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Interviews: Ask Jonty Hurwitz About Art and Engineering

steveha Re:Is it art? (30 comments)

Would you consider these microsculptures works of art, or a craft?

Question for you: Would you consider photographs to be works of art, or a craft?

I think there is no serious disagreement that photographs can count as art, and these microsculptures were carefully planned and posed as art. If you are going to suggest that they may not clear the bar as art, then it seems to me that you would have to rule out photography as well.

We usually consider replication or fabrication of predefined forms (with challenging technique) a craft.

Are photos art because they are easier to make than microsculptures? I don't quite follow your emphasis on the technique needing to be challenging.

All a photo really is: the visual replication of whatever the camera was pointing at when the photographer activated the shutter release. Yet we consider there is art where the photographer chooses what to photograph, how to frame the photograph, and even things like what kind of film to use (black-and-white vs. color, grainy vs. smooth, etc.). It seems to me that similar dimensions of choice were in play when Jonty Hurwitz made the microsculptures: he chose what to reproduce as sculpture, what poses to use, what scale, what materials the sculptures were to be made from, etc.

Would your position on the microsculptures change if the Jonty Hurwitz had called them "3D photographs"?

P.S. While we are debating what is and is not art, do you take a position on the dadaist sculpture "Fountain"?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)

Personally, I think that there is artistic merit in taking a pre-made object and changing how one looks upon it (I doubt anyone had ever conflated a urinal and a fountain before this). However, while it was radical (even shocking) in 1917, anyone trying to do the same thing today is bringing little new to art. If I put an upside-down coffee maker on a pedestal and title this work "Brown Liquid Fountain" I doubt anyone would be very impressed.

If you reject "Fountain" as not art, you are in disagreement with very many people. If you accept "Fountain" as art, then why would you not accept the microsculptures as art?

And if pre-made art is only clever the first time it's done, Jonty Hurwitz is still on safe ground; I've never heard of anyone else doing this first.

3 days ago
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U.S. Passenger Vehicle Fleet Dirtier After 2008 Recession

steveha Trading off clean cars and costs (176 comments)

If you really want cleaner air, the best thing to do would be to get as many old cars off the road as possible, so that people will be driving new cars. The new cars are so much cleaner than the old cars, it's amazing.

With the above in mind, I don't think the government should tighten up emissions standards even more. All the easy gains are gone, and now it takes engineering and expense to make cars pollute even less, which means that cars will be more expensive. If the government forces all the cars to be cleaner, all the cars get more expensive so it's fair as far as car makers go; but making new cars more expensive means people are more likely to keep driving dirty old cars.

There is a good discussion here: http://keithhennessey.com/2009/05/19/understanding-the-presidents-cafe-announcement/

Thus, while it may seem counter-intuitive, I believe the best way to get the air cleaner is to leave the standards right where they are and try to get the cost of a new car to drift downward.

The new cars are much safer than the really old cars also, so getting more people into new cars will also save more lives than making the crash standards tougher.

I think that within 20 to 30 years, the majority of vehicles will be electric anyway, and emissions will be very much reduced. (The reason I think that: improved solar technology and new storage technologies will bring down the cost of electricity; and battery costs will come down, especially due to the Tesla "giga-factory". I know I'd be happy with an electric vehicle, and rent a gas vehicle for my occasional long road trip.)

about a week ago
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A Paper By Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel Was Accepted By Two Journals

steveha Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea (100 comments)

This example was about predatory journals. There are also predatory "vanity publishers" that convince aspiring authors to pay money to get their book published.

A group of science fiction authors put together a complete novel to sting one such vanity press. The result, Atlanta Nights, is a hoot!

In one chapter, Bruce Lucent is a young hotshot software developer; in another, he is an old, broken-down shell of a man. Some chapters have new characters that are never heard from again. Near the end of the book, the full text of the first chapter appears again as a new chapter. Also, someone wakes up and realizes that it was all a dream... and then the book continues for a few more chapters. And my favorite: the last chapter was written by feeding other chapters into a Markov Chain nonsense generator. Example: "Bruce Lucent walked around anymore."

Rather than using Simpsons names, they chose a fake name "Travis Tea" that sounds like the word "travesty".

Atlanta Nights was accepted for publication, but after the authors had their press release the publisher changed its mind.

http://www.sfwa.org/members/travistea/backstory.htm

They got a bunch of famous authors to give tongue-in-cheek blurbs about the book. Jerry Pournelle: "Don't fail to miss it if you can!"

about a week ago
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Chromebooks Overtake iPads In US Education Market

steveha Re:Chromebooks -- pieces of junk? (193 comments)

By the way, the ChromeBook is easy to put into "developer mode" and then you can install non-Chrome software on it. I installed Crouton and a command-line Debian system. I have Bash, vim, Python, Debian build-essential, and gdb.

about two weeks ago
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Chromebooks Overtake iPads In US Education Market

steveha Chromebooks -- pieces of junk? (193 comments)

The Chromebooks aren't going to last more than a few months. Ever try any of these pieces of junk at BestBuy?

No, I haven't. But I did buy a Samsung Chromebook and I have been carrying it around and using it.

It seems no more fragile than my old Atom-based laptop, which is still in perfect working order.

They are equipped with dim TN LED-lit panels, low resolution, and the keyboards are the most uncomfortable things ever.

Huh, which model in particular are you thinking about? Because IMHO my Samsung Chromebook is kind of like a Mac laptop, only less expensive. Both use similar "chiclet" keyboards, both have multi-touch touchpads (and both *use* the multitouch gestures). The Chromebook costs less, weighs less, and has long battery life; and it is adequate for the things I usually want to do when I'm out and about.

The screen doesn't have a "wow" factor but neither am I suffering when I use it. The 1366x768 resolution is pretty common for a device that size.

You make it sound horrible, but so far I love the thing. It's far better than my old Atom-based laptop (which struggles even to play a YouTube video).

But I digress, I've always hated the "chiclet keyboard" that all the laptop vendors have switched to.

You can thank Apple for that one. They did it first and then everyone else followed.

It does allow for a thinner laptop but I wish there were more laptops still made that have more ergonomic keys.

about two weeks ago
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CoreOS Announces Competitor To Docker

steveha Re:Where Docker failed (71 comments)

Disclaimer: I'm not super experienced in this stuff. I am open to correction if I have any of these points wrong.

Do we really need a full OS image running in a container?

I think we probably do.

One of the key selling points of Docker is that the container is load-and-go. Do you have some wacky old software that has a hard dependency on particular versions of some libraries? You can build a container with just the right libraries and get your software to work... and, after you do that work, the container is just another container. It may have been a pain for you to get it working, but then anyone can run it on any Docker host as easily as any other container. This seems kind of powerful to me.

Do you need to see how your software runs on CentOS and Debian? You can set up a container for each, and run the tests on a single host system.

And if you want maximum security, it's kind of neat that each docker container can use just its own private file system and containers can't affect each others' running state.

So, if you are content with running an up-to-date system, and always running the latest versions of everything, and upgrading everything together, you could make a security isolation system lighter weight than Docker, but trading off some of the simplicity and flexibility of Docker. You might think it's a good choice, but I don't think you can reasonably claim that it's better in all ways.

Containers should run a single process. We shouldn't look at containers as a more efficient VM.

As I understand it, it is considered best practice in Docker to run a single process per container. Some people do use Docker as a sort of lightweight VM but not everyone likes it.

Are you arguing that Docker is flawed because it doesn't enforce one process per container? Because I'm not seeing it. I would rather have the flexibility; if I want to use Docker as a lightweight VM, the option is there, and I don't see that as a bad thing.

Do you really want to have to run apt-get or yum inside every container?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that you don't have to run a package manager inside every container. You would have a "base system" image, and you would update that image from time to time; then you build your specific containers as layers on top of the base image.

I believe a container could simply be a script that starts up a service, and config files that configure the service, with the actual packages for the service in the "base system" image. I'm not sure if that is standard practice or what.

I'm hoping that with Docker I could make micro-servers, like a Docker container with just a web server in it, not even a Bash shell. If someone cracks my server I want him in a desert, with no tools to help him escalate his privileges. I'm not sure how feasible that is now, but I think Docker is at least headed in that direction.

I'm not opposed to this new Rocket thing, but I'm still not clear on its actual advantages over Docker.

about two weeks ago
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First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

steveha Re:TIE-Fighters flying in Atmosphere?!?!?!?! (390 comments)

Keep in mind, JJ Abrams also had the Enterprise submerged in under water. I could maybe buy that if they had the shields up the whole time and the water never got to touch the hull, but it was made completely clear that no, it was just dunked in water and functioning normally.

In short, JJ Abrams doesn't care about geeky physics and engineering concerns; if something looks kind of cool, he'll go with it.

about three weeks ago
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First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

steveha Re:Lightsaber crossguard wtf (390 comments)

I wondered why no one ever came up with the idea of a blaster that fired three bolts in a slightly spreading triangle.

And I wondered why nobody ever used simple projectile weapons, like a 20th-Century assault rifle or even a shotgun. With blasters, when you shoot at a Jedi, you or one of your buddies gets hit with the deflected blaster bolt; so use simple bullets that would vaporize on the sabre even if the Jedi could get them all.

Or if you want to go all science-fictiony, lasers. Go for what Larry Niven once called "a mile-long invisible sword".

about three weeks ago
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Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County

steveha Paper trail (127 comments)

Should we go back to paper ballots?

Yes, yes, yes.

I live in the Seattle area of Washington State. We used to have a nearly perfect system and I would like to see it adopted everywhere. (We now have mail-in voting only, which is convenient but I worry about fraud.)

Here's the perfect system:

Ballots are stiff paper/very light cardboard, printed with oval "bubbles" next to the things for which you can vote. You vote by filling in a bubble with an ink pen.

Once you are done voting, you feed the ballot into an optical reader over a collection bin. If you have made any obvious mistakes (such as voting for both candidates for a single position) the machine kicks the ballot back out to you; you then get a fresh ballot and vote again.

Once my wife had a little ink smudge on her ballot, and the machine kicked it back. It was designed to err on the side of absolute clarity; if it accepted a ballot, that ballot was unambiguous.

The optical reader keeps an unofficial tally, and at the close of voting the tally is forwarded to the state elections department. An unofficial but very accurate result is available within an hour or so of the end of voting.[1]

There are physical paper ballots so there is a literal paper trail. Recounts are easy.

There is no "hanging chad" problem; the optical scanner at the polling place makes sure that each ballot is unambiguous.

Then all you need is a good "chain of custody", making sure that all ballots are delivered (and no fake ballots are introduced into the counting).

[1] Of course, absentee ballots will also be counted and the absentee results will not be available that fast; but non-close election results will be known that fast.

about three weeks ago
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Intel Claims Chip Suppliers Will Flock To Its Mobile Tech

steveha Intel isn't going to win this one (91 comments)

I've said it before: companies that are perfectly happy with ARM chips now are not going to be in a hurry to lock themselves in to sole-source chips.

http://apple.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3202785&cid=41735071

Intel would have to be better than ARM, and not just a little bit better... they would have to be dramatically better, such that the risk of being locked in to a sole source vendor would be worth accepting. It hasn't happened yet and I don't expect it to happen.

It will be difficult for any company, even AMD, to really challenge Intel in the high-end CPU market. But it would take a miracle for Intel to lock down the mobile CPUs market.

Intel's plan:

0) Get everyone locked in to needing to buy chips from Intel.
1) Charge stiff margins for those chips.
2) Profit!

Intel does have some chips in some Android devices, but they aren't charging the stiff margins they would like to charge. I don't think they will ever manage to do it.

Second best would be to not charge stiff margins but at least get a large chunk of the available profits from the mobile space. But I don't think they will be able to push out ARM and gain majority share of the market; they will continue to be a niche player.

about a month ago
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Joey Hess Resigns From Debian

steveha Re:Unfortunate, but not surprising (450 comments)

Another turn in the wrong direction, in my opinion, is Wayland, which breaks many highly useful (to users) capabilities provided by X11.

If Keith Packard thinks Wayland is a good idea, I'm inclined to trust him. And, he does.

Perhaps you don't fully understand what Wayland is or why the senior X11 developers think it is a good idea. Please read through this and see if it changes your mind:

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=x_wayland_situation&num=1

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Minimizing Oil and Gas Dependency In a Central European City?

steveha Non-expert suggestions (250 comments)

I'm not an expert, but you asked on Slashdot so I guess you are willing to listen to non-expert opinion.

  • Insulate as much as you can. In the USA we can hire experts to come out, look at a building, make recommendations, and then carry out the work. My home, for example, had its insulation upgraded as much as possible: thick insulation in the attic space, as much insulation into the walls as they could take (not much), and windows replaced with triple-pane windows filled with krypton gas.
  • If you expect to lose power for only short times, it may be enough to have a large capacity UPS on your server. For long-term independence you will need a generator.
  • Could your server needs be handled by a low-power server? I use an HP Proliant Microserver which is pretty much a laptop motherboard (uses an AMD Turion II mobile processor). Perhaps you could use an actual laptop for your server and have a built-in "UPS" in the battery.
  • For rooftoop solar, photovoltaic panels would be simplest, but I believe that panels that collect heat are the most efficient. I suggest you Google search for "solar off-grid" and "solar water heating" and read about these.

about a month and a half ago
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Slashdot Skeptics Were Right About Dual-Core TK1 Performance

steveha It may be a bit early to pronounce doom (1 comments)

The user experience is a bit laggy on the first-ever device using the new chip. PROOF! Proof that the chip is a complete failure!

Hmm. Maybe we should wait a while and see if any updates from Google will improve things.

about a month and a half ago
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Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

steveha Re:Vote by mail. (388 comments)

Why make it harder to vote for people who have to work, single parents, the elderly, those without transportation, etc?

When in-person voting was standard in my state, there was always a provision for "absentee" ballots, available to anyone who would have a true hardship to vote in person. I never proposed getting rid of all absentee ballots; I just think they should be limited to those who truly need them, rather than all voters mailing all ballots always.

The number of fraud cases is likely extremely low, to the point of being a statistical anomaly.

How can you know this?

about a month and a half ago
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Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

steveha Re:Vote by mail. (388 comments)

If you prevent 1,000 cases of fraud by stopping 10,000 legitimate voters then would you really say that is a solution?

Do you have any evidence whatsoever that in-person voting stops any voters, let alone ten thousand of them?

If in-person voting is such an unreasonable burden, then why was it the way my state did things from the time it became a state until a couple of years ago?

Do you at least agree that voter fraud is a problem? If an honest count of the people's votes would choose candidate A, but ballot-stuffing manages to swing the election over to candidate B, would you agree that some harm has been done?

I claim that 1,000 fraudulent votes is equivalent to disenfranchising 1,000 legitimate voters. Do you agree, or do you disagree with this statement? If you disagree, then why?

It is disenfranchisement for the sake of exclusion, not actually making the system better.

Who is trying to disenfranchise voters for the sake of exclusion? Who are the voters to be disenfranchised?

Did you intend to specifically imply that I'm a liar, that I don't actually care about voter fraud but just want to disenfranchise people? If so, upon what evidence do you base this conclusion?

about a month and a half ago
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Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

steveha Re:Vote by mail. (388 comments)

I don't personally have any evidence that it's happening. James O'Keefe, however, collected video evidence that if it did happen, that the Democratic party operatives he talked to would be okay with it and encouraged it.

"I mean, that's not even like lying or stealing. If someone throws out a ballot, you should just... do it."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_uHDjk3fSc

But isn't this sort of beside the point? If I told you about a vulnerability in a server, would you (a) fix the server, or (b) demand to know whether I had any evidence that the vulnerability was actually being exploited?

about a month and a half ago
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Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

steveha Re:Vote by mail. (388 comments)

Much better solution. No lines. No scheduling around work. Several weeks to study out everything.

It's also much easier and lower-risk to vote fraudulently by mail. Even if someone comparing the signatures detects a forged vote, it will be pretty much impossible to find the person who forged it.

I much prefer showing up at a polling place and marking a piece of stiff paper or light cardboard, with volunteers (all political parties welcome) watching everything. I want the ballots hauled away in locked boxes and watched at all times.

Go ahead and use computer scanners to tally the votes. But keep the ballots as a paper trail. Recounts are easy to do and humans can easily check up on the results from the scanners.

And, polling places can have unofficial vote tally scanners that count votes all day and then forward the results to the state department of elections, so the news can find out who appears to be winning.

In fact, the above is the way elections used to work where I live; in recent years the state has gone to mail-in ballots only.

Where I live, the state department of elections mails out a voters's guide many weeks before the actual election, so it's easy to study. Ideally the guide should include a printed sheet that would list the offices for which you could vote, so you don't even have to figure that out on your own from your voter's ID card or whatever.

about a month and a half ago
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Internet Archive Launches Arcade of Classic Games In the Browser

steveha Re: How long will it last... (94 comments)

Politics is the art of the possible. There are big-money companies that really, really don't want some properties to go into the public domain... and I don't think it will be possible to make a simple scheme like 14+14 in the face of their opposition.

I think the best we can hope for, the best we can realistically obtain in the current political environment, is to allow copyright holders to renew forever, but absolutely require that renewal (nothing automatic).

So Disney will pay people to meticulously track every old Disney cartoon, will pay the copyright renewal fee on each one every 5 years or whatever, and won't oppose letting other stuff fall into the public domain. Meanwhile, wacky old video games where nobody is even sure who controls the copyright would fall into the public domain, as nobody would pay the fee.

I don't even care how much the fee is. Make it $1. What I want is for the default case be that things fall into the public domain.

I don't view the above solution as perfect, but I do think it is the best that we can hope for in the current environment.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can You Say Something Nice About Systemd?

steveha Re:Journalctl logging is more secure (bug #1098132 (928 comments)

where's the problem?

Upon re-reading the original post, I have figured out what I missed the first time around: the original poster doesn't trust the SystemD journal system and wants the ability to completely remove it. (I had tunnel vision on the remote logging thing; mea culpa.)

The original poster also claims that, as existing logging solutions are well-understood, that using the SystemD journal system might expose the owner of the computer to liability. I consider this idea rather wild; I'm not a lawyer but I'm pretty sure that no court would consider it negligent to use the provided logging daemon that Red Hat has been shipping for years now. And, one of the reasons for the binary format in the first place is to make it impossible to alter a log without the changes being detected; this seems like a rather strong advantage with respect to liability.

I would like to see statistics of how many computers are running SystemD, and of those, how many have had actual problems with the journal. If it's as bad as the original poster is claiming, then let's see the numbers.

about a month and a half ago

Submissions

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How Apple Makes the New Mac Pro

steveha steveha writes  |  about a year ago

steveha (103154) writes "Yesterday Apple released a new YouTube video giving a peek at how the new Mac Pro is manufactured. The Atomic Delights blog explains more about what you can see in the video.

Deep drawing is a process that very efficiently produces a "net shape" part. Apple could have just chucked a giant hunk of aluminum in a lathe and created the same part, but that amount of metal removal is extremely inefficient. Deep drawing efficiently creates a hunk of metal that is very close to the final shape of a Mac Pro in just a couple of operations.

"
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E-voting machine votes 100% wrong

steveha steveha writes  |  more than 4 years ago

steveha (103154) writes "The New Bern, NC Sun Journal newspaper reports that some local voters have seen the e-voting machine record the exact opposite of the voter's request. There is a button to vote a straight Republican ticket, and when pushed, it voted a straight Democrat ticket. A local voter observed this behavior four times in a row; the fifth time, the button worked correctly. If ATMs were this unreliable, no bank would use them. Why is this level of failure acceptable in voting machines?"
Link to Original Source
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Self-Cleaning Solar Panel Tech: 40% better yields

steveha steveha writes  |  more than 4 years ago

steveha (103154) writes "From the article: "The technology involves first using a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor the levels of deposited dust on the panel. When the dust levels get too high, a charge is applied to the coating and the dust is physically move across the panel via the charge and dumped off the edges.

The procedure uses a minimal amount of energy, making it a viable cleaning solution. It removes 90 percent of dust, greatly improving power output. And best of all, the technology has already been stress tested by NASA space probes and rovers under the harsh Martian climate.""

Link to Original Source
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Best Buy offers 3 computers for price of iMac

steveha steveha writes  |  more than 5 years ago

steveha (103154) writes "Microsoft announced a deal offered by Best Buy: a bundle with a desktop computer, a laptop, and a netbook, all with Windows 7 pre-installed, for $1199... the same price as Apple's least-expensive iMac. It was surprisingly hard to find the actual deal on the Best Buy web site, but with some digging I found: http://www.bestbuy.com/windows7pc and click on "PC Home Makeover"."
Link to Original Source
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Craig's List used for evil

steveha steveha writes  |  more than 6 years ago

steveha (103154) writes "We've seen stories about bogus Craig's List postings. It happened again and this time, it was an attempt by burglars to cover their tracks. A police officer said "Other Craigslist hoaxes we've seen were malicious..." which begs the question: how often does this sort of thing happen? Is this new, or has anyone ever pulled this sort of stunt with, say, a classified ad in a newspaper? Are people more inclined to believe one of these hoaxes if they read it on the Intarweb?"
Link to Original Source
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steveha steveha writes  |  more than 7 years ago

steveha (103154) writes "Scott Adams lost his ability to speak normally, and then got it back again. A few weeks later, he caught a cold, and regressed. His blog tells the story of how he tried an unconventional treatment and how well the treament worked for him, with lots more details on Spasmodic Dysphonia and how to treat it. Extremely interesting reading."

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