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Math, Programming, and Language Learning

sirlark Re:Your Results Will Vary (236 comments)

Higher Math is not necessary in all fields of programming but it is certainly very necessary in many.

... which means that higher maths is really domain specific, and not necessary for programming. Otherwise I could say the accounting or biochemistry were necessary to learn to program, if that's the field I started out in learning to program

3 days ago

Interviews: Ask Lawrence Lessig About His Mayday PAC

sirlark Re:Irony (308 comments)

There's a chapter in Freakonomics that covers this iirc. The summary goes something like; spending money won't make people like you, and if people dislike you they won't vote for you. If they don't dislike you, then money spent is positively correlated with supporting votes.

about a month ago

Open-Source Hardware For Neuroscience

sirlark Re:less money yes, less time no (41 comments)

Agreed! Firstly, as the P pointed out, a significant amount of time goes into getting grants to fund the experiments. This isn't going to go away, funding is still required, but it will mean that YOUR lab now has a chance of getting the grant, as opposed to the lab that already has the machine available for use because it was funded by the last grant. This means a wider variety of labs doing the science, which is a good thing. Also, having worked for a commercial science institute that really pushed the idea of 'brand name equipment saves you time and money', I can assure you, it's not the case. Our brand name equipment was ALWAYS down, waiting on a repair guy to be flown in from another continent, because the local guy didn't know how to fix it, or didn't have the parts. On top of that, we often had to run experiments multiple times because the results were suspect. The machine operator ended up with more repair skills than the first-level call out guy after about a year... that saved us time! So I'd say having in-house skills for maintaining your CORE equipment is a good thing. Open source design and hopefully some interchangeability in parts, a bonus!

about a month ago

Game Characters Controlled By Player's Emotions

sirlark Bureaucracy! (44 comments)

Does anyone remember that old game: "Bureaucracy"? The aim was too keep your blood pressure low enough not to have a stroke and die while dealing with everyday issues. Maybe a remake with this sort of controller is in order, then it could measure your real blood pressure.

Then, maybe, someone can use the measurements as evidence in a suit against... well basically every cable, internet, or phone company, building contractors, and government institution.

about a month ago

NSA's Novel Claim: Our Systems Are Too Complex To Obey the Law

sirlark Re:Too Big to Be Indicted... (245 comments)

The banks, on the other hand, are very easy to "kill" — just stop using them.

Except when the government steps in with your taxes to bail out the bank that goes bankrupt because everyone stopped using it; and that is assuming Joe Consumer actually has a big enough effect in the first place, because banks don't get deposits only from the man on the street. The money is in the loans. And you can't just stop using a bank if you have a loan. Can't buy a house without a loan either generally, and buying often makes more sense than paying off your landlord's mortgage.

about a month and a half ago

Whistleblowers Enter the Post-Snowden Era

sirlark Re:Missing the point as usual (129 comments)

Good points, both the P and the GP. I should rephrase and re-summarize as: There can be no legal whistle blowing of legal but unlawful activities. I would consider Snowden's revelations lawful, but only some of them legal. Some of the stuff the re released describes clearly illegal activities. Whistle blowing of illegal activities is essentially reporting a crime, and there's a long tradition of reporting crimes (especially corporate ones) to the press instead of the cops.

about a month and a half ago

Whistleblowers Enter the Post-Snowden Era

sirlark Missing the point as usual (129 comments)

actively promotes federal whistleblowing through lawful disclosures (Emphasis Mine)

It's not about disclosing illegal activities. It's about disclosing activities that shouldn't be legal, or activities the public should be made aware of because their government is doing it behind their backs, even if legally. Yes, the ballot box is supposed to be the place to sort it out, but the ballot box presumes an informed citizenry. An informed citizenry presumes a system where whistle blowers are protected if they're actions are indeed in the public interest.

There can be no lawful disclosure if revealing legally classified documents is unlawful, even if the legal system facilitating the classification of those documents doesn't enjoy the broad support of the people. The correct term, that doesn't allow legal weaselling is "the public interest".

about a month and a half ago

Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate

sirlark Re:Kudos (157 comments)

Seems to work for the US military *ducks*

about 2 months ago

Measles Virus Puts Woman's Cancer Into Remission

sirlark Re:What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (74 comments)

This means that we tend to focus on treatments for currently untreatable cancers, and once we have something that is semi-OK, the rate of improvement goes way down. It doesn't go to zero, by any means, but the incentives shift in a way that is both perfectly logical and kind of perverse.

It's called the law of diminishing returns, and applies to nearly everything sadly

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Easy-To-Use Alternative To MS Access For a Charity's Database?

sirlark Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (281 comments)

Two things:

1. The cost of MS license in the third world is really high comparatively, even with academic and non-profit discounts. I've worked at a school in South Africa where the licensing costs of a small lab could have hired an extra teacher. You don't get academic/non-profit discounts if you buy once-off licenses, to get those you've had to go with subscription model since at least 2003

2. The support offered by Microsoft at the school did not cover desktop support, or if it did, that support was so slow in coming as to be useless. That's one reason I had a job. IN this case using off-the-shelf software carries no support advantage, and little usability advantage. Chances are nobody at the school can use a Access, or even excel particularly well. From the original poster suggestion of running it on a VPS I assume they have internet, and are probably more familiar with a browser and word than excel.

All that said, the idea of just using a spreadsheet makes a lot of sense. From a reporting perspective, it makes life easy, and getting data to UNICEF et al is as easy as emailing a copy. I'd avoid Microsoft though, and go with libreoffice.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Beginner To Intermediate Programming Projects?

sirlark If you want to learn (172 comments)

If you are into learning, and don't already have a specific goal you can work towards, I strongly suggest re-inventing the wheel, specifically the file manager wheel, it covers a LOT of ground and will earn you invaluable experience. After writing one you will have solid experience in

  1. File management, and filesystems
  2. GUI coding and almost all of the common widgets
  3. or you could do a text based file manager, up to you
  4. Basics like arrays (lists), mappings (dictionaries), structures (no real equivalent in python, but can be mimicked with classes or dicts
  5. User interface design
  6. program design, this project can be done in a variety of ways, some good, some bad, be prepared to get it wrong throw it out and start again. Also done right, there are lots of small components (e.g. a file copy dialog) that aren't overwhelming to start with. The biggest step in going from beginner to intermediate is learning how to decompose the big problem into lots of little easy to handle small problems... this is the 'art' of computer programming.
  7. A file manager covers a lot of different data structures, and hence the algorithms that use them, vectors, trees, graphs (these three alone get you a LONG way)
  8. Finally, a file manager consists of a LOT of glue code, in fact, most of it is glue code, and writing glue code gives you more practical experience than anything else, because YOU have to figure it out yourself.

Notably, this lacks some other fundamental stuff to programming: SQL (a little knowledge here goes a long way too), graphics coding (the basics I learnt before openGL have stood me in good stead over the years), and I'm sure there's more. Still, a file manager is a good choice IMHO

about 2 months ago

US Government To Study Bitcoin As Possible Terrorist Threat

sirlark Re:Your tax dollars hard at work (210 comments)

No, you wouldn't charge him with bank robbery... but you would sure as hell do a DEEP investigation into conspiracy to commit bank robbery.

about 3 months ago

Kerry Says US Is On the "Right Side of History" When It Comes To Online Freedom

sirlark "Right" as in "right wing"? (261 comments)

So the U.S. is on the "Right", as in "right wing", side? I see what you did there. Be prepared to be black bagged for pointing this out to the sheeple...

about 3 months ago

Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge

sirlark Re:Rewarding the bullies... (798 comments)

Guns are also more targeted. If revenge really is the motivation, that counts for a lot.

about 3 months ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

sirlark Many bad analogies make comparisons useless (582 comments)

"Many eyes makes bugs shallow" applies not only to people working on the buggy code itself, but also all the developers who use the code. Bugs are almost always almost found because of software behaviour, and in general bugs in closed or open software are equally likely to be discovered by end-users. Bug are far more likely to be found by developers though. Consider some different scenarios: (1) A bug is discovered because following the documentation on how to use some API doesn't work exactly as expected; a really bad bug because behaviour under normal conditions is wrong. (2) A bug is discovered because a developer makes an invalid call to an API and it doesn't error out gracefully; still a bad bug, but most developers are going to correct their code to use the API correctly, and maybe file a bug report if the problem is bad enough to break their software. In case (1) someone is always going to file a bug report, closed or open source doesn't matter. In case (2) is different; chances are a developer isn't going to bother submitting a bug report if the buggy code is closed source, they'll just write some validation around the API call to avoid the bug before it happens. If open source, this validation will probably be submitted as a patch upstream, or at least someone is likely to report the bug. But then there's case (3), heartbleed. What you've got here is a bug that for correct input works, no bug to file, for incorrect input appears to still work, so still no apparent bug, but for incorrect input it does extra stuff you don't know in advance to check for. A developer with a case (3) bug is far less likely to discover that bug. If the library is open, a developer debugging their code might step into the library code and see the problem, slightly increasing the likelihood of the bug being found in open source as compared to closed.

The point is that downstream developers count as 'eyes', and probably make up the majority of those eyes. Because of lower barriers to entry, open source projects when compared to their equivalent closed-source counter parts tend to have many more downstream developers. Even is the case of non-library, end-user application projects, other devs are write plugins, extensions etc. so this remains mostly true. The argument that the eyes don't exist is not true. The eyes may not be looking directly at the code, but the code's behaviour is being tested in a variety of other ways. Case (1) bugs are going to be found and reported regardless of whether the source is open or not. Case (2) bugs are probably equally likely to be found, but far more likely to be reported and fixed if the buggy code is open source if there is a downstream workaround. Case (3) bugs are hard to find either way, but are MUCH easier to fix in the open source world.

about 3 months ago

Not Just Apple: GnuTLS Bug Means Security Flaw For Major Linux Distros

sirlark Re:What the hell is this, timothy? (144 comments)

And what's this saying that heterogeneity of the Linux world will make fixing it more difficult? Fix it upstream, and most distros, and ALL the major ones will have it out a s a security update in less than a week.

about 3 months ago

Blender Foundation Video Taken Down On YouTube For Copyright Violation

sirlark Re:Won't work with false ownership claims (306 comments)

Yes, that's what I said... "This particular case is very different". SONY don't own the copyright, and as far as I can tell, their not even claiming that they do. SONY didn't even take the clip down themselves, or issue a take down notice as far, again as far I can tell. Does the automation system actually file a take down notice technically, or does it just "take it down"? Does SONY corp fully control what's on the list of things to compare against for take downs? These are all questions that need answers before we can say exactly what happened. If google/youtube just assumes that anything in SONY controlled channels is owned by SONY (quite possible), then SONY didn't assert copyright ownership. Google/youtube asserted that SONY owned it, which is doubly fraudulent. This is a fuck up. It's a complicated fuck up, and it's a fuck up because google/youtube swings to far in favour of big media/MAFIAA. I'm not saying it's right, but this time, it's doesn't look direct malice.

about 3 months ago

Blender Foundation Video Taken Down On YouTube For Copyright Violation

sirlark Re:Won't work with false ownership claims (306 comments)

Read the GP Again... "claimant's copyright that was reportedly infringed immediately turned over to public domain". The claimant must, even with the fucked up copyright laws we still have, specify what copyright they own is being violated. So even in a false claim, Asshat Corp asserts you've violated their copyright on A, in your work B, they lose copyright on A. Your work, B, is unaffected. This particular case is very different from your normal take down request though, since Asshat Corp has taken your work, B, and included it in their line up (possibly legally if your work was creative commons without a non-commercial clause). Now an automatic system, which is fact totally one sided, has determined your B is the same as their B, and because it always assumes Asshat Corp own everything and everyone else is thief (because that reflects reality ) your B gets taken down. The problem here is the automation. The system should, when a potential infringing case is identified, check the licence of Asshat Corp's claimed infringing content. In this case it would have been CC, so no need to take down. If Asshat corp had CHANGED the license, and the original was CC-SA, then the blender guys would have a very good reason to file suit.

about 4 months ago



Physics Community Afire With Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery | Wired Science | W

sirlark sirlark writes  |  more than 2 years ago

sirlark (1676276) writes "The latest rumors circulating around the physics blogosphere suggest that scientists with the Large Hadron Collider will announce the discovery of the Higgs boson within weeks. “The bottom line though is now clear: There’s something there which looks like a Higgs is supposed to look,” wrote mathematician Peter Woit on his blog, Not Even Wrong."
Link to Original Source

Julian Assange loses extradition appeal at Supreme Court

sirlark sirlark writes  |  more than 2 years ago

sirlark (1676276) writes "Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has lost his Supreme Court fight against extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sex offences. The judgement was reached by a majority of five to two, the court's president, Lord Phillips, told the hearing. Mr Assange's legal team was given 14 days to consider the ruling before a final decision is made, leaving the possibility the case could be reheard."
Link to Original Source

Computer game designed to treat depression as effective as traditional treatment

sirlark sirlark writes  |  more than 2 years ago

sirlark (1676276) writes "Researchers at the University of Auckland tested an interactive 3D fantasy game called Sparx on a 94 youngsters diagnosed with depression whose average age was 15 and a half. Sparx invites a user to take on a series of seven challenges over four to seven weeks in which an avatar has to learn to deal with anger and hurt feelings and swap negative thoughts for helpful ones. Used for three months, Sparx was at least as effective as face-to-face conventional counselling, according to several depression rating scales. In addition, 44% of the Sparx group who carried out at least four of the seven challenges recovered completely. In the conventional treatment group, only 26% recovered fully.

One has to wonder if it Sparx specifically, or gaming in general that provides the most benefit. Given that most of the symptoms of depression relate to a feeling of being unable to influence one's environment (powerlessness, helplessness, ennui, etc) and games are specifically designed to make one feel powerful but challenged (if they hit the sweet spot)."
Link to Original Source


Building a plug and play solar generator

sirlark sirlark writes  |  about 4 years ago

sirlark (1676276) writes "I don't own property, I rent, as do a significant portion of the population I'm sure. I would still like to do my bit for the environment though, and have purchased a geyser insulation blanket that can move a round with me, I recycle plastic/paper/glass etc. But the really significant changes I could make are forbidden, specifically solar or wind power generation. As long as I rent, I can't install solar panels, and I don't even think wind power generation options exist on a single urban property scale. Unless I can convince each and every land lord I encounter to install solar panels, which has never happened, and likely never will as there's no pay off for the land lord since they don't get they energy savings, I can't afford to install solar panels everywhere I go, because they don't pay off in the time before I move again. Also, most land lords flat out refuse to allow that kind of modification to their property, even if I offer to pay (conditional on a long lease).

So, to all you electrical engineers out there, how easy would it be to develop a commercial product that can be used as simply as a gasoline generator, or better yet, plug in to the normal wiring of a house or flat via a standard wall socket? Even if it doesn't generate enough to power the entire house, every little helps. I was thinking something one could mount on a wall that gets a lot of sun, or a rooftop, and can be installed easily with with a ladder and maybe a buddy. Most importantly, something that can be installed and removed without requiring an electrician, and is hopefully as simply as running a cord from the generator to the nearest wall socket."

Best way to promote a new open source project?

sirlark sirlark writes  |  more than 4 years ago

sirlark (1676276) writes "Hello fellow /.'ers, apart from shameless self promotion on slashdot, what suggestion do others have for promoting awareness around a relatively new open source project. It's something I've written myself, and it's now at the stage where I'm running out of close friends who'll let me test on their machines... I need to open up to public beta testing. The project is already on sourceforge. For those that don't want to RTFA, the project is a code generator that takes an SQL file full of CREATE TABLE statements with markup in the comments and generates all the PHP forms required for the usual CRUD operations plus a bunch more... I'm working on a decent web page containing a demo which may take a week or so to get up and running."
Link to Original Source


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