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Comment: We all know what we expect is not what we want (Score 5, Insightful) 208

by FellowConspirator (#49172063) Attached to: What Would Minecraft 2 Look Like Under Microsoft?

Here's a short list of what certainly awaits in a Microsoft Minecraft 2:

- Registration requires a multi-part authentication process that involves at least 3 e-mails and the creation of one Microsoft mailbox -- for each member of your family that wants to play
- The game will still cost $19, but multiplayer or network storage will require an Xbox Live account and gold subscription.
- The game will be retooled to appeal to an older audience, so expect ultraviolence and maybe some skin (which will usher in an era of very crude "box" jokes).
- Minecraft mods will be easy to write in C#, but no longer be supported in Java; they will implemented as SOAP services instead of plug-ins; and to use them you will need to register as a developer go through a multi-stage certificate generation and validation process to sign your mod which will only be available through the Microsoft store
- The Microsoft store will be integral to the game and appear as a building in the shape of the Windows logo; they'll sell diamond pickaxes that otherwise will be impossible to get
- There will be Windows-phone exclusive features, including a Smite button that allows people to kick other people off a server.

Comment: Two concrete examples: (Score 5, Informative) 598

by FellowConspirator (#48738797) Attached to: Tumblr Co-Founder: Apple's Software Is In a Nosedive

iWork and iLife.

After iWork '09, the iWork applications had very little in the way of updates, but the Keynote and Pages applications were very capable. Pages didn't have all the features of Microsoft Word, but the typography and page layout capabilities were exceptional in comparison, and users had a fairly clear list of improvements that they suggested - mostly improvements to mail merge, tables-of-contents, footnoting, indenting, and creating indices. Keynote was excellent. Numbers was simply not what people expected from a spreadsheet and it had the most suggestions for improvements. However, by and large the apps were quite good and a bargain.

iWork '13 destroyed everything that made the iWork applications great. Not only did the UI regress, but the feature set, rather than meeting user requests / expectations, jettisoned swathes of functionality - in exchange for compatibility with iCould and the web version. The highly usable productivity software became a Google Docs wannabe overnight. Worse, the old version ceased to be available. Subsequently, improvements to iWork have included no restoration of the functionality of the product, but changes in the file format (that introduce incompatibilities with older versions). iWork took a nosedive.

iLife hasn't fared much better. iLife originally included GarageBand, iMovie, and iDVD for creating DVDs (with menus, title graphics, scene previews, and control over flow between menus - simple, but functional). iDVD is gone. Even Apple's "pro" video tools no longer support similar functionality to what iDVD provided in 2009 -- there is nothing available that can claim the same function, and you can no longer obtain the abandoned software. GarageBand has some added instruments and lessons, but at the loss of their video / podcast scoring and advanced podcast authoring capabilities. The filters are now more primitive and skewed specifically towards guitars (why?). iMovie has gone through various iterations of UI and library management changes that make moving between versions confusing and it focuses on iCloud and iMovie Theater - features almost completely unused because of their awkward implementation and storage requirements (particularly in iCloud) that are ridiculous.

Aperture, their prosumer photo database and editing app, is about to be jettisoned and replaced with an upgraded iPhoto with many of the most professional and workflow-related features of Aperture removed. Aperture will no longer be available afterward. In effect, their ceding this software to Adobe's Lightroom and their subscriber-based pay-to-play model.

A lot of people will also probably bitch about Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor, and those video tools. However, I think Apple is doing OK there. They released FCPX prematurely - they needed to wait until they got FCP7 project importing working, but the changes they made were really necessary. Where they have failed is the workflow and integration points of FCPX - Motion - Compressor, and they've dropped the ball on creating optical media. There was also still some room to keep Shake in the mix.

I don't worry too much about things like Apple ID as that's more or less par-for-the-course for that sort of service these days. Nobody does it much better. However, I chafe at the idea that they are spending so much development money, time, and effort on that dog called 'iCloud'. It's a disaster of a service and it's dragging down their productivity software.

Comment: They probably don't know how it spreads (Score 5, Insightful) 172

by FellowConspirator (#48046699) Attached to: New OS X Backdoor Malware Roping Macs Into Botnet

A regular user process is not going to be able to create the sub-directory in Application Support or install the launchd file to auto-start the service. For that, you'd need admin privilege, which has to be given explicitly by a member of the admin group. To get there, it has to trick an admin user to explicitly install it (in which case, it's not a worm/virus, it's a trojan), or it has to remotely trick an OS X application that runs as root or has admin privilege to do so -- but there's not much opportunity there as most services don't accept incoming connections, and those that do generally generally run as an unprivileged user. Looking at my Mac, the only service that can be connected to remotely and has sufficient privilege (if enabled) is SSH. Macs don't have that enabled by default.

Comment: The real question is, can they sell it? (Score 1) 730

by FellowConspirator (#47865299) Attached to: Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

The iPhone 6 is a nice evolution, but not revolutionary. Allowing users to call Wi-Fi to mobile (rather than pure VOIP) or vice-versa and transition smoothly from Wi-Fi to mobile is a nice touch. I like the way they implemented the payment system - it SHOULD be more secure than NFC and be more convenient. The new screen sizes will piss of developers a bit, I'm sure. The iWatch -- that's a hard sell for me. A one day battery life, tethered to a phone, and a $350 price-tag for a piece of technology that Apple helped go out of style? On it's face, it seems stupid.

iPhone 6 - fair update. iWatch - dud.

Let's see how many they move in 6 months. Frankly, I'm surprised we didn't see more stuff announced.

Comment: No kill switches - Tech levels. (Score 1) 448

There are all sorts of reasons that kill switches are not implementable. A better approach is to not leave advanced weapons all the heck over the place. Don't sell them, don't loan them out, ... If someone wants a weapon from the USA, they get something primitive, or they get a US soldier. We've got to adopt a policy where we are the only people with the best weapons.

Comment: Enabling industrial espionage. (Score 2) 212

by FellowConspirator (#46080503) Attached to: Edward Snowden Says NSA Engages In Industrial Espionage

I remember reading a story, which may well have been apocryphal, about organized crime and foreign agencies exploiting the old FBI carnivore e-mail intercept system to use for extortion and industrial espionage.

It seems to reason that if the NSA is compromising telecommunications protocols, having routers forward copies of data, stuffing radio transmitters in computer equipment, etc., then some enterprising third parties are going to piggy back on it for their own purposes. That, and the NSA can't possibly be the only players in town undermining the integrity of the system. It seems to me that we've enabled a new class of criminal information enterprise, not just by or for the NSA.

Comment: Anecdotal Experience (Score 4, Interesting) 314

by FellowConspirator (#46047801) Attached to: Office Space: TV Documentary Looks At the Dreadful Open Office

The company I work for has been migrating to the open-office concept over the past year or so, first with a new building, and then by doing floor-by-floor conversions of existing buildings on the campus. Some of the people are being migrated from offices to desks, some from cubicles to desks. Almost everyone has been very good about going along with the plan and giving it a shot. The results are a mixed bag, overall, but as time goes on, it's proving to be more a liability than an improvement.

Everyone gets new furniture, and the worse shape their old furniture was in, the better the first impression.
The lighting is MUCH better - even in areas that don't have direct sunlight; the large number of smaller light sources on the ceiling with little obstruction works well.
There's more people in the same area
- makes more efficient use of space
- don't have to walk as far to get to someone

There's more people are in the same area
- in the older buildings, this means that the number of toilets is no longer proportional to the demand
- its noisy; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot
- people sneeze and it hits their neighbors
- you can't make a phone call without annoying everyone, so now nobody uses the phone unless in a conference room; phone communication in general has dropped precipitously and now takes a back-seat to e-mail
- folks are increasingly annoyed with their neighbors and it increases stress and some talk less
There's visual distraction (things always coming in and out of your field of view)
The clever storage ideas don't make up for the overall lack of storage volume or shelf space
You can't have a conversation without annoying everyone, so you have to spend time hunting for a "huddle room" or chat in a stairwell or utility closet
Older employees (>40) especially have a hard time with the din (and the white-noise generators don't help).
It's super difficult to work on certain types of things - anything that has personnel info, or HIPPA protected info that you're not supposed to let your neighbors
Anything that really takes focus (reading a complex scientific paper, for example), is really out of the question
Lots of people try and drown out the din with headphones (which produces noises that annoy those without), and effectively the employees are being trained to tune each other out
There's lots of "unplanned interactions"

I think everyone agrees that we: are less productive, are not collaborating any more than before, and are collaborating less with the outside. HR is already noticing that people are using more sick days. However, I presume that the loss in productivity and decreasing office morale are offset by gains in energy and space efficiency (lower cost facilities).

For me, it means that my work space has shrunk by 50% and I no longer have shelf space that I used to put reference materials and manuals on (all that's not sitting in boxes in my attic). I also just walk away from my desk when the din gets to a certain level where I can't concentrate on what I'm supposed to be working on. If you call my phone extension, it automatically forwards you to a voicemail instructing the caller to e-mail me (there's not even a phone at my new desk, none of have them). I don't read papers in the office anymore, and sometimes take what the office calls "productivity days" where I work from home (no, they don't give anyone money for home office stuff or to pay for Internet service). All of our experienced job candidates that have rejected offers have cited the open-office plan as a contributing factor in their decision not to accept the offer (we lead in compensation, so it's not like they wouldn't be well compensated).

Comment: Microsoft as a device company (Score 2, Insightful) 1009

by FellowConspirator (#45943431) Attached to: Windows 9 Already? Apparently, Yes.

Microsoft themselves stated that they're corporate goal is to migrate away from the software business to become a device and service company. This plan means pushing people to the tablet as the delivery mechanism and the proverbial "cloud" as the platform. Microsoft sees the desktop PC as a dead-end and wants to be the one that drives a stake through it's heart - the future is software as a service and thin (razor) clients.

In that light, the dichotomous UIs of Metro and the Windows desktop make sense in an agenda where they want to slowly deprecate the desktop entirely. Once Office is migrated from the Windows platform to the Microsoft cloud platform, the desktop version of Office will also be deprecated. Users may not want the Microsoft, but, heck, if they do it sufficiently gradually enough, users will acclimate to the new world order.

I think this is one of the sources of friction between Microsoft and OEMs like HP. The manufacturers business models aren't aligned with Microsoft's objectives. I suppose the reason that a number of those vendors showed Android - Windows hybrid devices at CES wasn't because the vendors though anyone would be particularly interested or that it was a good idea, it was more to demonstrate that computer manufacturers would be just as happy (if not more happy) to jump in with the Android or ChromeOS camp unless Microsoft starts making certain concessions to them.

I see it going one of two ways: Microsoft succeeds and the Windows PC becomes history and long-time Windows users find themselves software subscribers with dedicated mobile consumption devices, or Microsoft shoots itself in the foot and stumbles about while the rest of the world grabs the Android / ChromeOS ball and runs with it. At this point, I think it's increasingly Google's game to lose rather than Microsoft's game to win.

Comment: The game is not copyrighted (Score 5, Informative) 361

Not that I disagree with the sentiment that copyright terms are indefensibly long, but it's important to recognize that the game is not subject to copyright. The original source code is, as is the artwork from the game. The characters of Mario and Luigi, as well as the Mario Borthers name and logo are trademarked.

The students could very well have innovated by making a rip-off game without any covered elements to it, but they wanted to make something looked exactly like the Nintendo game (trademarks and all). The thing is that in the US, trademarks are unique in that if you do not defend them, you can lose them. If Nintendo didn't react, then they could lose their trademarks. Were I Nintendo, I would approach the students about licensing the trademark (say, for $1 so long as they kept the terms of the arrangement a secret) rather than face any sort of backlash for being heavy handed - they save face and defend their trademark in a single act.

Comment: "Scientific Computing" is over-broad (Score 2) 465

by FellowConspirator (#45155905) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Language To Learn For Scientific Computing?

The problem with this question is that "scientific computing" is an over-broad term. The truth is that certain languages have found specific niches in different parts aspects of scientific computing. Bioinformatics, for example, tends to involve R, Python, Java, and PERL (the prominence of each depends largely on the application). Big-data analytics typically involves Java or languages built on Java (Scala, Groovy). Real-time data processing is generally done in Matlab. pharmacokinetics, some physics, and some computational chemistry are often done in FORTRAN. Instrumentation is generally controlled using C, C++, or VB.NET. Visualization is done in R, D3 (JavaScript), or Matlab. Validated clinical biostatistics are all done in SAS (!).

Python is a nice simple to learn start, very powerful, and the NumPy package is important to learn for scientific computing. R is the language of choice for many types of statistical and numerical analysis. Those are a good place to start, if incomplete. From there, I'd look at the specific fields of interest and look at what the common applications and code-base are for those.

With regard to the OS, that's pretty easy: Linux (though OS X is a reasonable substitute). Nearly all scientific computing is done in a UNIX-like environment.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle