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Open Source

Why Apple Should Open-Source Swift -- But Won't 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the programming-language-with-just-one-button dept.
snydeq writes: Faster innovation, better security, new markets — the case for opening Swift might be more compelling than Apple will admit, writes Peter Wayner. "In recent years, creators of programming languages have gone out of their way to get their code running on as many different computers as possible. This has meant open-sourcing their tools and doing everything they could to evangelize their work. Apple has never followed the same path as everyone else. The best course may be to open up Swift to everyone, but that doesn't mean Apple will. Nor should we assume that giving us something for free is in Apple's or (gasp) our best interests. The question of open-sourcing a language like Swift is trickier than it looks."

Comment: It's just not in the plans (Score 3, Insightful) 438

by RR (#47887561) Attached to: If Tesla Can Run Its Gigafactory On 100% Renewables, Why Can't Others?

When I go to a high point in this city and look down, I see countless flat roofs that could easily host solar panels. Even with all the fog this city gets, that would make a significant impact on our use of non-renewable energy. But it is not to be. Homeowners tend not to like the upfront expense, they tend not to know about SolarCity, and a bunch of the homes are rented. Absent some regulation, they aren't going to install renewable energy.

I think the neatest time to add renewable energy to a building is during construction. Absent that regulation, unless the owner makes it a priority, then the architects are not going to add it to the plan. For example, my work place recently commissioned and moved into a new building. It has an unobstructed, south-facing, 2-story-high, 10-foot-wide window that we have to cover up on the inside to maintain the climate. My immediate thought was: Solar energy. But I had no authority; the people in charge just put a poorly designed curtain on it. It just doesn't occur to them that we could put renewables in this building.

Actually, in the current political climate, I think renewable energy gets negative publicity from these deployments. Conservatives under the thrall of Koch money see renewables as an admission of AGW, and reject it. No! That reason is stupid! And regardless of AGW, renewables will help us survive the depletion of the oil reserves! The Koch-funded people claim that there is no depletion. I live in a state of extreme pessimism.

Comment: Re:Trolleybus (Score 1) 485

by RR (#47869721) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars

They're called trollybusses... I was recently in San Francisco on a tour bus and they said the reason they use them is the electric motor has more torque which is needed to go up the steep hills.

That makes no sense. The diesel buses can handle some pretty steep hills. On the other hand, many trolley lines are on pretty flat areas. Especially the 14, which barely goes 500 feet up or down over a 10 mile distance.

As a regular rider, trolleys are aggravating because they're slow. If they go too fast, the wires pop off, and the driver then walks to reconnect them. Some drivers respond by driving very slowly, and the other trolleys accumulate behind them, because it's impractical for trolleys to pass each other. This is especially annoying when multiple lines share a significant segment of wires, as the 14 and 49 lines do.

I guess the trolleys are sort of nice because they have zero emissions and they're much quieter at climbing hills than the diesel buses.

Comment: Small things explode (Score 1) 230

by RR (#47829845) Attached to: Did you use technology to get into mischief as a child?

When I was in 7th grade, a teacher asked me to prepare a paper on the class's computer. I found that the CRT could handle a higher resolution without problem, so I switched to that. A couple hours later, I was in trouble for "breaking" the computer. That was my introduction to how laws like the CFAA happen.

Comment: Re:AP? (Score 1) 115

by RR (#47771621) Attached to: Statistics Losing Ground To CS, Losing Image Among Students

I think getting rid of an AP is a stupendously short-sighted idea. Having students take more advanced courses earlier is a great idea.

The problem is that AP classes are, pretty uniformly, badly constructed. Half of the education in AP math and science courses is How to Use the TI-83 Calculator. Half of AP Computer Science is How to Program in Java. The College Board is single-handedly blocking progress in the education of technology in math and science.

I don't know about the rest of the AP classes. I also think the College Board's role in college admissions, via SAT and AP, is fragile and counterproductive.

Comment: Re:My opinion on the matter. (Score 5, Informative) 826

by RR (#47751457) Attached to: Choose Your Side On the Linux Divide

One great thing about Unixen is how they share common interfaces. The more you change that, the less interchangeable the various Unixen become.

The init system is a very poor example of Unix common interfaces. As beelsebob and oursland point out, different Unix systems use different init systems. The Linux alternatives, upstart and systemd, were actually inspired by the clear advantages displayed by MacOS X's launchd.

And even in Linux, with SysVinit, there are different interfaces. When you want a script to run at boot, do you use update-rc.d, like Debian? Do you use rc-update like Gentoo's OpenRC? Or chkconfig like Red Hat? Or insserv like SuSE? And where do you find important details like the hostname and network configuration?

I don't find systemd to be a pleasing design, and I especially don't share their love of long command names with lots of consonants, but I think their work is very important.

Censorship

Put A Red Cross PSA In Front Of the ISIS Beheading Video 300

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-the-greater-good dept.
Bennett Haselton writes After footage of James Foley's beheading by ISIS terrorists was posted online on Tuesday, Twitter and Youtube elected to remove any footage or links to the footage posted by users. Obviously this reduces the incentive for terrorist groups to post such content, by shrinking their audience, but it also reduces the public's access to information. Would it be ethical to make the content available, if it was preceded by an advertisement for a cause that runs counter to everything ISIS stands for? Read below to see what Bennett has to say.

Comment: Re:SF Rents (Score 2) 262

by RR (#47651385) Attached to: Silicon Valley Doesn't Have an Attitude Problem, OK?

It's still frustrating for the residents here.

I, for one, know that the narrative is far more complicated than just VC-funded rich dudes conspiring with greedy landowners to drive up rents. Also, I am well aware of the laws of supply and demand. The supply does not match the demand at all. It's much worse this time than last time, the dot-com bubble of the 1990's.

I'm even aware of a little-discussed wildcard: China. The financial system there is corrupt, and the people have no safe way to invest for retirement. The burgeoning middle class is desperate for options. You might remember how they drove the price of Bitcoin to over $1000 before the regulators caught on and outlawed Bitcoin exchanges. Well, another option is real estate. The poorer people invest in Chinese cities, fueling an unsustainable construction boom over there. The richer people invest overseas. Whenever a single-family dwelling goes on sale in San Francisco, it's immediately snapped up by a Chinese investor with cash. No need for a mortgage.

The effect is that I don't know any ordinary young people who can afford to live in San Francisco except with their parents. When people do move out, they move to South San Francisco or Oakland and commute, or further. A few people manage to win the lottery of Section 8 Housing or other subsidized housing. These ordinary people include the professionals who teach your children and staff your restaurants. High living costs are natural, but they are not sustainable and you shouldn't think of them as desirable. For one thing, making all your workers commute is bad for the environment.

Some San Francisco natives work in tech. For the rest, this is not a good situation.

Comment: Bill Shockley set the standard (Score 5, Interesting) 262

by RR (#47650927) Attached to: Silicon Valley Doesn't Have an Attitude Problem, OK?

Bill Shockley was the originator of the Silicon Valley arrogant genius archetype. One of the co-inventors of the transistor, he convinced an electronics entrepreneur in the Los Angeles area to pay him to set up a semiconductor laboratory near his mother's home in Palo Alto, staffed with young geniuses. Then his abrasive management drove them away, leading them to found Fairchild Semiconductor, followed by Intel, AMD, and other, less important, electronics companies in the area. In the meanwhile, Shockley went into eugenics.

HP was already around, and Fred Terman of Stanford was encouraging entrepreneurship, but Shockley brought the "silicon" to Silicon Valley. And the arrogance.

Comment: Re:+1 for this Post (Score 3, Informative) 427

by RR (#47635259) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series?

Been looking for another router for almost a year now, and still haven't been convinced of a better one than my WRT54GL

The WRT54GL is a relic of an ancient time. Most importantly, it's a relic of a time without IPv4 address exhaustion, and without realistic demonstrations of DNS cache poisoning.

DD-WRT has support for 6in4 and 6to4, but not as much support for IPv6 over PPPoE or DHCP-PD or Sixxs.net AYIYA. I prefer OpenWRT, but I also prefer plain-text configuration via the command line, so I'm weird. OpenWRT officially dropped support for the WRT54GL in the last stable release, 12.09 from April 2013, and it didn't really work right in 10.03, either.

I've been generally pleased with routers based on the Atheros AR7161, but those are obsolete (only N300 and N600), and not that easy to find. Probably the most famous from that line is the Netgear WNDR3800, the target model for CeroWRT and the EFF Open Wireless Router. 680MHz MIPS24K, 16MB of flash, and 128MB of RAM are so luxurious after the 200MHz BMIPS3300, 16MB RAM, 4MB flash of the WRT54GL.

Comment: Re:Buffalo (Score 1) 427

by RR (#47635103) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series?

I wouldn't depend on Buffalo or DD-WRT. DD-WRT is tolerant of closed-source drivers, which leads to long-term maintenance problems. I prefer to look for OpenWRT support. Actual support, not that fake press-release support that Belkin-Linksys did with the WRT1900AC and its lame Marvell chipset. Actually, since the WZR-600DHP is discontinued, I wouldn't recommend any of Buffalo's products right now. I don't really recommend ASUS, either.

The WZR-600DHP is good because it's built around the Atheros AR7161. Atheros donated the driver and wireless firmware to the open-source community. The WZR-600DHP2 is a completely different device built around the Broadcom BCM4708. You can't get 40MHz channels or even the Ethernet driver to work on those things without closed-source drivers. Almost everything from ASUS is powered by Broadcom.

I'm cautiously optimistic about current-generation Qualcomm Atheros devices. The QCA9880-AR1A is no good, but the QCA9880-BR4A seems decently supported in OpenWRT. But I can't be sure until I have a device to play with.

Comment: Re:Buffalo (Score 1) 427

by RR (#47634937) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series?

You should care more about the firmware and driver source availability than about the manufacturer. It's because, no matter how strong and how fast your router is today, tomorrow your router is slow and obsolete. When (not if) problems are discovered with your device, the availability of updates depends on the ability to recompile the firmware.

I like my Buffalo WZR-600DHP. It came with DD-WRT, but more importantly, it was built on the Atheros AR7161, like the Netgear WNDR3800, Ubiquiti RouterStation, Mikrotik RB-450G, and several others, so I prefer to put OpenWRT on it. Sadly, this chip is several years old now, and doesn't support 802.11ac, and Broadcom offers cheaper N600-N750 chipsets, so there aren't a lot of AR7161 routers. Also, some of the early AR7161 routers are a little flaky, like the Netgear WNDR3700v1. My uncle had one where the 2.4GHz radio died.

Usually, I'm opposed to Cavium, Broadcom, and Marvell, and suspicious until proven otherwise of Qualcomm Atheros, MediaTek, and Realtek. Sadly, that means I can't recommend any 802.11ac routers. The most likely to work might be the ones with the Qualcomm Atheros QCA9558 and QCA9880-BR4A combination, like the Engenius ESR1750 and the TP-Link Archer C7 v2 (not v1). Since I don't have personal experience, and the documentation is so sparse, I can't recommend those without reservation. If I had to buy an 802.11ac router right now, I would buy one of those.

Comment: Re:Sorry, but... why? (Score 1) 180

by RR (#47594021) Attached to: How Many Members of Congress Does It Take To Pass a $400MM CS Bill?

I think there is some truth to this, but there is a problem in our highly mobile society if one city teaches things in one order and another city two states away teaches things in a different order. When a student's parent's move between these two cities, their kids are screwed (for example, they may never have learned what their peers at their new school learned last year and may be bored stiff "relearning" what their peers are studying this year but they learned last year).

This is not an argument for federal education standards. This is an argument for fundamental education reforms. "Oh, I'm sorry, we can't talk about arithmetic on mixed fractions this year, because that's a 4th grade subject. This is 5th grade. We're doing geometric figures." Or whatever. What about the 5th graders who didn't really get mixed fractions last year? Many of the best mathematicians were made to feel stupid in school because they would rather think slowly than rush through all the subjects in the scheduled time.

Jo Boaler has been arguing that math education should be centered around Low Floor High Ceiling Tasks. Then it matters much less when your student enters the class, because they can learn from the activity at whatever level they've mastered. Somewhere else she argues that students should work on projects over an extended period of time.

The annoying part is that educational approaches take a very long time to see if they're really effective, so it's annoying to work out what is BS and what is useful out of the things that educational reformers say.

Comment: So, what is CS? (Score 1) 180

by RR (#47592349) Attached to: How Many Members of Congress Does It Take To Pass a $400MM CS Bill?

I think this is a horrible, bad idea because we don't really know what computer science is. It's such a young discipline that many of the important pioneers are still around.

Well, the very first generation, the people who figured out how dancing machinery could represent arbitrary mathematical operations, those people died a generation ago. But many of the foundations of modern computer science, those were pretty arbitrary, and those people are either still around or recently dead: John McCarthy of LISP (1927-2011), Donald Knuth of sequential algorithms (TAOCP, b. 1938), Douglas Engelbart of the human-centered GUI (NLS, 1925-2013), Claude Shannon of Information Theory (1916-2001), Paul Baran of packet networking (1926-2011), Edsger Dijkstra of structured programming (1930-2002), John Backus and Peter Naur of programming language specification (BNF, 1924-2007 and b. 1928), and so on.

Naturally, there are disagreements about what exactly computer science should be about. Dijkstra argued it should be fundamentally mathematical, and forbade students in his intro to CS class from touching a computer or trying to "run" the algorithms that they worked through. Abelson and Sussman said it should be about program structure and interpretation, and their intro to CS class uses a language intended for clarity of teaching rather than for efficient execution. Some people think it should be about algorithms, as seen in those Code.org drag-and-drop algorithm block exercises. Clearly, most people think it should be about writing programs in whatever programming language is commercially useful, so most intro to CS classes are about Java. Yuck.

Since there is this wide variety of opinions about what computer science should be about, and especially the wide gulf between what the best do (MIT, Berkeley: SICP, in Scheme or Python) versus the worst (College Board, Community Colleges: Java), I think it's very premature to ask politicians to start mandating CS across this nation. You just know, whatever they decide, it will be wrong and slow to change. Let the field shake out another generation or two, and our grandchildren will see if the subject has matured enough by then.

Security

Ask Slashdot: Open Hardware/Software-Based Security Token? 113

Posted by timothy
from the you-could-use-postcards-scanned-by-an-arduino dept.
Qbertino (265505) writes I've been musing about a security setup to allow my coworkers/users access to files from the outside. I want security to be a little safer than pure key- or password-based SSH access, and some super-expensive RSA Token setup is out of question. I've been wondering whether there are any feasible and working FOSS and open hardware-based security token generator projects out there. It'd be best with ready-made server-side scripts/daemons. Perhaps something Arduino or Raspberry Pi based? Has anybody tried something like this? What are your experiences? What do you use? How would you attempt an open hardware FOSS solution to this problem?

When the weight of the paperwork equals the weight of the plane, the plane will fly. -- Donald Douglas

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