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Comment: lest we forget (Score 1) 140

by epine (#48264231) Attached to: Verizon Launches Tech News Site That Bans Stories On US Spying

@namespace url(;

@-moz-document domain("") {

body:before {
  content: "Forbidden from covering American spying or net neutrality by Verizon's corporate sponsorship";
  color: #FF0000;
  display: block;
  text-align: center;
  font-size: 3vmax;
  padding-top: 10vh !important;
  padding-bottom: 10vh !important;


Comment: Slidebox Bob (Score 3, Informative) 47

by epine (#48228353) Attached to: Google Search Finally Adds Information About Video Games

Google didn't do this to make the gamers happy. They did it to make the non gamers happy, because video game culture is ladden with a rich and repurposed vocabulary that constantly shows up when people don't want to see video games in their search results.

They have to recognize games in order to remove games. Once they've gone that far, throwing up a positive infobox is Slidebox Bob.

Comment: Re:Not a surprise, but is it just one ingredient? (Score 1) 422

by epine (#48182649) Attached to: Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

I didn't see an actual link to the study anywhere, but TFA at least appears to assume correlation = causation.

No, actually every version of the article I've seen bends over backwards to end off by saying "correlation does not equal causation".

With this kind of a study, which is methodologically weak (participant recall), I don't think one gets uniform results across gender, age, race, and education very darn often. You would get this in a study of cigarette smoking, because the health impacts of smoking are direct and universal.

When one gets a study with a profile that resembles a study on cigarette smoking in its power and statistical profile, it does tend to clear the mind of ancillary explanations. Occam's razor is practically beating the door down. It's not like sugar have never before been suspected as an agent of direct metabolic stress.

If this study holds up, it's a pretty darn big deal no matter how you slice it. Anyone here have a method to detect 5 years of invisible biological aging which is less onerous than giving someone a fifteen minute quiz? No, I didn't think so.

Comment: Re:Once again proving ARM is awesome (Score 4, Insightful) 97

by marcansoft (#48160329) Attached to: Android On Intel x86 Tablet Performance Explored: Things Are Improving

Um, no, x86 CPUs are nothing like ARM and I'm not aware of any commercial x86 CPU with an ARM backend. Yes, modern x86 cores use a RISC-ish microcode backend with an x86 decoder frontend, but that doesn't say anything in favor of ARM. All it means is that the industry has collectively agreed that CISC as a microarchitecture is a stupid idea - not necessarily as an instruction set.

I'm not a fan of x86 myself, and I think it's a stupid design with a vast amount of baggage causing a significant power/performance impact when designing an x86 CPU (that Intel can get away with because they're a generation or two ahead of everyone else in silicon tech), but then again ARM isn't the pinnacle of RISC either (though I do think it's better than x86).

Me, I'll take whatever microarch gets the best performance per watt at whatever TDP is relevant. If Intel can pull that off with x86-64, by all means. If ARM AArch64 ends up ahead, awesome. If both are about equal, I'll take whatever's more practical based on other factors.

Comment: why won't it just die.die.die? (Score 1) 240

by epine (#48145111) Attached to: Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

Almost all the hacks imposed on C++ to remain compatible with C are linear hacks that don't combine combinatorially. That's what makes these hacks ugly: bending over backwards to achieve hack containment. The C++ standardization literature contains many of the fiercest debates ever waged among pointy hats concerning hack containment. Purity wasn't an option. Impurity segregation was.

The hacks in C++ that do have combinatorial complexity pertain to features of the C++ language completely unrelated to C, such as templates and namespaces.

The bending over backward to avoid non-linear hacks due to compatibility with C got the standards committee into a wee bit of time pressure. Both the template and namespace features were added "on the fly" against the stated policy of the standardization group to only standardize after there was enough experience on the ground to avoid the worst mistakes.

If the standard isn't finished on a timely basis: market fail.

If the standard is finished without templates and namespaces: paradigm fail.

If the standard makes blunders in defining templates and namespaces: an eternal witch's brew.

The committee members rather sanely (and unhappily) chose the least of several competing evils.

There's never been a language like C++ to get otherwise smart people to say stupid things.

* C++ contains many ugly hacks due to its C legacy
* most ugly hacks are combinatorial
* C++ contains many combinatorial hacks
* therefore C++ is riven with combinatorial hacks due to its C legacy

Yes, but the ugly hacks to support C are not the combinatorial hacks, and the combinatorial hacks to support templates and namespaces before their time are not the hacks to support C.

Of course, if you don't delve deeply enough to figure this out, one might just conclude that C++ was concocted by a brigand of insane ideologues. You'd be stupid and wrong, but if your surround yourself with an echo chamber of the equally lazy, there's hardly any detectable social downside (near you).

There's remains, however, this irritating tendency of the world around you not to adopt your favourite "clean" language and put C++ out to pasture once and for allâ"due exclusively to inertia, incompetence, and mendacity. Of course.

The next rank of fierce debate during standardization concerned the elimination of all proposed features where adopting the feature imposed a performance penalty across the board even when it isn't used. A few performance points here and there on a heavy-lifting, industrial programming language quickly adds up to entire data centers. Elegance was never a sufficient argument, unless the performance tax imposed was—at most—barely measurable.

Elegance looks like such a great thing until one begins writing an application at industrial scale. The hacks inherent in making any computational system work efficiently on industrial scale (with smooth degradation around the edge cases, and no crippling instabilities) instantly dwarfs the hackishness of the C++ language itself.

Comment: Re:Still being made... (Score 1) 304

by epine (#48098865) Attached to: The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made

I've had an Erase-ease Keyboard For Compaq Computers for a long time now.

Surprisingly, almost without me noticing it, it's become my silent workhorse. It's fairly heavy and stiff, with just enough key feel for the speed I type. It has nice key surface sculpting, too. Every couple of years I shake an entire meal out of the mechanism and give the key caps the car wash treatment. It still works great, but does get a bit sticky for a few days after being washed.

I had two of the old IBM keyboards around, but I simply type too fast to use one as my main keyboard. My typing oscillates between high speed ticking and a low frequency buzz. IBM keyboards are noisy and stiff and I began to wonder about the strain on my fingers, as well.

On this keyboard I've never actually forced myself to use the backspacebar key. I popped the the key cap off the right Windows key a long time ago. Miraculously, Firefox is now the bane of my typing existence, since any accidental strike of the right ALT key takes me into a modal menu-bar mode.

About six months ago I bound the Linux compose key to capslock and set it up to generate mdashes and ndashes and a whole bunch of HTML markup.

I have <blockquote> bound to caps-q-a and </blockquote> bound to caps-q-s. I have <nowiki> bound to caps-w-a and </nowiki> bound to caps-w-s. I guess it's obvious what software I use for taking notes. What a godsend to have a useful capslock key. Now if I could just shoot someone at the Mozilla Foundation for perpetrating the modal Alt key to activate the drop-down menubar, my keyboard life would be nirvana.

Yeah, maybe there's a Firefox setting to disable this. Can't be bothered just yet. Too many moving carpets. This I learned from Ubuntu. If you hate something, do nothing about it. If twelve months down the road some twenty-something GUI designer asshole hasn't already yanked the carpet out from underneath you consider investing three minutes of quality Google time in stone-from-shoe removal prowess. (My what sharp fangs you have, Grandma! All the better to service the tablet marketplace, my darling little Ms Underhood.)

For example, I use middle-click paste all the time, while also carrying a to-be-pasted item around in my regular paste buffer (and even more in my clippy tool). I'm sure I read something about some distro/desktop deciding to eliminate this from their next GUI iteration, right before I hit the emergency stasis field activation button and curled into a foetal ball.

What I desperately want is a middle-click erase-paste, in which the contents of the target area are vaporised prior to the paste operation (clearing out search boxes is especially annoying). I just noticed that the paste happens on button release. A long middle-button press could be a field erase operation. Then long-press/release would be paste-replace. That would be golden. All the methods I know to quickly delete a field involve first selecting the field, which really sucks when you're already carrying something in your X buffer.

Hard on the heals of my compose key triumph, I might give it a go at some point in the next six to nine months.

Comment: Re:Lots of cheap carbon stuff (Score 1) 652

by epine (#48080073) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

Actually you only need to pear the population down by about 20 million. The top 2% of the world's population consume something like 90-95% of the resources, they are extremely expensive to have around. Remove them and everyone's standard of living jumps significantly.

And what about the other 98% who dream of becoming the 2%? Nature abhors voluntary prudence. Stable equilibria in straightened circumstance is what you get after everyone goes "oh shit, what now?"

Perhaps in about twenty more years, we'll have a SimEarth realistic enough to set your proposal up to watch the earth burn. The stampede to replace the profligate 2% being but the first unmitigated ecological disaster of many to follow.

Skill testing question: Does the extremely high American incarceration rate aid or abet the trade in deprecated substances? I'm not even going to bother offering up antonyms. Prison is many things, and one of those things is serving as a first-rate finishing school in general lawlessness. Every trip to prison makes your "straight" options that much less attractive. After three trips to prison, minimum wage under the table is your glass ceiling in the straight economy.

The law of unexpected consequence is nowhere else in force so strongly as it applies to human incentive.

Comment: Re:Duh! (Score 1) 75

And since this is a camera passthrough, not an optical overlay, that's a glaring implementation flaw. Properly aligning the head tracking framerate, camera framerate, and rendering would let them render the virtual objects in lockstep with the physical ones (at least at speeds where motion blur isn't a significant issue; you can fake that by minimizing motion blur in the real image by using a short shutter time on the cameras).

Comment: Doesn't look unreasoanble (so far) (Score 3) 192

by marcansoft (#48009543) Attached to: NVIDIA Begins Requiring Signed GPU Firmware Images

So, they're locking out things that can brick the card (flash ROM/fuses, screw up thermal sensors) and apparently a hint of OS security (the Falcons that respond to userspace commands can no longer access physical memory, only virtual memory). The latter sounds somewhat bizarre, considering the firmware should be fully under the control of the driver, not userspace (I guess/hope?), but not unreasonable. Maybe there are software security reasons for this.

Nouveau is free to continue using its own free blobs or to switch to nvidia's. If they start adding restrictions that actively cripple useful features or are DRM nonsense, then I would start complaining, but so far it sounds like an attempt at protecting the hardware while maintaining manufacturing flexibility for nvidia. This isn't much different from devices which are fused at the factory with thermal parameters and with some units disabled; the only difference is that here firmware is involved.

NV seem to be turning friendlier towards nouveau, so I'd give them the benefit of the doubt. If they wanted to be evil, they would've just required signed firmware for the card to function at all. The fact that they're bothering to have non-secure modes and are only locking out very specific features suggests they're actively trying to play nicely with open source software.

Comment: the core problem (Score 1) 139

by epine (#47977469) Attached to: Google Quietly Nixes Mandatory G+ Integration With Gmail

The core problem is not Google+ (pustulent imposition that it was) but that Google does not provide clean answers about anything it does. Google's motto has long ceased being "don't be evil" and morphed into "that's for us to know, and users to divine".

My view is that happiness in life is directly proportional to eliminating all forms of "X behind a curtain" where X is man, woman, beast, tyrant, saint, priest, missionary, Smallpox vector, committee, club, association, organization, governmental body, natural, supernatural, mythical, legendary, or outright fabrication.

Google as presently configured is not a conduit of happiness in this world.

Operating Systems

Outlining Thin Linux 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the tux-on-a-diet dept.
snydeq writes: Deep End's Paul Venezia follows up his call for splitting Linux distros in two by arguing that the new shape of the Linux server is thin, light, and fine-tuned to a single purpose. "Those of us who build and maintain large-scale Linux infrastructures would be happy to see a highly specific, highly stable mainstream distro that had no desktop package or dependency support whatsoever, so was not beholden to architectural changes made due to desktop package requirements. When you're rolling out a few hundred Linux VMs locally, in the cloud, or both, you won't manually log into them, much less need any type of graphical support. Frankly, you could lose the framebuffer too; it wouldn't matter unless you were running certain tests," Venezia writes. "It's only a matter of time before a Linux distribution that caters solely to these considerations becomes mainstream and is offered alongside more traditional distributions."

Comment: ask not for whom the bell doesn't chime (Score 1) 478

by epine (#47966973) Attached to: Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

Yeah, if he's stuck in a state of decline, he can still contribute.

I guess you don't have any grandparents who live alone, but can no longer reliably identify their own children. My wife's grandmother recently "celebrated" her ninetieth birthday (I don't use scare quotes lightly). All her "loved ones" showed up. She spent the entire day looking like a four-year-old lost in a giant shopping mall. She didn't know who she was, who anyone else was, where she was (with all the people around, she couldn't identify the house she had lived in since 1950). Out of compassion, the family soon arranged a quiet room, so that she could "contribute" to the celebration by sitting alone in a nearby room.

You are so deep into denial about the reality of aging, I had to pull out triple scare quotes. If you still don't get it, I'm done. I'll just have to say "I've got nothing" and leave to you to your own date with destiny. Enjoy it, if you can.

Comment: Re:A Priority (Score 1) 55

by Sir_Sri (#47842369) Attached to: Survivors' Blood Holds Promise, But Draws Critics, As Ebola Treatment

There's a serious ethical problem with allocating scarce healthcare resources, particularly those in theatre to ideas that have no evidence of being worth trying. There's also significant risk from blood infusions being done improperly, including infecting more healthcare workers who then may end up in close proximity to ebola patients even longer.

If this were being done in a 3rd party country - e.g. the UK or the US or spain, where a blood transfusion or two, even under the most stringent of containment procedures is a very marginal cost I'd say sure, you may as well try. But when you're talking about potentially thousands of infusions on thousands of patients in poor countries, in facilities that are suffering shortages of staff because staff keep dying, and suffering in sanitation, and well... it may not be a great idea.

If you save one patient with a blood transfusion but kill 2 others who accidentally get infected you're not really doing a good thing.

Information is the inverse of entropy.