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Comment: Re:Simplification, n. (Score 1) 167

by CptJeanLuc (#47957855) Attached to: KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity

Simplification: the act of removing features that are deemed unnecessary, redundant, irrelevant. Simplification (UI design): the act of removing or transforming discoverable, one-step, procedures in opaque, 3-step-after-reconfiguration procedures. See Gnome, Windows, OSX. Hopefully not KDE.

Or perhaps, an alternative ... Simplification (Software): the act of modifying software so that it offers an efficient, intuitive and "good enough" user experience for a broad range (and possibly various groups of) users, with minimum complexity in UI and design.

Simplification is not so much about removing features, as it is about transforming user experience into something leaner. Simplification does not have to be a bad thing, it is all about how you do it. Simplification is really hard; it has to do with how a piece of software is structured, from the ground up. E.g. stuff that is not encoded into the data model, you will never be able to do in the UI. If you have a data model that does not fit the problem, the UI will never be a good one. You cannot simplify an UI just by rearranging icons. Well, you can rearrange, but it does not necessarily get any simpler - you are only giving it a minimalistic appearance, which "fakes" simplicity.

I organize my kitchen on a Huffman-style principle. The stuff which needs to get accessed more often, is more accessible. Why should a UI be any different. You want the stuff you need more often to be readily available, thus minimizing the total number of user actions. That does not mean you cannot have layers of functionality, or possibly alternative UIs (click to enable/disable wizard menu mode).

"Power tech users" are doing themselves and communities a disservice by inisisting on cumbersome, archaic, complex UIs in order to be able to fully wield their power in the UI they know already. Why? Because it hurts general adoption, which hurts software usage, which makes it less attractive as a software ecosystem, which gives it a competitive disadvantage vis a vis other platforms. You want lots of users, so the platform can live on for years and years.

Don't misunderstand me here; I hate ribbons as much as the next guy, and after I recently had to try out Office365, that interface had me going absolutely bonkers, having to send off an angry user feedback in order to vent.

I consider myself a power user, but tech is not my day job, and I am getting old enough that I no longer wish to spend evenings sitting in a basement learning the ins and outs of every piece of program I come across. I spent years creating complex high tech infrastructure setups at home, only to change it all into something simpler because I cannot be bothered to maintain it anymore when it breaks. Life is too short, and even as a "power user", you may not want to have to be an expert on everything. These days, I will choose the program which just works without having to spend too much time figuring it out.

Comment: Re:Regular boards are a lot smarter (Score 1) 83

by CptJeanLuc (#47957797) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

It's funny, I've never, ever (in 20+yrs in IT including plenty of travel to client-sites) seen a smartboard used in business and only once seen one (possibly broken, never used) in a business at all. On the other hand I have seen loads and loads of them in schools.

Good point, they are not as widespread as I projected they would be at this point (I've left business to do other things the last 4-5 years). Though in a business, it could actually be useful. Not so much for interactive apps, but for interactive presentations, and for note keeping. I've had countless meetings using whiteboards, and at some point "invented" (locally in my company) the technique of using the cell phone camera for taking pictures of the whiteboard. It was quite frustrating having to work with regular whiteboards, because in a previous job they had these fancy boards which you could just push a button and the board content would be printed to a sheet of paper. Which was absolutely brilliant.

Comment: Regular boards are a lot smarter (Score 1) 83

by CptJeanLuc (#47955659) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?

Smart boards can be useful for businesses. The people who manage schools want the schools to have the same stuff as the businesses, so they end up investing in smart boards. Unfortunately, they are not all that useful in school.

Students quickly get tired of powerpoint slide shows (which is how smart boards would normally be used, run some type of slide show and draw circles and stuff as you go), and most presenters tend to overload slides with information - because they can, and because they are bad at organizing and prioritizing information. School is not about putting content before students, it is about students actually learning. Using a regular board is a great learning tool, because it forces the presenter to pace himself to a speed which students can follow. Plus you actually have to prioritize a bit.

Smart boards are usually a bad replacement for regular boards. Why? Because they add little value. I have not heard about any great smart board apps that are actually being used in class, it is all about the "possibilities" which never quite seem to actually happen in real life. But are there any disadvantages to smartboards? Yes, instead of a nice and big board which you can structure into segments and organize lots of content, you are now limited to this tiny little smart board. Plus you have to fire up the computer, and there are all sort of technological pitfalls.

