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Comment: Not just this one. (Score 5, Informative) 99

by Skidge (#42898809) Attached to: Collaborative LaTeX Editor With Preview In Your Web Browser

While the summary makes it sound like this is some breakthrough idea, there are several similar sites out there:

https://www.sharelatex.com/

http://spandex.io/

And others, I'm sure. Is the submitter the owner of this particular version? The marketing speak is a bit over-the-top.

I used sharelatex for a group project last semester and it worked fine. Several features were added since then that make it likely I'll use it again.

Comment: Re:Whiteboards are critical, you see the mistakes. (Score 1) 372

by Skidge (#42867959) Attached to: Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology

I've just gone back to school to work on a PhD. My previous schooling was in the late 90s, before PowerPoint was used regularly in classrooms. This time around, I've had classes with older professors who use the chalkboard and young ones (younger than me) who rely on a presentation. It is vastly easier to follow a proof when it's being written out on the chalk/whiteboard as it's being explained than when it's just sitting on a projection screen being pointed at.

Comment: Some anecdotes (Score 2) 510

by toastyman (#41670969) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Do SSDs Die?

We've got a fair number of SSDs here. Failures have been really rare. The few that have:

#1 just went dead. Not recognized by the computer at all.
#2 Got stuck in a weird read-only mode. The OS was thinking it was writing to it, but the writes weren't really happening. You'd reboot and all your changes were undone. The OS was surprisingly okay with this, but would eventually start having problems where pieces of the filesystem metadata it cached didn't sync up with new reads. Reads were still okay, and we were able to make a full backup by mounting in read only mode.
#3 Just got progressively slower and slower on writes. but reads were fine.

Overall far lower SSD failure rates than spinning disk failure rates, but we don't have many elderly SSDs yet. We do have a ton of servers running ancient hard drives, so it'll be interesting to see over time.

Comment: Re:Canada will keep the USPS alive (Score 4, Informative) 131

DHL is probably another good one - their fees are pretty reasonable (similar to Canada Post's), but very few American companies support DHL as a shipping option (probably because it sucked inside the US - despite being close or is the #1 worldwide carrier).

DHL ended US-to-US delivery in 2009. They have a service where they'll use the USPS for local delivery, but it's expensive and slow. They also don't do pickup service (for any destination country) in many parts of the US now, so they've made it really hard for US companies to use them. Not all of it is their fault, but it's hard to use DHL if you're in the US now.

Comment: I worked with Steve (Score 5, Informative) 89

by toastyman (#39155505) Attached to: Inventor of the Modern Pinball Machine Dies At 100

I worked at Williams/Bally/Midway/Atari/etc in the late 90's. I worked in the coin-op video game division, where Steve was across the street in the pinball division. Occasionally he'd swing by our building, and had a fondness for the game system I was working on, so he'd sit at the test machine outside my office and play for quite a while. He always had this knack for making what sounded like the simplest suggestion, yet it actually being a profound change that took it to the next generation.

He'd walk into my office and say "You know, I like (game X) a lot. Have you thought about adding (feature Y)? It's probably a lot of work, but maybe worth it?" and an hour later we were smacking our foreheads as to why we hadn't thought of that ourselves. There's no doubt in my mind how he could look at something like a flipperless pinball machine and figure out how to take it to the next level. It's something I really wish I could do more often myself.

He was a great guy, and one of the most patient people I've known. He'll be greatly missed.

Comment: Re:Lying again? (Score 1) 121

by Dun Malg (#38846707) Attached to: Railroad Association Says TSA's Hacking Memo Was Wrong

Terrorists must be anyone who isn't an old rich white guy. If they talk funny, look different, or behave differently due to cultural differences, they must be terrorists.

No, it's not like that at all. See, for example, Senator Paul getting escorted out of the terminal for refusing a pat down. The problem is that there isn't any official attempt at profiling. Instead, they have a completely asinine random selection system for triggering detailed searches, and despite the fact that it's bloody obvious that a 6-year old girl or an elderly woman in a wheelchair with a colostomy bag aren't going to have any explosives on them, they still search them. The only profiling by TSA gate personnel is unofficial, unsanctioned, and largely driven by pigheaded individual ignorance on the part of the TSA agent. No, the system as it is now has the TSA agents who follow the rules searching obvious non-threats based on a random die roll, and the rule-breaking TSA assholes doing their own seat of the pants profiling and doing detailed searches on Sikhs because they wear turbans, and Bangladeshis because they look suspiciously dark skinned. Neither approach is even remotely reasonable or effective.

What they should be doing is what all other reasonable countries with a terrorist problem have been doing for decades: First, you take the fucking badges of the TSA. They aren't fucking cops, and nothing about their job should give them the impression they have power. Second, you replace insane regulations against box cutters and baby bottles with what we had pre-9/11. 9/11 isn't going to happen again, because no one will ever cooperate with lightly armed hostage takers anymore. Third, you hire trained, intelligent interviewers. These interviewers take each group flying together (i.e. a whole family) and ask them a few simple, relaxed questions about their trip and destination. This technique is sufficient to pick out the suspicious from the innocuous. People planning criminal acts on an airplane have certain characteristics: they're usually male, young, flying alone, don't have much baggage, can't usually provide plausible details about their plans at the flight's destination, and on top of it are often very nervous. Note that none of this profiling involves skin color, ethnicity, or country of origin. It does, however, work extremely well. When's the last bomb or hijacking of El Al?

But we'll never see that. TSA is makework bullshit security theater, and everyone knows it.

Comment: Re:Don't you have anything better to do? (Score 1) 393

by Dun Malg (#37504828) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Calculators With 1-2-3 Number Pads?

I know that there are those of us who like to learn, and therefore use efficient memory techniques, and that there are those who ridicule those of us who learn. On a website for geeks, I had expected to find the former, not the latter.

I'd say the fact that keypads being evenly split into two opposing formats makes using muscle memory/spatial patterns a decisively non-efficient memory technique, and the reason you're seeing ridicule is your insistence upon pursuing it anyway, even to the extreme of reordering your computer keypad and scraping the PCB of your calculator to create one-off device layouts no one else uses.

Comment: Re:Don't you have anything better to do? (Score 4, Informative) 393

by Dun Malg (#37504764) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Calculators With 1-2-3 Number Pads?

Either way, it's a wasted question. Years ago, when Ma Bell was the only phone company and they came out with touch-tone phones, they patented the arrangement with 1-2-3 at the top. So if you want to make a calculator that uses that, you'll have to pay a fee.

That's not true. There's no patent for the 1-2-3 keypad (nor was Bell/AT&T the only phone company in the US, but that's not relevant here). Calculators in the form of mechanical adding machines predated the DTMF keypad by decades. When Bell came up with the touch-tone system, they actually spent a lot of money researching whether it should be adding machine layout, or 1-2-3 from the top. As it turned out, even experienced ten-key operators were able to dial phone numbers faster on the 1-2-3 pad because everyone--- even tenkey operators--- approached the task of dialing a phone with their index finger alone, regardless of whether it was pushbuttons or dial, because they were already in the habit of doing so with dial phones. 1-2-3 keypads are faster to use when visually hunting and pecking with one finger. Given that no one was ever going to be doing rapid data entry on a phone, it made more sense to use top-to-bottom order, because the reverse order of tenkey exists only to make rapid multi-digit data entry faster (i.e. zero under the thumb, pinkie for enter, and most common digits under the fingers as per Benford's Law)

I don't know what the hell is wrong with the OP that his brain doesn't have room for two different keypad layouts.

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