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Comment: Re:Another functional programming fan (Score 1) 338

by Fourier (#37608544) Attached to: OCaml For the Masses

Functional programming has its downsides. It tends to result in heavily nested code.

Beginner functional programmers nest their code too deeply, in exactly the same way that beginner C programmers nest their code too deeply. It's not an inherent property of the language.

It's hard to fan out results, so programs tend to be trees with a single result.

I have no idea what "hard to fan out results" is supposed to mean, but the conclusion is trivially disproven by the existence of lots of functional programs that do more than compute a single result.

Persistent state and I/O don't fit well with the functional model.

Persistent state works fine, it's just managed more explicitly: you take the "previous" state as input, and you return the "next" state as an output. Practical functional programming languages have a "functional update" syntax for struct/record types that makes it easy to do this sort of thing.

I agree regarding I/O. But OCaml is not a purely functional language, and the I/O implementation uses imperative syntax. It works just like it does in C. (Well, with the notable exception that printf actually type-checks its arguments at compile time.)

OCaml has some features that ought to be in more languages, like Djykstra's "guards" for choosing multiple alternatives.

The "guards" are a minor detail compared to the use of pattern matching for operating over sum types. It's the presence of a first-class sum type which makes these languages so effective at a wide variety of practical problems, because it gives the programmer a truly effective way to express the invariant that "either the data is of this type, OR the data is of that type, but not both". This is not mathematical bullshit, this is basic business-logic programming that happens all the time. In the mainstream programming languages, you don't have anything better to work with than a tagged union; that's a crappy solution.

The article, of course, elaborates on this. You should consider reading it.

Comment: Re:Most misleading article ever (Score 1) 286

by Fourier (#32666252) Attached to: Fifth of Android Apps Expose Private Data

I don't agree that this is a hatchet job. I am concerned by the volume of highly-rated applications on the Android Market which require permissions that should be unnecessary. As you point out, the Android platform enumerates the requested permissions in a very visible way, which is great. The problem is cultural: users do not question these permission requests as much as they should.

I would really like to be able to selectively deny certain permissions to applications.

Comment: Re:wire speed vs. practical maximums (Score 1) 191

by Fourier (#29534189) Attached to: First-Ever USB 3.0 Hard Drive

People who have performance drives *already* use eSATA (seriously, firewire? Is this 2002? Worse, you then go on to talk about CPU usage, where again the answer is "use eSATA")

eSATA is a nice technology in general, and certainly looks like the future of commodity high-speed external storage, but I expect that it will take a couple of years before the OS/driver support matures. As evidence: take a random sampling of eSATA host controllers and you'll find a disturbingly small percentage that provide driver hooks to safely unmount the drive. You'll find an even smaller percentage that does this *reliably*.

1394 drivers are pretty mature these days, so one doesn't tend to run into those sorts of issues. 1394b also gets close to 80MB/s in practice (not just in theory); it takes a pretty fast HDD to saturate that kind of bandwidth. I would argue that 1394 is still a pretty good choice in 2009, although it's clearly on the way out.

Comment: Re:How much trust is it asking? (Score 2, Interesting) 96

by Fourier (#29188487) Attached to: Getting Through the FOSS License Minefield

Not sure how serious you are, but you've got it backwards. A future FSF could create a GPL with more liberal terms of distribution. Suppose the license permitted binary-only distribution in exchange for a generous donation to the FSF--probably most developers would have a problem with that.

It's difficult to imagine such a scenario today, but I'm sufficiently paranoid to expect that the FSF may not always be trustworthy. All it takes is a gradual shift in the voting membership.

If the FSF continues to release reasonable licenses, a developer can retroactively relicense old software releases under the new versions of the GPL. No risk to the developer, just a little more bookkeeping work.

Comment: Re:"minefield" ? GPL or FreeBSD (Score 1, Insightful) 96

by Fourier (#29187747) Attached to: Getting Through the FOSS License Minefield

if GPL then GPL v3 *and higher* (don't forget).

Or not. The "...or higher" language implies a great deal of trust in the FSF. There is risk in making that decision: the FSF could one day release a GPL which offers terms that the developer disagrees with.

It is entirely reasonable for a risk-averse developer to distribute software under a single well-defined license rather than an unlimited number of undefined licenses.

Comment: Re:How is this a SATA switch? (Score 3, Informative) 131

by Fourier (#26986939) Attached to: Build Your Own SATA Hard Drive Switch

Well, if you include a few more pins, then you should be able to merely extend the current design to include the data cables...

Only if you want to deal with a bunch of CRC failures. You can't really expect to be able to mess around with signal lines when you're switching at 1.5 or 3.0 Gbps.

Medicine

Injectable Artificial Bone Developed 105

Posted by kdawson
from the no-op dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with the news that British scientists have invented artificial "injectable bone" that flows like toothpaste and hardens in the body. This new regenerative medicine technology provides a scaffold for the formation of blood vessels and bone tissue, then biodegrades. The injectable bone can also deliver stem cells directly to the site of bone repair, the researchers say. "Not only does the technique reduce the need for dangerous surgery, it also avoids damaging neighboring areas, said [the inventor]. The technology's superiority over existing alternatives is the novel hardening process and strength of the bond... Older products heat up as they harden, killing surrounding cells, whereas 'injectable bone' hardens at body temperature — without generating heat — making a very porous, biodegradable structure."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Mystery Science Theater Turns 20 165

Posted by timothy
from the snark-embodied dept.
RimmerExperience writes "Hard to believe that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is 20 years old. This NY Times article provides a brief synopsis from the humble but inspired beginnings in a Midwest TV studio, to the making of MST3K: The Movie, to what the creators are up to today. It's interesting that the original creators are still involved in MST3K-style riffing in some way. So if you are looking for your traditional Turkey Day fix, plug in your old VHS, tune into BitTorrent or check out their current projects — Riff Trax (Mike Nelson) or Cinematic Titanic (Joel & Trace). Keep circulating the tapes, er, MPEGs."

Comment: Re:Sounds bogus? (Score 1) 216

by Fourier (#23563545) Attached to: Scalable Nonblocking Data Structures
By convention, "lock-free" is sort of an ill-defined term that roughly means "no software-based locking operations, except maybe we'll ignore spin-locking, provided the algorithm always makes global progress while spinning occurs." In any case, there is no common definition for "lock-free" which implies the absence of hardware locking.

I'm not sure there is anything radically new in this project. However, given the exceptional difficulty of writing correct lock-free algorithms, just about any project exploring this area is noteworthy.
Programming

Journal: London Law devel

Journal by Fourier

London Law was mentioned on Slashdot late last year. Development had stalled after the 0.2.0 release back in February, as I was sinking my limited hobby programming hours into Wyrd. A couple of months ago I polished off a respectable 1.0 release of Wyrd, so I've recently been putting some time in on London Law

User Journal

Journal: Version Control Developments 4

Journal by Fourier

I've been using various iterations of GNU Arch for a couple of years now. tla was among the first free distributed version control systems, and Tom Lord's design had a lot of things going for it: history-sensitive merging, cheap branching, proper handling of renames, append-only repositories, full operation over dumb transports like http and sftp, etc. There's no question, it's

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? -- Charlie McCarthy

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