Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Comments

top

Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

rwa2 Re:I measure taste like a food critic (102 comments)

Thanks to Dahan for the link to a good thai dictionary! Maybe the phrase I used was just a colloquialism my family uses in Bangkok... I know I've used it to ask for the condiments carousel in many Thai restaurants all over, though. And yes, sriracha isn't common in Thai restaurants, I couldn't remember the name of the "red stuff" at the time, I guess it's just called "garlic chili sauce"

The engine/ingredients part wasn't as interesting as the "fillup" part, though... it makes it sound like the dish isn't complete without it.
http://www.thai-language.com/i...

Contrasting that with the western thought that additional seasoning is entirely optional, or that you'd even insult the chef by using it.

yesterday
top

Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

rwa2 Re:I measure taste like a food critic (102 comments)

Real Thai food has a strong balance of all flavors. I've never seen a good use of radar charts in engineering, but I think they'd be perfectly suited for assessing good Thai food which would have components to fill out the entire spectrum of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, savory, crunchy, chewy, etc. in a similar way that good Japanese food tries to throw in something of each primary color when arranging a dish.

As a case study, I present a common northern Thai appetizer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... , which illustrates this simply and perfectly, and is even presented like a radar chart. You combine each of the fresh and basic ingredients in roughly equal proportions to contribute to the package:
* sweet tamarind sauce for tang and to provide moisture
* sliced bird's eye peppers for sharp heat
* lime wedges (with rinds) for sour and bitter
* peanuts and fried coconuts to provide just enough crunch and crisp
* onion for some tear-inducing fumes
* ginger for some zing
* shrimp for chewy
* leaf to hold it all together

So I think a the tasting robot is a great start at characterizing the spectrum of flavor and texture and coming out with a signature of what kind of foods is more "Thai-like" than others, similar to how Pandora or whatever creates musical signatures to categorize sounds. Won't replace a human, but will help codify the process and bring you "close enough" to finding more of what you want.

Tourists focus on the spicy stuff, probably because that's the flavor they're least accustomed to. When Thai restaurants open in the US, they tone down the spice and everything else, and crank up the sugar and syrup, because, well, that's what americans are most dull to. Pad Thai, the staple of americanized thai cooking, is rarely eaten by natives in Thailand.

Another interesting cultural point... Western cooking expects the chef to have seasoned the dish to taste, and the cook would tend to get offended if you drown their dishes in salt / pepper or condiments like ketchup. In Thailand, however, the condiments are referred to as "krueng therm" (literally "engine fillup") and come with a wide variety of fixins... salt , pepper, sugar, sriracha, soy sauce, "orange" sauce with peppers, peppers in lime juice, crushed peanuts, etc. (GIS for "Thai condiments caddy). So back to the radar chart, the condiments are provided to help you push each spectrum and "fill out" the chart to as wide as you can handle.

yesterday
top

Small Restaurant Out-Maneuvers Yelp In Reviews War

rwa2 Re:The review ecosystem is good and truly broken.. (249 comments)

Pretty neat... I thought the online reviewing space was going the "reputation" route, becoming more "social" by allowing more highly weighting reviews from people in your group of friends (as well as entries in your "feeds" when friends visit a place). This seems to be the route of stuff like Foursquare... and... well, other similar services that I ignore because I don't have a very extensive network of friends who dine at the same sorts of places I go to.

The other route is to just have a place with reputable journalistic integrity do the reviews, which works OK in big cities. But then you pretty much have to know which journal to use in each major metro area, and deal with the reviews possibly being a year or two out of date. And, of course, probably little to no app integration with your favorite map search engine. http://www.washingtonian.com/s... is a great example for the DC area; we'd pretty much cycle through the entire "Cheap Eats" and "Dirt Cheap Eats" section for nearby neighborhoods, and maybe a few of the "100 best" for special occasions.

Other than that, I really do like Yelp for local recommendations, and have had great experiences using it. So much so that I downloaded the app when Google Maps switched from Yelp to Zagat for local search.

As an aside, I tried to like Zagat, even paid for a subscription back in the PalmOS days. But ultimately, Zagat reviews and ratings always seemed to be biased too much towards decor and not at all enough towards food quality, authenticity, and "interestingness", which Yelp excels in.

So it does suck to hear that Yelp is starting to extort business owners for listing good reviews, since I do make go/no-go decisions based on relative rankings. I dunno, maybe Yelp could start charging users extra for "journalistic integrity" mode that turns off some of their extortion effects, while the "free tier" of user gets rankings based more on advertising.

Anyway, articles like this do make me upset with Yelp. But a lot of places do seem to have yelp sticker on their window, so perhaps it's just part of the cost of doing business these days. I applaud this italian joint for lashing out against it in an entertaining way, and I'll start searching for some of the lowest reviewed places too, since I mostly use Yelp to find the exceptional places anyways.

about two weeks ago
top

Is It Time To Split Linux Distros In Two?

rwa2 Re:Already Happened (282 comments)

Not only has this already happened, but the server-side of Linux looked at the new features introduced by Android / ChromeOS and decided they wanted some of that too.

So now you have CoreOS formed based on the features of ChromeOS as a nice way to run and maintain Docker containers in a server cluster. So much for forking desktop and server Linux.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

You can compile and run GNU utilities on Android (and likely ChromeOS as well).
https://play.google.com/store/...

granted, it's in a chroot environment, but whatever. Have the best of both worlds, but only when you want it.

about three weeks ago
top

It's Time To Split Linux In Two

rwa2 Heh, it's already happened, and look where it went (7 comments)

This makes me laugh, because ostensibly Android and ChromeOS is already kind of that fork of Linux for the smartphone / tablet... the long-awaited user-focused version of linux that shed off all of the user cruft into a lean, optimized distro.

