Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Cortana? (Score 1) 44

The nature of mobile devices is that the data connection is of varying quality and reliability, and in some places either slow, intermittent, or non-existent. Relying on apps in the cloud means that your device is fundamentally a brick whenever you go into an underpass or a basement or into mountains and forests. Of course, if you live your whole life in urban areas this may not matter, but for many people it does. Not that this is a criticism of Cortana, or of Microsoft. Google's and Apple's voice services are cloud-backed as well. But for 'the network is the computer' to work, the network has to be ubiquitous and immanent, and for mobile devices it isn't.

Comment Re:Kids don't understand sparse arrays (Score 1) 128

What happens to your 'standard' linked lists solution when you have ten values scattered over an array which is 1000! (factorial 1000) in each dimension? For most genuinely sparse arrays, a hashmap is a better approximation of an efficient implementation. Of course, there will be corner cases where you want to do something different, but linked lists strike me as an extremely poor solution except in arrays where more than about 10% of cells have data.

Comment Re:TRWTF: List is used instead of Map (Score 1) 128

I should have read the linked questions before replying...

Stupid, stupid, STUPID! Why have numRows and numCols in a sparse array? Things with unnecessary, arbitrary bounds annoy me. My implementation of Conway's Game of Life runs on a sparse array precisely because that allows the world to stretch arbitrarily in any direction a glider goes, limited only by the capacity of the bignum library and the total store available to the program.

And this is how we teach computer science?


Comment Re:Landing vs splashdown (Score 4, Informative) 342

Close to where I live are large intertidal mudflats. Every other summer some tourist drives a brand new four by four out there and gets stuck. And then, of course, the tide comes in. When the vehicles are recovered two or three tides later, they are insurance write-offs - the electrics, interior, and engine are all beyond repair.

You do not want to immerse something complex and expensive in salt water unless you really, really have to.

Comment Re:Landing vs splashdown (Score 2) 342

Remember: seawater ruins everything.

One of those occasions where I wish I had mod points but don't. Mod the parent post up!

Seawater is extremely corrosive. Engineering the rocket engine to survive sudden immersion in seawater when very hot would add a great deal to the complexity and cost (and probably weight). And that's before you add the cost of engineering the rest of the vehicle to resist corrosion.

Comment Flexibility, rich literature, deep culture (Score 1) 626

The reason English is is widely spoken around the world is not just that England had a long period of aggressive expansionism. It's also because English is an extremely flexible and expressive language, with a rich literature - literally millions of texts, many tens of thousands of which are fine works of art. Of course, this is true of many other well-established natural languages, from Farsi to Mandarin. But it isn't, and cannot be, true of any new artificial language.

I'd guess it would take any artificial language at least a thousand years of hard use by millions of people before it could become a contender to supplant a natural language, and by that time it would have mutated into a natural language.

Comment Re:Stack Overflow? (Score 1) 428

I turn 60 this year. And your problem is?

Either you're good at your job (and if you've been doing it for twenty-five+ years you almost certainly are), or you're not. If you're good and experienced, you won't have any troubled getting an interesting job at a high salary. In my present employment, I was specifically recruited to mentor (and teach software engineering discipline to) a group of good but inexperienced junior developers.

When I was starting out in this game, thirty years ago, the person who fulfilled the role I now have in the team I was then working in was Chris Burton, who, as an apprentice, worked on the build of the Manchester Mark One, and who (after his retirement) led the rebuild of it. He was one of the best software people I've ever worked with, and he was already in his sixties when I met him.

Comment Re:EA killed bioware years ago (Score 1) 61

Nothing breaks immersion so much as the player character being killed. Suddenly you're jerked out of your game world and you're just a sad individual sitting in front of a computer again. It is epic fail for anyone who's trying to build a world in which players are expected to become immersed to allow the player character to be killed.

This isn't to say I think there shouldn't be setbacks, and that they shouldn't be severe. Of course they should. You get beaten in a boss battle and you should expect to lose all your accumulated weapons, armour, loot. You should expect to be left for dead, and have to crawl until you can find herbs, salves, bandages or aid. It could even leave you with permanent scarring or disabilities which make future battles a bit harder to fight, or have an impact on what endgames are available to you. It should be an outcome which motivates you highly not to lose the next battle. If a non-player-character companion is killed in a battle, their death should be permanent, no matter how important they are to the plot. But you should not die.

If you die, it isn't you who have failed. It's the designer.

Comment Re:And now why this can not be done in the USofA (Score 3, Insightful) 317

Five square metres of solar panel on every single domestic roof in the USA would produce a very significant energy change. 125 million houses * 5Kw is 625 gigawatts. Germany has 23 gigawatts of domestic solar panels, which, on a sunny day, is sufficient to power the whole country. Yes, obviously, it doesn't work twenty-four hours a day, or in bad weather. Yes, obviously, you need to find some way of storing energy, such as compressed air, hydrogen hydrolysis, pumped storage or whatever. None of this is rocket science.

Bottom line: the USA could power its whole economy, including road vehicles, on domestic solar panels alone.

Comment Re:The moan of sour grapes (Score 1) 450

I don't have a Rolex. In fact, I actually had to look to discover that it's a Tissot. It's been on my wrist for getting on for thirty years, and I have no doubt at all that it will go on 'til the end of my life without any problems. If, when I die, one of my heirs decides they want it, it will go on 'til the end of their lives, too. It needs a new battery once every three years or so, and it needs the date reset at the end of every month with fewer than thirty-one days, and, err, that's it. It tells the time. It just works. And I don't have to think about it.

If I amortised it over the time years I've had it already, it's cost me about £15 a year; if I amortise it over the time it's likely to be useful, that drops to about £4 a year. By contrast, a 'smart' watch - any smart watch, I'm not making a dig at Apple - will be obsolete in three years, so that's about £100 for each year you own it, or £2 a week. And I'd have to take it off every night to charge it, or if I forgot it would run out of battery just when I needed it most.

A reasonable quality mechanical watch is a very long way from obsolete; and, despite their price, they are very, very inexpensive to own, because you're only ever going to need one.

Slashdot Top Deals

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins