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Comment SpeedSwitchXP, SpaceMonger and PuTTY (Score 1) 620

Maybe not the oldest, but I still use these 3 fairly frequently and download them onto almost every new computer: 1. SpeedSwitchXP: For breathing life into old XP machines by making them run in max-fan-noise-mode. I guess I could use Power options, but this is more forceful. 2. SpaceMonger 1.x: An old utility for visualizing disk space usage. Still runs beautifully. 3. PuTTY/pscp: There's this old-school HTML 3.0 page that I download them from. I should probably switch to something newer.

Comment IMHO, not worth the trouble (Score 1) 83

As far as replacing parts is concerned, you can always pop a new battery or memory card (at least on non-iOS devices). By the time a non-replaceable part is gone, chances are that other parts are also getting old and you probably need a new phone anyway. If you want to spare the money buy a ~$400+ phone, and if you don't, you can get a ~$100 model that does everything your old phone did, and use the old phone for a simpler purpose just like you would do with an old laptop. If you still insist on replacing the part, you can always go to a "mobile hospital" (there are literally hundreds here in India, and I've seen one or two in pretty much every major US city) and get the screen, camera, or charger port replaced. Spares are available for everything. If you did the same replacement on a Fairphone, the most you would be saving on is the labor that the mobile repair guy would be charging. And even that savings would probably get lost because the Fairphone modules would be costly because of their low volumes, proprietary physical interface, and 'ethical manufacturing'. Sure, it's ethical for the big picture and Gaia would be so happy, but it's probably cruel to my communications budget which is already getting bled dry paying ridiculous prices for mobile data. $10 for 3 long youtube videos over your data limit? It's highway robbery out there.

As far as actual customization goes, the smartphone OS and hardware ecosystem pretty much has you locked in place. You can't really remove any features. Want a phone without a camera? you'll either have a half-functional phone (no QR codes, etc.), or you'll have a buggy piece of shit. Maybe the developer of your favorite app did the right thing and added a check for a camera, but most likely he just programmed it to go straight to the camera and getImage(). Want a phone without a GPS to go with your tinfoil hat? It's most likely coupled with some other useful part (like a modem) in a module, and even if you could take it out, the Google WiFi SSID-based location system's already got your exact location within 3 feet as soon as you turn on the WiFi. Want a phone with a bigger camera? Why not get the extra processing power that it would end up needing anyways and get the newest and biggest Samsung, HTC or Xiaomi. Wanna upgrade GPU, CPU, RAM or root storage? Fuggedaboutit - It's probably soldered to the base phone and/or inside an SoC chip. Want a new OS? Good luck finding anything that is worth switching to and will run reliably unless your phone sold at least a 100,000 copies. Want a bigger battery or a wireless charging system? Most good and recent-ish phones can be easily fitted with one.

You can't compare the IBM PC platform to these SoC phones, and here's why:
1. The choice of internal components is very limited, and a lot of stuff is combined into one chip. There are 3-4 major SoC vendors out there. Same goes for the Camera CCDs, sensors, and all the chips that go in there. Compare that to the ~10 major graphics card and motherboard manufacturers in the market. Or the ~40 different types of CPUs you can install on a given motherboard socket.
2. Unlike a desktop OS with replaceable drivers, an Android OS image has to already have all the drivers it needs installed in the image. With a desktop OS you get an installer that lets you install it on any compatible hardware. With a smartphone OS, the install takes a team of 40 engineers 6 months of work, day and night, after which they release the OS image (which still has fucking bugs in it, mind you, till they iron half of them out with every +.001 version). Or some smart kid makes the install using Cyanogen or something in one all nighter, but it ends up having bugs that never go away because the kid got bored of the project or got hired to that team of 40 engineers.
3. The choice of manufacturers and models at different price points is simply fucking crazy. There are easily hundreds of smartphone/tablet manufacturers out there if you know how to look beyond what Best Buy/Verizon will sell you. You can pretty much customize by simply choosing the right phone for what you need.
4. Unless your phone usage is very different from the average user, there's almost no difference in the experience of using any of these devices. No matter how good your phone is, it's gonna get slow as fuck anyways once you actually start using it because you'll keep installing shit until it slows down, and then try to optimize it. 5. When a good Samsung falls out of your pocket, you get a few scratches and your Gorilla glass screen survives the drop. When a modular phone does the same, the floor is scattered with modules and pieces of your dignity. Oh, and that 100 megapixel camera module that you got for $400? nowhere to be found - probably fell into the hole with the cockroaches in it.

Don't get me wrong - these problems could all be ironed out and we may indeed have a truly awesome modular phone in our hands someday. It's just going to a take an industry-wide paradigm shift (and a mature and widely deployed version of Project Ara) for it to be actually useful. Until then, the most a Fairphone will do for you is make you the star of one coffee break where people finally notice your Code Monkey ringtone. If you're really desperate and work at Facebook or some shit, maybe, just maybe it might be worth it for that.

Comment Re:Higher, at first ... (Score 1) 142

I had an old school cable modem (circa 2007, big-ish metallic heatsinky thing) with a similar issue and the solution was to turn it off and on every once in a while. From what I searched on the issue, some buffer somewhere on the modem wasn't getting emptied as fast as it should, such that over the course of a few days the buffer would be nearly full and you wouldn't get good throughput anymore. I would also recommend buying a new good cable modem - you'll end up saving a ton on the modem rental charge too. If you've messed with the QoS settings on your router, perhaps a reset there would also help.

Comment Re:I'll buy a self driving car.. (Score 1) 258

I don't see why this represents a serious objection. You would obviously have the vehicle software / sensor stack optimized for local conditions. Indian designers could rig it so that lights flashed and horns honked. Algorithms could be designed so that you could simulate bluff charges / random aggressive behavior / whatnot.

Really, from what I've seen of third world driving, a simple pseudo random number generator along with five or so stock behaviors (go, stop, go faster, swerve, swerve more) should do just fine.

You present the problem better than I do. In third world driving, the road is full of random actors like that, and in close enough proximity that any automated driving device/"stack" safe enough to be made road legal would keep the car stopped the whole time. I have a reverse sensor that pings if there's an obstruction some x feet away from the car. If I'm reversing out of parking into busy mixed vehicle/pedestrian traffic (and you have to in places), it just beeps constantly - if I was to go strictly by the sensor I'd probably have to wait hours. Bad third world traffic requires a human driver who also acts as a negotiator for the right of way, and has a sensor grid complex enough to sense every inch of the car, and has the human intelligence required to predict the actions of these random actors quick enough. I'm not saying it's impossible for self-driving to one day be good enough to use here. It's just that the state of the art is not as advanced right now. No amount of million dollar cars that can barely traverse the I-90 by itself will convince me that self-driving cars are going to be a thing any year soon. All kinds of automation is already used for safety features and assists and that will keep getting advanced, but autonomous driving throughout the world is still pretty far from real.

Comment I'll buy a self driving car.. (Score 1) 258

the day you can make it drive in heavy Indian traffic. Out here in the traffic, you have to use the horn, stare down at other drivers, sense the other driver's next move (which may or may not be predictable from their vehicles' movements), dodge cows, camels, donkeys, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and hand pulled rickshaws. Sometime's if you're stuck in a lane behind a truck that's not moving, you have to change lanes while frantically honking, flickering your headlights, and motioning with your hands. Check out the Top gear India special if you think I'm joking - and those guys didn't even get into some of the nastiest traffic.

Comment A few caveats (Score 4, Interesting) 53

Some factors to consider:

1. The Android Ones are a hard sell in India and nobody cares about Stock vs Proprietary Android. The Xiaomi Redmi 1S which sells for less than these phones and has much better specs is a huge hit in India. I bought one about a week ago for ~Rs. 6000 ($100) in a flash sale, and its already out of stock at all major online retailers. To top that, there's news of an even cheaper (~Rs. 4000) Xiaomi phone with a 4G modem coming soon. I did look at the Android One phones when I was shopping, but ended up getting the Xiaomi because of the better build quality and necessary luxuries like a scratchproof screen and non-shitty camera which the Android Ones lack. Also, there are better featured phones (with older Android in some cases) available in the same price bracket as the Android Ones from these same manufacturers. My servant bought a 6 inch Micromax phablet a month ago for ~Rs. 7000. (Yes, I'm not one of the aforementioned 'class-conscious' assholes, although they do exist). Btw, CyanogenMod works well on the Xiaomi and I now have a fully functional portable ScummVM gaming console - something that my iDevices and Samsung Androids from the past 4 years haven't been able to do without bricking/breaking warranty.

2. Brick-and-mortar mobile stores are a lot less regulated and organized, and come in way more shapes and sizes than the article makes them out to be. For instance, a lot of "mom-and-pop" phone shops in India will gladly sell you pirated software and content, non-licensed Chinese parts, and no-name Chinese phones. If you're unlucky, they'll even sell you refurbished items as new. These are highly independent wheeler dealers who do what it takes to make a profit. The real effect of this stocking ban will be that only big-name mobile shops such as those run by the major cellular carriers or the equivalents of Best Buy here in India will not stock the Android Ones, but the countless little shops will still do it.

