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Journal: Return of the Pangolin

Journal by Graspee_Leemoor

So I haven't written a journal entry for a while (9 years) so I thought I'd update it.

I'm currently looking forward to the 7DRL event in March. I wanted to enter the 2012 one but my programming skills had become rusty. I therefore spent the last year getting back up to full strength in preparation for this year's event. A year of fun, spent on #rgrd on quakenet, programming roguelikes and other experiments in ruby, scheme, c++, SDL, irrlicht, libtcod, gosu...

I haven't managed to actually write anything that you could call "finished" or even really "playable" in the last year, but my skills are as good as they used to be I think. I hope. Sometimes I worry about the ageing brain. I'm often lying on my bed with a pen and paper, getting confused about how to implement something. I know I used to do this in my "prime" too but maybe the problems were harder. I'm 43 now. How long before I can't program any more, or before what I'm capable of programming is too boring to be worthwhile? There are programmers of myth and legend who are still programming in their sixties and seventies, but they were amazing programmers before. Maybe they too have lost their edge and are programming at a reduced skill level.

Pangolins for ever! Through Space and Time!

User Journal

Journal: Foes

Journal by MyLongNickName

I just got foe'd by someone named 'ScienceFail'. Found it quite curious as I haven't posted anything even remotely close to controversial in quite a while and this guy has zero posts. My best guess is he is an alternate account for someone. I wish there were some mechanism for letting someone know why you foe'd them (or friended them). Just curious.

User Journal

Journal: Slashdot ID's by year 18

Journal by MyLongNickName

I've asked the question and so have a lot of slashdotters... Given a slashdot ID, when did it become active? Okay, this is less than perfect, but after a couple hours reviewing December 31 story postings for the past 14 years, I have a pretty good idea of which Slashdot ID's were active by end-of-year.

Date Highest ID Source
12/31/2011 2537066 http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2597818&cid=38540924
12/31/2010 1968314 http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1931212&cid=34724780
12/31/2009 1711968 http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1494398&cid=30626214
12/31/2008 1435429 http://news.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1074965&cid=26264019
12/31/2007 1210278 http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=402646&cid=21872504
12/31/2006 1045190 http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=214364&cid=17417768
12/31/2005 942449 http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=172606&cid=14371693
12/31/2004 840443 http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=134485&cid=11229842
12/31/2003 735991 http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=91126&cid=7847024
12/31/2002 636838 http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=49387&cid=4989860
12/31/2001 545364 http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=25495&cid=2769167
12/31/2000 267378 http://games.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=9653&cid=1419014
12/31/1999 131305 http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3140&cid=1427714
12/31/1998 ??? No posts in 1998, yet I see a usre id of 170,000+ on 1/1/1999. Does not correspond with 12/31/1999 findings.

User Journal

Journal: Public digital libraries and the law

Journal by bzipitidoo

The advantages of a digital library over a traditional book repository are tremendous. No more need for multiple copies of popular books, no reason to have late fees, due dates, charges for lost or damaged books, or indeed the entire system built around library cards and records for tracking who has which books and when they are due. Anyone could download a copy of anything, anytime, and do so without interfering with anyone else's access. Stacks and shelves filled with tons of paper books would all be replaced with computers. This would take less space, and perhaps less maintenance. And it would allow all sorts of extra functionality, such as the ability to search, and have hyperlinks to related works. Card catalogs and cumbersome indexes of magazine and journal articles would not be needed. Also, can handle different sorts of data, such as books and movies, with the same system. Cities could save a bundle.

Currently, though technically doable, this magnificent vision is politically impossible. Copyright law stands squarely in the way. I cannot see any way to have a digital library that is freely accessible, and copyright law. It is the ability to copy any info quickly that makes a digital library so much more powerful, useful, and cheaper than a print library. We should abandon copyright law, and compensate and encourage artists with other means. The benefits of public digital libraries, and of the free exchange of ideas they could promote, are worth much more than copyright law. But because we do have this antiquated legal regime, the few digital libraries that exist are mostly behind paywalls or are private, and contain very small, highly specific collections, and we cannot see the full benefits. Copyright law must be retired.

User Journal

Journal: Copyright and patent law must be replaced!

Journal by bzipitidoo

Some people instead advocate reforms such as limiting the length of these monopolies (to something like 5 years), not granting so many frivolous patents, not allowing the patenting of software, and reducing the penalties for violations. All those are good reforms to Intellectual Property (IP) law. But I think they don't go far enough, and the root of the problem can be summed up with one word: monopoly. Anti-trust efforts aim to eliminate monopolies, not mitigate them.

Even very short duration monopolies are enough to retard progress. That still provides grounds for expensive lawsuits and threats over alleged violations. By removing patents and copyrights altogether, we remove all basis for these complaints, and save us all a lot of legal expenses. We also save hugely on enforcement and the costs of a larger justice system. If anything should anger us, it is the misuse of our own police forces, paid for by us, in support of these businesses highly dubious ends. And most of all, we stop what has become the primary uses of IP, the blocking of competition and the robbery and extortion of the disadvantaged. People who want less government should support the abolishment of current IP law. As matters stand, many businesses have realized that building a portfolio of patents for defensive purposes is less costly than having an "IP gap". The quality of the patents does not matter, all that matters is that they have some of this peculiar form of currency, and so the quality has lately been poor. The least costly route is total disarmament, where no one need budget for patent portfolios.

Supporters of IP display a blind religious fervor that these laws are a net benefit, that they achieve the intent of advancing science and promoting art enough to justify the costs of these monopolies. I have never seen a reasoned argument, with honest statistics, in support of this position. Of the rational studies I have seen, most focus on one aspect, and conclude that the status quo is indeed bad. We need a study of the real costs and benefits of the current system, versus some alternatives.

What replacements do I propose? Nothing, or patronage. Nothing is of course the easiest, but the intent of the patent system was to buy off inventors-- give them something in exchange for revealing their secrets, and if there is no incentive of any sort for that, many will keep as many secrets as possible. A worse outcome is that people won't bother inventing or creating art. This fear is perhaps overblown. Nevertheless, we can strike a balance to encourage the creating of as much art as we can stomach. A patronage system can provide the incentive. A payment is a far less damaging thing to give inventors and artists than a monopoly. The next problems are valuation and collection. We can surely work out ways of figuring compensation amounts that are as fair as possible, given the huge difficulties in guessing how valuable an idea will turn out to be. Collection is the other big problem, with the first notion being a tax. But there are other ways. A levy can be agreed upon. And it need not be government that does the collecting, valuation, or disbursement, nor the people who pay directly, it could be quasi-governmental private entities managing the system. And paying into it would be advertisers and manufacturers of equipment that benefited from the knowledge, and charities.

User Journal

Journal: In response to "how to fix work ethic" 1

Journal by MyLongNickName

Where to begin? Growing up, I was probably the brightest (or close to the top) in my school system based on raw intellect. As a child, I scored a 150 on an IQ test. I skipped a grade, and was still put ahead a couple grades for certain classes like math. In state-wide math competitions, I would score in the top fraction of a percent, and in programming competitions would score among the top in individual rankings. I was doing algebra in third grade and was taking high school classes by the time I hit middle school. However, things were always too easy. I never had to work for a thing. As a result I never really developed a work ethic.

This lack of self discipline really began to show through by high school. I could ace most tests, but usually didn't turn in homework, or most other papers. I began skating by with worse and worse grades. There was one other student in my school with the same raw talent as me. Unlike me, he was focused. He always had top notch grades and was very active in leadership positions in extra curricular activities. I was very active with my Nintendo. He and I were always mentioned in the same sentence when the brightest students were talked about. Yet, I knew also that folks commented on the vast difference in work habits and general attitude.

It got really bad in college. Away from home, there was absolutely no one to keep me accountable. I wouldn't show up for classes. A couple times, I showed up for the syllabus, midterms and finals. Nothing else. It didn't take long before I was put on academic probation.

I moved back home and took a job in telemarketing. Top 0.1% of the general population; making ten bucks an hour. In contrast, the other kid who graduated a year behind me had earned a scholarship to MIT and was half way through his Chemical Engineering degree. I felt like (and was) a complete loser. I think it was the realization that I wasn't "all that" was the first step to turning my life around.

I can't tell you exactly when I made the decision, but I decided to go back to school. This time, I was a bit humbler.

I made some changes. I decided I would wear a tie to school each day. Yeah, I stood out a bit and I am sure a few people thought I was a bit off (and they were right). But the act of looking the part helped put me into a different mindset. It might seem a bit strange, but it helped me to take the classes seriously.

Instead of worrying about what classes would get me a degree, I took classes I wanted to -- a smattering of business classes -- a few classes in Japanese -- violin -- boy did I suck at violin. In each experience, I got to meet different types of people and try new things. I learned a lot about myself and had a lot more fun than I ever had. I think this self-discovery and broadening of horizons was the second part of turning my life around.

I still struggled with procrastination and completing the day to day tasks. Sometimes it was a sheer act of will to do homework. But more often than not, I'd get the work done. As time went on, I found it got easier. And I saw the grades climb. Over the next few semesters, I found that I actually became driven to get things done. I put more effort into it; I invested more of myself into my tasks.

A couple years later, I came to know the Lord. It caused quite a change in my values and goals in life. I became involved in an inner city ministry. I was involved in Bible teaching, tutoring, weekend activities, and generally mentoring these kids. I could tell you dozens of stories about some of the kids and the challenges they were facing. But to make a long story short, they had a big impact on me. So many of these kids don't have a chance in the world -- parents who weren't there, failing school systems, temptations that I never had to face. I came to realize how good I had it, and how fortunate I was to have the opportunities I have. I also felt like I had a purpose in life. The lighting of true passion and purpose was the final step to getting on the road of success.

I would graduate at twenty-five with two Bachelors of Science and got started in my career in banking. I volunteered for extra assignments, doing programming to help make things more efficient. I got noticed and moved up quickly in the bank, becoming an officer within five years of my starting. I watched the work habits of those who I respected in higher positions. These folks weren't always the brightest, but knew how to get things done. I learned and applied a lot.

I have moved from the bank for a management position. I will be going back for my master's soon and hope to get into higher levels of management.
Basically, I have learned to truly succeed, you need three things. You need to really know the subject matter you are involved in. Second. You must be passionate about the work that you do. Third, you must care about the people you work with and for. And while, I do sometimes slip into old habits, it doesn't last too long.

I am not sure if this helps anyone else. But if you have any questions, please feel free to ask :)

PC Games (Games)

Journal: Hmmmm 2

Journal by MyLongNickName

Have you noticed that there is no user id 1,600,000 or 1,500,000 1,400,000 or 1,300,000 or 1,200,000 or 1,100,000?

There is a 1,100,001 and 1,200,001 and 1,300,001 and 1,400,001 and 1,500,001 and 1,600,001.

My best guess is that Slashdot has stopped giving out these number to avoid the kind of goofiness around the 1,000,000th user id. Folks were trying their darnedest to get the first seven digit number.

I wonder if Slashdot has taken away any other special uids?

User Journal

Journal: Replaced sig

Journal by shanen

Tired of bad moderation? Opt out of moderation. If enough of us opt out, maybe they'll fix it.
Ha.

User Journal

Journal: Packaging, the scourge of the 21st century

Journal by JaredOfEuropa
Packaging, in the broadest sense of the word, is starting to really piss me off.

Let's start with physical packaging. Whatever happened to the days when a fish would be packaged in yesterday's paper, small parts (screws and bolts) came in a little cardboard box or paper bag, and some stuff wouldn't be packaged at all? These days, some packaging (most notably the so called blister packaging) can be deathly dangerous to open. I'd like to propose one single, simple rule for packaging: one should be able to open it by hand. I'll make two exceptions: stuff that is notoriously easy to steal can go into blister packs, and it's acceptable to require a knife, key or any old sharp implement to cut packing tape.

Then there's labelling and pricing. Another simple rule: either provide a label or price tag that comes off clean, or don't label at all. When I buy a present for someone, a book, a DVD, a bit of wood that I intend to finish properly, a glass ornament, whatever, I would very much like the object in question to look nice. So why is it that shops insist on using labels that will tear when removed, and will leave a nasty gooey residy that won't come off no matter what? I can kind of understand putting such labels on packaging or on paperbacks... but not on expensive gifts.

And finally, there's the matter of "packaging" software. Some more rules:
- I DO NOT WANT software that I run only "on demand" to install some resident "helper" software to check for updates or whatever. You can check for updates when I start your program. Are you listening, Apple?
- I DO NOT WANT to answer the same questions over and over again whenever I install an update of your software. An update should be just that: replace the software that is already there with no questions asked; do not treat it as a more or less fresh reinstall. Are you listening, Zone Labs / Checkpoint?

