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Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research

tgeller What about the Turing Award winners? (108 comments)

Microsoft's Pear Street office across the street houses at least two ACM A.M. Turing Award winners: Leslie Lamport and Chuck Thacker ( I wonder what the company will do with them, if anything....

(I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Lamport when he won: See . Nice guy!)

3 days ago

Use of Forced Labor "Systemic" In Malaysian IT Manufacturing

tgeller Some people *do* pay for jobs, and quite rightly (183 comments)

I'm disappointed by the many people (all Americans, as far as I can tell) who post here to say, "fuck no! I'd never be so stupid!!!". This, I think, shows an extremely narrow understanding of the world. Because:

a) America is not the world. There are *many* places where you're expected to pay for your job, in one way or another. Sometimes it's above-board, sometimes not. I don't know about Malaysia, but wouldn't be surprised at all if that was the custom there.

b) Oh, wait, we have this in America, too! I paid LOTS of money to my managing broker when I was a real-estate agent. These are standard fees: Everyone at every agency pays them. And let's not forget the *MINIMUM WAGE* workers forced to pay for their uniforms and so forth.

So stop with the high-and-mighty. You're speaking from ignorance, not strength.

4 days ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Service To Digitize VHS Home Movies?

tgeller Could you do it yourself? (130 comments)

I converted a few tapes with a a $40 gadget (Diamond One Touch Video Capture VC500MAC) and was happy with the results.

By comparison, the one service I checked out charges $12 each tape, plus shipping etc. -- and takes three weeks!

If you have more than a half dozen tapes to convert, you may do well buying a converter. You could let it run at night, then pay somebody $15/hour to do the finishing work (conversion to ProRes or whatever).

(I realize that this doesn't directly answer your question... but is an option worth considering.)

about two weeks ago

ACM Blames the PC For Driving Women Away From Computer Science

tgeller Re:The problem, as always... (329 comments)

One thing I couldn't put in the article (because of space limitations): According to one of my interview sources, the majority of computer science positions in Malaysia are held by women. It's considered a clean and safe occupation for them.

(I'm the article's author.)

about a month ago

ACM Blames the PC For Driving Women Away From Computer Science

tgeller I wrote this article, and am available for comment (329 comments)

Wow, how could I have missed this Slashdotting? Nobody tells me nuthin'.

Anyway. I'm the author of this article -- my list of recent work, which includes it, is

I haven't read the comments yet, and am about to (with trepidation).

One quick note: I take exception with the headline. "ACM" didn't blame anybody for anything. Interview subject Valerie Barr "believes the retreat was caused partly by the growth of personal computers". I've asked for it to be changed.

about a month ago

UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

tgeller Oh, *that* UEA! (97 comments)

To me, UEA = Universala Esperanto-Asocia, the organization tasked with assisting speakers of the language Esperanto.

I thought maybe they'd branched out in a totally unexpected way.

about 2 months ago

FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

tgeller Re:Perfectly appropriate action for the FAA to tak (199 comments)

"Something isn't more or less safe if money changes hands."

No, but:

a) Other factors come into play when money changes hands -- issues of liability, scale, entitlements, conversion of public benefits....

b) Commercial exceptions are well-established in U.S. law.. If you want to argue they shouldn't be, you'll have to go back something like a hundred years. These restrictions have been very good for the country, though, so you'd have an uphill battle.

about 2 months ago

FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

tgeller Perfectly appropriate action for the FAA to take (199 comments)

From the post:

"This is a troubling development in an ongoing saga over the FAA's rules which punish the safe commercial use of drones."

Nope. It's a completely appropriate action according to the FAA's mandate and charter. It's their exact *job*.

Whether it's an appropriate restriction is to be debated.

about 2 months ago
top Thinks Depictions of Pi Are Protected Intellectual Property

tgeller Re:Registration != ownership (264 comments)

Apples and oragnes.

The Nike swoosh and McDonalds yellow M are very specific geometric depictions. Anyone can use a swoosh logo, as a Google image search for "swoosh logo -nike" shows.

Further, each of these examples represents (at least) hundreds of thousands of dollars of development, and hundreds of millions of dollars in direct investment to reinforce through advertising.

about 4 months ago

How the FCC Plans To Save the Internet By Destroying It

tgeller "Congressmen"? Really? (217 comments)

Congresspeople, many of whom are not men. Get with the 20th century, submitter.

about 5 months ago

Google Funds San Francisco Bus Rides For Poor

tgeller Re:Huh? (362 comments)

Malls? MALLS? I'm guessing you don't actually live in San Francisco. ;)

But seriously. If Google had easy access to such private spaces, and they were convenient to their employees (in the crowded Haight, Mission, etc.), I'm sure they'd use those options. But convenient stops big enough for a bus to pull into are quite rare there.

about 7 months ago

Google's Project Tango Seeks To Map a 3D World

tgeller Real Estate and Construction (49 comments)

There are two potentially huge markets. I, for one, would like to be able to take a few (360-degree) photos of my house and have SketchUp (formerly owned by Google) deliver a 3D version that prospective buyers could "walk around in" via their browsers. Similarly, construction works spend a lot of effort making site measurements to create estimates, order materials, etc.. If that could be automatically produced via 3D renderings, all the better.

about 7 months ago

India Cautions Users On Risks Associated With Virtual Currencies

tgeller Re:In a parallel universe... (121 comments)

There's also Primecoin, which proves the concept that mining energy can be put to a useful goal (for some value of "useful").

about 9 months ago

Breaking Supercomputers' Exaflops Barrier

tgeller "Some developers" make ridiculous predictions (96 comments)

Some developers predicted that China's new Tianhe-2 supercomputer would be the first to break through.

Wait... *what* uninformed developer(s) predicted that? The previous record (six months ago) was set by Titan, at 17.59 Petaflop/s. So to pass the exaflop barrier this time around would require over a fifty-fold improvement -- something never before seen in the history of the Top500 list. Did someone *really* make this prediction, or is author Kevin Fogarty just making shit up?

about a year ago

Five predictions for (Bit)coin

tgeller Re:Coin? (179 comments)

<quote>The mapping from your pseudonyms to your "real" identity can be done as soon as you trade your bitcoins for anything not bitcoin.</quote>

That's a good point, assuming that government regulations will require exchanges to record traders' identities (which seems likely). On the other hand, one could use the money to buy something with the Bitcoin and remain anonymous.

Tangentially: I used to think that Bitcoin couldn't be anonymous because one could build an identifying profile based on a series of purchases or exchanges. Then I learned that quite a few holders of Bitcoin use a *different address for each transaction*. That really does muddy the waters!

about a year ago

Five predictions for (Bit)coin

tgeller Re:Reintroducing the central authority for no gain (179 comments)

I think you're underestimating the coordination and effort required in that "administration and such". That's the central authority.

Decentralized authority works for some things -- the Bitcoin system demonstrates that. But some (such as judging insurance payouts) require the human touch.

about a year ago

Five predictions for (Bit)coin

tgeller Re:Coin? (179 comments)

We disagree on what "identity" means. A cryptographic token that stands for "Tom Geller" isn't the same as the meatspace Tom Geller. Heck, even the name "Tom Geller" isn't the same -- it's just a token as well.

The meatspace Tom Geller can be arrested and held. He has to personally show up at the bank to verify his identity when he opens an account. He has a picture on his driver's license that more or less matches his face.

<quote>bitcoins are not anonymous.</quote>

That's true in a technical sense. But practically speaking, they can be mostly so.

<quote>No. Pseudonyms with private keys can achieve the same thing.</quote>

We disagree. I think you're underestimating the reasonable requirements of governance.

<quote>This is done in bitcoin today without any centralized authority.</quote>

No, it's not. The spender is never identified in a real-world way.

about a year ago



Book Review of "Terrible Nerd" by Kevin Savetz

tgeller tgeller writes  |  about 2 years ago

tgeller writes "Book Review of "Terrible Nerd" Contact: Tom Geller, 415-317-1805,, Slashdot username "tgeller" (Note: Slashdot editor Tim Lord and I discussed this review a bit in email. -TG) Title: Terrible Nerd Author: Kevin Savetz Pages: 256 pages Publisher: Savetz Publishing Rating: 7/10 Reviewer: Tom Geller ISBN: 978-1939169006 [Intro text] It's hard to believe that today's nerdier children will one day bore their grandkids with stories of primitive mobile access, household robotics, and 3-D printers. Some will become rich and famous by latching onto tomorrow's winners; others will find themselves irrelevant as the objects of their obsessions fail in the marketplace. But all with the energy to remember will come away with stories from the dawn of creation. One such witness is Kevin Savetz, a 41-year-old technology journalist and entrepreneur whose new book "Terrible Nerd" recounts "true tales of growing up geek" during the '80s computer revolution. It's a rich chronicle that deftly mixes details of his beloved technologies with the zeitgeist a particular time and space. As such, it's an entertaining read for technologists and non-techies alike. [Continued text] Savetz' background was a perfect storm of nerd-incubation factors. Suburban, Californian, white, middle class, and with a statistically improbable number of engineers in the family, he suffered through "special" gym classes and illnesses that drove him further into indoor pursuits. The family's first "computer" appeared around late 1976 in the form of a Fairchild Channel F video game — the first to use ROM cartridges. It was followed by an Intellivision in 1981 before Savetz gained access to his first "real" computer a few months later: an Atari 800 at his father's house, available to him only on bi-weekly visits. As the Atari opens Savetz' world, "Terrible Nerd" traces his progress into a computer-geek community that existed even then. Between epic sessions playing text adventures (like Zork) and 8-bit classics (like M.U.L.E.), he discovered programming, software trading and, ultimately, modem-connected bulletin-board systems (BBSes). This, I think, is where the book is at its most interesting: it charts not only the nascent technology, but also a young man's blossoming into an engaged, social animal. Not that the book is short on personal insights elsewhere. Overall, Savetz does a good job interweaving technology, personal development, and his feelings at the time. It's certainly a personal book, and the author isn't afraid to come off as the bad guy once in a while. He admits to sundry misdeeds, including piracy (ubiquitous then), hacking, forgery, and even rigging a church raffle. But he also shines light on the turbulence of adolescence, from a rocky relationship with his stepfather, to a deceitful boss, to an attempted molestation by a family friend who'd given him a valuable package of software. In this way, it's far more readable than purely technical histories, such as Peter Salus' otherwise fascinating "Casting the Net: From ARPANET to INTERNET and beyond." I would have liked greater cohesion among the stories, though — a story arc, a sense that they were all driving toward something bigger. Without a crystal ball, one doesn't have that sense of purpose at the time; but as this was written in retrospect, he could have done more to tie it all together. On the other hand, one can't fault the author's dedication to recording details of this time — a venture he nobly continues through sites such as and Classic Computer Magazine Archives. Given his archivist's heart, it's surprising that the book didn't include a much-needed index. For me, "Terrible Nerd" started to slow a bit when Savetz related his college experience in the late '80s. Admittedly, this sense of detachment is partly for personal reasons: my own involvement in computers died down for a few years then, so tales of the IBM PC XT and such awoke no memories. Perhaps those years were just not as technologically interesting, as "hobbyist" computers disappeared, and the focus moved from the family den to the office. Or perhaps adulthood is intrinsically less dramatic than adolescence. In any case, this period of the book is not without its great stories, such as the author's accidental denial-of-service flood that shut down Europe's internet connection, or his involvement with the famous multi-user LambdaMOO. (I regretted that he didn't comment on the attention that that MOO got, first from a notable 1994 Wired article, then from the 1999 book "My Tiny Life.") Around then, his longstanding interest in writing and journalism started to pay off. Advice from established computer journalist John C. Dvorak and a lead from war reporter (and fellow MOO-er) Jacques Leslie led him to his first gig with MicroTimes. That led to many other jobs, including a lucrative position as America Online's "AnswerMan" (for a cut of the service's substantial hourly fees). Writing a FAQ on internet faxing got him into entrepreneurship with and several other endeavors, and he took part in founding an early community internet service provider (ISP). He continues to write, and to oversee several online businesses, to this day. Like most personal narratives, "Terrible Nerd" has its slow moments — some phases of one's life just aren't as interesting as others. And unlike the best of them, it lacks an overriding theme beyond "It was cool to be a computer kid in the '80s!". But that was enough to keep me hooked. For those of us who shared that time and space, it's well-presented nostalgia; for those coming up now, it's a roadmap for enjoying emerging technologies in today's time and space. ###"
Link to Original Source

10,000 commits to an open-source project

tgeller tgeller writes  |  more than 3 years ago

tgeller writes "British web designer Jonathan Brown tweeted that Drupal creator Dries Buytaert has surpassed 10,000 commits to the open-source content-management system he created ten years ago, Drupal. In a private email, Dries said "I'm mostly committing other people's patches: Credit really goes to the community at large". Still, it's rare for individual to log that many commits. Can anyone claim more?"
Link to Original Source

Drupal "unofficially competes" as framework

tgeller tgeller writes  |  more than 3 years ago

tgeller writes "Drupal developer Ben Buckman attended the BostonPHP Framework Bake-Off with the hopes of pitting the CMS against CakePHP, Symfony, Zend, and CodeIgniter. He was told that he couldn't because Drupal is "not a framework", a response he felt was "coder-purist snobbery ('it's not a framework if you build any of it in a UI')".

So he decided to unofficially compete in the back of the room by accepting the challenge of building job-posting app in 30 minutes, while the official competitors did the same from the stage. He recorded the results, which are impressive. In the process he raised the question: What *is* a framework, anyway?"

Link to Original Source

Drupal 7 Released Just Before 10th Birthday

tgeller tgeller writes  |  more than 3 years ago

tgeller (10260) writes "While we're celebrating the birthdays of IETF and Wikipedia, let's raise a glass to Drupal, the content-management system that recently saw the release of Version 7 after nearly three years of development. You won't be alone: Over 300 parties in 96 countries cheered the release, which occurred a week and a half before Drupal 1.0.0's tenth birthday. Congratulations all around!"
Link to Original Source

Manifesto: "What Videogames Are Trying To Tell Us"

tgeller tgeller writes  |  more than 3 years ago

tgeller (10260) writes "Liz Ryerson launched her blog "Humans and Games" with a long, insightful article titled "DOOM And What Videogames Are Trying To Tell Us". She compares the "meaning" of DOOM with today's games, in particular how modern games "like to tell us, explicitly, how to play them". By contrast, she says, "DOOM levels have the virtue of just being". She also explores the uncanny valley, the nature of storytelling, and how the impact of games is (and isn't) like movies."
Link to Original Source

Long tail discovered on Mira

tgeller tgeller writes  |  more than 7 years ago

tgeller writes "A paper published today in Nature announces the discovery of a tail trailing behind the star Mira, 13 light years long and visible only in the ultraviolet spectrum. It in essence "lays out" the material that such a red giant sheds as it passes through space, giving astronomers insight into how new stars are formed, and the likely fate of our sun 5 billion years from now."

Checkers solved, unbeatable database created

tgeller tgeller writes  |  more than 7 years ago

tgeller writes "My story in Nature announced that a team of computer scientists at the University of Alberta has solved checkers. From the game's 500 billion billion positions (5 * 10^20), "Chinook" has determined which 100,000 billion (10^14) are needed for their proof, and run through all relevant decision trees. They've set up a site where you can see the proof, traverse the logic, and play their unbeatable automaton. Congratulations to Dr. Schaeffer and his crew!"
Link to Original Source


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