The best type of board; an old style board for using with chalk. Extremely low tech, and as long as there is any tiny piece of chalk around, you have a functional setup. No PC to boot, no spending time getting the smart board set up - you just grab the chalk and start the lesson.

Comment: Perfect long-term provider for key infrastructure (Score 1) 115

by CptJeanLuc (#47931963) Attached to: Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

I can highly recommend Logitech for home infrastructure. I decide to invest in the Logitech Squeezebox line with two SB Touch, four SB Radios, and even a Boom sitting around somewhere. Rather than going with something with short shelf life, it is good to be on a platform from a known long-term player, with a long-term commitment for maintaining and further developing that platform. Their server software is rather well hidden on the internet, but hey ... if something is not worth spending lots of time chasing, then it is probably not of much value - I understand, you are just playing hard to get Logitech. I know that deep down you actually want my business.

I also own a Harmony remote. It works great, except the one annoyance that it cannot be programmed so that the TV button actually controls the TV, unless you reprogram the entire thing. I am sure they will get around to fixing that eventually, they are probably just too busy rolling out the next Squeezebox upgrade, so I don't mind waiting a few years more for that one.

Given Logitech's reputable history in the home media center market, I certainly have expectations what they could do to home automation.

Comment: Don't overcomplicate (Score 1) 267

by CptJeanLuc (#47912303) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?

Just buy a bunch of appropriately sized external drives, set them up with encrypted file systems (and make sure whoever may need it has the password), copy all videos to each drive, and get some friends and family to store them for you. Put all your other important content such as family photos etc. on the same drives (if you are going through all this hassle anyways, might as well save more data in the process). Redistribute updated copies in a few years (to back up new content, and to protect against ageing drives). In order for this scheme to fail, each drive has to either fail, get lost, or otherwise kept from you due to a scheming ex-friend.

But seriously ... what is the value of this data, really. Is anyone ever going to watch this stuff; will they notice if it goes missing. There is no need to over-engineer a system for nice-to-have data. If you have 2-3 independent offsite copies, that is already approaching that limit. Assuming this video material is probably never going to be used or watched, the best scheme is likely some system which provides a feeling that the data is safe - and then one can go on for the rest of one's life ignoring it exists. In this case, the subjective feeling of data safety is more important than actual data safety.

I may be wrong, your tapes may be really important ... but if they were, why would they be a random organization of clips sitting in a drawer, with no copies in the first place. This does not sound like something that requires a complex setup.

Comment: Re:Dear God, no (Score 1) 368

by CptJeanLuc (#47869293) Attached to: Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

Why do these successful companies allow themselves to be bought up by behemoths who almost never improve upon them?

Using the voice of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movie: "two ... b i l l i o n ... dollars".

There are two options; either cash in and take the 2 Bn which then becomes a sure thing, or keep running the company with the two possibilities that you could make even more money (that you would never have the chance to spend anyway so there is in reality zero additional value in that scenario), or you could lose some or all of the value. The owner may even have knowledge they are currently headed in a bad direction. First option you have to do zero work for the rest of your life, second option you have to work really, really hard running the company.

Think of it in terms of game theory. For society as a whole, this is a suboptimal decision. However for the owner, it is probably the right decision.

Comment: 5Mbps is enough ... (Score 1) 528

by CptJeanLuc (#47860009) Attached to: AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

... if you don't have to share it with family members. If you do not mind not watching content in HD. If your 5Mbps connection is actually stable and always delivering peak. If none of the devices in your house want to suddenly update themselves when you are trying to watch something. If you have have the self discipline and masochistic tendencies that you actually enjoy buying that shiny new game on Steam, and then spending hours waiting for it to download ... while also not being able to do any streaming. Source: I have a 5Mbps/750kbps wireless based connection, and it is the only option in my area. I also have several household members, a preference for watching content in HD, sometimes shitty connection with only 1-3 Mbps, and a bunch of PCs, tablets and mobile phones which may all suddenly decide to use the net.

I don't know; you would think society should be moving forward when it comes to planning and managing infrastructure. In the last century, they were able to deliver electricity, phone lines, paved roads, water, and what not to pretty much everyone. These days, it is a global news event if a couple cities in the US get Gbps home networks (which supposedly they have had for years in e.g. Japan), and fixing a few kilometers of road is a major investment which will drain local infrastructure budgets for a year.

Even today's corrupt authorities should take a page from the Romans' playbook, giving the people "bread & circus". If you want happy citizens, make sure everyone has a fast internet connection.

Comment: Structured thinking and problem solving matters (Score 1) 546

by CptJeanLuc (#47819389) Attached to: Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Some form of higher education involving logic, problem structuring and rational thinking is needed, though not necessarily computer science. Either that, or taking some sort of structured approach to learning that set of skills elsewhere, e.g. through mentoring or self-studies. You need to figure out what skill set it is that you need to learn, and then make sure you somehow learn it, either at university or some other way. That being said, I know plenty people with CS education who I would say make very poor programmers - it is easy to go through higher education and still learn very little. One of my favourite quotes, "he who has no plan goes nowhere fast". Just being somewhere and following some curriculum is not the same as pursuing a roadmap towards becoming a "real" programmer.

I myself am pretty much self-taught when it comes to programming, having taken an interest in that since the age of 9 with Basic and C64, but never taking any formal training. Higher education in mathematics has given me all the additional experience and skills I have needed. I have worked with programmers and managed programmers for several years, and though they are often better at coding than I am (which is not so strange given it is their job, whereas for me it has been just one of many different responsibilities), I often have an edge when it comes to e.g. structuring, algorithms, wading through complexity, or taking a critical point of view whether we are building the right thing.

If you want to be a top programmer who is productive in a work place, you need both programming skills and higher order rational logical thinking (plus being able to collaborate). It doesn't matter how you acquire it (in terms of learning it, not necessarily how attractive you are to employers). Everything else, e.g. new programming languages and such, is typically easy to learn once the basics are in place.

Comment: Re:Wow (Score 1) 159

You sir have probably been watching too much regular US news (i.e. propaganda, sponsored content or advertisement). For something resembling actual news I recommend Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show or The Colbert Show. Yes, the only place to get decent commentary about the important stuff which is happening these days, is from comedians. Spend a year watching stories about the stuff that politicians and companies are not only doing but also proudly getting away with, and you might want to rethink how tough your country really is on corruption.

Comment: Yes, but they should be paying me (Score 1) 611

by CptJeanLuc (#47720563) Attached to: Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

Yes, if such a system actually worked, I would gladly pay. But in fairness, I should be paying way less than the global average. I have developed pretty good skills of ignoring anything resembling an ad. Actually I make it a point to avoid buying from anyone pushing their ads too aggressively, as long as there is reasonable competition. Probably those ad pushers should be paying me money for not wasting their budgets.

Comment: Counter-productive American work culture (Score 4, Interesting) 135

by CptJeanLuc (#47589771) Attached to: If You're Always Working, You're Never Working Well

From working from Europe in a global organization a few years ago, it was interesting to see how American colleagues always seem to be projecting the importance of their work and their persona, with an always-on mindset. And it was interesting how emails got answered in the late evening US time zones, with replies that were clearly in the style of "I want you to know that I read your email and am working in the evening", but with no real effort behind the response. And with silly emails like "going away with family on vacation for two days, so I will be reading email less frequently" - dude, why are you checking your emails on a vacation.

Furthermore, US colleagues often seemed obsessed about strengthen their own work position, paranoid about any initiative which may reduce their importance, and generally working relations and politics to make themselves as hard-to-fire as possible. Some people clearly playing their own agenda not really caring about what is right for the company. And creating as little transparency as possible about information they own, making it hard to objectively assess their performance, or replace them with someone else. The kind of person who will do what they are asked, and little else.

In Scandinavia, my experience is we tend to focus on getting sh%# done, and nobody really cares when you do it. In most work environments people are not expected to be always-on, and we embrace the idea that it is good for people to be able to take some weeks vacation once in a while. Plus with public welfare systems - yes, the dreaded "socialism" - you don't have to be overly paranoid about the consequences of losing your job.

One of the most effective tools I have had in terms of time management, is that whenever someone has asked me something with a questionable or unreasonable timeline, I have questioned the time frame and discussed what are actual requirements - and usually there is no problem shifting the timeline to something reasonable. Just because someone asks, that does not mean you have to say yes. There is nothing worse than under-delivering. It is better both for yourself, and for whomever is asking, to push back and find something that works - and then deliver a quality end product. Or some times reducing the scope - someone asks for a big presentation, which you know they may end up changing everything - and you agree on instead making a rough draft and storyline. So you just saved yourself a ton of work, and all it took was 2 minutes of intelligent discussion.

As for changing the culture, I'd say just take a position regarding how and when you plan to work, and let your colleague and peers know. Or at least discuss what is the expectation in terms of work commitments. So they will not be expecting an always-on mindset. In the end, if you keep delivering your stuff, I would think that is what matters.

Comment: Great move alienating tech savvy people (Score 1) 495

by CptJeanLuc (#47363003) Attached to: Microsoft Takes Down Domains

Our company has found evidence there are people driving cars while under the influence of alcohol in and out of the city, every single day. In order to safeguard our customers who frequently travel the city streets, we move to block all roads accessing the city.

Come on Microsoft ... if you want to be the hip guy who are just as cool as Apple and Google, you need to stop doing this kind of stuff. If you want to steam ahead as you are currently going, with draconian initiatives with questionable legal base that mess up the infrastructure of mostly tech savvy users (you know, the people who give advice to others what they should buy) who will tell their friends exactly what they believe people should expect from your company, then here is a free suggestion for a new company slogan, "Microsoft - because we can".

Comment: Secret Sharing (Score 1) 208

by CptJeanLuc (#47277123) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

The problem; trust. Say you had a number of deposit boxes with valuable contents. Do you give someone copies of all your keys, as you intend for them to get the contents later - and trust them not to open any of it until the time comes. Do you invent some clever scheme that they will find the keys when they go through your stuff when the time comes - though the thing is they may never find it, and noone will ever know. Or do you buy some service from ShadyCo Care Services to keep copies of your keys, with a promise they will be delivered to the right people when the time comes.

The problem is trust. Ultimately with these examples, you either trust one particular person more than you would normally want to do (it is nice to have close family and friends, but we do not necessarily give them all the passcodes to access our bank accounts and do stuff in our name), trust some entity which ultimately cannot be trusted (e.g. corporation), or bet on some chain of events to unfold as planned.

Within the area of cryptography, there is a concept called "secret sharing", that instead of one password (or "master secret"), a number of secrets are produced which when combined in various pre-defined ways, will create the master secret. You encrypt a file with the secret information you want to pass on, using very strong encryption and a very strong password - and then create a number of secrets from the master password. E.g. if you have 2 siblings and 3 children, you could split up the key such that any one sibling together with two of the children, would be able to reconstruct the master password.

So what is the nice thing about this type of scheme? It means you do not need to trust people as much. In order to "screw you over" by going against your instructions, with the above example three of the people you think are closest to you would have to collaborate - which is a lot less likely to happen than if one single person held all the power.

There are some practical issues - each person would have to get a secret to be protected, preferably in some way which cannot be hacked - and a piece of software that they will be able to use to reconstruct the secret - something portable which will run on anything and which can also be operated by computer illiterates. I would not expect anyone has written software specifically for this, though it would have been quite easy, as the concept of secret sharing is pretty straightforward, e.g. the secret lies along a n-th degree polynomial with known x-value e.g. x=0, and each person gets coordinates for a different point along the graph. Any n points are sufficient to resolve the coefficients of the polynomial f(x), and thus determine f(0).

Comment: Re:1994-95 (Score 2) 204

by CptJeanLuc (#47271951) Attached to: X Window System Turns 30 Years Old

Oh, the memories. 1994 in university, and they had a room of SGI Indy workstations, with Internet connection. Everything was utterly confusing with Unix, X11, ctwm and what not. Asking the wizards for help was pretty scary, as they would stare you down as if you were a waste of perfectly good carbon. Those were good times.

And then installing Slackware from floppy, onto a 486DX33 I think it was. Getting the X server up and running was pretty scary, which involved getting a supposedly supported graphics card, and playing around with dot clock frequencies while reading warnings about how this could fry the monitor. No manual, no search engines to turn to for help the way you can look up almost any question today and find an answer in a forum somewhere, and no internet at home.

I think it was a couple years later when Linux got initial support for multiple processors, and this was before the concept of "cores". Which was pretty cool. Got a Tyan Tomcat III motherboard with two pentium processors, and had a lot of fun figuring out how to get that to work. Those were the days when you had to compile your own kernel, at least for that type of functionality.

Actually, the Tyan Tomcat III motherboard was the only piece of hardware I owned which got ruined due to Y2K. Because I was afraid the PC would get broken, I downloaded a new BIOS and followed instructions to flash. The computer never booted again; would probably have been just fine if I had the wisdom to just leave it alone.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll