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We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:Jump through the mirror? (Score 1) 237

by B1ackDragon (#46859087) Attached to: Erik Meijer: The Curse of the Excluded Middle

In the Haskell class system, these three things are separated. This is why Haskell classes look more restrictive than classes that you might find in Java: a Haskell class only contains the parts that make it a class, not the parts that make it a type.

Did that help?

As someone unfamiliar with Haskell (or much in the way of purely-functional programming at all), would you mind expanding on this a bit? I've dabbled in lisp, but R (insane but it is) is the language that's introduced me to more functional concepts but it's also quite a mixed bag.

Comment: Re:base it around my OS (Score 2) 386

by B1ackDragon (#46756881) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?
For the first time in several years I haven't changed states, jobs, or marital status, so I was excited to do my own taxes*. I was used to getting a hefty refund though, so when I used and it showed a (small) debt I thought I'd go in for service figuring I had missed something. Turns out I am just about even in my witholdings, so I payed someone at H&R a good hundred bucks just to give me the exact same information. Sad day, but a lesson learned for next year I guess.

* Uh, excited relative to previous years I guess.

Comment: Re:Say what? (Score 2) 199

by B1ackDragon (#46663629) Attached to: P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe
Agreed - I hate to be "that guy," but I have trouble not seeing how the summary at least couldn't just as easily say "... If they're right, then [solutions to traveling salesman] cannot exist, which explains why we do not (and cannot) observe them in the real world. Voila!" On the other hand, the summary and blog article seem pretty terrible: the paper does address the idea that the complexity of physical processes are related to the complexity of turing-like computation--insofar as we are willing to admit that our current understanding of physics is correct (at least, that's asserted as far as I can tell, top of pg. 7). These ideas have been considered before (Granade, below), but those are pretty strong unknowns.

There is some work on "what the universe can do" with regards to computation and complexity (and quantum theory), for those up for some extremely cool and mind-bending stuff. I can highly recommend Why complexity matters: A brief tour by Christopher Granade. Scott Aaronson is one of my favorites too, with the whimsical NP-Complete problems and physical reality and more philosophical Why philosophers should care about computational complexity.

Anyway, just wanted to provide some "further reading." I'm hoping for some eventual commentary on this from that community. I'm way out of my depth ;)

Comment: Re:And that's exactly what I asked for. (Score 4, Insightful) 2219

by B1ackDragon (#46180579) Attached to: Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!
Oh yeah, speaking of the front page, I'll be honest, I look at three things: the headline, skim the post (awww yeah classic slashdotter here), and I see how many comments have been made. Comment count combined with headline for each and every story is a quick indicator if it's worth checking out the discussion or if I should move on down the page. (An article about a new kernel extension I don't care about it with 40 comments? Boring. An apple article with 854 comments? Probably also boring [unless I'm in the mood for reading some flamage].)

Comment: Re:And that's exactly what I asked for. (Score 5, Insightful) 2219

by B1ackDragon (#46180363) Attached to: Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!
Yup, and here are some suggestions: (sigh, maybe I'll see if I can get this through their suggested email support as well... will that actually help? Editors: what say you? Does this stuff speak more loudly to the higher-ups if it comes through certain channels?)

Keep some space for ads if you want; I don't give a shit and I realize you've got bills to pay. I have the option of turning them off, but I don't because I like the site.

That said, information density is important. If you bump the font size and line spacing or significantly drop the comments column width, we can't read the comments or their surrounding comments' context. There'd better be a lot of lines before I have to "click for more", and I never want to have to "click for more" on the front page. This might mean reducing the size of those terrible banner images.

We need to be able to easily see the information on posts and navigate the discussion. Links to parent posts are absolutely necessary, current score, subject, and at least a preview of the post content if it's collapsed. Other useful information provided that I'd like to see stay prominent includes the username and UID number of poster. It was tough for me to get used to the collapsed/non-collapsed system with the last redesign, but it actually ended up giving a lot of information in a tight space and generally reserved more for better comments.

As it currently stands, the two problems cited above alone will kill the discussion oriented nature of Slashdot, users will desert, and revenue will tank.

Since there's a redesign in the works, this _could_ be a good chance to make some things actually work better! The "full" "collapsed" and "hidden" threshold sliders never seemed to work right for me. Obviously better encoding support would be nice. Maybe someday I won't have to type html to do simple formatting stuff. Since many of us are coders, perhaps some support for inline code could be cool? I won't harp on speed or javascript much, but I'm sure others will.

Comment: Re:Beta Sucks (Score 0) 249

by B1ackDragon (#46180087) Attached to: Wozniak To Apple: Consider Building an Android Phone
I will join you. I just burned all 15 of my mod points on other stories voting up "fuck beta" posts, but I won't even visit the site from the 10th to the 17th (or whenever we settle on for a boycott). It will be interesting to see how often I get mod points after this debacle is over one way or another ;)
Slashdot has never been a paragon of beauty OR usability, but this redesign really kills the discussion; I even gave it a shot.

