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Comment: Init is a misnomer. (Score 4, Informative) 171 171

The job of the init system is actually to change the system state, and hopefully to be able to guarantee that it does so. Scripts have some inherent limitations in this regard, which is why even OpenRC relies heavily on C libraries. Understanding why people have been trying to replace SysV init for the last two decades would make a lot of Systemd's design decisions more clear to you, I feel. However, I do feel you are entirely mistaken if you think there is some propaganda movement to label it as 'just' an init system. System initialization is only a subset of the problem at hand, and even the name was chosen to reflect that.

Comment: Portland (Score 2) 383 383

Hi Linus!

So I've read you live somewhere near Portland, and as shocking as it is to consider you amongst the flesh-and-blood mortals that I might encounter in this life, I believe I might just be able to keep from frothing and gibbering were it to happen. No promises. But in any case I'd be nice to know if there were any social or tech events in the area that you might attend. Also, breaking the rules about multiple questions, but possibly relevant to the above: what sort of beer do you drink?

- J. Random Linuxuser

Comment: Re:Reconciling faith with science (Score 1) 305 305

I understand there is a general trend towards denigration of religion by empiricists; having a different idea about how truth is to be determined is a wonderful way to begin and sustain arguments. Frankly, I'm not all that well prepared to have such arguments, and consequently I avoid making value judgments about such things: I think we actually strongly agree on that point.

However, I must disagree with your underlying point: science is empirical by definition. We're a bit hampered in discussing scientific truth because to some degree there is no such animal: mostly science is concerned with disproving hypotheses. However, the point is that if some statement is contradicted by observation, it is considered false, and the scientists' logic, reason, or beliefs are neither here nor there.

Contradiction between the two sets of true statements is almost inevitable, but I'm not sure how much sense it makes to compare such things. Empiricism isn't going to have much to say about Christ's divinity, or much of anything else that doesn't lend itself to being expressed in SI units: morality, government, or number theory. Empiricism is flawed in many other ways, of course: our senses are imperfect, even when extended by tools. Proving statements is difficult and time-consuming, and proving something true in an absolute sense is more or less impossible. Other systems of truth-finding, however, have the ability to prove statements which may not agree with empirical evidence.

Humans need rationalism, empiricism, and (presumably) religion. They are all useful in their own sphere. They do not all share the same set of true statements, more or less by definition, and I trust that your statement to the contrary was a simple misapprehension.

Comment: Re:Reconciling faith with science (Score 1) 305 305

It's entirely possible to believe in religion and still be a grounded person...

That is actually not in dispute. However, if you believe that truth is determined by experiment and observation, this conflicts with the ideas that truth is determined by logic and axioms, or e.g. what is written in the Bible. For Catholics, truth is determined by revelation and received wisdom: no amount of experimentation will have any effect on matters of faith. The set of truths provable by each system do not have to conflict, and each is more or less equally valid as a philosophy. For a further discussion touching on this matter, you might see the article 'Rationalism vs Empiricism' in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Comment: Reconciling Empiricism with Religion (Score 0) 305 305

It's very easy to distinguish what makes religion and science incompatible: how they determine truth. Science is empirical, religion is a combination of rationalism and 'received wisdom'. That is to say, with science truth is determined by what can be repeatedly measured, and with religion truth is determined either by rational argument building on chosen axioms, which are generally received from textual sources or from religious leaders.

It is not to say that either one is "correct"; both have their limitations. Empirical truth always has a degree of error, and with anything unmeasurable it is arguable whether it can be assigned a truth value at all -- although I will note that with any truth-finding method, it is a valid philosophy to regard the unprovable as false. Rational truth is independent of our possibly-erroneous senses, it can describe things which cannot be measured (e.g. morality), and things can be true in an absolute, provable sense. Its limitation is that you can make logically true statements which do not correspond to observable reality, especially with badly chosen axioms.

Religion, especially Catholicism, is not empirical. That does not mean that everything it considers true is automatically contradicted by empirical truth, it means that what is true from the standpoint of Catholicism is ultimately decided by faith and not by experiment. There absolutely is a conflict between these philosophies. I'm not going to make a value judgement about any of this; my choice of empiricism does not invalidate or lessen anyone else's choices, although if your choice of truth conflicts with empirical reality you're probably gonna have a bad time. I just wish that the discussion of all of this on Slashdot wasn't so sophomoric: I don't think most peoples' educations has prepared them to have a very elevated discussion on the matter. That as well is not intended to denigrate; I have no college education to speak of and my ignorance is unbounded. I think you make a wonderful, lucid, intelligent, passionate argument, which would be improved by a slightly different conceptual framework. I also agree very much with your motivation; I determined very early on that Catholicism was not for me, but I try very hard to give them their proper respect because we disagree at such a fundamental level, and even if I wanted to disrespect religion, there is never any cause to misrepresent history.

