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Comment: How do I send my old computers to Cuba? (Score 2) 120

by Theovon (#48845361) Attached to: Cuba's Pending Tech Revolution

I have some "old" computers that really aren't that old and are in fabulous condition. Is there an organization I can contact to send it to Cuba so that it ends up in the hands of people who would make good use of it (instead of one of those scams that makes it end up in a dump in China)?

For that matter, I have other things like old clothes destined for the garage sale I could send there too. Seriously. I would feel good about sending clothes that no longer fit me (I lost weight) to people who would benefit.

Comment: Jesus comes to all alien worlds (Score 1) 556

Quoting someone's comment on the article: "Distilled down, this is your argument for god. God set the fine scale variation so that 13.8 billions years later, we could evolve and Jesus could visit so we could kill him and save the universe. So if someone were to dispose of this error in your thinking, would you dispose of god."

What some people don't quite realize is that we can have Jesus'es without God. A Jesus is just a cultural archetype that arises in times of (societal) turmoil who teaches some (ethical) principles, which are then spread by followers. This sort of thing happens all the time, with Jesus being a particular case. There were lots of messiahs at the time of Jesus, and Jesus is just the one who became the most famous. Buddha is another Jesus. In Science, Einstein is a Jesus of sorts. Also, there are other kinds of cultural architypes besides Jesus'es.

If you restrict yourself to political and social Jesus'es, which has happened many times on Earth, it seems inevitable that Jesus will come to "visit" alien societies. The alien world will experience some very alien concept of societal difficulty. Someone (or lots of someones) will arise in this time and teach some useful lessons. One of those Jesus'es will become the most famous (although many of the others' lessons will be attributed to this individual), and some of those messages will survive in an alien religious way. This all assumes alien worlds that have "individuals," which is surely not always the case.

What is Christianity anyhow? It's just a set of ethical principles (which have been horribly bastardized by most of the followers). Everyone is created equal under the eyes of [Abstract Deity], even women and slaves. Everyone has done some bad things. Forgiveness is available to those who acknowledge that they've done bad things and truly prefer to not do bad things. Most of the rest of it (accepting Jesus as your savior, the virgin birth, his death and resurrection, various Hebrew rules, etc.) is all fluff there to perpetuate the religion, which is only maintained due to cultural natural selection (those religions without properties like this don't survive, so those things are just artifacts).

Comment: The number of idiots remains constant (Score 1) 840

I'm using the word "idiot" as a hyperbole to refer to "people naturally disinterested in anything remotely techncal." Most people are this kind of idiot. Scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, architects, writers, and others who think abstractly are RARE.

Perpetually, many who ARE interested in technical things lament that those people seem to have missed out on the right opportunities or education, which is a sad, sad thing. The truth is that MOST people who are naturally inclined to care about technical things will learn technical things. Sure, there's the occasional person who is otherwise missed, but mostly, those efforts to educate disinterested people in technical things result only in incompetent, disinterested people CLAIMING to know technical things. Force someone disinterested to memorize a bunch of technical facts, and all they'll ever know is a bunch of disconnected facts. This does not lead to competence. Really, they still don't care and pretty much don't get it and would be better off, for everyone's sake, doing something else. You can't MAKE someone think abstractly; it's either present as a talent, or it's not.

That does not imply that everyone with abstract thinking ability will be competent. You also have to have passion for something. That's rare too.

Comment: Always lame compensation (Score 1) 95

by Theovon (#48731585) Attached to: After Outage, Sony Makes Peace Offering To Users of PlayStation Network

Reminds me of a recent bad experience with Jet Blue. Not only was the flight an hour late, but when we arrived, they lost our stroller, which we had to check at the gate. We ended up leaving about 2 hours late. If it weren't for the constant screaming of our 2-year-old, that wouldn't have been so bad. I realize that people deal with a lot worse, but the $30 off our "next" flight was really lame, considering that we're unlikely to be flying with them again within the year they give us to redeem it. Really, all that discount is is lock-in to ensure they get more of our business, which makes it not really a discount.