Comment: Re:No Question (Score 1) 120

by B1ackDragon (#45723315) Attached to: Interview: Ask Forrest Mims About Rockets, Electronics, and Engineering
Thirded! I also have "Getting Started in Electronics" and a couple of "Engineer's Mini-Notebooks" still on my shelf, with the intention of giving them to my kids one day.

Question for Mr. Mims: what was it like getting a completely handwritten book published? Did you approach RadioShack with the idea? Given all the modern publication options (self-pub, iBooks, etc.) and software to help, how would you go about it today? (I know, that's three questions...)

Comment: Re:Am I imagining it? (Score 2) 230

by B1ackDragon (#45337395) Attached to: Stolen Adobe Passwords Were Encrypted, Not Hashed
I'm guessing selection bias - entities with the security knowledge to use proper authentication techniques probably are also better at keeping their internal databases out of malicious hands. (Or, more negatively, the contraposition of that statement.) On a related note, this breach has caused me to update all of my own passwords, and my current pet peeve are entities that have an upper limit to password length within the current range of rainbow-table attacks (and what are the chances those guys are properly salting?)

Comment: Re:Don't fix what ain't broke. (Score 2) 1191

by B1ackDragon (#45010007) Attached to: Come Try Out Slashdot's New Design (In Beta)
I agree with these two points. #2 (the obnoxious images on the front page, and "read more..." links after only 4 lines of text so I can't even read the summaries without clicking!) are bad, but the redesign for the comments section will very likely be bad for slashdot.

As I was browsing it, I realized that a single comment like the parent in the current format, that takes up less than a third of my browser viewport (so I can see the flow of conversation around it), takes up over two thirds in the beta format. I feel like "the medium is the message" applies here, or at least, the medium influences the message -- multi-paragraph comments are more common on slashdot than other sites, but if they want to discourage that kind of dialogue, this is a great way to do it.

Comment: Re:Caution: website makes your info public (Score 1) 78

by B1ackDragon (#44998243) Attached to: LinkedIn Agrees To Block Stalkers
Agreed. I gave linkedin a try some years ago, until they suggested a professional contact of a specialist doctor I had recently seen. I can only assume the doc wasn't up to code on HIPAA or something, but I found it unnerving and useless. The only frustration I experience now, not being a member, is attempting to look up basic information for people whose only web presence is on linkedin.

Comment: Re:Moo (Score 2) 273

by B1ackDragon (#44842103) Attached to: Study Shows Professors With Tenure Are Worse Teachers

That mechanism has already failed. Modern scientific research is so expensive that even tenured professors have to carter to the whims of funding agencies (NSF, NIH, etc.) in order to continue working. Intellectually autonomy doesn't keep the rat colony alive, pay the electric bill for servers or purchase chemical reagents.

I'm glad somebody said this. Though I'm sure it's always served both roles, another thought about modern tenure (in my opinion as a young academic) is that it's much less about guaranteeing academic freedom, and much more about managing hiring in the face of an ever growing crowd of PhDs. A department might hire a few adjuncts to teach and put 4 or 5 good researchers on the the tenure track, with what seems like a full expectation of granting tenure to one (or zero, if they feel like rolling the dice again) and firing the rest. Tenure is a beautiful ideal, but functionally it's a back-breaking 5-year interview, with a lot of benefit gained for the university in the meantime. And in the end, those that make it through have been selected based on funding ability weighted over any other metric.

I don't blame them for this really, there are many more PhDs than tenure slots and a maddening culture of anything-but-tenure as failure. I'll admit that I've only been in this game for a few years so I might be completely naive (I'm also lucky, being non-tenure track and on hard money), and I don't know how it works in the humanities. Nevertheless, I have a feeling that the concept of tenure is serving university endowments more and more and research and education less and less.

On the positive side, there are many good "teaching" universities and community colleges out there picking up the slack on the education side at least.


Comment: Re:Latency is also important (Score 1) 279

by B1ackDragon (#44569969) Attached to: When it comes to (download) bandwidth needs, I require..
The coolest were the older games where the gameplay was affected, but not ruined by lag. In Mechwarrior 2, IIRC, you would need to shoot ahead of your opponent as they moved, effectively leading them more or less according to the ping to the server you (and they?) were getting. Your screen wouldn't show you hitting them, but the server would register the hits and they would blow up. Ah, nostalgia attack incoming...

Comment: Re:Storage Non-Problem - Sequences Compresses to M (Score 3, Informative) 138

by B1ackDragon (#44129449) Attached to: The DNA Data Deluge
This is very much the case. I work as a bioinformatician at a sequencing center, and I would say we see around 50-100G of sequence data for the average run/experiment, which isn't really so bad, certainly not compared to the high energy physics crowd and given a decent network. The trick is what we want to do with the data: some of the processes are embarrassingly parallel, but many algorithms don't lend themselves to that sort of thing. We have a few 1TB ram machines, and even those are limiting in some cases. Many of the problems are NP-hard, and even the for the heuristics we'd ideally use superlinear algorithms, but we can't have that either, it's near linear time (and memory) or bust which sucks.

I'm actually really looking forward to a vast reduction in dataset size and cost in the life sciences, so we can make use of and design better algorithmic methods and get back to answering questions. That's up to the engineers designing the sequencing machines though..

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them.