided a better standard of care than the employed poor received. That should no longer be the case today.

The other issue was possibly that the profitability of running such a place was overestimated given how few "able bodied idlers" there were, but it seems obvious that such places would need to be state funded.

about a month ago

CCP Games Explains Why Virtual Reality First Person Shooters Still Don't Work

rdnetto Re:The medium is the message (154 comments)

So surprise surprise VR goggles aren't turning out to be a screen you wear on your eyes but a whole new medium. I am willing to bet that there will be a genre that takes off on VR and that genre might not even really exist right now. Something really different.

I suspect they would work quite well for (an evolution of visual novels), since those are already set in the first person, but don't require moving around the way FPSs do. Not sure how the controls would work though...

about a month ago

KDE Releases Plasma 5

rdnetto Re:Fixed what seem like fundamental GUI bugs? (108 comments)

2. Can a single misbehaving plasmoid still cause the entire desktop to freeze? (This typically happens to me if the network connectivity is lost: poorly-written plasmoids that need network access can block and cause everything -- not just the plasmoid in question -- to freeze.)

I believe this is no longer the case. One of the big changes in Plasma 5 was rewriting the process model used for plasmoids. That said, I can't find a source to confirm this, and am too lazy to download and run one of the Project Neon ISOs.

about a month ago

Economist: File Sharing's Impact On Movies Is Modest At Most

rdnetto Re:P2P helps movie buffs outside the US (214 comments)

I'm no lawyer but I believe game translations are legal, as they are usually released as pacthes rather than redistributing the entire modified game.

From Wikipedia, citing the US Copyright Act:

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation ... A work consisting of ... modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”

Whether or not it's a patch is immaterial; as a derivative work the subtitlers cannot legally distribute it. In practice, both the publishers (at least the smarter ones) and subtiltlers tend to ignore this.

The law was quite clearly written when a translation of the original work would be a substitute for the original. e.g. owning an English translation of a book would negate the need to own the original. IMO works which do not substitute for the original work such as subtitles or dubbed audio tracks should not be considered derivative works. An alternative would be for translation to be recognized as fair use (since it is merely the analog equivalent of format shifting). Of course, the actual likelihood of US copyright becoming less draconian is quite remote...

about a month ago

Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

rdnetto Re:Good idea (415 comments)

Python isn't a bad first language. It has all the important advanced concepts - objects, dictionaries, closures, and threads. The syntax is reasonable. Some people are bothered by the forced indentation, but for new programmers, it will seem natural.

I would argue that the main issue is Python's lack of static typing. Pretty much every non-interpreted language has static typing, and it's arguably more fundamental/basic than OOP.

about a month and a half ago

The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers

rdnetto Re:Now is the time fire the experts. (162 comments)

And the problem is?

The experts developed those rules over time - an expert system is incapable of that sort of learning. If anything changes, they won't have anyone who understands the basis of the system well enough to define new rules.

about a month and a half ago

Human Language Is Biased Towards Happiness, Say Computational Linguists

rdnetto Re:Makes sense (86 comments)

You can't tell people how to feel - how often does telling an angry person to calm down work?

I have some personal experience in this, and the trick seems to be to break the cycle. You're depressed because your situation sucks, and your situation sucks because you're depressed. Working at overcoming the symptoms of depression is a rational solution because it breaks the loop, but it's not an emotional one because they still feel like crap (at least until things pick up, but even then there'll be depressive bouts). Wording things such that you're not invalidating them will make them more receptive, but it is very much a case of having to walk uphill to get treatment for a broken leg.

That said, the person in question actually has to learn how to break that cycle; it's not something you can just tell them. There are things like CBT that are based around this, but at the end of the day it's very much based around learning how to regulate and control your emotions.

about a month and a half ago

Perl Is Undead

rdnetto Re:There's nothing wrong with Perl ... (283 comments)

I disagree - Perl's biggest issue is that things which should be defined in the language's grammar are instead defined in code. This reduces it to a language of special cases.

Consider the following:

$_ = foo 1;

Does the function bar, in the absence of an argument, use $_ as its argument?
Some functions do, some don't, and this is true even among the core functions. This is because the implementer of the function must explicitly read from the global $_, rather than the language passing the argument to it. The resulting inconsistency can make it difficult to reason about what a Perl script is actually doing.

