top Microsoft Prepares Rethink On Windows 8
Windows 8 is OK. What I find problematic about it is that the traditional desktop and Metro seem to clash with one another even though you can use them both simultaneously. On the outside you want to pick which environment you want to spend the most time in; if you want to stay in Metro, then use only Metro apps, but if you want to live in the Desktop, then you find yourself avoiding any Metro apps. It's just too hard to mix the two together.
Assuming, however, that you just want to use the Desktop all the time, Windows 8 is not that big of a deal. It boils down to the fact that they took away the start menu, and that apparently drives people nuts. Personally, I don't even like the start menu. The programs you use all the time end up being pinned to the task bar, and for the occasional other program, you just hit the Windows key and type in its name. It's really not hard, but people just don't figure this out. My uncle got a new Windows 8 laptop last week, and right when he got it I told him three or four times to use the Windows key and type in order to search for the program he wanted, and he *still* would just open the start screen with the mouse and then open "All Programs" and sit there reading all the entries in order to find the program he was looking for. A few days later he said, "You know, I realized I can just hit the Windows key to switch between the Desktop and the start screen."
I would consider Windows 8 to be an upgrade from 7, but people struggle with the interface changes. Windows 7 has a more "pure" UI experience, and it's what people expect.
about a year and a half ago
top The Balkanization of Chatting
As much as I hate to say this, Facebook is really the only service that offers "everything." First of all, you can message anyone on Facebook by their name, so now you've eliminated the need for addresses/screen names. Facebook messages can be long like e-mails, and conversations can span weeks or days, or they can be short like instant messages and carry on in real time. Facebook messages can include multiple recipients like e-mail conversation, or in the same way it can be like a chat room. You can access it through the web, mobile apps with push notification, or desktop software. It automatically syncs the inbox/history across all platforms; you basically never miss a message. You can attach files, embed photos, and so on. The only thing that e-mail does better is lets you have multiple conversations going on simultaneously with the same person, categorized by subject (they could probably implement this with some sort of conversation forking option).
Various services offer all these things in slightly different ways, but never wit the same level of accessibility and unification. Google tried to step into Facebook's territory and ended up with 3 distinct messaging services: Gmail, Talk, and G+ Messenger (mobile). On top of that you can "inbox" people on G+ by sharing posts with notifications. The integration between Gmail, Talk, and Android can give you a sort of omni-chat experience, but it simply lacks the cohesion and ease of Facebook.
As for Skype, it is coming close to offering what Facebook offers in terms of chat features, but a) their mobile app needs to be more "mobile", and b) they need a good web interface.
about a year and a half ago
top France Demands Skype Register As a Telco
The obvious course of action for Skype is, if the French government considers imposing regulations on Skype, to deny service to France. The French government is not powerful enough to put Skype in a disadvantageous position; all Skype has to do is pack up its bags and leave, and then France will be denied the revenue it was after and will also have to deal with a bunch of angry constituents.
top Netflix Using HTML5 Video For ARM Chromebook
Not all DRM is evil. It really depends on who is applying it, when, where, and how. DRM is an ugly name for a set of technologies that have their uses; if I agree to let Netflix stream a movie to me and understand that my computer is going to encrypt and handle it in such a way that I won't be able to save or download the movie, that's OK with me; I'm still the one in control. That doesn't mean proprietary video streaming will always be crammed down my throat.
Using DRM in this way is a great boon for open technology. In this case it's helping HTML5 video to stand on its own and be established as a universal standard. When the standard become more popular, it becomes easier to utilize it for our own libertarian purposes. This will get people off of and away from disgusting things like Flash and Silverlight. It's a win win situation.
top Game Site Wonders 'What Next?' When 50% of Users Block Ads
I used to block ads because they slowed down my computer or interrupted what I was doing. For example, if an ad was a popup of some sort, or if it had to load a plugin like flash. 10 years ago I had an Athlon XP 3000 with 256mb of RAM, and with my internet connection and computer speed even normal ads slowed down my browsing. The most logical thing to do was block the ads; I never even looked at them anyway, and I certainly had never clicked on an ad.
Fast forward to now, I have an Athlon II 4x, 8gb of RAM, and Google Chrome, and ads just don't seem to make a difference anymore. I don't notice the time it takes for them to load, and they generally don't get in my way. Now just installing an ad blocker would be a hassle. On systems that are a little sluggish I will mainly just use a flash blocker, which I find to be more simple and effective than ad blocking.
I don't believe very strongly in online advertising. It works effectively for some companies, but also there is this prevailing notion that you can make any web-based company/endeavor work just with ads. Not everyone is entitled to a slice of the pie; I'm not going to stay awake at night wondering if video game bloggers are getting paid to blog about video games or not. Let them eat cake.
top Gnome Founder Miguel de Icaza Moves To Mac
I use serveral operating systems frequently due to work (and it used to be my hobby). I appreciate OS X's desktop interface a lot, but I don't realy understand Miguel's justification that Mac "just works" in terms of package availability and the quality of the base system.
It's no secret that OS X's base is lifted from FreeBSD. Is Linux too fragmented and chaotic for you? Do you long for a complete and and integrated system base in a single source tree, backed by unified development effort? FreeBSD has that. It also has very high package availability (better than most Linux distros).
On the Linux side, I use Fedora. I never have any trouble finding packages for Fedora. The quality that gets put into the base system of Fedora also leaves little to be desired.
I don't fault Miguel for his choice. OS X is nice--it gets the job done. I just don't think OS X is really giving him something special that he couldn't have gotten with Linux, BSD, or even Windows. If he misses the development toolchain of Linux, he should go back to Linux; that's totally understandable.
top Who Would Actually Build an Ubuntu Smartphone?
There are lot of companies in places like China and Taiwan that are able to manufacture mobile devices. Because of Android's liberal licensing, a lot of these companies have churned out Android devices under brand names that you've never heard of. If Ubuntu software is equally or more liberally licensed, they will be more than happy to slap this free software on their devices and flood the market with them cheaply.
top EFF Looks At How Blasphemy Laws Have Stifled Speech in 2012
Of course, I forgot to add that in many countries blasphemy is not the real issue, but rather the blasphemy card gets played as an excuse for politically motivated censorship. The reason why states often clash with sites like YouTube is because they perceive them as vehicles of foreign influence and a challenge to their authority.
top EFF Looks At How Blasphemy Laws Have Stifled Speech in 2012
The blasphemy laws in this could easily be revised. I'm not against moderating public speech to some extent in order to respect public sensibilities. We have this in the US with our obscenity laws; free speech is important to us, but we realize that not all types of speech are good or valuable to a free society. In countries which have liberal democracies, blasphemy laws can be a little difficult to understand since people here generally don't care about religion, but oh boy if you criticize something they
really care about then you're in for it. In how many of our countries is treason punishable by death? Forget about asking people to respect God--we demand respect for something so lowly as the state.
That being said, the revisions I would propose to blasphemy laws are simple. With mediums like the Internet and computer, everything people access is done so voluntarily--you get content only when you request it. This is not like shouting something in public with a megaphone or broadcasting something on radio or television where someone may unwittingly be exposed. Therefore, the laws could make a clear distinction that would allow blasphemous content when transferred over the Internet or in writing, but forbid it in volatile spheres. The goal of the laws is not to stifle discourse, but rather prevent public unrest, so this measure would be fitting. Take the recent example in Egypt where there were massive protests in response to the YouTube clip of the video that ridiculed the Holy Prophet; a great many people were genuinely hurt and upset, but
not because the video was on YouTube. The outcry started because the offensive content was broadcasted publicly on local television in Egypt. This is analogous to shouting fire in a movie theater. Shouting fire in this manner is illegal not because of whether or not fire is dangerous, but rather because it generates a crisis when the people react. Therefore, with respect to religious sentiment and social order, I suggest that websites or written materials not be censored, and that blasphemy laws be refined to apply to spheres in which they were originally intended to do good.
top Using Technology To Make Guns Safer
How about a handgun like the sword in the movie blade, that if you grip it and don't disable the booby-trap mechanism blades will swing out, disabling the person attempting to sue the weapon.
In all seriousness, though, making guns safe is not all that difficult. I have a TT pistol made in Yugoslavia sometime in the early 1960's; in order to be sold in the US, a safety switch blocking the trigger had to be added. The safety switch was not necessary, though. First of all, the gun is single-action; you have to cock the hammer in order to fire the gun. The hammer has a half-cock, which does two things: it blocks the trigger (basically your safe-mode--you can't fire the gun), and it keeps the hammer off of the firing pin, so that if you dropped the gun it would not fire accidentally. On top of that, it has a magazine safety--if you remove the magazine from the gun, the trigger is blocked. This is particularly useful because many people assume that a gun without a magazine is unloaded, but there may still be a round in the chamber. In the case of this pistol, no magazine = no firing. If the hammer is pulled back and there is a round in the chamber, you can drop the magazine and prevent the gun from firing; then you can pull back the slide and eject the round. The hammer can also be manually decocked, which is very dangerous if the gun is loaded, but doable if for some reason you had to disarm it without ejecting all the ammo.
My point here is that this gun, which is at least 50 years old, is actually very safe to handle and operate. I don't really think we need fancy technology and shooter-identification systems. Hell, the M1911 features a safety-grip so that you cannot pull the trigger unless you're firmly gripping the gun. To make guns safe, you just have to not do anything that is extremely stupid and you're fine. Don't keep a gun loaded when you don't have to. Adding safety features and technology won't prevent violent crimes--the shooter in the recent mass shooting was using a rifle that he purchased himself and was firing it intentionally, so no safety feature would have made a difference. People make a big deal about how the shooter used an AR-15, an "assault weapon," but in reality it was just a generic semi-automatic rifle. Any hunting or sport rifle could do the same, so in order to prevent shootings you'd basically have to ban all firearms of all kinds, and even with the ban shooters would still get and use them. I doubt a suicidal or insane shooter would care too much about breaking a firearm ban if he already had intentions of committing mass murder. Even with a bolt action rifle, he could have done the same or greater damage (bolt action = increased accuracy, better aiming).
top Valve's Big Picture Could Be a Linux Game Console
Ah yes, the "serious" gamer.
top Valve's Big Picture Could Be a Linux Game Console
I'm sure this is common knowledge to many of us, but Linux platforms (including game platforms) are not really all that uncommon. Many posts I'm reading on here--the general tone of the discussion--seems to regard a Linux console as an unusual or extraordinary thing.
OK, we well all know that gaming existed in some form on Linux since the beginning. In fact, I'm a little bit impressed by the number of computer games that have been commercially released for Linux in the past two decades, not to mention games that have been cloned, ported, or otherwise created in open source fashion. We've had commercial video card support for ever, and decent APIs to work with... but what about platforms?
We've had platforms too. In fact, my first Linux console was the GP2X, which I purchased upon release in 2005 (7 years ago!). Granted, it wasn't that great of a platform, but it was something. I played Cave Story on it from start to finish, and it was the best gaming experience I had had since I was an adolescent.
However, if you really want to talk about Linux gaming platforms, look no further than Android. We have scores of Android devices in the wild (probably hundreds by now), and they come with all the hardware and software support you can ask for. In fact, I was a little bit surprised just how many games--most of them commercial--have been written natively for Android, and they're not even all casual. I would take issue with anyone who doesn't consider Android to be one of the main gaming platforms today.
So, a Linux gaming console is really not that crazy of an idea. As other people have pointed out, it really doesn't matter that much what OS your console runs... games are not particularly OS-oriented applications. I'm all for free software--I use the stuff all the time, but I still play games on my PS3. Sure, I can't tinker with my PS3 games much or the platform they run on, but if developing open source games were really my thing, Linux is right here on my PC ready and waiting.
top A Suicide Goes Viral On the Internet
You do realize that you're failing to disagree with me, right? I said that the rate of suicide is low enough to be carried by the gene pool, and your following statement "if it doesn't have any effect on the gene pool, there is no evolution going on" doesn't contradict my statement. Death in any form affects a gene pool, be it slight or immeasurable; populations in which a small percentage die from a particular disease may develop immunity to the disease... not because the disease was going to wipe out the population, but the individuals in the population which more successfully resisted the disease were overall healthier and produced more offspring, thus affecting the gene pool. Individuals that have a strong tendency toward suicide edge themselves out of the gene pool, whereas those whose genome make them more resistant to suicide have a better chance at propagating their genes. This process happens over several generations. Evolution functions in a way that mitigates suicide, which is my original statement and I stand by it. Yes, suicide, still happens--it's just limited, but you are apparently the one who has no grasp of evolution to insist that it's an all-or-nothing situation (either everyone must commit suicide or nobody).
Now let's say for some reason suicide increases the chance of reproduction. For example, spiders who get eaten after mating--to reproduce means to die, but then they have a better chance at having offspring. Because it helps in successful reproduction, evolution has made this behavior common and ubiquitous among the species (in this species nearly all males get eaten after mating). Among human beings, the rate of suicide is actually very low--we're talking a fraction of a percent. Why isn't it more common? Why not 10%? 50%? 80%? Evolution. Learn how it works.
top US and EU Clash Over Whois Data
But isn't it technically possible for people to set up a free DNS or functionally equivalent service of their own, without any government or private regulations, and without necessarily charging [exorbitant] fees to use it? Everything else related to the web is open source...
top A Suicide Goes Viral On the Internet
If there were any survival value to being "resistant to suicide" than why do we still have people killing themselves?
It's because the rate of suicide is low enough to be carried by the gene pool--it's not high enough to threaten the population as a whole. Yes, evolution does stipulate that that life be able to survive somehow--suicide is no exception to this rule. All I'm saying is that evolutionary theory gives us an actual reason to believe that mass suicide will not happen. I mean, sure there are always some people killing themselves, but I think the notion of copycat suicides going epidemic because of online videos is a load of nonsense and is contrary to what we know about biology.
Personally I think you're over-philosophizing this.
top A Suicide Goes Viral On the Internet
In all seriousness, though, while people do kill themselves sometimes, evolution does play a role here. People who are resistant to suicide are more likely to reproduce and spread their genes, so the problem of suicide is not likely to ever be a serious problem on a mass social scale, or even a threat to the survival of our species.
top Ask Slashdot: Where Should a Geek's Charitable Donations Go?
I'd recommend the EFF.
top Red Hat Will Pay Microsoft To Get Past UEFI Restrictions
Reminds me of the OLPC XO-1. It was a Linux based platform that used openfirmware, and the device shipped with the firmware totally locked down. There was no way to access the firmware or load another OS unless you applied to OLPC for a special key that [looked like it] was generated based on your machine's serial number and only they knew. Otherwise you would only be able to boot disk images signed by them.
To me this was really a nuisance, and I promptly disabled the firmware security and forgot about it, but arguments in favor of this sort of thing are something along the lines of "prevents hacking" or "prevents you from accidentally screwing it up."
Heck, even your average PC today probably has some BIOS settings that need to be fiddled with before you can successfully boot a new operating system, so it seems like standard fare.
top OLPC Project Disappoints In Peru
I was born in 1986, and at that time personal computers were on the rise. Yes, personal computers existed long before that, but back then many people still did not have them. At the time computers were more expensive and not as interesting to intellectually challenged people. It wasn't for several years that every member of society absolutely had to have a computer and an e-mail address. I know people who held out for a decade after it became ubiquitous.
Ever since I was in kindergarten, the prevailing [ignorant] viewpoint in society was that computers just magically made people smarter and improved your child's education a billion percent. Every school that I attended had to have computers, and they always bragged about how many computers they had. Idiots in the administration talked about how technology was revolutionizing education and how the students were being prepared for the future by being taught computer skills. By the time I was in high school, they made sure that every single classroom had at least one computer in them, sometimes two or three or five. Nothing relevant about computers was actually taught.
Ultimately, it was pointless. We didn't use the computers in effective or creative ways; both teachers and students ignored the computers and studied our textbooks. All we used the computers for was to browse the web in our free time and play Counterstrike. Some kids utilized the school's network infrastructure to upload porn and warez. I went to college with a bunch of computer illiterate people who grew up with computers, and now I work with a bunch of computer illiterate people. My mom went adult education classes to become "computer literate," and they taught her that computer expertise meant knowing how to use Google search and Microsoft Office.
As someone who is very into computer technology and software, it has been a hobby that I pursued since a young age, and it ended up becoming my trade. I think I'm qualified to speak a little bit about computing technology, and I've said this many times in the past: computers don't improve education. They just don't. The money that schools waste on computer equipment could be put to use in so many much better ways. Throwing computers at education is just a mutated form of our cultural tendency to throw money at problems--it's stupid and doesn't work.
Can computers be used in education? Sure, they can, but if and only if it makes sense. Right now in my studies I have to use a computer constantly to look up reference material--it's a huge time saver and makes my field of study dramatically easier than it once was. The reason why computing helps is because the computer is a tool that provides a function necessary for the completion of my work. It's not because I learn better with computers than without them, or that computers solve all of my problems in school; rather, sometimes you have a particular need for them, and in many cases you don't.
I support OLPC because it connects people to the Internet who weren't connected before, which basically gives them access to limitless reading material should they choose to utilize it. 99% of people do not take advantage of the knowledge that can be read on the Internet. That's fine. If even a small group of intelligent children can find a way to benefit from having access to a computer, then those people might learn something that they can use to improve their own lives and the lives of people around them.
top US, EU, Japan Complain To WTO Over China's Rare Earth Ban
Even though it's probably not the real reason (they just want to keep the materials for themselves, obviously, which is the smart thing to do), but in politics it's often advantageous to use your opponent's rhetoric--they risk making themselves look bad if they disagree with something they themselves said earlier.