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Comment Re:Stupid question. (Score 1) 592

Because 99.99% of the population isn't interested in re-writing their own version of whatever application they need to use. Most of us just want something that works, for a given task. Linux simply doesn't do that, and jut about every comment here demonstrates that.

That is, I hear all these techies talking about the cool stuff they do to get Linux to function and how thy hacked their macs. But the vast majority of the users don't need or want that, jut like the vast majority of driver aren't going to build their own open-source car engine. Sure, a few hobbyists who love that will do it. But most of us haven't got the time.

The free software movement also failed to recognize that designing software is a job, not a hobby. It can be a hobby, but like a lot of other things if you want to do it right you have to put the hours in. And since we don't live in a society with a guaranteed minimum income, and there are a limited number of hours in the day, and most people have partners, spouses, families, meals to make, dishes to do, and all that other stuff... well, there's sort of a limited scope in which an "open source" product is going to get any traction. The successes out there -- Firefox, for one -- are notable because they are exceptions.

Think of it this way: people have to get paid for their work, and anything that is any good you likely need to put full-time hours into. Imagine a movement for free art. (There was one). Why doesn't everyone have free oil paintings? Because the people making the paintings have to eat.

My sense was always that the free software movement was a neat idea but only works if everyone is 25 and had no responsibilities other than their hobbies.

Comment Re:OK, explain this to me (Score 1) 592

Question: I need to run MS Word. I ther ea Linux version or do I have to go fancy dan and then figure out what to do with 15 years worth o files I can no longer read? Not one of the people who tells me that Linux is wonderful ever seems to answer stuff like that. That's what us non-techies want to know.

Comment OK, explain this to me (Score 1) 592

I am not a developer. I do not write code except for a few class projects in Mathematica. I wrote code once and it was likely before half the readers here were even born, on stuff that is so obsolete that most code might as well be magic incantations to me at this point. I do not claim to be particularly knowledgeable about computers except in a rather abstract way. Ask me how a computer works and I can tell you; ask me to fix a problem and I can do some pretty elementary things. I mean, I got as far as replacing some hardware (I have done some work on my mac). That's about it. But beyond that, I am not an early adopter. I use my laptop for work which is not really technical at all (I am a writer) and I need my computer to work, all the time, reliably. I cannot spend hours tinkering. When I was 16 I could do that, but now I not only have to work but get dinner made and every second I spend not working is money lost. Under those circumstances, why would anyone like me -- users who just want the damn machine to work -- install Linux on a Mac? Or anywhere else? This is something that I noticed in the Reddit comments and a lot of the time here. People who just use computers to do everyday stupid things are not stupid, we're just people who need shit to work. If I could work on a typewriter old-school I would, because it's simple. I am not a luddite by any means, I like what the technology can do. But as I don't play heavy games system speed is less important. I am not a graphic designer so I don't need the latest and greatest for a GPU. I just need my computer to turn the heck on and not do anything whacked. I need MS word to function and the internet to connect and not have to mess around when a deadline looms. I need to know that wherever I take this thing it will just WORK. The reason, I think, that the Mac OS is still popular among non-techies like me is just that. It works. And I am not going to try and get it to do anything weird or push the processor or make the software jump through hoops any of that other shit that makes techies brag. (I can't wait for the "you don't know what makes techies brag" line -- and that's sort of the point). I always get the sense that Linux fans simply do not get the simple power of convenience and the fact that 90 percent of what normal people do on a computer isn't and shouldn't be complicated. Can anyone make a case as to why I should install Linux? Or rather, what would I be getting from Linux that I am not getting from OS X? It seems I would have to re-install everything I run on here, which would be a major PITA. (OS X and Apple are not without frustrations for me -- one huge design flaw is that if your computer has a system problem you need to download stuff from the Internet but if your computer is messed up YOU CANT CONNECT TO THE F-ING INTERNET. Apple seems to think that the Internet is magic and their phone customer service is abysmal). And for some reason the preview function shows no paragraph breaks. So sorry about that.

Comment My own path through science (Score 1) 580

OK, I started out as a Physics/ Astronomy major, and even got through three semesters of intro (all the way to elementary QM) and three semesters of math (thru diffy Q) as an undergrad. My problem, and why I became an English major: I was in the 3rd semester phys class and the math breaks out, and I am fine until they started using bra-ket notation. (If you don't know what I mean it's stuff like and used a lot in QM) I had no idea what it was. I hadn't seen it in a math class yet. the math and physics departments evidently never spoke to one another so there wasn't ay "matching" of the curricula, so if you got to the right notation in math you were ok but god help you if it was unfamiliar. I was too embarrassed to ask about it, probably. I didn't give up a sci major for *just* that reason. Originally I wanted to do both a liberal arts and a science degree. Yeah, I bit off more than I could chew. And I got interested in a lot of other things, like language learning (which I was more naturally talented at no question). But I did feel that I was falling behind in physics and was getting a bit frustrated I think. Even with pretty OK grades. But all that said, math builds up from one step to the other. I think it's like bicycle riding -- a lot of things stay once burned in. Anyhow, I did OK in my physics classes, and even the math. I was a B student and probably could have stuck it out. Interestingly, 20 years down the line I am back in math again. And I did Vector Calc and loved the class. My prof gave a take-home exam and I loved the fact that me and other students could argue over solutions. In one interesting instance I had the answer to a problem and I had to convince 2 other people I was right. I really learned that one! I think, even though I got a B-, (I glitched on the final, blanking on L'Hopital's rule for more than one variable, for christ's sake, I was so anxious) but my teacher was so good I felt like I learned a lot. And I still remembered, with a little prodding, the calc I took 20 years ago. Funny how it stays with you. Then this summer I was in Linear Algebra. And it was the most frustrating math class ever, for me. Lots of memorization of proofs. Abstractions way more than Vector Calc. I found it VERY hard. Much more so than vector calc even. A totally different skill set. I find that kind of abstract math more challenging for some reason. (Though I finally learned what the hell bra-ket notation meant. If someone had told me that in 1989... ) I think it's a combination of difficulty, preparedness, and the hit-or-miss setup of curricula at various colleges. And you have to have - as others here have said -- instructors who can help students with the things they struggle with. That's an art and there are no hard and fast answers or easy methods. I'll be taking partial diffs at some point soon I think. Will have to break out my old calc book and study ahead tho. (Finishing that physics BA. I really kind of dug intermediate E&M this time around).

Submission + - New Cyanide Antidote Could Save Lives In Terror Attacks (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: If you plan on terrorizing the world with cyanide poison, you may have to think up another way. Steve Patterson, at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design, and his team have made an antidote that can be given with a simple injection. It's based on a sulfanegen triethanolamine (TEA). The sulfanogen allows the body to convert the cyanide to a much less toxic chemical called thiocyanate. It works fast, in minutes rather than hours, and is less involved than current antidotes to administer. It could also be a big help in industrial accidents, in which a few people get injured or killed by cyanide every year.

Submission + - Dry Run Brings Fusion Closer? (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: Fusion is often derided as "the energy source of the future — and it always will be." But now at Sandia they've done the first in a series of experiments that could lead to a working reactor, and one that doesn't require developing new technologies or a tokamak. Using a cylinder of berylium, they showed that you can crush it with a magnetic field, which would in turn crush any (pre-heated) deuterium-tritium mix inside it. That would result in a fusion reaction. The next step is to try the same experiment with real fuel inside. There's still some way to go, but this experiment does show what concrete steps can be taken (assuming each experiment works) on the way to building real fusion power plants.
Data Storage

Submission + - Flash Memory Slashes Power Use At Data Centers (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: Researchers from Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science have written a program called SSDAlloc, which tells a computer running to pretend that it's running using RAM, even though it's actually accessing the storage (flash) memory.

Most computers are designed to look in the RAM first for the data they need. Only after that does the operating look elsewhere, such as on the hard drive or a flash drive. That kind of hierarchical searching around can really slow things down.

SSDAlloc changes that, basically making a computer pretend the flash is the RAM. That cuts power consumption by up to 90 percent, the researchers say, because flash doesn't need power to run nor does it use the power that hard drives do.


Submission + - New Glass Gets No Grit, Repels Water (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: Researchers at MIT have developed a new kind of glass for displays — one that repels water and grit. The bonus: it can be made with exiting technology and equipment. The glass surface is made up of nanometer-scale cones (they actually can stand up to quite a lot of force) that prevent dirt and water from sticking to the surface.

Submission + - 'Cyberplasm' Robot Could Detect Disease (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: Scientists are looking at the lowly lamprey for inspiration on building a robot that would swim around the insides of people and check for various disorders. The idea is to combine microelectronics with advances in glucose-powered artificial muscles, and use living cells as parts of the sensor. The lamprey-like bot is called a 'Cyberplasm' and would react to the environment the way an animal does.

Submission + - Biplane Could Go Supersonic Without the Boom (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: "Supersonic passenger jet service ended with the Concorde's retirement in October, 2003, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to build a successor. At MIT an aeronautics professor turned to a design that dates to the 1950s to design a biplane that can travel faster than sound.

Qiqi Wang, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, used Busemann's Biplane, named for Adolf Busemann, as the basis for his idea. Sixty years ago, Busemann proposed that a plane moving at supersonic speeds that had two pairs of wings, almost joined at the tips to form a hollow space, would create an airflow that eliminated sonic booms."

The Internet

Submission + - Digital Dictionaries Save Vanishing Languages (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: There are some 7,000 languages spoken in the world, and half of them could be gone by 2100. To rescue these languages, two linguists decided to use a combination of digital recording technology and the Internet.

K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson are compiling what they call "talking dictionaries." Some of the languages they recorded have never been documented before. In 2010, they made the first recordings of Koro, for example, a language spoken by only a few hundred people in northeastern India.
Some of the work is available online. In one case, a community in Papua New Guinea that speaks a language called Matukar Panau, with only 600 speakers, asked that the language be put on the Internet even though it was only in the last two years that their village received electricity.

The Internet

Submission + - Avoiding Red Lights by Booking Ahead (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: Peter Stone, associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, has presented an idea at the AAAS meeting today for managing intersections: a computer in a car calls ahead to the nearest intersection it is headed towards, and says it will arrive at a given time. The intersection checks to see if anyone else is arriving then, and if the slot is open, it tells the car to proceed. If it isn't, it tells the car that and the car is responsible for slowing down or stopping.

He says that even with only a few connected cars, the system still works, even if the benefits are still only to those who have the connected vehicles.


Submission + - A Cloak In Time Can Secure Networks (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: Cloaks in time as well as space have been studied as a way to hide things — but they can also reveal. Some work on the time cloaking at Cornell has led some scientists to the idea that you can use the cloaking effect to show whether a signal has been tampered with. Stitching together two pieces of a pulse of light masks any events that take place in the gap between the parts of the pulse, but if you tamper with the signal the gap shows up again.

Submission + - An End To Removing Shoes In Airports? (discovery.com)

RedEaredSlider writes: The ritual of shoe removal has become familiar to air travelers flying inside and out of the United States, but most people still don’t like it. It takes time to do and slows down the security line.

Matthew Staymates of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, thinks he and his colleagues might have developed a way around having every passenger remove shoes for screening. The trick is to pick up trace amounts of explosives. Staymates came up with a device that blows particles off surfaces and analyze them.

The air jets to blow the particles off the passenger’s shoe would be located in some strategic locations. One version of the device might be a kiosk-style contraption the passengers would step into (similar to the body scanners in use at many airports). The sampling system can collect particles in a few seconds.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus