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Comment: Re:so? (Score 3, Informative) 165

by Penguinisto (#46783531) Attached to: Click Like? You May Have Given Up the Right To Sue

They don't pay as much for for preferential treatment as the other guys. Their only need for lobbying is to ensure farm subsidies are as high as possible to force down the market price for grain.

Actually, the best way to force prices for grain downwards is to *remove* government subsidies, since most of them go towards paying farmers to limit their harvest output, thereby keeping per-bushel prices high.

Same with any other non-processed food item - dump the subsidies, and farmers will have to increase production to make up for it. This in turn will force prices down for those food items.

Comment: Re:Better leave now (Score 2) 178

by Penguinisto (#46783225) Attached to: Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered

I suspect things work a bit more linearly than you might surmise. Maybe I just read your post wrong, but let me re-word it to see if I got it right, with a few changes:

Right now, we (as a human civilization) have pumped out radio signals that currently are racing out past the 100+ light year mark. This is stuff we sent long ago (e.g. Titanic's SOS call has reached the 102-light-year-mark, other early Marconi radio broadcasts in Morse code, stuff like that.)

The initial contact is the bitch - you send something out to a planet 50 ly away, hope someone is there and is capable of listening at that moment, along the frequency band you sent, has his antenna pointed at the same vector from which your signal is originating, has sufficient technology and skill to discern it as a intelligent/sentient message created intentionally. Oh, and you'd better hope something in-between doesn't obliterate the signal on its way there, and that it was powerful enough to not be diffused too much.

Meanwhile, your alien recipient not only has to receive it, but he needs to be capable of sending something in return. If he can decode what you sent and then send a suitable reply - bonus! If he sends something with the same pattern back, okay.

Now we get to wait another 50 years before the reply gets back here, we still have to be around as a civilization (with the right equipment!) to hear it, have someone interested in listening for it (what, 100 years after his grandpappy sent the original signal?), and again, hope the alien dude didn't decide that maybe a different and random (to you) frequency band would have been better to send the reply with... and toss in the same hazards experienced when sending the original request signal.

(...and you thought postal service was slow...)

Comment: Re:What now? 1 billion! (Score 2) 241

by Penguinisto (#46781095) Attached to: Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

The sad part is, MS Access barely qualifies as a database, but most of the "techies" I spoke to at a ghost-hunting conference last weekend** heaped praise on building a "database" with MS Access - they intended to put it on their website for collaboration between ghost-hunting groups, much to the cheers of those various groups who were present.

I stood up and quietly began asking questions of the guy who announced it. 30 minutes later, after realizing to his horror just how insecure and craptastic Access is for Internet use (I had to explain the risks and hazards in layman's terms, which made things slow-going), I gently introduced them to MySQL (which should be more than sufficient for their needs). I offered to help construct a basic setup for them to use once they sorted out how they would introduce privilege separation and suchlike. Next up (if they haven't abandoned the idea completely), I'll introduce them to the concept of a CMS. The guy leading the effort nodded blankly when I walked up to the podium afterwards, gave him my business card, and told him to call me when he was ready.

By the time I got done talking, I was surrounded by a bunch of people (various new-age and definitely non-IT types) who just stared at me slack-jawed and soaked it all in. The one and only other human being in the room who knew what I was talking about was doing his level best not to giggle (he's on my wife's local team, and his day job is web development). I should mention that most of these folks can be wizards at basic EE concepts (with lots of gaps), and can make a sound file do anything just shy of your laundry... but IT is a great big blank to most, and the deepest most of them go is to, say, use wordpress.

As a side-note, I now know fully how Bruce Campbell felt when he shouted at the villagers about his "boom stick!"

So yeah - Access would probably be about it for most folks.

** Why was I there? My wife is really big into this sort of thing, and as any married man knows, you either go along with her or you're a dead man.

Comment: Re:The Economist (Score 5, Insightful) 279

by Penguinisto (#46774215) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left?

Done right digital versions offer some advantages print cannot. Does print offer any advantage over digital beyond not needing a powered device?

One small disadvantage: When I was a kid, I remember a HUGE stack of National Geographic magazines that stat around my grandparents' house. Many of them dated back to IIRC the 1940's and 50's, and some older still... I could sit around as a kid in the 1970's and leaf through them, no problem.

Would we be able to, 30-40 years hence, be able to even open some of these digital mags without paying (again) for the privilege of doing so? What if the website dies off? What if archive.org didn't, well, archive it?

Paper may be inefficient at many things, but even magazine publishers that died off a long-assed time ago likely still have one or two copies of their editions floating around somewhere (even if it's sitting in a flea market or antique store...)

Comment: Re:The sad part here... (Score 1) 237

by Penguinisto (#46774103) Attached to: Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

This, right here.

Back then, anything starting with http:/// was good for news, yahoo (for search), early discussion forums, downloading something, or pr0n.... and not much else. Banking hadn't come around yet, and flash games were barely in their infancy (heh - I can only imagine what it would take to run Flash on that thing.)

Video, really? Animated GIFS often had better resolution and didn't take half a day to download. Speaking of download speeds, remember that DSL was just being rolled out - at a blazing 256k if you were lucky. Most folks still had 56k dial-up, and mobile speeds made 24k dial-up look good.

Apps? Really? Nobody except maybe Palm had any kind of mobile app ecosystem, and getting those apps procured and installed would involve a process that most non-geek users would likely describe as rather painful (we're talking colonoscopy-with-a-chainsaw levels of painful). I remember watching executive types blow hundreds of bucks just for one or two productivity apps.

Also folks, remember that battery life was 100% pure unadulterated shit (even on laptops - oh hell, especially on laptops). You were forced to balance between usability and battery life. Palm did it by staying monochrome and using a resolution that most folks would completely hate today. Not until around the time that the iPod Nano came out (with an incredibly tiny OS footprint and obsessive power efficiency) did you start seeing improvements.

Comment: Re:Yeah, probably a VGA screen (Score 1) 237

by Penguinisto (#46773819) Attached to: Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

I remember using an old Compaq iPAQ PDA... but with Familiar Linux on it instead of WinCE.

One thing I noticed, no matter the OS, was that you occasionally had to re-calibrate the stupid screen so that it was accurate enough to use... and it was a fairly widespread thing (I think only Palm had their engineering together enough to not constantly require that.)

I guess what I'm getting at is that not only was the capacitive screen a necessity, but so were drivers sufficiently tight enough to insure at least a modicum of accuracy.

Comment: Re:Yeah, probably a VGA screen (Score 1) 237

by Penguinisto (#46773725) Attached to: Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

Actually, I don't miss the stylus much. On a Wacom pad it was perfect, because its stylus detected subtleties that mimicked a pen, pencil, paintbrush... things like that. But, on a tablet or phone (or PDA if anyone remembers what one of those were), it just becomes something that actually slows down texting, gets lost easily, and is nothing more than a glorified stick.

WinCE and WindowsMobile needed a stylus becuase, well, Microsoft sucked mud when it came to UI design on such a small footprint - they figured you could just recycle the same UI framework and elements that the desktop had... and thus you UI actions the user had to make that only a stylus could accomplish.

Now if someone comes up with a stylus that is, say, bluetooth enabled and can detect pressure and such like the Wacom styluses did, then I could see where it would have some applications... but honestly, not much with regard to the UI itself, but within applications. Otherwise, even with large-ish hands like mine, I have no problems exhibiting a sufficient modicum of hand-eye coordination and just doing without a stylus.

Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 1) 1463

by Penguinisto (#46772957) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

How about terrified that it's another civil war in the brewing, and that these thugs appear little different from the thugs in eastern Ukraine or northern Nigeria who take power when the government is weakened?