Thank you for writing, as well: whether or not we agree on all matters, I think you do credit to the community here.

Comment: Neural Networks (Score 1) 104 104

The term for this technique is 'neural network'. It's one of the oldest concepts in AI research. I don't know what planet you live on that "actual intelligence" is remotely close to being a reality. Doubly so because no one can even define what that is, and the results of all AI research to date are merely defining what intelligence is not. We do not need to invent a new term for people who are so ignorant of the field that they cannot tell it apart from science fiction. Even if "strong AI" existed, neural networks would probably still be considered AI, both for historical reasons and because even something with the intellectual capacity of a jellyfish (or the average slashdotter) still counts as some kind of intelligence. Your replacement term would be what? Artificial idiot, perhaps?

Whether or not neural networks prove a fruitful avenue for AI research, I must also reiterate that this story is in no way an attempt at an advance towards "strong AI". It's something a bored programmer did which happened to have interesting output, for certain subsets of "interesting". For a non-technical forum, somewhere that doesn't get advances in AI research posted regularly, where total ignorance of the field is a given, the confusion of concepts would be justifiable. On Slashdot it's inexcusably ignorant, and being prideful of that ignorance, derisive as the AC I responded to, is frankly offensive.

All that said, and while I do not regret going beyond the bounds of politeness or even snarkiness, I feel that I did express myself badly and hurriedly. I don't think the comment deserves its rating, and that the subsequent AC remarks were better. I should have explained myself more fully.

Comment: Disappointed Dipshits (Score 4, Interesting) 104 104

No one cares that you are not impressed, and no one cares about impressing you. Please don't bother posting this drivel.

Obviously this is not "real" intelligence. If and when that is developed, you can bet that it won't have anything to do with Magic cards. That you even expected that when reading this story means that you not only have no idea what AI research is all about, or much of an idea about programming in general, but also it speaks volumes about what your actual intelligence level is. Your maturity may also be called into question due to the content of your post.

You'd think with the level of tech expertise on here, you would have fewer people confusing the programming concept of AI with the science fiction concept of AI. If hard AI existed that's what the headline would be about. So far it does not; please refrain from polluting this forum with observations to that effect.

Comment: Transgender Issues (Score 1) 284 284

There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting or needing medical benefits; no one is getting anything for free. It's paid for -- or not -- by insurance. The insurance company can set rules about what they'll pay for, of course. Usually what happens is that one either sees a therapist and gets a letter certifying the condition, or you can sign a waiver that says essentially, "I understand the consequences of what I'm doing," and get a prescription for hormone therapy from a doctor (who can of course refuse to give such a thing). There are guidelines for gender therapists, published by an organization called WPATH, and I believe said documents are available online. Insurance companies can have further restrictions on what they'll pay for under what conditions, but hormone therapy is not appreciably more expensive than birth control.

There are fewer laws about gender than you seem to think, and the concept of gender equality has led to a trend of eliminating these distinctions. It's not illegal to be male, female, transsexual, or a polka dotted leprechaun. The biggest legal issues currently are with public restroom access. Clearly all males would run rampant raping restroom users if unisex bathrooms existed, but perhaps we can work on a system of highly visible tattoos to work out who gets to go into which bathroom.

There has been serious research and argument about criteria for transsexualism, but it hasn't really come to much. The WPATH guidelines are closest, but studies are hard to do for a number of reasons.

Transsexualism clearly wars with your ideas about gender. There's very little about how our society treats each gender that is in any sense logical, and fundamentally gender isn't something amenable to logic. We don't have to have a legal standard to cover someone's weird ideas about gender, we just have to have gender equality. Our societies haven't been terribly good at that to date; your confusion is normal. However, the fundamental issue is, if someone is going to stand up and say that they are a certain gender (and go through a kind of hell that I am beginning to doubt you can imagine (no offense intended) to be treated that way), then who are you to tell them differently? If you're not planning on having sex with some person, does it really matter what equipment they have or how they think of themselves?