There are other issues, such as variables inside functions being global by default, but that's the big one.

about 2 months ago



Debian to Adopt New Init System

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  about 10 months ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "Debian developers have been in a very polarized discussion recently about replacing their default SysVinit system with a more modern init system; namely, Debian developers are evaluating whether to use systemd or Upstart.

Debian wants to switch a modern event-based init system that is more robust and provides more features, provides stable support for advanced environments (e.g. SAN), being more similar to the likes of Ubuntu and RHEL, and modern open-source packages like GNOME 3.x are easier to package. Among other reasons, Debian hasn't been quick to switch init systems over lots of work needing to be accomplished.

In one of the latest init system discussions, it was stated "since the init system strongly shapes many other packages, there has to be only one and no other supported options.""

Link to Original Source

Australian Govt re-kindles office file format war Australian Govt re-kindles of

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 2 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "The Australian Government’s peak IT strategy group has issued a cautious updated appraisal of currently available office productivity suite file formats, in what appears to be an attempt to more fully explain its thinking about the merits of open standards such as OpenDocument versus more proprietary file formats promulgated by vendors like Microsoft.
Though a move away from a clear pro-Microsoft stance, a clear bias towards them remains present."

Link to Original Source

AI Releases Linux-based Hybrid Netboot/Tablet/MID

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 3 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "After 6 months of delays, AlwaysInnovating has released their newest device, a netbook with a touchscreen and detachable wireless keyboard. The screen also houses a secondary screen that can be removed and used as a mobile internet device. The device uses the TI Cortex A8, has 768 MB of RAM, and 19.5 Ah of batteries."
Link to Original Source

Software is Licensed, Not Sold

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 3 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "In a major blow to user rights, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision that will go a long way toward ensuring that software buyers will rarely be software owners.
In a triumph of legal formalism over reality, the Court held that the copyright’s first sale doctrine – the law that allows you to resell books and that protects libraries and archives from claims of copyright infringement – doesn’t apply to software (and possibly DVDs, CDs and other “licensed” content) as long as the vendor saddles the transfer with enough restrictions to transform what the buyer may think is sale into a mere license."

Link to Original Source

EFF Wins New DMCA Exceptions

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  about 4 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won three critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anticircumvention provisions today, carving out new legal protections for consumers who modify their cell phones and artists who remix videos — people who, until now, could have been sued for their non-infringing or fair use activities."
Link to Original Source

Pirate Party to Run Pirate Bay from Parliament

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 4 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "After their former hosting provider received an injunction telling it to stop providing bandwidth to The Pirate Bay, the worlds most resilient BitTorrent site switched to a new ISP. That host, the Swedish Pirate Party, made a stand on principle. Now they aim to take things further by running the site from inside the Swedish Parliament.

The party has announced today that they intend to use part of the Swedish Constitution to further these goals, specifically Parliamentary Immunity from prosecution or lawsuit for things done as part of their political mandate. They intend to push the non-commercial sharing part of their manifesto, by running The Pirate Bay from ‘inside’ the Parliament, by Members of Parliament."

Link to Original Source

POLL: Which continent do you live in?

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 4 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "POLL: Which continent do you live in?
        North America
        South America
        I don't live on Earth, you insensitive clod!"

Pirate Bay Judge Accused of Bias

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "One of the biggest cases in file-sharing history ended last week with The Pirate Bay Four sentenced to huge fines and jail time. Today it is revealed that far from being impartial, the judge in the case is a member of pro-copyright lobby groups — along with Henrik Pontén, Monique Wadsted and Peter Danowsky. There are loud calls for a retrial."

Part of Copyright Act Ruled Unconstitutional

rdnetto rdnetto writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rdnetto (955205) writes "From
A year and a half ago, we were quite surprised when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals actually sided with Larry Lessig, concerning how a part of copyright law that pulled foreign works out of the public domain was potentially unconstitutional. This was in the "Golan case," the third of three big copyright cases Lessig had championed. The appeals court had sent the case back to the lower court, and that lower court has now decided that, indeed, a trade agreement (URAA) that pulled foreign content out of the public domain is unconstitutional as it violates the First Amendment. While it may seem narrowly focused, this is the first case that has successfully challenged a part of copyright law as being unconstitutional. The ruling will almost certainly be appealed, so it's not over yet — but it's still a rare and important win for those who are fighting to keep copyright law from destroying the public domain."


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