Dude, seriously? I thought GP was reaching for hyperbole - you've not only reached for it, but have taken a double-handful. I'll explain:

Most of these folks participate fully in the democratic process (such as it is), and spend more time politicking and posturing than in doing anything that could be called combat training. the "thugs" in Eastern Ukraine are most likely Speznaz plants, and Nigeria is chock-a-block with wannabe warlords.

Comment: Re:ARM is the new Intel (Score 3, Interesting) 109

by Penguinisto (#46770811) Attached to: Intel Pushes Into Tablet Market, Pushes Away From Microsoft

I thought Windows 8.1 was the defecto standard.

Never have I seen a more apt typo - funny thing is, I saw a commercial last night for one of those PC repair/registry/whatever apps that practically shouted about how "Microsoft is using fear to make you buy Windows 8" (as opposed to your beloved XP box, natch.)

It all ties back to why Intel is now (should say, now more than ever) casting about, looking for new markets for their chips... PCs ain't selling, server lifecycles are getting longer (VMWare pretty much helped stretch that out), and there's not much outside of those two which would encourage PC sales.

(I wonder if Intel will ever stop navel-gazing at tablets and fire up their now-dead Digital Home Group again; they had a fairly decent idea with the chip-in-a-TV thing. Fun group of guys to work with as well...)

Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 4, Informative) 1463

by Penguinisto (#46770493) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Terrifying. Unaccountable quasi-military organizations that tend to be high on ideology and low on reason. What happens if they were to try and pull the same shit to enforce their own rules (like they effectively did here) beyond just allowing a freeloader to not pay for grazing rights?

They've been peaceful the whole time, and did nothing more than provide a presence and protest. The only difference between them and Occupy $location is the presence of firearms - none of which were brandished by the protesters, let alone used in a threatening manner.

Honest question: Are you terrified because they don't share your ideology, or what?

Managing land to keep it from being destroyed like it was during the Dust Bowl is important and costs money.

The Dust Bowl was caused by a trifecta of over-farming, monoculture (wheat), and a massive drought - not grazing. It was also caused by activities performed primarily on private land, so the comparison is invalid on two fronts. Methinks you're reaching too much for hyperbole to support an otherwise somewhat valid point. Also, why does the federal government have to supply this management, instead of by the state whose borders encompass the land in question?

Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 5, Insightful) 1463

by Penguinisto (#46770363) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Which is a scary thought since the lesson of the Nevada event is that if you have good PR and enough armed people, officials who do not want bloodshed will back down and allow you to continue.

Really? Because if the government wanted the tax money bad enough (which IIRC the rancher paid to the state of Nevada instead), they could have simply put a lien against the rancher's property and taken it quietly, instead of forming a wall of heavily-armed paramilitary intimidation.

It doesn't help that the senior senator from Nevada (Harry Reid) is egging things on and swaggering the whole time about how the feds will crush anyone that gets in the way.

Microsoft

Microsoft Brings Office Online To Chrome OS; Ars Reviews Windows Phone 8.1 67

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the worst-frenemies dept.
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "While we are still waiting for the official Windows 8.1 touch-enabled apps to get launched on the Windows Store, Microsoft went and decided that it's time to finally bring the Office online apps to the Chrome Web Store, instead. Thus, Microsoft is making the Web versions of its Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps available to users through the Chrome Web Store and also improving all of them with new features, along with several bug fixes and performance improvements." More on the Microsoft front: an anonymous reader wrote in with a link to Ars Technica's review of the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release: "It is a major platform update even if it is just a .1 release. Updates include the debut of Cortana, using the same kernel as Windows 8.1 and the Xbox One, a notebook reminder app, inner circle friend management, IE 11, Nokia's camera app by default, lock screen and background customizations, a much improved email client with calendar support, more general Windows 8.1 API inclusion for better portability, and a notification center. Ars rated it more of a Windows Phone 9 release than .1 update."

Comment: Re:Nothing new here (Score 2) 213

by Penguinisto (#46764139) Attached to: How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

Quality suffers when you force people into jobs they are not qualified for. Companies know this, and they simply don't care as long as the managers think they are saving money.

I think the problem is in mis-defining the role. A DevOps can write code at a junior level, but you don't want one doing anything more than simple modifications and/or workarounds. He can also do most of the infrastructure bits of IT at an experienced level, but you should always have him in close communication with the senior security admin, the senior network admin, the senior storage admin... this is so that he doesn't wind up going all cowboy on the infrastructure just to recover from an outage, or worse, do it just to meet an artificial marketing-induced deadline.

Comment: Re:This role exists in any non-software business. (Score 3, Interesting) 213

by Penguinisto (#46764113) Attached to: How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

What sibling said... I've seen companies that refuse to have a DevOps position, but yet hire "System Engineers" that basically do the same damned thing.

The biggest danger I've seen is in trying to silo such a position. I actually prefer having the freedom to whip up port channels on my own switchgear and having my own vlans/IPs to play with. I need free reign over an independent and complete environment for QA and dev use (so I don't have to put in a change request and then wait a week just to, say, add one IP addy to a NetApp SAN's NFS export ACL on some dark and early Sunday morning.)

I've done this job in a siloed company environment before, and quite frankly it sucks. You sometimes spend literal weeks waiting for one stupid VM that you could have cloned off yourself in less than 10 minutes, and configured in less than five more. I remember waiting almost a month while two different IT departments argued over how they would route a simple outbound rule over multiple firewalls whose path crossed the realms of their two departments... meanwhile having the devs wait alongside with me until the parties in question got done measuring their penises and found a solution (it took a pissed-off client, and a subsequently scared VP to threaten some jobs, which finally got them to STFU and work something out).

Devs and QA alike need someone who can quickly cut through the bullshit and red-tape, understand what it is they do (and more importantly, what they need and why they need it), and as someone aptly stated, "make shit work."

Comment: Re:whine (Score 4, Insightful) 213

by Penguinisto (#46764029) Attached to: How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

100% inclined to agree. DevOps is not really about your best and brightest pure programmers, but taking all of your jack-of-all-trades guys who specialize in "making shit work" and allowing them to keep things working.

This, right here. I inherited the DevOps job title, even though it is exactly what I've been doing for years now. I can go in, find a problem, test a simple fix, turn QA loose on that fix, and even with change management, I can have it implemented far faster than the devs, who might fit it into their next sprint if you're lucky. They naturally get informed and fit a more elegant solution in for the next release (and sometimes they leave my fix checked-in just as it is).

Meanwhile, while yeah in a start-up company the developer(s) had to play sysadmin too, all-too-often they don't really know much beyond the basics, and so you really don't want one, say, tweaking HugePages in sysctl.conf, or planning SAN or VM Farm expansion for the next web project, or lots of other things. Similarly, I refuse to dig any deeper in code beyond the simply Python tweak or the obvious fix/workaround, since I only know enough to be dangerous when it comes to all of the dependency chains, not to mention all of the subtle gotchas in all of the codebases I work with (why? Because while a given developer may only need to dork around with (or even just only a part of) one codebase, I have to wrangle multiple projects - time demands that I prioritize what I know about them all).

It bears a lot of responsibility - you have to know what the frig you're doing, because downtime==money, and stakeholders will have none of it. On the flip-side, you're given a lot of leeway when it comes to what you're allowed to do in order to keep the uptime flowing. For instance, I get priority, where I can call up a network admin, security admin, or whoever I need to put through a change as soon as safely possible. I can order-up (within reason) whatever CapEx I need to build up for the next release, project, or what-have-you. Of course, you have to justify what you do, and if you do something stupid it's your nuts on the chopping block, but overall it balances out.

IMHO (and little else), I've seen a lot of sysadmins able to step up to the DevOps plate, but very few developers that would be willing, let alone capable (most that I know prefer to write code, and not get their hands dirty with the business of playing server-monkey or wire-monkey.)

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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