The good news is, no one is interested in having people hurt themselves, and essentially the "safety check" you want exists. Further good news is the legal situation is not terribly complicated either. Between gay marriage and Title IX, we've been heading that direction anyway. And you may be pleased to hear that the therapies aren't terribly expensive either, even expensive plastic surgery (which would generally be paid for privately) pales in comparison to, say, cancer treatments. I think that probably with enough news stories like the ones you mention making people aware that the issue exists, things will probably work themselves out, with gender neutral public restroom facilities becoming more common over the next hundred years or so.

For the record, gender identification disorder aka gender dsyphoria is in the DSM, so it probably counts as a pathology, but the consensus is that the only morally and medically accepted treatment is hormone therapy.

Comment: Re:Interesting person (Score 1) 284 284

It doesn't hurt anyone to tolerate transgenderism.

My standard explanation is to make the analogy to alien hand syndrome. There are people whose brains are telling them that they have the wrong parts. Logic doesn't really enter into the equation. Plus, as the AC said, gender is mostly a social construct.

There is a minority of transsexuals who also want to say that other transsexuals are not "real" transsexuals. Thing is, it's not really useful to try to make the distinction, there aren't any good criteria, and the only case where it would make a difference is if you're going to try to deny someone medical treatment over it. Imagine that you have this problem, and you have to prove to someone else that you're sufficiently transsexual to be treated. I have a German friend that had to live full-time as the other gender for a year before the medical authorities would do anything. Imagine if you had to do that, starting tomorrow. What would your life be like?

I get that you don't understand this stuff, and it's nice that your reaction is one of confusion rather than hostility. I'd be happy to try to help you further understand the issue, but it may be one of those things where you just have to shrug and say, "I don't get it." But if you don't understand it, please try to avoid making judgments, especially anything along the lines of "these people are just faking it." That's an idea that kills people.

Comment: It is human nature to hate those we have injured (Score 1) 216 216

People are anti-Stallman because most people are pragmatists instead of idealists. I applaud the man's ideals. I'm willing to give up a certain amount of my time and treasure to promoting, using, debugging, and creating open source software. I don't consider user software freedoms important enough to be absolutist about. As you say, the primary benefit of open source is that it remains more valuable in the long run, and most people don't have the luxury of only considering the long run.

Personally, I think that distinguishing between open and proprietary licensing sounds simple and sensible. Stallman is in some important aspects a religious figure, and it's worth noting that being a saint or otherwise devoted to a moral principle is historically an excellent way to be stoned to death. Also, as a trivial UI change it's practically guaranteed to lead to weeks-long flamewars. In other words, it's pretty much the raison d'être of slashdot.

Comment: Open Development (Score 3, Informative) 150 150

They need an open development process. They could get half of this stuff done for free if they give up this top-down development model. Obviously people are willing to go to the trouble to make Soylent News, that could easily have been effort spent on improving this site. And yes, most of us are willing to incorporate effective and unobtrusive advertising, or whatever else Dice feels is necessary.

Dice's Slashdot is closed-source and closed development. Soylent News is open source. It's not like there's a huge barrier to entry for hosting web pages, even high traffic ones. Slashdot can either burn through a decade of good will with stupid decisions, and ultimately fail, or they can recognize that their readership not only is their greatest asset but that we, collectively, have far more ability and insight to develop this site than they could ever hope to hire.

Honestly, I pity anyone trying to deal with the readership here. We are extremely vocal and hostile about any change, good or bad, and also about not changing things. Probably the polls didn't attract anywhere near the amount of traffic they used to. Probably the ad space is more valuable. Probably a statement to that effect would be better received. But just as likely the people who need to feel outraged on a regular basis would still pour forth their bile. The only real certainty is that the only thing worse than involving these people in a decision making process is not doing so.

Slashdot, open your development. You can benefit from your readership, or you can ignore them and die — and at this point I don't really care which you choose.

Comment: Well, if you really have to code on the bus... (Score 1) 99 99

Didn't tethering fees get clobbered by the FCC? The IDE is pretty light on bandwidth, the initial pageload is about 2 MB and it's just shuffling text around during use. It has a keep-alive ping, but otherwise you're only going to use bandwidth while saving changes or using the terminal. How much bandwidth does a terminal use? I recently signed up with PTel, which uses T-mobile's towers and gives you unlimited 3g / 1 GB 4g for $35/mo, no contract. I think a month's worth of coding would run substantially under 1 GB of bandwidth but I don't really have the time to do a rigorous test.

I found interpreters for Python and Brainfuck on the Chrome Store, and of course you have a JS interpreter, and any interpreters written in JS should probably work. There are rather a large number of those for some reason. There's some sort of git app too, FWIW. Beyond that there are a few Android apps that will run natively on ChromeOS without any fussing, and most Android apps can be made to run with minimal effort.

I don't know what you're coding in, but unless it's fairly obscure I'd say it's possible to code and test, offline, using a Chromebook. Either way I hope no one is twisting your arm to get you to buy one.

Comment: Internet is Ubiquitous (Score 1) 99 99

If a quick Google search can be believed, you can actually get a free VPS. For an IDE I'm using Cloud9, but there are equally good or better alternatives. However, I am already paying for mobile data and a VPS for other reasons. Even so, I'd still probably get out my laptop on a bus only if it was a Google bus. Or maybe Greyhound, if it had wifi. I very rarely find myself without an Internet connection, even in rural Central America. When I don't have an Internet connection, generally I'm not doing anything where I care about having one.

It's not even that I couldn't code without the Internet; there are code editors for Chrome/ChromeOS. However, not having access to API documentation would be a huge issue (for my work), and that would make OS deficiencies a moot point.

I need the Internet for work. Having to have a net connection in order to use a decent IDE is not ideal, but it's a low bar even in rural Central America, or rural Alaska. I don't really understand what it is about the idea of an Internet-only device that bothers you so much, but I am actually pretty sure that you would be less inconvenienced than you imagine.

Comment: ChromeOS (Score 2) 99 99

My first impression was, "WTF?! Why would anyone want to do that?" Keep in mind that not only am I typing this on a Chromebook, I basically live on this thing. For what I use it for, it works well. With a web based IDE and an SSH client, you can accomplish almost anything. Entertainment is not a pleasant situation but that's what we have gaming PCs for, right?

ChromeOS does actually have some nice features. It's nice to have updates that only take fifteen seconds, including a full reboot. The battery life is great, and it's really cool to be able to sit down at a brand-new Chromebook, type your google username and password in, and have all of your bookmarks, apps, and files available within 30 seconds. The thing is, I really don't think you're going to be able to get those same features with any other combination of hardware and software. As you point out, the boot speeds are likely not going to be any faster, and I would be surprised to learn that the non-Google versions of ChromeOS had the same, ah, vendor lock-in.

I'm very ambivalent about ChromeOS. It looks nice, it's very secure, it has a number of good features, and I feel like it is particularly good for schools. I've been able to make my Chromebook do what I want, and having a pair of them was really great for wandering around Central America for a year or so doing freelance web development. They're cheap enough to be more-or-less disposable. On the other hand, it's very much not a replacement for a real operating system. The good thing is that it sounds like the OP doesn't need a real operating system. The bad thing is that he probably isn't going to get what he likes about ChromeOS out of this either, no matter what he does. A stripped-down distro is probably the better option.

As an aside, I also share your sentiments with regards to the swapping issue. I've had a bunch of netbooks in addition to this Chromebook, and I've had real Linux running on this machine via both crouton and a direct install. With ChromeOS, I can only have 30-40 tabs open before it starts killing tabs to free up memory, and fewer than that if the pages are resource-heavy like gmail, disqus threads, or videos. In my experience ChromeOS has far more memory issues than other distos on the same or worse hardware. However, I will say that ChromeOS's failure mode of killing pages early and often works very well to prevent the machine from ever becoming unresponsive due to memory/swap issues. It's kinda hard to pick between those two problems, to be honest.

Comment: Gitmo(tm) brought to you by the GOP (Score 1) 336 336

Why bother lying about Gitmo? I mean, yes, it's useful as an extraterritorial prison, but attributing its continued existence to Obama is bizarrely counterfactual.

Obama issued orders to close Gitmo in 2009. Congress fought back with appropriations bills. The GOP has been and continues to be hugely critical and combative with Obama's attempts to close the detention camp. Romney was openly supportive of it, and a Republican Senator has said the Gitmo detainees can "rot in hell". Are you just completely ignorant of everything that has happened until this point, or are you arguing the President should just ignore the law, Congress, Republicans, and 53% of the country and close it anyway?

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