And then what happens? The server-side part of Linux notices that it could actually make good use of a lot of that work, and takes the useful features introduced for "desktop Linux" and applies it back to the server domain:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

about three weeks ago
top

Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone

rwa2 Re:Musk worship (260 comments)

Others have already answered this more succinctly ("politics"), but sure, I'll bite.

I get a little tired of the Musk worship.

Why does his company need a huge pile of tax breaks to succeed? If I open a company tomorrow, how can I get away with not paying taxes?

Rich people can affect public policy to help them make more money. But in this case, think of it less as giving tax breaks, and more of giving tax incentives for finally succeeding at doing something we've been trying to do for a long time anyway. I'm sure Musk made plenty of threats to build this factory somewhere in Asia if he didn't get favorable treatment here in the US. At least, he would have been a dumbass not to.

Why are Tesla's debt bonds in Junk status but he continues to get freebies from states?

S&P 's reasoning was that Tesla had all of their investment in one kind of product: electric cars and batteries. Not enough diversity to avoid risk. So if China preemptively opened their own Gigafactory and undercut Tesla's battery prices, all of Tesla's assets would be kind of worthless and they'd go kaput. It already happened with Solyndra, it could well happen again. Hell, we might as well give up and let China build batteries and electric cars for the world now.

Why are Tesla's cars so rudely expensive? Is there a plan for a 4 door sedan that a real family can afford in the 20K - 30K range like the Prius?

OK, I'm not a Musk worshipper, but I've followed enough tech news that the "Model E".. oops, sorry Ford, "Model 3" will be priced at 35K after they finish fleecing the early adopters for funding all of the preliminary engineering R&D costs with the Model S and the Model X. And they would have come out with the Model 3 sooner, but one of the blockers is... the lack of a Gigafactory. Tesla already consumes the majority the world's supply of Li-ion batteries serving the Model S production as it is.

Why is it that a guy with a big mouth and political friends on all sides gets so much tax subsidy, loans, breaks and deals?

I dunno, ask your friends at Exxon and Monsanto? I would think Musk seems to be some kind of small fry in comparison. Oh, now you've got me looking up his bio... http://www.biography.com/peopl...

Why are guys who run factories employing tons of US citizens in US based factories (like Toyota) who produce super reliable product with great mileage get slapped by the media when a bogus story about a gas pedal getting stuck?

Heh, do you also remember the story about the faulty seatbelts back in the 90s, and Toyota blamed messy American fast food culture for spilling food in the clasp mechanisms and jamming up the works? Silly media. Anyway, I bet those companies also get some nice tax breaks. Maybe some of those tax breaks are expiring, because Ford/Mazda has been moving some of their assembly plants from Michigan to Mexico. BTW, if you're interested in that kind of news, http://www.thetruthaboutcars.c... tends to have pretty good coverage and typically includes a healthy helping of humor, wit, and sarcasm.

Not sure why people need a super-hero.

Er, are you suggesting that Musk should have gotten into boring venture capital financial firms after making his fortune? It seems to take a special kind of nerd to throw your finances at the relatively high-risk and low-margin pursuits of electric cars and space launch vehicles. Most other nerds I know do that kind of thing as a hobby.

3.8 million priuses have been sold and cab drivers will tell you they easily go into the 300K range and even if the battery runs out the car is still useable.

I like the Prius (at least the Gen2 Prius)... it's a very different experience than driving most cars, and they've done the best job of "gamifying" the process of hypermiling, and the planetary transmission is genius! Still, there are plenty of hobbyists modifying their Prius to try to get more out of it... making it work more effectively like a plug-in hybrid, or increasing performance some how. If the Prius is Good Enough for you, that's great! But many people see hybrids as an interim solution... 600 miles on a 10-gallon gas tank was a great advance, 2x more than typical ICE compact cars.

But instead we continue to give money to the cartoon guy.

Yes, Musk has done a better job wrangling together publicity.. But, uh, feel free to buy a Nissan Volt, or Chevy Spark, or whatever
http://www.caranddriver.com/co...

about three weeks ago
top

Restoring Salmon To Their Original Habitat -- With a Cannon

rwa2 Re:just a little bigger... BASS CANNON (147 comments)

Oh, stop whining about the little fry. All this time and still no mention of the BASS CANNON?

Slashdot, I am disappoint.

about three weeks ago
top

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

rwa2 Re:Humans have too much (206 comments)

Good point... I don't think that kind of thing will be much of an issue, though, because corporations like to save money by hiring the lowest salary staff from the largest pool of potential employees as possible.

As much as I'd like to believe that workplace diversity policies were implemented purely for progressive civil rights reasons (and I do applaud some of the brilliant and talented HR reps that can make everyone and themselves believe it!) it's obviously in their interests to "overlook" a lot of stuff that might come up from a moderately extensive background check, if it helps them stuff more warm bodies into a chair for less money. The labor force will become much more like the mechanical turk... remote, faceless, unseen. Heck, we're already just a number. Then later on if something bad happens, they can just say "oh, how were we to know employee #4872030 was a psycho?"

Sure, maybe small time employers still lack the sense to do less extensive background research... so in that case, hope you only shared the stuff that's kosher! So in a sense, if you already assume we have full transparency and Someone is always watching what you're doing, you should already be in good shape.

Just as an aside, I did go to a Catholic school for a few years as a kid, and it wasn't that bad. Granted, it was an international school next to a US Embassy, though most of the US Embassy brats went to a more expensive international school across town. In retrospect it was pretty well run... We said the morning prayers (well, the glee club eventually started singing it) along with the national flag anthem during morning assembly, and other than that, there wasn't much religion. OK, actually there was also a religion class period, but you could choose to do the Catholic one, the Buddhist one, the Muslim one, or the Hindu one, or if you were just a dirty atheist/agnostic like me, you'd be lumped into the "Values" class which was essentially another social studies/psychology group. The only thing I remember is a picture in the textbook of two girls licking an ice cream cone together. We laughed our way through it then, but still, when I came back to the US school system, I felt that it was something that was missing here... there weren't really any classes that tried to teach you how to share and be nice and get along with others. So if you didn't get it from your parents or church, well, then you just don't get it here in the US. Huh.

about three weeks ago
top

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

rwa2 Re:zero privacy = full control (206 comments)

I'm just saying if we can embrace the positive parts of full transparency, that will be better than the fallacy of believing we can successfully safeguard our privacy.

Unless you live as a hermit in the middle of the Yukon, I don't really see how you might expect to have fully guaranteed privacy rights while living in society. Someone's going to gossip about you. Might be more effective to limit the damage they can do with whatever information they manage to glean by flying their X-Ray UAV over your house, than rely on some kind of "promise" from your neighbors or government to ever fly their X-Ray UAV anywhere they might accidentally see you.

I have a gun safe too. The manual has a little serial number on it that helps the manufacturer open it if requested. I don't know how well that information is protected from hackers, probably not that well. If someone takes my little airsoft gun out of the safe and uses it to commit a crime, I hope I get a good shot of the perp on my webcam. In any case, I've probably demonstrably done enough due diligence to keep that gun under my control, so I'm not sure what more relevance that strawman has to this conversation.

As far as people going through your personal effects, yes, it can and has happened. Maybe you have an accident or get heat stroke or get knocked unconscious. People are going to go through your pockets looking for ID or medicalert bracelets. Maybe they come across your stash or some kind of embarrassing toy that you didn't have locked up in a briefcase handcuffed to your wrist. You're not going to sue your good samaritans for invasion of privacy, I'd hope.

Secret business plans is an interesting one... of course even friendly countries spy on each others' businesses now, and even have regulatory limits on the strength of encryption that can be used within their borders to help with this. Business intelligence is kept in confidentiality primarily for control while negotiating... you can finagle a higher price for your shit while negotiating if you keep your trade secrets and special sauce to yourself, as well as coordinate bidding wars between competitive offers for your products and services. With more information and transparency, the work would still get done, but you may have to give up some of your ability to boost profits by lying or embellishing... whatever's fair. And perhaps disclose and license your trade secrets as patentable intellectual property, because, well, it'd probably get out eventually anyway. Or, like the Coke recipe, just maintain it as a secret special sauce for marketing mystique, even though people can analyze exactly what went into it anyway. Eh.

What about reading your thoughts? We could be getting closer to that over the next few decades, with passive sensors that will probably be part of our video game consoles soon, and maybe even deeper and more detailed with cybernetic implants like TFA suggests.

Yes, I agree privacy rights ought to be a fundamental thing. It's also a pretty certain thing that we've already pretty much lost it already, save for a little bit of data integration. Rather than ending this line of questioning, we need to start standing up the next line of defense... more limits against prosecution for "thought pre-crimes", limiting abuse of power from government / corporate / societal data mining (which probably also involves increasing transparency to all of the archives they do have), making sure we can watch the watchers...

And there's no "disruptive innovation" here... as an engineer who has held several "public trust" positions over the decades handling plenty of classified / PCI / PII data (as are many more of us here at /. ), we're quite accustomed to having a lot of scrutiny, monitoring, and accountability for every little thing we do in the line of work. So we've sort of been living that way for a while now. Yeah, it'll suck to see more of that disciplined environment creep into "civilian" life. But such is the way of the world, and good luck avoiding it without blasting ourselves back into the stone age (or Northern Canada ;)

about three weeks ago
top

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

rwa2 Re:Humans have too much (206 comments)

Yeah, I think that it's possible (and that it's actually already happening) that society will become more accepting (and supporting!) of diversity. A healthy ecosystem is a diverse one, and is able to use and take advantage of the individual strengths of each of its members.

about three weeks ago
top

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

rwa2 Re:Humans have too much (206 comments)

Yeah, very idealistic, probably too much for homo sapiens, but maybe an advanced race of cybernetic organisms could handle it. Or perhaps they won't really have a choice since their black boxes could be subpoenaed.

Heh, as a parent, I would feel like a failure if there was something that my kids wouldn't feel comfortable confiding with me. But they're not yet teenagers, so we'll see. I suppose my own youth may have been atypical... brought home my first porn stash when I was 7 or something (someone left a bundle in the neighborhood playground trash can). My parents found it... and let me keep it. My mother was a fairly conservative asian, but my dad (who's pretty much that hippie perv uncle type) convinced her that if they were ever going to raise a medical doctor, I'd have to not be squeamish around "anatomy". So yeah, maybe not everyone would grow up with such, er, "understanding" parents, but it seems like with the internet and all, people are really opening up about formerly taboo topics and talking more comfortably about masturbation and menstruation and accepting of different viewpoints, if only because, hey, there are some real wackos out there. In all likelihood this trend will continue for at least a generation, until they rebel against it for reasons.

Yes, politics... it's a long shot, because people love to argue about this kind of stuff like it really matters to them personally, but idealistically that kind of thing will eventually relegate itself in status to "administrative overhead" which should be minimized so we can all just get on with our lives. Yes, politicians make it sound like it's the most important thing ever, because that's the only way they can get power in this world, and we let them. So there will always be people trying to assert their power over others, the question is how can we limit that. I don't think the answer is by trying to guarantee privacy, because as you mentioned, if someone really holds a beef against you, they'll be able to dig up some kind of dirt on you and control the narrative. Hell, even if that narrative is "hey, look at how carefully this guy guards his privacy, he uses the same level of encryption as the drug cartel bosses, he must be up to no good!" I think it's important for you (or perhaps your lawyer, if you're in it deep) to be able to control your own narrative, and that's where the greater transparency comes in.

I don't know if the matters of piracy and intellectual property will be with us that much longer into the future, esp. if we're considering the plight of cybernetic organisms. Already, we're kinda seeing the shift away from licensed reproduction and performances to a clamoring for mindshare.... fading away are the days where the Distributors of Popular Culture had to put earworms into your head by playing crap repetitively on broadcast radio, until you shell out money at them so you can listen to that earworm whenever you want to be reminded of that particular year of your life, like they own a part of your life and culture. Nowadays they're kinda losing the broadcast channel, and have to compete virally for eyeballs with a ton of other half-decent content, in order to deliver you to their advertisers. Or worse yet for them, artists can simply be crowdfunded directly, and paid to produce more of the type of content that people want.

Anyway, I and a ton of other people pirated a ton of content back in the day, back when my entertainment budget was closer to 0 than it is now. I've since been able to just avoid that content that wants to collect royalty fees. If they want to go back though the records and collect for "lost" sales, then sure, I suppose it's fair game, but I'd also expect them to settle for fair compensation and not the exorbitant legal sums they've been requesting. But enough on that digression.

Probably the more impactful "invasions" of privacy we'll be seeing are overlays of stuff that already exists... maybe an overlay that shows you all of the registered sex offenders you meet as you go about your day. There seem to be so many, you'd probably start ignoring it. Or maybe an overlay on your windshield that shows the number of accidents each driver on the highway around you have been involved in recently. You have ratings on restaurants now, how long until restaurants rate their customers so they can decide how much service to bother giving you as you walk in? This is all stuff that's coming, and it'll be kinda foolish to pretend that it isn't or that it can be stopped legislatively. So be prepared to adjust your behavior accordingly.

about three weeks ago
top

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

rwa2 Re:Humans have too much (206 comments)

Oh, well, that's an easy problem to solve, we can just simply round up all the persecutors and... OH SNAP, NOW YOU'VE GOT ME DOING IT!

But really, at what point can we just ignore the busybodies and come skulking out of the closet and be who we want to be and not give a fuck about what what other people think, because they don't have the power to do anything about it.

As far as living by everyone else's rules go, I probably have a good deal of privacy, but I still do it anyways. I don't veg out on video games as much as I'd like to, or pay people to perform sexual acts, even though those things are perfectly legal in places. But people are social creatures who learn from watching others, and naturally try to "fit in" whether their peers are giving them a hard time about it or not. Varying degrees of privacy might make it easier or harder for people to give you shit about stuff, but protection from other people is more of the essential right that should be guaranteed; having some sort of "guaranteed right to privacy" is delusional at best. If someone has some beef with you they'll be able to dig up some dirt.

about three weeks ago
top

Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

rwa2 Re:Humans have too much (206 comments)

Hmm, well, I actually came here to make some sort of comment like that... are there no advocates for full transparency?

Increasingly we're living in a world where everything is recorded. Back in the old days you just had to tell everyone that "God is watching" to make them behave. It kinda worked (the Renaissance was pretty much started because bankers were trying to buy their way out of Hell by commissioning works of art for the church). These days with so much privacy, there's not really any incentive to do anything quite like that, and we sort of have an unbalanced arms raced between those who have the money to monitor everyone else and yet guard their own privacy and anonymity.

What if, say in a parallel universe or another planet, there was a society that just simply had full transparency? No pictures of our private parts to worry about, because, well, everyone has them. Everyone shares their browsing history, because, gee, you're into interesting stuff. No need to guard your birthday and SSN because, well, there's actually real cryptographic security keeping people from opening accounts in your name. And if they they did take anything (including the people in power), we'd know who it was and where it went and how to get it back.

I mean, I know this is Slashdot and all, but humor me here.

about three weeks ago
top

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Strangest Features of Various Programming Languages?

rwa2 Re:Ruby and string/symbols (729 comments)

Heh, yeah, I'm surprised I haven't seen more Ruby yet in this thread, esp. with the proliferation of Chef and gems and rvm and other parts of that ecosystem to keep it puttering along.

For a language that seems to pride itself on its complete OOP-ness, there's so much syntax and different ways of accessing that syntax. I had wondered where all of the PERL masochists had gone...

In my limited experience wrangling with Ruby, it seems very schizophrenic... at once it's supposed to be very clean, yet it's so littered with syntactic sugar. The "best practices" guidelines always seem to be changing, so a common pattern one year will be an anti-pattern the next. There's a little cottage industry of dependency management that has grown up around it, so even as it has become something of a cross-platform glue language like PERL and python, it's such a pain to even maintain consistency among its own minor releases, so we have to use rvm gratuitously to spawn different ruby environments to run different "core" ruby utilities on the same box (chef, foodcritic, rubocop all needing different versions of ruby and libraries and gems, etc.). And it's so slow compared to its peers... for an automation language, I find myself taking a lot of coffee breaks while it goes out and does its thing, and of course that also means all of the code check tools like foodcritic spam me with warnings to do all of the little optimizations like converting my string objects into symbols, so much for the pure object-orientism.

Anyway, I have yet to have an experience with Ruby where it does something that impresses me compared to something else. It seems to be used to write templates for config files a lot, so I suppose that might be its strength. But even there, it seems to be a combination of the worst parts of other languages... all the indeterminate pieces of XSLT, more verbosity than XML, much slower and resource-hungry than other interpreted languages, almost as ugly as PERL, scattered package management in competing and overlapping gems since a lot of the base functionality is somewhat broken ( http://stackoverflow.com/quest... ), and yet seems harder to debug and less accessible too noobs than even compiled languages.

From my experience with Ruby, I'm not exactly sure why this language was developed, other than to provide job security for some devops types. Oh, and I suppose https://github.com/mame/quine-... is cool from an academic standpoint.

about a month ago
top

Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

rwa2 Re:No (546 comments)

Yeah, one of my roommates did something like this at Cornell U... took all of the core courses while enrolled in the Math & Applied Physics program (in the land-grant Arts & Sciences College), and then transferred to CS in the Engineering College which had much higher tuition. I think this kind of scheme could work well enough even at most other "high end" universities. Plus, the guy ended up with almost twice as many friends/connections (compared to most people... probably 100x compared to me :P )

about a month ago
top

What Does Google Do With All The Information It Collects?

rwa2 Well... (1 comments)

well, if you're a normal person (and since you're on slashdot, you're probably not), if you search for cars once in a while, you'll start getting car ads everywhere you go on the internet.

When I started testing my employer's website, I started seeing a lot of ads for our/their sites which I never saw anywhere before. I'm not allowed to click on them, since that will cost us money.

Maybe the neatest thing was that I just missed my bus last Thursday, and spent a brief sprint chasing it down a few blocks to the next station unsuccessfully. While waiting for the next bus, I started poking around in my Nexus 5 and some random app popped up a full-screen ad for a taxi service asking "in a hurry?".

OTOH, I was browing Amazon for some wheel covers for my aunt's old car a while ago, and the "what other customers looked at after viewing this item" list had a fleshlight. I stopped shopping for wheel covers.

NPR had some article on how Target targets their ad mailers based on purchase history... They can tell by purchase history when people are expecting, and adjust the ads in their junk mail coupon books accordingly. Some teenager's dad got pissed off at them when they suddenly started mailbombing his family with baby products, and then apologized when he found out a few weeks later that his daughter was pregnant... but Target knew first.

Personally, I like what Google's been doing (and not doing) so far with the data they collect... as a nerd/engineer, a lot it just makes sense. But I'm not as concerned about my privacy as most.

about a month ago
top

Ask Slashdot: Best Phone Apps?

rwa2 Re: traffic apps (167 comments)

OneBusAway works great for that kind of thing in the Seattle / Puget Sound region. Though I still use Google Maps to provide the best transfer schedule, OBA is then good for tracking if the busses are running on time.

Unfortunately, I found that there are some dead ones where the busses aren't able to check in for a while... So the system might start to assume that a bus is running 15 minutes late, but then the bus will suddenly check in as on time just a few minutes before reaching the stop down the road from me. So. Mrrr

about a month ago
top

Ask Slashdot: Best Phone Apps?

rwa2 Re: Who cares about existing apps? (167 comments)

We had a lot of good apps back in the PalmOS days. I used to use JPluckX / Sunrise to download a compressed image of the day's Slashdot using the AvantSlash filter. I could even download the front page of any URLs provided as links, so I could even RTFA or see the AC's goatse links if I wanted to. Plucker for palmos was instantaneous on navigating and loading links from compressed data, much faster than using Avantgo at going back and forth between links, which was in turn much faster than downloading crap from 3g networks at the time over a mobile browser, which was in turn so much faster than trying to use the Slashdot beta AJAX / reactive / adaptive / redaptive interface we have now that doesn't even let you use the "open in new tab" feature that modern mobile browsers have.

I could get virtually all of /. on my device each day, ready to entertain me while I was on the subway or even out camping without cell service. And I couldn't make any comments, so everyone wins.

Yeah, I feel badly for you young'uns, we had things so great back in the day.

about a month ago
top

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Best Games To Have In Your Collection?

rwa2 Re:Old-school is best (382 comments)

Doesn't exactly have to be Old-skool... the best games (or franchises, even) will change the way you look at the world. Some of the essentials:

Simcity (4 is probably the "best" one, if you were to play no others)
Civilization (II is the classic version, though it seems like they got a lot right with V)
Ultima VII (runs well under the modern exult engine)
Sims (III, no expansions necessary. You can pretend it's an architecture program instead of a dollhouse, that was originally how it was intended)
EVE Online (do the free month, that's enough to get your fill of pretty graphics, frustrating controls, and spreadsheet/economy engineering)
Any top-rated FPS (if you've played one FPS, you've played them all, though some have better single-player stories, and others have better team play)
Portal (I, and then II)
Grand Theft Auto (III:SA is the best, though I've heard good things about V. All of them are nice little satirical time capsules, though)
Starcraft (II BW , and maybe III, just so you know what a nice RTS is like)

Here's my running list of games I want to introduce my kids to:
http://trumblings.blogspot.com...

about a month ago

Submissions

rwa2 hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

top

Android 4.0 ICS on ViewSonic G-Tablet using TeamDRH

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 2 years ago So VeganTab 7.1.0 (Android 2.3 Gingerbread) still appears to provide better app compatibility and performance, but it looks like the Android 4.0-based TeamDRH ROM is getting close in functionality!
I just installed the Beta 1.1 release, and it's making my G-Tablet run real nice. They ship with a 1.2 Ghz overclock option, and the Quadrant scores are better now, in between the Samsung Nexus and Samsung Galaxy. (The VeganTab ROM blew away both of them with a 1.4Ghz overclock).
Still a few issues I've reported:

  • Had to kill DSPManager to get audio working:
    mount -o remount,rw /system
    mv /system/app/DSPManager.apk /system/app/DSPManager.disabled
    reboot
  • Had to uninstall a bunch of background apps / widgets to free up enough RAM for everything to run smoothly. ICS really expects to have 1GB of RAM, so need to lose some weight to get good performance on 512MB :-/ Use an app like "OS Monitor" to see what's running and sort by memory usage.
  • My main goal is to get one of the full Linux distros installed in a chroot, but the TeamDRH kernel doesn't have loop block devices enabled.
  • A few apps don't run yet, like "Leo's RC Simulator", but I suspect they haven't ported to ICS yet.
  • ICS changed the way the internal sdcard can be shared with the PC, and I can't get the new way working :-P So now it's kinda a pain to transfer large files / backups.

But aside from that, I'm rocking out.

top

Running commands on many remote hosts using ssh and xargs

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

There are a few different ways to run commands on groups or clusters of remote nodes, depending upon how complex the command.

Assuming your machines are named "node01" - "node10" :

# Run a command in parallel on all remote nodes
# results come back in random order as they are received.
pdsh â"w "node[01-22]" df

# pdsh allows some more complex listings of hosts
pdsh â"w "node04,node[06-09]" reboot

# Run a command sequentially on all remote nodes
# slow, but results come back in order
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"I '{}' ssh node'{}' df

# Run a command in parallel on all remote nodes without pdsh
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' ssh node'{}' df

# Run a command in parallel needing pipes on the remote host
# Otherwise, pipes are processed locally
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' ssh node'{}' \
"ps afx > \`hostname\`.txt"

# Run a command in parallel needing root
# sudo requires a tty, hence we pop up xterm windows
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' xterm â"e \
"ssh -t node'{}' sudo gdm-restart"

# Run a command in parallel needing root and pipes on the remote host
seq â"w 1 22 | xargs â"P 22 â"I '{}' xterm â"e \
"ssh -t node'{}' sudo bash â"c \"echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches\""

top

Using readahead to speed up disk loading times of any application

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Here's a way to get a list of files read by any application, so you can use readahead to preload those files optimally from disk:

CMD=firefox
strace -fe open $CMD 2>&1 | sed 's/.*open("\(.*\)".*/\1/' > $CMD.preload

# you can sift through that $CMD.preload file to look for things that don't belong

readahead $CMD.preload # preloads all those files into cache

time $CMD # should now start quite a bit faster, without much disk activity

## to clear disk cache as root (useful for testing / benchmarking)
echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

If it works, you might want to append the contents of the .preload files for your commonly-used apps to /etc/readahead.d/default.later , so they are automatically loaded on startup (RAM size permitting)

top

tangoGPS - alternative to Google Maps Mobile on Linux devices

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

So back when I had a Blackberry for work, the one app I really got addicted to was Google Maps Mobile. I basically stopped ever planning for travels. I would hop in the car or get off an airplane, think "now what?" and whip out the device and within a minute or two have directions to some place I've never been to before or a list of the nearest restaurants with a smattering of reviews.

Unfortunately, gmm only supports a handful of devices, most of which I'm not interested in. It won't install on my lousy Samsung t629 phone (which I hate, but Opera Mini helps me tolerate). I have a really old version of gmm on my Palm TX which works great, but doesn't support GPS. I almost bought a Nokia N900 to replace my various gadgets, but then I accidentally my old car and had to buy a new one, so took myself out of the preorder queue.

Which lead to my long protracted search for some kind of mobile mapping software for our eeePC 901 running eeebuntu. GPSdrive looked promising, but I couldn't quite get it to work with my iBT bluetooth GPS, or to even scroll out of Germany for that matter. Google Earth sort of worked, but the fonts and Z-buffer were wonky, and my previous experience hooking Google Earth Plus to a GPS wasn't actually all that stellar. I even tried running the Android SDK so I could try installing GMM in the emulator, and also installed androidx86, but alas, gmm wasn't an option in their stripped-down app repositories.

Finally after many google searches, I found tangogps while simply mucking around in aptitude. I was very impressed with both the simplicity of the user interface and the power of all of the features... In addition to supporting several different map sets out of the box (including an "for testing only" google satellite maps scraper), it also has a friend-finder database similar to Google Latitude, and better yet some of the trip meter features I missed from Garmin devices. Plus the inclusion of sources such as the opencyclemap db makes it more useful to me than GMM was. It's also possible to download tiles over a region in advance for offline viewing.

I now have my eeePC linked via bluetooth to both the iBT GPS and my Samsung t629 phone to download tiles from T-mobile's network using my $10/mo. web2go plan. Unfortunately, it doesn't support search yet, but does have rudimentary routing and directions. But it does give me just what I've really wanted -- an overhead moving map display.

Someday I hope Google will make GMM available for "real" computing devices, maybe on ChromeOS or Androidx86 or better yet just as a standard java app (yes, I also looked into installing the Sun Java micro development environment and generic phone emulator, but it looked like a real mess to get things installed and then somehow connected to a real GPS). Or at least porting to the Maemo platform so it would run on the N900 and friends. But barring that, I think I can make do with tangoGPS until I maybe succumb to one of the newer Android 2 devices due out this year.

top

Palm T5 - TX touchscreen transplant

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

I don't know why I hadn't thought of this sooner. My Palm TX had a pretty broken touchscreen, with large unresponsive areas in the middle of the screen and in the graffiti area. I had been coping with this for years... writing really small and frustrated graffiti in the corners, and creatively using various combinations of presses around the edges to activate buttons in the middle with touchscreen averaging.