Major issues to be sure... Come to think of it, if this is what I worry about, I suppose I have a pretty good life.
PC Games (Games)

Journal: How to reduce unwanted wars

Journal by TheLink
In the old days kings used to lead their soldiers into battle. In modern times this is impractical and counterproductive.

But you can still have leaders lead the frontline in spirit.

Basically, if leaders are going to send troops on an _offensive_ war/battle (not defensive war) there must be a referendum on the war.

If there are not enough votes for the war, those leaders get put on deathrow.

At a convenient time later, a referendum is held to redeem each leader. Leaders that do not get enough votes get executed. For example if too many people stay at home and don't bother voting - the leaders get executed.

If it turns out later that the war was justified, a fancy ceremony is held, and the executed leaders are awarded a purple heart or equivalent, and you have people say nice things about them, cry and that sort of thing.

If it turns out later that the leaders tricked the voters, a referendum can be held (need to get enough signatories to start such a referendum, just to prevent nutters from wasting everyone elses time).

This proposal has many advantages:
1) Even leaders who don't really care about those "young soldiers on the battlefield" will not consider starting a war lightly.
2) The soldiers will know that the leaders want a war enough to risk their own lives for it.
3) The soldiers will know that X% of the population want the war.
4) Those being attacked will know that X% of the attackers believe in the war - so they want a war, they get a war - for sufficiently high X, collateral damage becomes insignificant. They might even be justified in using WMD and other otherwise dubious tactics. If > 90% of the country attacking you want to kill you and your families, what is so wrong about you using WMD as long as it does not affect neighbouring countries?
Government

Journal: The messes in Afghanistan and Iraq

Journal by shanen

[A comment from elsewhere in response to Obama's statement that we should shift to Afghanistan.]

Well, I agree Obama should have rejected the label "surge" and he should have emphasized the international aspects--but he was speaking the ugly truth. Unless there are more troops deployed in Afghanistan and unless the country is meaningfully rebuilt, it is going to go back to the way it was. I'd say it could wind up worse, but I'm not sure that's possible--though I'm sure it could cause much larger international problems in the future. There really is a broad international consensus that Afghanistan needs to be fixed, and agreement that it is possible but difficult. However the Taliban have very deep roots. Obama understands the mess.

I'm not defending the Taliban, but I actually think there was a time when it might have been possible to disentangle them from Al Qaeda and deal with the two problems separately. The Taliban was originally a local band of religious lunatics with basically local interests and aspirations, and there are plenty of local nuisances that the world manages to tolerate. However, now that they are completely linked to Al Qaeda, the international threat must be dealt with. The rest of the world is trying, but they just don't have that much force to try with.

Meanwhile, back in the incredible mess that the Dick Cheney has made of Iraq, our troops cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The rest of the world accepts that we've created a new little Iran. They don't particularly like that, but they didn't like Saddam much either, even before the puppet got uppity. The rest of the world accepts that Iran has won, but they've been able to deal with Iran in the past, and think that they can deal with Iraq in the future as a kind of junior Iran. Many countries would also be willing to accept the three-way division of the country, with the notable exception of Turkey. (By the way, I think that's the real reason the why many relatively rational Iranians want nuclear weapons. I still rate the Turks as militarily stronger than Iran, but Iranian nuclear weapons would at least help counteract that. Certainly a very strong deterrence against a Turkish invasion.)

I don't think America has any real influence in Iraq now, and it doesn't matter how many troops we keep there. We are just acting as an irritant while the various Iraqi factions squabble about how much autonomy they can have from Iran. Fortunately, there is agreement among most Iraqis that they also don't like Al Qaeda interference any more than they like American interference. It might be expensive to keep the Sunni's firmly against Al Qaeda--and we had better start paying those bribes more reliably--but we get the Shia hatred of Al Qaeda for free.

Actually,the only path to a greater loss in Iraq would be if we somehow pushed the Shia into supporting Al Qaeda, or even one of the major Shia factions. I want to believe that is fundamentally impossible, but George Dubya Bush has abundantly shown that you should never say any miserable failure is too impossible for him. Also, it is rather frightening that Al Qaeda understands the Shia much better than we do, so it is possible they could also change their pitch to them.

User Journal

Journal: another ex-sig

Journal by shanen

Negative mods let lazy cowards censor opinions and stifle discussions. Write well and disappear. Slashdot sickness.

(recording the demise of another sig)

This system will self-destruct in five minutes.

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