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Comment: Re:Well, no kidding (Score 2) 76

by ledow (#48231277) Attached to: Building All the Major Open-Source Web Browsers

I have to say, as what people here would probably regard as only an amateur programmer, the setup of a build environment and initial compiles suck up way, way more time than they need to.

It's extremely frustrating. C is a wonderful language that I love to program in. There are compilers on every platform. There are cross-platform libraries for anything I need and my favourite IDE is cross-platform.

But actually getting basic shit to work is an absolute nightmare. And that's the stuff that I'm familiar with. It involves far too much pissing about with paths, switches, versions, system-level installations, scripts, extra options and all kinds of voodoo to make what I know works work how it should. And I often have to replicate it for every new project.

Fuck knows what it's like when you go multi-language, when you go to more obscure platforms, and when you're not familiar with things or am using someone else's code without the benefit of knowledge of their build environment.

I consider it the weak-point of open-source. Like science, one of the big pluses of open-source is reproducibility. You got working code? Good. Then so do I. All I need to do is make it compile. The problem is that "All" in that sentence.

There are languages that encapsulate more into the language but even that causes problems. I've fought with Java environments where the JRE and JDK differ and are in multiple versions, have architecture differences, and require explicit paths, and all kinds of nonsense. Python can be a fucking nightmare on Windows. Even shit like Cygwin interferes with ITSELF on Windows systems.

I don't know what the solution is, but I can't help but feel it's outside the language - it's in the system design and OS interaction. Operating systems just aren't designed with source being a big part of the end product.

Maybe the solution is one of the ideas I constantly toy with (and almost certainly has been done in the 60's on some archaic architecture) - an executable format that incorporates the source as well as the binary. When the executable moves to a new platform, the binary and source visibly differ and the binary can be recreated from the source. To do that requires complete encapsulation of all source, options, compilers and everything else into the executable.

But I'm sick at getting something as standardised as SDL working on the three big platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) in using one of the largest open-source IDE's (Eclipse) utilising an industry-standard compiler (GCC). It should NOT be as hard as it is.

Comment: Evolution. (Score 1) 241

by ledow (#48230583) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

Anyone who's ever lived in a Victorian-era house can do better than this.

In the last hundred years, doors that were perfectly shaped to allow entry now have their upper limit at eye-height. You literally cannot walk into an old house without ducking all the time.

And that's just a couple of hundred years, a handful of generations.

Sure it might be something other than "environmental" factors, but it's telling you that species can change extraordinarily rapidly given the right conditions.

Comment: Re: Prison time (Score 2) 228

by Sun (#48230409) Attached to: CHP Officers Steal, Forward Nude Pictures From Arrestee Smartphones

As far as I know (IANAL), anyone can bring a civil suit against the police department. A specific cop has pretty much complete immunity from civil suits. The only thing that can touch a specific cop is internal affairs and the DA, as mentioned by GP.

It is true that should a specific cop start causing too much money lost through civil suits, it is likely that he/she will be fired. Again, however, it is up to the department to decide, not an independent jury.


Comment: Re: Did they make money on Surface? (Score 2) 113

If you are totalling the revenue for Surface and subtracting the direct costs for Surface, why would you then include the indirect costs that are by definition not specifically for the Surface?

No, that's not a correct statement. The indirect costs may not be specifically for a specific Surface unit, but the Surface division does have indirect costs that are specifically its own costs. This means that there are, indeed, indirect costs that are specifically Surface's.

The Surface factory pays rent, taxes, electricity and utility. These are all indirect costs, and they are all specifically for Surface.

What's more, the number of units sold is crucial. If you only sold a million units and the gross profit per unit is $5 (and it is, likely, less), then it doesn't take the indirect expenses to be particularly high for the division to be running at a net loss.


Comment: Re:Better solutions (Score 3, Informative) 46

by Okian Warrior (#48226047) Attached to: A Low Cost, Open Source Geiger Counter (Video)

Are there any issues with silicon solar cells that make them (protected against visible light, obviously) unsuitable? Compared to power silicon or anything for computation you can get enormous area for relatively little money.

Huh. I hadn't thought of that. A quick google search shows that solar cells can be used as radiation detectors, and they generally have large capture areas. I'll have to try this out.

This looks like a good background document for detecting radiation using semiconductors.

This is the type of amplifier you need as a 1st stage in your detector, should you want to build your own. (Google "Charge Amplifier" for more info.)

The radiation comes in as quick pulses (3 us or so in my circuits), so normal incident light shouldn't interfere with the detection. You could perhaps get both power and detection from the same cell.

I've been interested in detecting not only the radiation, but the direction it came from. A 3-d array of detectors with an incidence/correlation circuit can give a general idea of the direction of the source, relative to the detector. I haven't done this yet due to the complexity and expense of the detectors, but solar cells being cheap and easily available I might just try this out. Hmmm...

Thanks for the suggestion.

Comment: Better solutions (Score 5, Informative) 46

by Okian Warrior (#48225357) Attached to: A Low Cost, Open Source Geiger Counter (Video)

I've been building geiger counters as a hobby for the past couple of years. I was consulting with some people in Japan right after Fukishima helping to build reliable detectors.

Geiger Muller tubes require a specific "plateau" of voltage to get consistent results. Too low and you're not picking up much radiation, too high and you get spurious results and can burn out the tube. The correct voltage varies with individual tubes.

This isn't normally a problem, except that there's a glut of surplus Russian geiger tubes on the market right now with unknown provenance and unknown parameters. Unless you calibrate each tube to find the plateau voltage, and unless you calibrate the resulting counter with a known source, the data you get will have no predictive value.

It's straightforward for a hobbyist to put together a project using one of these tubes and get it to click in the presence of radiation, and this makes a fine project for electronics learning, but you have to take further steps to get a reliable instrument. No one ever does this. The circuits I've seen have an unregulated high-voltage proportional to the battery voltage - it gets lower over time as the battery runs down. The voltage is chosen from the tube spec sheet, instead of determining the correct voltage for the tube. Circuits have design flaws such as using zener diodes for regulation, but not allowing enough current through the diode for proper function. And so on.

I've seen lots of these hobbyist projects in the past few years, especially since Fukishima. They're fine projects and well-intentioned, but generally not of any practical use.

Does radiation detection(with actual accuracy, linearity, and repeatability, not just a quick demonstration that you can add some noise to a webcam by pointing a small sealed source at it) have currently good, or at least promising for the not too distant future, solid state options?

Virtually any semiconductor will detect radiation. What you want is a semiconductor with a large capture aperture(*), which is the area through which the radiation passes. A 2n2222 transistor will detect radiation quite well, but it's capture area is tiny and won't see much of the radiation (saw the top off of a metal-can version and use a charge amplifier).

Power transistors such as the 2n3055 have large silicon dies and therefore larger apertures - as much as a square centimeter - but this is also quite small for capture.

The modern equivalent is to use a big diode such as a PIN diode. These can be quite large, but also expensive for the hobbyist.

A GM tube has a capture area which is the cross sectional area of the tube. These can be made quite large; and as a result can be made quite sensitive to the amount of radiation flux in the area. Hobbyists can also make their own tubes with enormous capture areas - it's not very difficult.

Large diodes are available for detecting radiation, but a GM tube is simple and can be easily made with a very large capture aperture. Also, GM tube their capture efficiency (the percent of radiation that gets in which is is actually detected) can be higher than the diode solution.

(*) There's capture aperture and detection efficiency. GM tubes have an efficiency of about 10%, meaning that only 10% of the radiation that gets into the tube is detected. Diodes have similar efficiencies, depending on the photon energy and thickness of the silicon die.

Comment: Critical thinking (Score 5, Interesting) 518

by ledow (#48223463) Attached to: Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills

The problem with critical thinking is that it makes people... critical.

It's nonsensical to do an awful lot of things that the average business will do. Critical thinking questions that. Rightly so, but that's not compatible with the way many do business.

And I dispute that you can "teach" critical thinking. You can expose students to it, and ask them to practice it, but teaching it is another matter.

I work in schools, including private schools. The difference is clear - private schools take no shit and make the kids work at learning - by rote, critical thinking, free-form learning and even attaching themselves to the IT guy outside of lessons to "help out" if they are keen geeks. They allow this, and encourage this, and aren't constrained by what's on some table of what must be learned.

They also know that they are there for the children, not solely to get "Five A-C's" so that the league tables look good to next year's parents.

Comment: Automated restaurant (Score 4, Interesting) 668

by ledow (#48220899) Attached to: Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

I have said for many years that, with an appropriate restaurant-savvy partner, I'd like to open an automated restaurant. In-table PC's to order things, with card-readers.

I don't want to wait for the waiter to come over until I can order a drink. I might have driven a long way and be gasping of thirst before I care about a menu. Press, press, done before I've even taken my coat off.

I want to see the whole menu. The ingredients. A picture. The price. The associated special offers. Does it have pepper on it? A fully interactive menu would be great, and not be covered in the gravy-stains of the last patron, or have bits scribbled out on it. Plus, when something is no longer available, bam, you can't order it. I could even press the "I have an allergy button" and see if anything is incompatible with that without relying on the waiter to run back and forth to the kitchen.

