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Journal: Slashdot, you've really let yourself go 1

Journal by npsimons

I thought slashdot had hit bottom, but apparently I was wrong. I can't friend/unfriend or foe/unfoe people anymore here. On top of that, it's become even closer to useless because of all the Apple fanboys, Microsoft shills and just flat out trolls. I keep coming back to upvote posts that speak truth to FUD, but then I see informative posts like this marked as troll. Why do I even bother? Oh, that's right, I keep getting mod points.

I'll keep upvoting good posts, but don't count on me to read other comments; there are better forums than slashdot around.

Businesses

Journal: Rhode Island's "Kingdoms of Amular" 5

Journal by eldavojohn
There's some ugly drama surrounding the collapse of 38 Studios. That has caused baseball's Curt Schilling to walk away from video games and publicly state that it will end up costing him his fortune. Everyone is in a very bad position right now. 38 Studio's top creditor is the state of Rhode Island. Aside from some stranger assets, there is a partially finished MMO called Project Copernicus as well as the source code and artwork for Kingdoms of Amular. So why doesn't Rhode Island seize this source code and artwork? They could auction it or, better yet, give it to the people who paid for it.

Now we all know this isn't going to happen. The source code will be shelved and it is unlikely it ever contribute to society ever again. The people who coded it have been fired and have moved on to the next thing in their lives while the bankruptcy proceedings play out in the news. But if I fail to repay a loan on a car, repossession services come to take the car. If a studio gets $75 million from a state to make a video game, where are the state's repo men to reclaim the video game?

The current situation is unavoidably bad for everyone involved. Schilling is blaming the governor, developers are moving for the second time in two years, gamers are missing out on the sequel to Amular and money is missing everywhere. But most notably each resident of Rhode Island has paid $75 to the video game industry and will likely never see it returned to their pockets. A coworker who thoroughly enjoys the game said that it's RI's fault for investing in such a fickle and risky industry. Maybe he's right? But the game is reasonably entertaining.

So what could a state do with source code and artwork? The obvious thought would be to auction it off and recoup losses. But what company wants to buy up those assets for more than a pittance compared to the loan? The game didn't sell as well as they thought it would, your developers would have to learn thousands of lines of new code, the artists that could expand the art in the same style are thrown to the wind and there's already a polished title out there. To me, the obvious solution would be to instead package Amular and Copernicus (at least the PC versions) as learning software for high schools and universities in RI. Art students could work on reskinning it, developers could work on just getting it built and Rhode Island would at least be able to show its residents something for which they had paid.

Furthermore if RI really wanted to recoup its losses, they could likely make several million back with a Kickstarter project to open source everything from 38 Studios. The only people who might not like this idea are those in the games industry who claim the MMO and RPG markets are already thoroughly saturated. Perhaps the current publisher and those with distribution contracts of Amular would object. But those executives have already taken the citizens of RI and Curt Schilling for a ride so why should RI care? The only downside would be a massive influx of Amular clones on the PSN, XBLA and PC fronts. But this is an opportunity for gamers, Rhode Islanders and open source in general to expand and set precedence that when a company folds all that hard work and late nights with Mountain Dew and pizza should not be wasted and shelved.

You can tell me that this will never happen -- not with Amular, Copernicus or any of the thousands of titles from failed development studios -- because you're right. It hasn't ever happened and it most likely will not. But Rhode Islanders paid for these titles and the repo men should arrive and bring that back for Rhode Island to decide what to do with it. At least those that have paid for it should be able to decide if what their hard earned money paid for should sit collecting dust or live in immortality.
Cloud

Journal: Run Windows better than Windows 1

Journal by npsimons

Reading an article about KVM being ported from Linux to a derivative of Solaris, I was intrigued by the claim that running Windows in this virtualization environment would be faster than running it on bare metal. I knew Windows was coded poorly, but is this for real? I suppose also that some tricks can be done if you know the workload, but I find it hard to believe that you'll see ten to fifty times better performance. Does anybody else envision running software ever faster by continuously virtualizing it until we reach the singularity?

Programming

Journal: Mathcad, Prolog and LISP

Journal by npsimons

However much I despise closed source, proprietary software, occasionally I have to deal with it. And sometimes there isn't (currently) anything in the OSS world that fills the niche a closed source program might. Mathcad seems to be one of those: a closed source, Windows only "engineer's scratchpad" that is an interesting concept, and somebody must like it because it's been around a while. While Mathcad seems interesting for quickly prototyping and crunching out equations, the reusability and flexibility of it's "language" leaves much to be desired. For example, even though Mathcad has loops, I can't figure out how to make them work on a list of files. The only way to really automate Mathcad appears to be through COM or VBScript (including Excel), also not my ideal technologies of choice. But at least VB is Turing complete, so I started digging up examples of that.

Looking in some of the directories of Mathcad, though, I find .prolog and .lisp files. While I don't know much about Prolog, I'm pretty sure the .lisp files are for real, but Google searches and a quick perusal at the files themselves don't reveal much. There's also some MuPAD .mu files, but those don't seem to be of much use to me.

Does anyone know what the possibilities are for automating Mathcad via Prolog or LISP?

User Journal

Journal: So long and thanks for all the fish 3

Journal by npsimons

There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over -- and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out. The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well. It's hard to recognize that life isn't a holding action, but a process. It's hard to learn that we don't leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along -- quite gracefully. -- Ellen Goodman

I probably shouldn't be indulging in such egotistical pastimes as writing what amounts to a "Dear John" letter to slashdot, but I had a few loose ends to tie up, so here goes.

To PopeRatzo: sorry I didn't get back to you earlier, and now that journal discussion is closed. Maybe I am seeing it through rose-colored glasses, but it seems that the number of submissions (and how many make it on the front page) from different firehoses (such as apple vs linux) leads me to believe slashdot is being inundated by Apple fanboys. It's too much for a Linux fan who remembers the heady early days of slashdot to take. In any case, I'm looking to move on to more Linux-y sites.

To everyone in general: I've seen far to many interesting articles in the firehose never go anywhere, only to be drowned out by Apple press releases. People here no longer seem to appreciate or even care about Freedom, and many who booed Microsoft now cheer Apple for the exact same practices. Even those who booed Microsoft now say "install Windows, it's what everyone knows and uses."

Gah. There's more, but I've made this too long already; check my first (and last submission), my comments, and my blog if you are curious; I'm going to try switching to other sources for tech news, and put more time into the blog and website. If nothing else, that should be a more worthwhile endeavor than shouting down the fanboys.

Debian

Journal: Looking for Alternatives to Slashdot 1

Journal by npsimons

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but the focus of slashdot has shifted away from open source software (Linux in particular). Anyone who doubts this is welcome to count the number of open source articles versus blatant slashvertisements. I guess my mistake was in thinking that "news for nerds, stuff that matters" was more truthful than "fair and balanced." In any case, it's a battle I don't have time to fight, so I'm wondering: what sites would you recommend as alternatives to slashdot? What's your favorite Linux news site? How about open source, or Debian? Can I find a site dedicated to important scientific advances, instead of the latest fashion trends?

User Journal

Journal: Ethics in who you work for 4

Journal by npsimons

Let's say you were approached to work for a big name company who is working on a lot of really amazing high tech products. Their current employees seem intelligent, motivated, friendly and happy to work there. The work environment looks sweet. The only thing making you have second thoughts is that some of their actions (such as pushing for lower corporate taxes) don't exactly mesh with your ethics. Sure, they're not anti-competitive; they even do a lot of open source; but more than a few of their actions have come under fire as unethical. Would you work for them? Would an employment boycott be effective?

Just for the record, no, I have not received an offer yet; I don't presume that I'm a shoe-in (they have a very high false positive rate). I'm putting this out early to get as many responses as I can. I currently work for the US DoD, which some would see as extremely unethical. If you can't figure out from what I've told you so far (and my comment history) which company this is, you probably shouldn't reply to this, but I'll take all the input I can get.

Movies

Journal: Why Movies Suck 3

Journal by npsimons

This. So totally fucking this.This is precisely why I don't even *know* what other movies came out last year, but I went to see "Inception" in the theater *four times*, and got it on DVD /and/ Blu-Ray as soon as it was available.

I'm not the most cogent person in the world, nor am I a film expert, so when a piece like this comes along that so totally defines what is wrong with Hollywood, I have to share. And yes, I consider most movies released these days to be mindless pap that is insulting to the intelligence of toddlers.

Software

Journal: Work conditions 6

Journal by npsimons

So, the project I'm on is having their funding cut, and as part of that, I've been told to move to another project. Of course, it probably didn't help that I made a big mistake (to be told in another JE; short story: always perform an estimate of time to completion up front). I'm paranoid, cynical, depressive and insecure to boot, so I have to wonder if I got let go for other reasons as well. That's why I'm writing here, to try to get a third opinion, and because I'm curious how this is handled in other places. Of course, I'm biased, but I'll try to be as NPOV as I can.

One of the things that happened before they let me go was that they suggested we standardize our platforms on CentOS. Now, I have nothing against CentOS, but I strongly prefer Debian because of it's wide selection of packages that are very well packaged and the ease of installing those packages. Just to clarify, I work where systems cannot be hooked up to the Internet, so having 5 DVDs (or 8, for Debain 6) of software packages at my fingertips makes life much easier. Not to mention some packages I have come to rely upon for fast prototyping (see this), and seeing how I don't use much besides Debian, I don't even know if those packages are available on other distros, and even if they were, I'd have to find them, download them and all their dependencies, then burn a CD and sneakernet them to the CentOS box they want me to use. Say, an hour to find, download and burn packages, versus five minutes to 'apt-get install binfmtc'. The choice is obvious, right?

No, they believed that delays were being caused by my insistence on using Debian, and they wondered aloud why I thought it was okay to go ahead and install Debian on my development machine.

Some background here: I've been a systems administrator for a decent amount of time. I run my own email, web, print and file servers, along with associated network and firewall. I'm very comfortable and confident when using Debian, because it's pretty much just fire and forget. When I get to a new project at work, usually my first step is to install Debian so I can get some real work done. Even if I'm porting to another platform, I use Debian for day to day development because I'm familiar with it and I can easily set up nightly builds to check out from the repository, build, run unit tests under a variety of code checking tools and email me the results. All without having to download a single package.

I get defensive when people with a lack of experience in software development start telling me how to do my job, and that includes what tools I use. I've tried other distros, I've tried other editors, I know what works best for me. Sure, I've made some mistakes, and I'll admit when I've messed up (if I'm aware of it), but I'm fairly certain my selection of software tools is not one of them.

I'm just curious: at other companies, how much control do you as a software developer have over what you can and can't install on your development machine? If you find a new tool that would help you get things done more quickly or reduce defects, how long does it take to get it installed? I chafe at the idea that I am trusted with vital secrets, yet they don't trust me, the expert, to select the right tool for my job. Am I overreacting?

User Journal

Journal: zcat /usr/share/state/us-constitution.gz | grep -i god 3

Journal by npsimons

Hmm, above command returns no results. Let's try another:

zcat /usr/share/state/us-constitution.gz | grep -i jesus

Hmm, no results for that one either. One more before I give up:

zcat /usr/share/state/us-constitution.gz | egrep -i "creat|divin|christ"

No results for that one either.

(note that the above was run on a Debian system with the "miscfiles" package installed)

Portables

Journal: Uploading photos from N900 to a photo gallery on my server

Journal by npsimons

Dear lazyweb,

I'm looking for some software (possibly two pieces) that I can use to upload photos quickly and easily from my N900 to my personal web server and have the web server add them to a publicly viewable gallery. I've heard of pixelpipe (http://pixelpipe.com/), but I don't want to use someone else's server(s), that's why I have my own. I know I could probably throw something together with SCP + {Perl|PHP|Ruby|Python}, but I'm lazy and very much don't like to reinvent the wheel (what security holes might I being missing? how long will it take me to work out the bugs on software that's not my day job?). Just thought I'd drop this question in the spirit of lazyweb questions I've seen on http://planet.debian.org/. Thanks in advance!

Programming

Journal: Boost UBLAS matrix iterators and templates - Solved

Journal by npsimons

UPDATE: I had a look around, figured I would try substituting a std::vector<std::vector<double> > for the uBLAS matrix<double>, still got the same error. So I started looking better into templates (no, I'm not quite done with vol2 of "Thinking in C++") and found out about typename. Seems to fix the problem.

I know I should probably post this to stackoverflow or the Boost/UBLAS mailing list, but I figure there are plenty of smart people here at slashdot.

Let's say you are using UBLAS from Boost and you want to implement a cumulative summing function for matrices. Here's what I think is a fairly straightforward way to do it:

// For boost::numeric::ublas::matrix<>.
#include <boost/numeric/ublas/matrix.hpp>

// For std::partial_sum().
#include <numeric>

template<class T>
boost::numeric::ublas::matrix<T> cumSum
(const boost::numeric::ublas::matrix<T>& input_,
const bool& colWise_ = true)
{
using namespace boost::numeric::ublas;
using namespace std;

matrix<T> result_(input_);

if (colWise_)
for (matrix<T>::iterator2 colIter = result_.begin2();
colIter < result_.end2();
colIter++)
partial_sum(colIter.begin(),
colIter.end(),
colIter.begin());
else
for (matrix<T>::iterator1 rowIter = result_.begin1();
rowIter < result_.end1();
rowIter++)
partial_sum(rowIter.begin(),
rowIter.end(),
rowIter.begin());

return result_;
}

For now, I'm ignoring completely templatizing this to make the row-wise/column-wise distinction disappear in the code and focusing on just getting it working. Only it doesn't work; won't compile. Couldn't figure out why, but g++ kept saying it was expecting a ';' before colIter and rowIter. I had a hunch and replaced one of the iterator's 'T's with 'double' and it stopped complaining about that one. Am I missing something, or does UBLAS not implement iterators properly?What am I missing?

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