3. Online shopping has reached critical mass only just now, i.e. the Diwali 2014 season. The technology and players have been around for a long time - I made my first online purchase here in 2000, but India-friendly options such as cash-on-delivery and zero-fee cash transfers have only recently come up. Trust is a huge issue here when not buying face-to-face from a person, because we don't have faith in the due process getting our money back if something goes wrong. If you buy face-to-face, you can at least go and rough up the guy who sold you the defective item, or so the argument went. But, times are changing, and people don't want to pay the "brick-and-mortar tax" anymore. Big retail in India is shit-scared, and there's possibly even corporate psychological warfare going on against e-commerce:
Story 1 Story 2.

Comment Women in competitive gaming (Score 1) 962

Even outside of the extreme examples, women have a tough time in the competitive gaming scene and are immediately written off when they show the slightest bit of incompetence. For example, take Pyrion flax and Sheever from the Dota 2 competitive scene. Pyrion is arguably worse than Sheever (he himself would probably admit that), but he is given more airtime and taken more seriously. Here's a video that shows blatant sexism among Dota 2 casters:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
I can't seem to find the video, but on day 3 of the Dota 2 TI4 championship (in the C9 vs VG match), there's a point where Sheever tries to say something about the lineups but is interrupted by other casters three times in a row. She ends up getting to say nothing before the game starts.

I don't think there's much that can be done to get women equal and fair treatment in gaming and computer-related fields, but I'm almost certain the situation will improve itself over time as more women participate. In the meantime, we just have to try to not be such dicks to the outliers and to not look at people through the lenses of gender, race and nationality.

Comment Re:Have to channel the old Hedberg (Score 1) 625

"Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic! Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupus! One of those two doesn't sound right."

There are a number of STDs that people get yelled at, too. But your point is well taken. Until recently, alcoholics were considered to just have weak character and were very badly mistreated. Recognizing addiction as a disease helped to change that stigma. Like alcoholics, for many, obesity is not a simple matter of mind over matter and a lack of willpower.

I partly agree with you. Morbid obesity that renders a person dysfunctional should be considered a bona fide disease. Ideally, the government should provide free proper rehabilitation for anyone morbidly obese to recover. But, the line should not be drawn at the BMI mark for Obese (which is what is implied), and here's why:
1. It would encourage indulgence by rewarding it, and lead to possible misuse.
2. It would increase hostility in the workplace against the Obese.
3. As as someone who almost touched the Obese line himself once, I think my weight and how I look is none of your business, or that of anyone that I engage with on a professional or social basis. Many people would be offended by being offered the Obesity benefit based on bad hair days. I don't think most Obese people want another possible label that just about anyone can throw at them.
Yelling is not the best cure, but not yelling also has major downsides. Sometimes people need to be alerted.

Comment we live in interesting times (Score 2) 52

Apart from the great irony of this incident, it is also a sign of things to come in cyber security and the computer industry in general. It seems we're at a point of time when you don't have to be stupid and/or high-visibility in order to get hacked, most contemporary software is ill-equipped to deal with the rising security threat, and even security service providers cannot be fully trusted. Hopefully this translates to more employment for us geeks and opportunities to build all the security features and plug up all the holes like we always wanted to but couldn't spare the time for.

Comment Cuba libre (Score 1) 121

Mark Cuban is an accidental billionaire with a lot of attitude and an itchy twitter finger. His smarts are debatable, but his chutzpah is not. In this instance, however, I agree with him.

Judge Posner who ruled on an Apple v Samsung case agrees with a lot of us here: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/10/judge-decries-excessive-copyright-and-software-patent-protections/ . It's time the USPTO did something drastic about frivolous patents and patent trolling. The problem cannot go away with major systemic change, and because of the complexity of laws involved, you can't just make reforms such as "ban all patent trolls" willy-nilly. The patent trolls will just reincarnate as software company holding companies or some other type of legal entity that bends the rules.

What needs to happen are major changes to the patent examination process itself. Very few people know that when looking for prior art, patent examiners don't use Google or even the Internet to do their research. They do searches in a few official patent/scientific databases in order to make their opinions about prior art. The patent applicant and his attorney can provide USPTO with references from the Internet to prove their point and those are read over by the examiner, but otherwise the examiner has their hands tied.

If the examiner wants to deny a patent application, he/she has to move mountains and prove without a doubt that the invention is not patentable. Patent attorneys are persistent leech-like creatures who will keep appealing any such decisions using any possible argument for as long as possible. Every time a patent attorney argues and disproves a patent examiner's decision, the examiner looks stupid in front of his peers. So, by default, the path of least resistance for the patent examiner is to just keep on awarding patents based on the limited knowledge of USPTO's databases.

I know this from working as a software patent litigation expert.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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