Comment: Modern signaling techniques applied to vinyl? (Score 1) 278

by Theovon (#48721399) Attached to: Vinyl's Revival Is Now a Phenomenon On Both Sides of the Atlantic

This makes me think of the technological progress of communications between computers. (Note: This is not a totally accurate depiction of history.) First, we had serial communication, like RS232. When that wasn't fast enough, we went parallel, like Centronics. That reached a certain speed limit due to signal skew between the parallel wires. But by then, on-chip transistors were so fast that we could modulate differential serial in a way that beats the heck out of parallel. (Notice that modern highspeed interconnects, like USB3 and PCI-Express, are all differential serial, where any parallelism has decoupled phasing.)

So imagine we computed the transfer function of the "typical" record player, accounting for all the distortions in the needle, amplifier, and speaker. Then we took the waveform we WANT to get and reverse engineer exactly the groove we need on the record to get the exact sounds we want. It might take a decent amount of compute power to do it, but we could do a far better job than we ever could back in the 1970's.


by Theovon (#48716839) Attached to: How We'll Program 1000 Cores - and Get Linus Ranting, Again

There are many common algorithms at the heart of important workloads that are not parallelizable. Consider sorting and shortest path algorithms that are important for managing data and route finding. The O(n-squared) versions can be parallelized (Bellman-Ford vs. Dijkstra's), but for any useful input size, the n-log-n version will be faster on a single core than the n-squared on a supercomputer (no hyperbole there). Even for workloads that do have a lot of parallelism, the inter-process communication often dominates. Except for benchmarks with no application to reality, there is always SOMETHING that serializes computation. Amdahl's law always bites you in the ass.

So much for parallel computing.

If you have many INDEPENDENT tasks, then sure, parallel computing is great. Web servers with many clients, graphics, etc. But that's for servers.

On end-user systems, the amount of thread-level parallelism is very limited. Unless you're compiling Gentoo, you're going to top out at a handful of cores. This is not limitation of the languages people use. It's a practical limitation of the parallelism inherent (or not) in the workloads people run, and it's a hard mathematical limitation of the optimal algorithms people use for common low-level tasks.

There are some people in parallel computing who need to go back to school and learn computational complexity.

Comment: Re:IBM LCD (Score 1) 71

by Theovon (#48700519) Attached to: Quake On an Oscilloscope

I got to play with the IBM T221 back when I worked at Tech Source. One dual-link DVI didn't have enough bandwidth for a decent framerate, so I helped adapt one of our dual-head air traffic control video cards to drive the display. That monitor was awesome. Retina display before its time!

Comment: Alcohol intolerant (Score 1) 420

by Theovon (#48684045) Attached to: Drunk Drivers in California May Get Mandated Interlock Devices

I suspect that if I could drink alcohol, I might do so on occasion. However, even small amounts make me feel awful. As a result, I'll never get a DUI (unless it's a false positive or someone spiked my drink, but in the latter case, I probably would be unable to stay awake). Does that make me fortunate or not?

When I was in my 20's and would go bar-hopping with my friends, they'd smoke and drink alcohol. I'd smoke and drink espresso.

Comment: Because the brown ones taste different! (Score 1) 85

by Theovon (#48676561) Attached to: High Speed DIY M&M Sorting Machine Uses iPhone Brain

Are you trying to match the M&M's to the decor of a room or something? Do the brown ones clash with your shoes?

Ok, sure, I realize that the green ones have some special magic that improves your chances of making a home run in baseball. But I just don't see any way that the brown ones are otherwise special.

Comment: Worse things "cause" autism than vaccines (Score 1) 1051

by Theovon (#48585407) Attached to: Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

Vaccines don't cause autism.

There are two legal causes I know of where autism was linked with vaccines. In one case, the girl had mitochondrial disorder and was given too many shots at once. In general, doctors don't recommend getting too many shots at once, because it's a burden on the immune system, so if your immune system is compromised, you have to take it easy and spread out the shots.

As for things that MIGHT "cause" autism (or more precisely, some autism-like symptoms that may or may not really put you in the autism spectrum), I think we should reflect on all the other crap we put in our bodies. Pollution in the air and water, pesticides, the really shitty diet Americans eat, and so forth. A highschool in the southeastern US changed its lunch program to include primarly healthy foods: Behaviorial problems and absenteeism were reduced substantially. Eat better, and you'll think more clearly. This works on anyone, and helps alleviate some of the symtoms experienced by people with ASD.

Recently, autism was linked with some neocortical malformations. I'm not sure what is the cause of the malformations. But in some cases of mild autism, dietary changes anecodotally appear to help. Lowered immune system load and toxin load may be associated with some reduction in some autism symptoms. In my case, dietary changes have helped substantially with fatigue, brain fog, and OCD. I haven't narrowed down exactly which changes have helped the most, but I avoid wheat, soy, and dairy, and I take vitamin supplements only in their biologically active forms. My wife has Hashimoto's disease, so she got on the auto-immune SCD diet (similar to paleo), and following that to a degree has helped me too, and I also lost weight. Also, it's good to maintain a good array of intestinal flora, so eat your cultured vegetables, and drink kombucha and kefir. These things don't treat autism, per se; they just mazimize your baseline health, which can help with all sorts of disorders that might otherwise cause you more trouble.

Comment: Compression: Reduced RF energy (Score 1) 238

by Theovon (#48523381) Attached to: The Cost of the "S" In HTTPS

Now, I'm not sure how HTTPS works, but when you use something like PGP, it first compresses the data in order to increase the entropy, making it harder to crack. So while we're spending more CPU cycles on compression and encryption, doesn't the reduced transmission payload more than offset the cost of the computation? In general, communication is WAY more expensive (in terms of energy) than computation.

Damnit, I'm going to have to read the article to find out if they did this right. :)

Comment: It's a JOKE, people! (Score 1) 164

by Theovon (#48521551) Attached to: Gangnam Style Surpasses YouTube's 32-bit View Counter

Do you really think that the database that Youtube uses to store view counts is limiting that field to 32 bits? Ever? Or that it can't handle overflow in a graceful way that automatically upgrades the value? Or that Google didn't notice this YEARS ago and do a system-wide type change on that table column?

This is FUNNY, but not a technical problem. Of course, many of you may be making jokes in response, pretending to believe it's limited to 32 bits, when you realize it's not. But for those of you whose realities are limited to 32-bit chunks, I just though I'd clarify at the risk of possibly just destroying all the humor value.

As an aside, it amazes me when students first learning circuit design feel compelled to make registers and buses that are all in multiples of 8 bits. There's nothing preventing you from making a circuit component that is 47 bits wide.

Comment: Assistant professor -- can't contribute (Score 1) 488

by Theovon (#48505811) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Non-Coders, Why Aren't You Contributing To Open Source?

I'm an assistant professor. In my job, it's publish or perish. If I don't get enough funding and publications before the ene of my 5th year, I'm FIRED. And this doesn't just affect me. My family and I would be SOL, and we live in Binghamton, so it's not exactly easy to find other tech jobs. So I really don't have time to contribute to FOSS projects.

Except that I do: (founder, but it's dormant) (some minor contributions)

Comment: Upstate NY too, please (Score 1) 525

by Theovon (#48497485) Attached to: Montana Lawmakers Propose 85 Mph Speed Limit On Interstates

Even for states as relatively small as New York, a higher speed limit would be great. Putting aside downstate, we have long stretches of nothing between a handful of major cities. We also have deer, fog, and bad weather, which would require that raised speed limits be restricted to high-visibility daytime conditions.

Weekends were made for programming. - Karl Lehenbauer