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Comment: Re:Oh Boy! (Score 1) 50

by gweihir (#48907793) Attached to: Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters

That is not a PC. That is an embedded ARM system. And really, there is no problem with the PC industry. The days of growth are over, but that is _not_ a problem and everybody sane did expect it. A far smaller PC industry 20 years back managed to have several manufacturers for each component and several models for each and prices where comparably lower than today.

Comment: Re:Yeah, and all hacked (Score 1) 50

by gweihir (#48907775) Attached to: Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters

The security problem is mostly solved. Or at least it is possibly and economically feasible to make breaking in prohibitively hard. The "cheapest bidder" and "Microsoft"/"Adobe"/etc. and "cheapest possible programmer" problems are not. For software to improve to acceptable levels of security, my guess would be that you would need to sack 95% of programmers and 95% of their bosses.

Comment: You could also make display walls (Score 3, Interesting) 50

by Paul Fernhout (#48907705) Attached to: Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters

I suggested this at IBM Research around 1999, and built a proof-of-concept speech-controlled 3X3 display wall of old ThinkPads otherwise destined for "the crusher". Wow, was my supervisor surprised (to put it mildly) when he got back from a two week vacation, as I had built it when he was away so he could not say "no". :-) Another contractor in the lab described his reactions to me though, and helped calm him down. :-)

A couple regular employees associated with the lab had helped me get the equipment. Every laptop had to be officially tracked with an owner and even locked down to comply with IBM policy, even though they had been discarded/scrubbed and were heading for destruction. Ignoring time costs, the laptop locks were the most expensive part of the project in a sense given pretty much everything else was recycled, and a regular employee coworker got them for me out of his own budget (thanks, David!). Another regular employee helped with the networking aspects and tracking (thanks, Mel!).

The people are IBM who dealt with old equipment were very interested in the idea. Who wants to see useable equipment get scrapped? And there was so much older equipment from such a big company, plus from leases and such. But I guess, within Research itself, the project then was not that exciting to people focused on "new" things.

I even wrote up a mock commercial for such display walls with a female executive mother working from home in front of a huge display wall, and her little daughter came by to say hello, and the mom had programmed something fun to show up on the wall for her daughter.

Before we got treadmill workstations, my wife also liked the idea as a way to keep fit -- that you would be walking around all day in front of this display wall you were talking to, rather than sitting in one place and typing.

ThinkPads were interesting in that they could fold flat, so you could layer them on top of each other. However, I also suggested back then that ThinkPads could eventually be designed for reuse in this specific way.

But as just a contractor, and about then hitting the 1.5 year limit for contractors at IBM Research (a rule to prevent them being ruled as employees), the idea sort of fizzled. There was some preliminary negotiations about hiring me as a regular employee, but I probably asked for too much as I had mixed feelings then about the all embracing IP agreements that IBM had and similar things (although I really liked the speech group -- great people), and I also had hopes to even then get back to educational and design software my wife and I had been writing. I did go back a couple more times at IBM as a contractor, but it was for other groups unrelated to speech. Anyway, so that idea faded away.

The display wall looked a bit like part of a Jeopardy set, and you would tell it what specific screens you wanted to do what with. Another speech researcher asked me to set it up in a new lab when I was leaving. So I can wonder if, indirectly, the idea floating around sparked something at IBM Research eventually related to Watson and Jeopardy? :-)

My major use case for the wall was to use as a design tool to make complex engineering projects, like a self-replicating space habitat. However, I also tried to get the IBM Legal department interested in using such a speech-activated display wall for reviewing legal documents and tracking cases, with using such systems backed by a supercomputer becoming a perk for IBM lawyers, but also did not get far with that.

I'm now past the expiration of my non-disclosure agreement on such things that I did or learned at IBM Research back then, thankfully! :-)

Anyway, one could probably do much the same with discarded cell phones...

Comment: Too bad space habitats seeds not yet ready... (Score 2) 36

by Paul Fernhout (#48907249) Attached to: "Once In a Lifetime" Asteroid Sighting Monday Night

A comment by me nine years ago on Slashdot: http://slashdot.org/comments.p...
"... So, what is a bottleneck is that we do not know how to make that seed self-replicating factory, or have plans for what it should create once it is landed on the moon or on a near-earth asteroid. We don't have (to use Bucky Fuller's terminology) a Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science that lets us make sense of all the various manufacturing knowledge which is woven throughout our complex economy (and in practice, despite patents, is essentially horded and hidden and made proprietary whenever possible) in order to synthesize it to build elegant and flexible infrastructure for sustaining human life in style in space (or on Earth).
    So that is why I think billionaires like Jeff Bezos spending money on CATS [Cheap Access To Space] is a tragedy -- they should IMHO be spending their money on DOGS instead (Design of Great Settlements). But the designs can be done more slowly without much money using volunteers and networked personal computers -- which was the point of a SSI paper I co-authored:
            http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/... 2001_web.html
or a couple other sites I made in that direction:
My work is on a shoestring, but when I imagine what even just a million dollars a year could bring in returns supporting a core team of a handful of space settlement designers, working directly on the bottleneck issues and eventually coordinating the volunteer work of hundreds or thousands more, it is frustrating to see so much money just go into just building better rockets when the ones we have already are good enough for now."

Comment: Re:Three-month-old Continuum screenshot (Score 4, Insightful) 219

by hairyfeet (#48907209) Attached to: Windows 10: Charms Bar Removed, No Start Screen For Desktops

I'm running it on the weakest system I have ATM, an AMD netbook with an E350 APU, 8GB of RAM (yes I know that is overkill, I scored the RAM on sale crazy cheap) and a 320Gb 5400 RPM drive. I figured that if it ran well on a system this weak it'll run good on anything...the verdict? Even with all the drivers running in compatibility mode it runs BETTER than Win 7 on the same hardware, it even has hardware acceleration for video that is smoother than the Win 7 that came with it!

Anybody whose followed my posts know that I don't talk nice about a version of Windows unless it deserves it, I HATE Windows 8, thought it was a frankentard of an OS, hated everything about Vista except for the cool black theme (which I still use on my Win 7 systems) and think Win 7 is the best OS they've made since XP X64 so when I say Win 10 looks like its gonna be a GREAT OS I don't say that lightly, in fact the only way I see them fucking it up is on the pricing side, the OS itself? its damned good. Takes just a couple minutes to get rid of the social crap (which I can't even get mad at that, lots of people like to be tweeting twits taking social shits) and once I added 8 gadgetpack to get back my CPUMeter and NetworkMeter? I was a happy camper.

And I would just like to say how happy I am to see the death of the "Charms" bar, that thing was retarded! But then again damned near everything about Ballmer's Folly was shit design from the start so the fact that charms was stupid really isn't a surprise. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Comment: "Digital Sovereignty" is part of a bigger issue (Score 1) 48

by Paul Fernhout (#48907117) Attached to: Germany Plans Highway Test Track For Self-Driving Cars

By me, a decade ago: http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-f...
"Consider again the self-driving cars mentioned earlier which now cruise some streets in small numbers. The software "intelligence" doing the driving was primarily developed by public money given to universities, which generally own the copyrights and patents as the contractors. Obviously there are related scientific publications, but in practice these fail to do justice to the complexity of such systems. The truest physical representation of the knowledge learned by such work is the codebase plus email discussions of it (plus what developers carry in their heads).
    We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?
      Open source software is typically eventually of much higher quality and reliability because more eyes look over the code for problems and more voices contribute to adding innovative solutions. About 35,000 Americans are killed every year in driving fatalities, and hundreds of thousands more are seriously injured. Should the software that keeps people safe on roads, and which has already been created primarily with public funds, not also be kept under continuous public scrutiny?
    Without concerted action, such software will likely be kept proprietary because that will be more profitable sooner to the people who get in early, and will fit into conventional expectations of business as usual. It will likely end up being available for inspection and testing at best to a few government employees under non-disclosure agreements. We are talking about an entire publicly funded infrastructure about to disappear from the public radar screen. There is something deeply wrong here.
  And while it is true many planes like the 757 can fly themselves already for most of their journey, and their software is probably mostly proprietary, the software involved in driving is potentially far more complex as it requires visual recognition of cues in a more complex environment full of many more unpredictable agents operating on much faster timescales. Also, automotive intelligence will touch all of our lives on a daily basis, where as aircraft intelligence can be generally avoided in daily life.
  Decisions on how this public intellectual property related to automotive intelligence will be handled will affect the health and safety of every American and later everyone in any developed country. Either way, the automotive software engineers and their employers will do well financially (for example, one might still buy a Volvo because their software engineers are better and they do more thorough testing of configurations). But which way will the public be better off:
* totally dependent on proprietary intelligences under the hoods of their cars which they have no way of understanding, or instead
* with ways to verify what those intelligences do, understand how they operate, and make contributions when they can so such automotive intelligences serve humane purposes better?
    If, for example, automotive intelligence was developed under some form of copyleft license like the GNU General Public License, then at least car owners or their "software mechanics" would be assured they could have access to the software in source form to ensure safe operation. What might be "street legal" in terms of software modifications might be a different story -- in the same way people can't legally drive with a cracked windshield or a broken headlight. For example, software changes might need to first be proven safe in simulation before being provisionally "street legal". But, the important thing is, foundations or government agencies funding code development could insist on some form of free licensing terms for automotive intelligence as a matter of public policy.
    There are many other areas of human activities that the exponential growth of technology will effect. Automotive intelligence is just one of them that is here now and which I am familiar with from tangential interactions at universities with people developing it. In enough time similar issues will arise for the software behind household robotics or intelligent devices that assist the elderly or handicapped. The IBOT wheelchair by Dean Kamen using complex software to balance on two wheels is just the beginning of such devices. Note the IBOT wheelchair was developed entirely with private funds it seems, so the reasoning in this essay does not apply directly to it. Also, in general Dean Kamen is a role model of a socially responsible for-profit inventor. Still, the issue arises of whether "Johnson & Johnson" should be funding such development, as was the case, as opposed to, say, the "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation", as was not, given the public policy issue of whether individuals should be continually dependent for personal needs on proprietary software. In either case it would be worth it to pay billions for such innovation, and the public will pay that in the end as a toll on for such devices.
    There is a real question here of how our society will proceed -- mainly closed or mainly open. It is reflected in everything the non-profit world does -- including the myths it lives by. The choice of myth can be made in part by the funding policies set by foundations and government agencies. The myth that funders may be living by is the scarcity economics myth. How does that myth effect the digital public works funding cycle?"

Comment: I spent years working with Delphi; I agree! (Score 1) 427

by Paul Fernhout (#48906811) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

Delphi had many great aspect, especially compile time. My wife and I put about six person years into a project together, much of the time working in Delphi. I knew (and even had taught at the college level C/C++), but she knew mostly Pascal. We did some work in C++, but got hit by the compile times (this was back working with PCs starting around 1995) as well as all the other issues writing in C++. Then we did some in Digitalk's Smalltalk/V, but got worried about lack of support for the proprietary version we were using (we could not have guessed that later is became a free-as-in-beer Smalltalk Express). Wish we had kept to Smalltalk though, as then we could have moved to Squeak a couple years later, and my wife and I really liked Smalltalk. But Smalltalk back then was also slow and had some other limits. So we moved to Delphi (the earliest versions, never moving to later versions beyond 2.0).

Here is GPL'd source for of our garden simulator in Delphi:

GPL'd Delphi source and translations for two other applications (PlantStudio and StoryHarp software) is here:

In retrospect, I think maybe we could have made the C++ approach also work better by writing unit tests for parts of the code and compiling only them in small projects. And I think I'd have much rather have the code in C++ right now than Delphi as far as long-term portability, including now translating to asm.js for web browser deployment.

But, for good or bad, I made the decision a decade ago to port it, and wrote code to parse Delphi and spit out Java and Python (doing a lot of the heavy lifting, but you need to futz with the GUI stuff and some other changes). I only got the StoryHarp app working (in a limtied way) in Java, plus I got the guts of the PlantStudio drawing algorithm in Python for a test for the OLPC.

I'm moving more into JavaScript now, for easy deployment in web browsers, so I might modify those tools to do JavaScript now? But not sure it was worth it, given the rise of Lazarus and the fact that, generally, you learn so much from writing an application that if you were to build it again, you'd do it differently.

But, in any case, Delphi was overall a pleasure to work in as far as a compiled language. Speedy. Fast turn around. Good debugging (although some library bugs with memory leaks were frustrating in the early versions -- we used memmond and its memory leak patches, plus other patches I created and found for the Delphi VCL).

When Squeak first came out, I played with generating Delphi pascal for its VM to use for Windows, but after the Windows port came out, lost some interest in that, and also got sidelines by looking into Squeak -> Newton porting. In retrospect, I wish I had finished the Squeak to Delphi port and code generation tooling, and never bothered working towards a Newton Port as the Newton OS did not want to support any more C++ than small routines, the OS's event loop conflicted with the Squeak polling architecture, Newtons had too little RAM, and of course the Newton was to be abandoned. Meanwhile, Delphi (especially via Lazarus) is still going strong!

Comment: Re:^^Winner (Score 1) 208

by Opportunist (#48906777) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Moved Two Minutes Forward, To 23:57

So tell us, when did the US have a system that effectively allows more than 2 parties to exist? Aside of the few transition periods where parties died out and new ones emerged, there has never been a 3+ party system.

The last time a candidate in a presidental election won a state was 1968. The last time a non DemRep came in second was Roosevelt in 1916, though one may dispute whether that "counts" considering that he WAS prez before. But we might as well count it since there has not been a single other occasion since the civil war (which was the ONLY time when there was actually a "free for all" game). But that price is a tad bit high if you ask me just to break up the two party dictatorship.

Comment: Re:Microsoft would be onto a winner if... (Score 3, Insightful) 219

by Opportunist (#48906487) Attached to: Windows 10: Charms Bar Removed, No Start Screen For Desktops

Nobody would mind a better OS, but when the GUI has reached the pinnacle of usefulness, why try to force a change?

To entertain everyone with the ever popular car analogies, a car has a steering wheel, two or three pedals and a dashboard with a more or less common way to display what you want. The designs changed over time, but that's fairly constant. Why? Because it's been tried and proven as useful and intuitive, and people all over the globe know how to deal with this. It works. It works great. You don't see car manufacturers try to come up with, I don't know, a HOTAS setup for cars (well, maybe in some far out "concept" cars to entertain the press, but sure as fuck not in series cars) or try to be "creative" with their user interface. Despite heaps of changes under the hood in the past decades. Quite seriously, cars ain't the same they were 2 decades ago, but the user interface didn't change at all!

And? Do you see people lament and complain how they don't need a new car 'cause it just looks like the old one? Slap on a new paint job and design the exterior differently and they'll go "ohhh shiny!" and buy it.

Same for GUIs. Keep the user experience the same, just round the edges and make it flashy and gadget-y (and PLEASE allow us to disable all the blinkenlights, for those that don't want SHINY but rather go for useful).

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. -- Franklin P. Jones