I might want to tip one member of staff, but not know their name (or they happen to have finished their shift by then). Press "tip", select staff member photo (or select "All staff"), type in a reason, swipe card, done. And no arguments over who I intended it for.

I might well want to pay for my own stuff and not have to wait for the end of the meal and argue with friends. Or order a slice of cake to take home as a last minute thought after I've paid. Or split the bill via various common calculations. Or even tag five items as what John has to pay and let him pay that off the bill because he has to leave early. Press, press, swipe. Done.

I might wall desire a human to talk to, if something cocks up. Big green help button lights up the table, which summons a waiter, much like airplane call buttons. The waiter still has to be around to shuttle things from the kitchen, and this way seems easier - and politer - than having to flag him down as he passes with a table full of plates. Press, done.

I might well decide to change the order mid-flow. So long as the kitchen hasn't started on it yet, why not? Until the order's locked in, I can alter it. And I can even "lock" certain portions if one person at the table wants the starter now while the others only want mains and want to argue over it. Press, press, done.

I might want to pay first, or pay once I've eaten everything. I can choose.

I might want to buy some wifi access, or get a code for the toilet (I disagree with limiting toilets to paying customers only, except on an honesty agreement, but some places do just that and your receipt contains your code for the toilet), or donate to the charity associated with the restaurant, or buy the chef's recipe book. Press, press, swipe, done.

I might want to move tables mid-order, or take my drinks outside. Press, press, done and the waiters and kitchen automatically know where I am.

The back-end? The waiters still wait. The bar tabs are still on the EPOS. The kitchen still gets a ticket about what table wants what. And those that want manual service press one button.

We've already automated every part of the experience but the customer's.

Comment: Re:It's in the license! (Score 1) 542

by ledow (#48220487) Attached to: FTDI Removes Driver From Windows Update That Bricked Cloned Chips

By the same token, if some bloke down the pub gives me a Windows key, shouldn't Microsoft allow it to activate?

It doesn't work like that.

Unfortunately, there's a difference between having a driver that won't drive a counterfeit chip, and one that actively "breaks" counterfeit chips.

In the same way that Microsoft are quite entitled to refuse to activate illegal copies of Windows, but they aren't entitled to take it upon themselves to format your hard drives when they find them.

Comment: Maybe.... (Score 1) 95

by ledow (#48216021) Attached to: German Publishers Capitulate, Let Google Post News Snippets

So, maybe losing all your content visibility on Google was worse than them publishing a small article headline?

So, maybe, just maybe, Google's exposure was actually to your advantage?

So maybe you've been biting the hand that feeds you?

If the threat of Google doing EXACTLY what you ask for (taking your content off their site) is enough to make you back down, maybe your original intention was something other than was stated?

Maybe you just wanted a free payment?

And maybe Google weren't being so evil in the first place?

Comment: Re:The Cult Leader will solve the problem! (Score 4, Insightful) 122

by Okian Warrior (#48215977) Attached to: Leaked Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Ebola Vaccine Issues

I'm sure the world's most average Ob/Gyn [Ron Paul] - and most successful living American cult leader - is also a highly qualified expert on Ebola.

That sounds suspiciously like an ad-hominem argument. "Most average" Ob/Gyn? What does that even mean, other than to convey dark undertones?

Shouldn't we be debating the things he says? Shouldn't we be considering the merits of his argument, rather than his background?

Obama's Ebola czar (Ron Klain) is a lawyer and former chief-of-staff. Do you think *he's* qualified to tell us what we're doing wrong?

What the heck are you getting at? What's your purpose in posting this? Is there some way in which you gain by posting such drivel?

You're right about being modded down - your post does nothing to inform the discussion.

Comment: Sigh. (Score 1) 165

by ledow (#48213921) Attached to: Austin Airport Tracks Cell Phones To Measure Security Line Wait

Erm... how do you think the traffic apps work on your satnav?

They ask you to "anonymously" contribute statistics, they talk home over 3G to service centres, who spot traffic moving slowly (given speed and position is easy on a satnav), mark those roads with appropriate average speeds and then transmit that out to everyone with traffic services.

Sure, they use roadside monitors and other things as well but the "HD" traffic you might get from any large satnav provider uses exactly the same technology.

The question is not whether this is worrying data to collect, but exactly what portion of the collected data needs to be collected? If they are hashing the MAC's really quickly and then discarding the original MAC data, and only keeping MAC-hash and position data, then there's nothing to worry about.

Or, you know, you could write an inflammatory article about a technology that every satnav, every shopping mall, and even festival organisers have been using for years.

2.4 statute miles of surgical tubing at Yale U. = 1 I.V.League