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Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

vtcodger Re:You lost me at vim (531 comments)

Emacs and Vim are both terribly unproductive text editors.

I don't know if I'd go that far, but I've loathed vi since before many of the folks posting here were born and I've never really warmed to emacs although I did give it a serious try once. Look (dammit), I have to learn a set of keystroke conventions (CUA pretty much) to use my web browsers. What possible reason would I have to learn a different set conventions for code editing? I use kwrite in x-windows and jed on the rare occasions that X isn't available. When I used Windows, I used some enhanced Notepad or other that doesn't work right under Wine. I've long since forgotten its name. I use Windows as infrequently as possible, and in the one or two hours a year I have to work in Windows, Notepad seems to be adequate.

IMHO, vi was a crummy text editor -- only a slight improvement over ed -- in 1980 and although modern vi-s are vastly improved, they really aren't anything special. I think I see the point to emacs, but I think you either love it or you don't. I don't.

about a month and a half ago

Government To Require Vehicle-to-vehicle Communication

vtcodger Re:To require? (390 comments)

Of course it'll help sometimes. "Restricted Visibility" isn't just for people. It'll surely apply to vehicle on-board sensors also. The ability to "see" potential hazards obscured by terrain, vegetation, traffic, looking directly into the rising or setting sun, etc isn't going to solve all or even most problems. But it'll help.

And frankly, self driving cars are going to need all the help they can get -- especially once one gets down off the freeways onto roads shared with pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards, joggers, drunks, wildlife, livestock, tree limbs, etc,etc, etc.

about 2 months ago

Record Wind Power Levels Trigger Energy Price Fall Across Europe

vtcodger Re: 3rd world (226 comments)

Pumped storage is great in theory. In practice, it's got some problems -- including, but not limited to -- inefficiency, lack of suitable sites, and evironmental issues from constantly fluctuating water levels. But the BIG problem is the huge amount of water that has to be moved to buffer energy to meet the electricity needs a modern industrial society on low wind days.

about 3 months ago

Record Wind Power Levels Trigger Energy Price Fall Across Europe

vtcodger Re:Uh, that's a huge spread (226 comments)

wind doesn't vary on a minute by minute basis, though.

I think perhaps you need to get outside of the basement occasionally and actually experience this wind phenomenon.

about 3 months ago

Record Wind Power Levels Trigger Energy Price Fall Across Europe

vtcodger Re:bfd (226 comments)

There are two different definitions of 'base load' in common use:

- In one definition, the base load is the minimum amount of power that must be provided at any given time and situation. Ideally, every utility will be able to meet its base load requirements even if all the variable load sources (wind, solar, etc) are simultaneously unavailable. Base Load generation facilities are power plants that can reasonably be expected to be available at any time for as long as is needed -- coal and gas powered power plants, nuclear plants, hydroelectric power.

- In the other definition, base load facilities are those which must be run at full output if that is possible in order to satisfy economic expectations and eventually pay for the investment in the facility. Unpredictable sources like wind are likely to be baseline load under the second definition, but not the first.

There are two problem areas here:

- Using the first definition, a utility must be able to somehow satisfy maximum demand even if major variable supplies are unavailable.

- Using the second definition, base load sources must be given priority lest the owners lose money. If utility owners routinely lose money, there will be no new utilities built, and possibly no maintenance of existing facilities. The problem is that most power sources are base load sources under this definition, thus everyone must have priority.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Command Line Interfaces -- What Is Out There?

vtcodger Re:systemd is there (383 comments)

I've been through most of this thread and see a lot of gratiutious nastiness, a bit of serious discussion of GUIs vs CLIs, and some humor. But few answers to the original question. Anyway, there are a great many little and not so little tools out there. It's unclear what OS the OP is using, but if he/she can get access to a Unix system, there are a zillion command line tools in the /bin and /usr/bin directories (probably. I imagine there are distributions where the binaries have been "improved" to some other location(s)).

On unixlike systems "man whatever" and/or "info whatever" and/or "whatever --help" will likely get some usage information (which may be a bit incomprehensible in some cases). Many -- by no means all -- of these programs are available on multiple platforms

some useful websites for little tools -- not that all the stuff there is multiplatform,useful, or even usable
    - https://github.org/
    - http://sourceforge.net/
    - http://www.onethingwell.org/
    - http://tinyapps.org/blog/

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Command Line Interfaces -- What Is Out There?

vtcodger Re:Son, Let Me Tell You a Little Story (383 comments)

The UNIX shell model for the last three decades is, you run a program and the shell finds it in the path, forks a child process, execs the program and waits on the child process. When the child process exits, the shell resumes and has the return status of the child process available for examination. And that does actually have its place. But it doesn't need to be all there is anymore.

It's not the mechanism you have in mind, but appending an & to the end of a shell command will run the command without locking up the user interface. For that matter, you can detach from a running CLI program with ^Z.. There are ways to reattach of course, but I don't remember what they are as I never use them.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Command Line Interfaces -- What Is Out There?

vtcodger Re:CLI's Are Not Walled? (383 comments)

Maybe "walled garden" isn't the proper term, but there are some legitimate gripes about GUIs.

1. As a practical matter, they are more or less unscriptable -- which means that tedious,repetitive tasks like backups, malware scans, etc frequently require my attention instead of being left to the computer which is much better at tedious, repetitive tasks than I am. I didn't buy this thing to make my life more difficult.

2. GUIs are hard to write and harder to test (because of the user can do any damn thing any time they wish aspect). As a result they are frequently buggy.

3. For those of us who use relatively minimal hardware (and there are a LOT of computers out here that are underpowered relative to the applications and OSes inflicted on them), GUIs tend to be kind of slow. Virtually every time I visit a doctor or other professional, I hear complaints about slow boots, eternal logins, slow software, etc, etc, etc.

4. The number of people who think they can design an effective, easy to use, GUI interface seems to be MUCH smaller than the number who can actually do so.

That said, GUIs have a valid place in the universe. For example, I don't think I'd care to try to do Google Maps from the command line. But the idea that GUIs are inherently superior to CLIs for all purposes has always seemed very odd to me.

about 4 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Which Encrypted Cloud Storage Provider?

vtcodger Re:Why Pay Somebody Else? (200 comments)

For the money you're paying a service, why not just hoop up an inexpensive machine for a server, put a TB or two in it?

Fires, thefts, etc can happen to pretty much anyone. There's something to be said for encrypted off-site storage. OTOH, there's no particular reason that can't be on a usb flash drive in the glove compartment of a car. (I'd suggest in the trunk under the spare tire instead). After all, the data is encrypted. What can possibly go wrong?)

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Which Encrypted Cloud Storage Provider?

vtcodger Re:Give it up. (200 comments)

Not that I know anything about cracking encryption or have given this much thought, but wouldn't packing well known and unknown files into single files -- e.g. zip,tar,etc -- prior to encrypting make known content analysis pretty much impractical? ... for todays computers anyway?

about 5 months ago

NYC's 250,000 Street Lights To Be Replaced With LEDs By 2017

vtcodger Re:I wish they'd do it here. (372 comments)

Not a bad idea, but the schedule may be kind of aggressive. It doesn't seem to allow a lot of time for dealing with problems.

I'm aware of at least one outdoor LED roll-out that hasn't been problem free. It's at the recently rebuilt (at a cost of $76,000,000) Crown Point Bridge over a narrow spot on Lake Champlain. It's not that big a deal since drivers crossing the bridge at night have their headlights on anyway. But similar problems in NYC would presumably earn some bad publicity and increase costs beyond what is expected.. Here are some links http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/21643/20130320/why-don-apos-t-all-the-lake-champlain-bridge-lights-work http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20130628/THISJUSTIN/702149975

The problem apparently isn't the LEDs themselves. It's the circuits powering them.

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Best SOHO Printer Choices?

vtcodger Seamless Linux support is the problem (381 comments)

I've spent way too many days of my life trying to deal with persuading printers and scanners to work with Linux. Unix printing has always been as dubious as its networking/file handling is good. Postscript? Not the unix community's best idea ever. Nevertheless, unix printing nowadays is acceptable except that manufacturers seem to regard unix printer drivers for their hardware as an an after thought. Having said that, I bought an HP-1102W a few years ago because the 20 year old HP-2P was on life support and HP unit was on sale. That was despite a great deal of ill-will that HP had generated when I had to support a few dozen of it's nasty unrepairable ink-jets with their ever changing, unrefillable ink cartridges. Not to say that their Linux driver actually worked on my old version of Slackware, but HP had obviously put some effort into it and it almost worked. I think it might have worked on one of the mainstream Linux distributions. I was able to get the printer going by installing/configuring with Windows -- which worked flawlessly -- then digging out a third party translator for Postscript to the printer protocol.

Then there's CUPS. But at least CUPS actually does an decent job of managing and routing printouts if you can get your printer set up properly and can tolerate the clunky http: interface. And it's free, so I reckon it'd be impolite to bitch too much about it.

My advice. The suggestion made by others of a printer with postscript support might have merit, but search the web first to make sure that the postscript support actually works well and isn't just window dressing. If possible avoid, printers using uncommon protocols like SPL where broadbased support is iffy (although the shareware rkkda driver does work on my two SPL printers and splix may work for some people sometimes). The suggestion of a low end color laser printer over an inkjet probably has merit. If possible, buy a printer where third party refilled cartridges are available. Specific models? I dunno. If you can find any specific model where users say Linux just works, I'd pay a bit extra for one if those.

Manufacturers? I dunno. At least HP seems to be trying to support Unix, but others may do better.

BTW, those indestructable HP printers of yore -- at least the HP-II,HP-iii lines were built around Canon print engines.

about 6 months ago

Bill Gates Acknowledges Ctrl+Alt+Del Was a Mistake

vtcodger Re:Redundant keys (665 comments)

I'm not sure how much it speeded things up, but IIRC mechanical typewriters had two shift keys and touch typists -- a significant percentage of potential PC users in the 1980s -- would probably have been quite unhappy without their two shift keys.

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Are We Witnessing the Decline of Ubuntu?

vtcodger Re:My work pattern has been stomped on (631 comments)

Hey, look. Slackware is fine if you like it -- which, as it happens, I do. But installing anything other than the subset of frequently used applications that are available as slackware packages is often somewhere between annoying if ./configure,make,make install works and do it yourself dentistry without anesthetic painful if it doesn't. Slackware simply isn't for everyone.

There's a lot to be said for apt-get. I sometimes wish I could tolerate Ubuntu for the convenience of apt-get. But I've tried it several times and it's never been remotely satisfactory. And trying to fix/work around problems ... my God. I'd rather deal with the *&^*$ Windows Registry.

about 7 months ago

Boeing Turning Old F-16s Into Unmanned Drones

vtcodger Re:Sacrilege (239 comments)

If memory serves me correctly, there's nothing all that new here. Back around 1960, the USAF was flying radio controlled WWII bombers out over the Gulf of Mexico to use in interception tests. Same thing, today? Better technology.

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Attracting Developers To Abandonware?

vtcodger Re:Like 16-bit DOS applications (321 comments)

Like 16-bit DOS applications and Windows XP, all things eventually reach end of life.

Get over it and move on to something else.

T'aint broke so it's time to discard it?

Might want to consider the remote possibility that progress and motion are not always synonymous

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Attracting Developers To Abandonware?

vtcodger Re:Progress (321 comments)

The days when desktop environments improved as time went by seem to have gone. Now they just get more and more annoying with every iteration.

I have no mod points (I rarely post here anymore). But I think this nails a very real and quite annoying problem. Software of all sorts tends to start off simple, easy to use, but buggy and limited. As time goes by, problems get fixed, disconnects are resolved, obvious missing capabilities are provided. Then crap creeps in. And eventually the product becomes mostly crap. Bloated, slow, clunky, and -- too often -- virtually or actually unusable. Doesn't always happen. Windows (and Unix) hardware detection and driver installation seems finally to have reached the levels we were promised in 1995 ... and 1996 ... and 1997 ... and .... But it does happen often.

I've never used Icewm except for maybe 15 minutes to see if it looked usable. As I recall, it did. But does is really need much fixing? Would fixing it make it better? Would "fixing" it risk ending up with an incoherent, increasingly incomprehensible, shambles as has happened with Internet user interfaces, the Microsoft Windows UI, and a multitude of other software? If all Icewm needs is a few modest fixes, maybe it really doesn't need anything more than finding a student or enthusiast looking for a project.

If it needs extensive serous work, that's a different issue and probably does involve money.

And is Icewm really better/more useful than Fluxbox or Openbox or other more or less OK windows managers that may already provide all the capabilities the OP needs?

about 7 months ago

This Satellite Could Be Beaming Solar Power Down From Space By 2025

vtcodger Re:Nope. (245 comments)

I think, and I'm not as smart as I once was, so this an opinion, not a statement of fact, that a geosynchronous satellite would be eclipsed by the Earth for a significant percentage of the time. There's probably an orbit that maximizes energy collection, but I don't have the slightest idea what it looks like.

about 8 months ago

This Satellite Could Be Beaming Solar Power Down From Space By 2025

vtcodger Re:Nope. (245 comments)

I agree that putting a solar collector in orbit would be extraordinarily expensive using any currently extant technology. As would be maintaining it. On top of which, what would the point be? Solar energy can be collected on the surface at a small fraction of the cost and a technician can drive or walk to any component needing repair, Sure, a ground based facility might have to be larger than a space based facility, because of atrmospheric and sun angle losses. But not enough to make much difference?

BTW, I have to believe that a solar collector in orbit would probably constitute mankind's largest ever solar sail Is there some simple, cost effective, way to keep it from departing orbit on a journey in the general direction of Betelgeuse?

about 8 months ago

Massachusetts Enacts 6.25% Sales Tax On "Prewritten" Software Consulting

vtcodger Re:Wow (364 comments)

It won't be collected until the end of the tax year... just that you have to back-date it to the six-days-from-now mark.

Not that I know squat about how sales taxes are collected in Massachusetts, but across the border in Vermont, you pay them, as I recall, quarterly and the amount isn't as much a problem as the fact that many clients -- schools, local governments, etc are tax exempt but you still need to report the sale and their tax exempt certificate number. Which means one more piece of data to collect and one more piece of paper to send to someone periodically along with a check. OTOH, most resellers would presumably already be set up to handle this stuff if they ever resell hardware.

about 9 months ago


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