But after replacing the broken screen in my wife's eeePC a few weeks ago (it was only $50 for a beautiful new glossy screen) I thought I might try buying a replacement Palm touchscreen (which go for about $20-$30 and include the special * screwdriver). Then I remembered that I had my old broken Palm T5 lying around, which still had a nice working touchscreen. I don't know why I assumed they wouldn't be compatible earlier...

Anyway, the small bit on my leatherman fits the Palm T* screws fine, and after a bit of drunken internal surgery, the transplant was complete. My Palm TX has a new lease on life, with a nicely calibrated touchscreen and hard buttons on the front that work consistently now.

Of course, now I have to invest in some better protective gear to keep it that way... my jacket pocket just contributes too much lint.

Unfortunately, the power button still doesn't work, but there are apps to compensate for that, like PowerBtn or OffStroke.

top

Mirrored RAID read performance, where art thou?

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Back before mdadm (in the days of mkraid), the Linux RAID1 driver used to give you a performance boost when reading from a mirrored array. Essentially, from 2 mirrored disks, it would read half the data from each disk and give you the whole thing almost twice as fast. At some point, they decided to change that behavior so reads would only be performed from one drive at a time. There was still some small performance boost... it would decrease average seek latency a bit by reading from the hard disk spindle that was physically closer to the sector to be read. And maybe it allowed concurrent reads, so one process could read a file from one disk while another process read a file from the secondary disk... but for some reason, that doesn't seem to increase your overall throughput by anywhere close to a factor of 2... more like 1.3 from my brief testing (and I suspect most of that gain was probably due to disk cache rather than parallel reads).

But after reading a few different Linux RAID sites today, it looks like that you can get that kind of performance boost again out of mirrored arrays by using RAID10,f2 ( --profile far=2 )! And even though it's called RAID10, it even works on arrays as small at 2 disks. It basically works by striping your data across the first half of your drives, and then striping the mirror of that data across the second half. This appears to decrease write performance by about 5% compared to RAID1 or RAID10 near=2 (the default), but the read performance finally increases again not only due to striping, but also because your disk heads now stay near the faster outer rings of your disk drives, and only has to dive down to the inner rings for mirroring writes.

So I'm pretty excited about this since I've kinda been annoyed by it for the past few year. Except that of course I now have to rebuild all my RAID1 and RAID10 arrays to use the far=2 profile :P

Here are links to some of the more useful sites with data:
http://linux-raid.osdl.org/index.php/Performance
http://blog.jamponi.net/2007/12/some-raid10-performance-numbers.html
http://home.comcast.net/~jpiszcz/raid/20080528/raid-levels.html

top

SwiftWeasel

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 5 years ago

I am liking Swiftweasel, it is noticeably faster than Iceweasel / Firefox on Linux, especially on netbooks like my eeepc 901 running eeebuntu.

Unfortunately, the deb repository for it is somewhat old (v3.0.3), and current .tgz builds from sourceforge are somewhat old as well (v3.0.5 for x86, and v3.0.6 for x86-64, whereas the current iceweasel / firefox is at v3.0.7). I kinda wish SticKK of the SwiftWeasel Project would post more instructions on how to build swiftweasel from current iceweasel sources.

Until then, I've seen that "about:buildconfig" can be used to identify the compiler and options used. When I get a chance, I'd like to try grabbing the iceweasel deb-src and modifying the build options to match. Don't see anything in there about how to enable Profile Guided Optimization (PGO) which is necessary to make *nix builds of firefox javascript run as fast as Windows builds, as mentioned at this firefox benchmarking site.

Oddly enough, I ran the SunSpider javascript benchmarking suite under both Swiftweasel and Iceweasel, and Swiftweasel actually took a tad longer. I feels much snappier in day-to-day use though, probably because of some of the FasterFox extension options. The default vanilla Iceweasel on the eeepc typically pauses for a second or two on new page loads.

top

Web 2.0 Micro blogging howto

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  about 6 years ago Facebook seems to have suddenly hit critical mass in my friends-and-acquaintances sphere of influence. I don't really like Facebook... social engines like OKCupid and Orkut seem more fun, relevant, and informative. While Facebook seems cold and quite pointless for the most part (most of the activities involve "pokes"... exchange of vampire bites? water fights?). But it does seem to have the largest networked community going for it at the moment. It's filling the gap created by Classmates, allowing people to connect with their long-lost school peers in ways that other countries with more successful implementations of "classmates" services have enjoyed for years (such as the Russian Odnaklassniki.ru)

Anyway, I found this Mashup guide very useful in setting up Facebook and Livejournal and Twitter so they all kinda cross-post to each other. Now if only there was a way to plug my slashdot journal into the fray as well.... hmmmm

top

Eee PC 901 FTW FWIW

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Picked up the black Asus Eee PC 901 20GB for my wife Sofia, to replace her 700Mhz Apple iBook. She's always been a Mac person since working for Yearbook in high school, but I finally broke her of it by buying one of her own after we got married. She's really liking the Eee PC, both for the form factor and their Linux OS. She's never been a Windows person, and on the Mac all she used was Firefox and NeoOffice to work on her MS and PhD coursework in education, so the transition to Linux has been pretty straightforward.

We still have a few quirks with their custom install of Xandros Linux to figure out, which I'll try to record here as I go along.

I'd like to replace the AsusLauncher desktop with a straight IceWM desktop + menu at some point. But since it's for my wife, I don't really want to go too overboard with customizing it.

Also need to figure out the best way to expand the root dir so we can install more software. We're getting the Grad Student edition of SPSS 16 for one of her courses this year, thankfully they sell a Linux port.

top

Keyboard

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Just picked up a Casio WK-110 keyboard for my kids' piano lessons. Toy 'R' Us has them on clearance for $130, down from $200. They must be making way for the new WK-120 model. Hopefully this can tide us over for a while until we can get a nicer digital piano with pedals and hammer action, which usually run in the $500 - $800 range.

My old Yamaha PortaSound that we had been using finally broke... or at least it's at the point where it can only play drums while on battery power. I've had it with me for the better part of two decades. But the keys were small and didn't have any kind of touch response.

top

Nokia 6021 resurrected

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

My Nokia 6021 died the other day. Of course my wife blamed me for swapping my battery with the nearly dead one in her phone so I could use her camera to take some snaps of a family gathering.

I originally picked up an unlocked Nokia 6021 in particular because it was the only tri-band international GSM phone that supported EDGE & bluetooth, but had no built-in camera so I could take it to work. I wish the american GSM providers would figure out that there's a market for this beyond those blackberry devices. I prefer keeping my PDAs and cell phones separate so I could upgrade them independently, thank you. Plus, I typically get a better overall feature set out of $200 cell phone + a $200 PDA compared to the leading $600 "smartphone" of the time.

So the symptoms of my Nokia mobile's demise was a crash on bootup... I'd hit the power button and the screen would just flash white and then shut off again. Once in a blue moon, I could get the thing to boot up a little past the bootup screen, but it would crash again while building the menu. I could also convince the battery to charge to full, so it wasn't a low battery problem.

I pried the thing open and removed the 6 screws holding it together. Inspecting the circuitboard near the main battery contacts, I noticed a tiny little XH414X battery cell that showed signs of corrosion. Nokia had welded it to its battery contacts, so with nothing to lose (I never bother with warranties, esp. with my ~$200 price cap on most of my personal electronics), I simply twisted it out with a pair of needlenose pliers. Afterwards, the phone booted up and worked fine, and remembered all of my memory settings... everything except for the time!

So this little permanently-attached watch battery is apparently a little time bomb waiting to incapacitate your Nokia phone. I suppose mine died early due to the corrosion... I'd be the first to admit that my children and my pocket provide a pretty rough operating environment for my gear. But it's still a bit unnerving that they expect you to upgrade your phone after however many years that battery would last. But since the phone works with the internal clock battery dead, I'm not sure what to think. It's not much of an inconvenience, and my phone offers to set the time from the network on bootup anyway, so it would only be a problem if my main battery died and got replaced while I was stuck in a cave. Perhaps I just hit a weird failure mode where the corroded battery was feeding back some strange voltage that the Nokia engineers didn't expect from a normally dying watch cell.

Anyway, it has vaguely inconvenienced me for a few days while I was on international travel, but here's hoping someone will find this information useful in debugging their related Nokia phone troubles.

top

opie on an iPaq h5450

rwa2 rwa2 writes  |  more than 10 years ago I suppose I should use this space to write about technology.

I got an iPaq h5450 from work, and after toying with PocketPC 2002 for a while (didn't want to shell out the 30 bucks or whatever to upgrade to PocketPC 2003, even if it would make the built-in wifi & bluetooth work), I immediately got around to the task of installing the Linux distributions from handhelds.org on it.

It took a few weeks to play with all of the options, however, because the documentation is in shambles. I finally got the bootloader installed from an Win2k machine, and got the bootloader to install the gtk 'lite' over X 'lite' -based GPE through the RS-232 serial cradle using minicom on a Linux machine.

GPE was neat, but had a few usability issues, so I eventually backed it up (using rsync over a ppp connection) and went to the embedded Qt -based opie. I'm pretty happy with Opie. I tend to be biased towards the more idealistic gnome/gtk/gnu guys than the more pragmatic kde/qt people, but the opie app software was visibly better engineered from the user perspective.

First thing I noticed about each project was that I had to update from the unstable sources to get any decent functionality. Mostly because my hardware is relatively new, but also because the unstable apps just worked better. No big surprise there, esp. with projects under heavy development.

Though OPIE won't just run any minimally-ported X application like GPE will, the application set it does have serves my needs well, with things to handle web browsing (a stripped-down konqueror), a nice terminal with multiple session management and shortcuts to common commands, and VNC.

Just about all of the hardware works, except maybe that fingerprint reader. Most needed manual configuration, though. I have to configure the wifi card using ifconfig and wconfig on each boot and wake from sleep. Many of the FAQs are pretty dated. For the longest time I was led to believe that SD cards didn't work, but I finally stumbled across the right module to load buried in /lib/modules. But I am happy enough that the hardware support is there, even if I have to launch a script to get it to work every time. Looks like the OPIE GUI autoconfig tools are changing rapidly, though, so this will hopefully be behind us in a few months.

Still have some annoying problems. Every few weeks, it locks up hard, and I have to do several hard resets, removing the battery and everything to get it to boot. Fortunately, nothing permanent is stored in volatile memory (unlike in MS PocketPC), so this doesn't result in data loss.

I still end up primarily using my aging Visor Pro, since there's still a lot more useful/indispensible PalmOS software out there (HandyShopper, Progect, Mapopolis, etc.), but I'm hoping to get POSE working on the iPaq eventually. Also need to get multisync working enough to migrate my PIM info over. As for offline web browsing, it looks like JPluck + OPIEReader will fit the bill for what I had been using Avantgo & Plucker for. After that, I should finally be ready to ditch my Visor, but don't hold your breath :P

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?