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Comment: Yup. (Score 1) 281

by aussersterne (#47943091) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: What's In Your Home Datacenter?

Same conclusion. It's too easy to feel that precarity from the early computing age (not enough storage! not enough cycles! data versions of things are special!) if you were there. I think there's some of that going on here on Slashdot a lot of the time.

People in love with old Unix boxen or supercomputer hardware. People that maintain their own libraries of video, but all that's stored there is mass-market entertainment. And so on. It's like newspaper hoarding.

Storage and computation are now exceedingly cheap. 8-bay eSATA RAID cases run a couple hundred bucks, new. 4TB SATA drives run less than that. With 6 raid ports on a mainboard and a couple of dual- or quad-eSATA port PCI-x cards, you can approach petabytes quickly—and just for four digits. The same goes for processing power—a dual-processor Xeon setup (in which each processor can have core counts in the double digits) again just runs $couple thou.

And data is now cheap and easy. Whatever you want—you can have it as data *already*. Movies? Music? Books? Big social data sets? They're coming out our ears. The investment of time and equipment required, all in all, to put yourself in a position to rip and store a library of "every movie you've ever rented," and then actually do so, is much larger than the cost of simply licensing them via streaming. The same goes for music, ebooks, and so on.

There's just no need. Even my desktop is now starting to feel obsolete—for the work computing I do, there's a good chance I'll just go to Amazon cloud services in the next year or two. At that point, an iPad, a wireless keyboard, and a couple apps will probably be all the computing power I need under my own roof. If I have a desktop, it'll just be to connect multiple monitors for screen real estate.

Comment: No datacenter. Just a desktop computer (Score 1) 281

by aussersterne (#47942863) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: What's In Your Home Datacenter?

with 20 cores, 128GB RAM, 48TB online storage, and gigabit fiber coming in.

Yes, I use all of it, for work. But it's definitely not a "data center." These days, I don't know why anyone would want one—even moderately sized enterprises are increasingly happy to pay someone else to own the data center. Seems nuts to me to try to bring it into your basement.

If you just need the computation and/or the storage, desktops these days run circles around the datacenter hardware from just a few years ago. If you need more than that, it's more cost effective and reliable to buy into someone-or-other's cloud.

Comment: Why do this? (Score 4, Interesting) 281

by aussersterne (#47942793) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: What's In Your Home Datacenter?

I sort of don't get it. White box PCs with many cores, dozens of gigabytes of RAM, and multiple gigabit ethernet ports cost next to nothing these days with a few parts from If the goal is just to play with powerful hardware, you could assemble one or a few white box PCs with *many* cores at 4+ GHz, *tons* of RAM, gigabit I/O, and dozens or hundreds of terabytes of online RAID storage for just a few thousand, and plug them straight into the wall and get better computation and frankly perhaps even I/O performance to boot, depending on the age of the rackware in question.

If you're really doing some crazy hobby experimenting or using massive data storage, you can build it out in nicer, newer ways that use far less (and more readily available) power, are far quieter, generate far less heat, don't take up nearly the space, and don't have the ugliness or premium cost spare parts of the kinds of gear being discussed here. If you need the features, you can easily get VMware and run multiple virtual machines. 100Mbps fiber and Gigabit fiber are becoming more common and are easy to saturate with today's commodity hardware. There are an embarrassment of enterprise-ready operating systems in the FOSS space.

If you really need high reliability/high availability and performance guarantees, I don't get why you wouldn't just provision some service for yourself at Amazon or somewhere else and do what you need to do. Most SaaS and PaaS companies are moving away from trying to maintain their own datacenters because it's not cost effective and it's a PITA—they'd rather leave it to specialists and *really big* data centers.

Why go the opposite direction, even if for some reason you really do have the need for those particular properties?

Comment: Same. I'm on 1Gbps Google fiber (Score 1) 239

by aussersterne (#47919855) Attached to: AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise

and am soooo pleased to be rid of the other ISPs I've been stuck with in the past.

And of course *the moment* Google rolled out in this area, a bunch of other ISPs magically offered a competitive 1Gbps fiber plan as well.

Too late—you had me. And you pissed me off. And now I'm gone.

Comment: Never been a fan of multiplayer. (Score 5, Insightful) 291

by aussersterne (#47915015) Attached to: The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming

Maybe I'm dating myself here, but multiplayer games are still newfangled and weird to me, and I don't know if that will ever change.

When I used to play games, I played to get away from social interaction and enjoy myself in isolation. It was a kind of recuperation. A world of gaming in which you have to face social interaction once again as part of gameplay was unattractive enough to me that I stopped playing games altogether. These days I mainly do crossword puzzles and read e-books for the respite that I used to get from gaming.

Comment: Re:Oh, but it does. You can't make a backup (Score 1) 222

by aussersterne (#47892393) Attached to: iPhone 6 Sales Crush Means Late-Night Waits For Some Early Adopters

You can't backup everything that's on the phone.

Your process sounds great to a technology-enabled person. But for mere humans?

They don't remember their Apple ID password.
They put in random answers to security questions for password recovery.
Their email address has changed, their computer has changed, etc.
They installed all that music, all those videos, and all those apps, like, a *year* ago or more. Who remembers how?

"Can't you just copy everything from my old phone over to my new phone?"

As you say, the process ends up being:

Initialize the phone as new, to their current computer.
Create a new Apple ID and sign them in.
Install and position all the apps one by one by looking at their old phone as you hold it.
Get ahold of all the music that they already bought in some other format so that they don't have to pay for it again.
Give them the bad news about what can't be tracked down/reinstalled (apps no longer in app store, music that can't be found elsewhere without re-buying, etc.)

I could have sworn that in a recent case, we lost all of SMS and she was upset about that, but may I'm remembering incorrectly. Still, the process is onerous.

It pisses people off—"You mean I can't just move all of *my* stuff from my old phone to my new phone? Why do they call it an *upgrade?*"

I'm not saying they're right. Sure, they should remember their passwords, take care of their online identities, etc.

But the fact is that you cannot simply do this:

1. Connect old iPhone to computer
2. Back up full contents
3. Connect new iPhone to computer
4. Restore full contents

I've been on to Apple a couple of times with people standing next to me while I try to act as an intermediary, and the people on the other end of the line end up just throwing their hands up, apologizing, and saying they can't help.

To be fair, this isn't exactly easy on Android either. But it's slightly easier. And both platforms need to seriously work on it.

Comment: Oh, but it does. You can't make a backup (Score 1) 222

by aussersterne (#47891525) Attached to: iPhone 6 Sales Crush Means Late-Night Waits For Some Early Adopters

if the computer + iTunes is newer than the phone. Try this:

-> Plug a full, everyday-used iPhone that was backed up or set up on an old computer
-> Into a new computer where it has never been backed up before

What you will get is an option to erase the phone and start over. You will not get the option to back up the phone, and Apple says that's by design—the licensed content on the phone is tied to the iTunes installation where it was set up, and the license can't be associated with a new iTunes.

Problem is that people that ask me for help have almost invariably either bought a new computer or reinstalled Windows since the time they set up their phone. So there is no way to create a backup—when you plug the phone in, you only get the option to erase the phone and set it up new.

Comment: Can you explain how you migrate material over (Score 2) 222

by aussersterne (#47891055) Attached to: iPhone 6 Sales Crush Means Late-Night Waits For Some Early Adopters

seamlessly? I have family members asking me to help with their iPhones routinely, and this is always a nightmare.

Is it just a matter of your having one stable iTunes installation over the entire period? Because the problem that I run into over and over again is that iCloud is either partial in its backing up and/or doesn't have enough space and thus doesn't back everything up, and they have invariably got a computer that's newer than their iPhone. As a result, their iPhone has never been backed up to iTunes, and when they ask me to help with a transition, I can't help them—iTunes simply offers to erase the phone when you plug it in since the phone predates the iTunes installation.

So we end up having to do a phone side-by-side—check each item installed on the old phone, then install and position it again on the new phone, one-by-one. Takes hours, and some things (SMS messages) are just plain lost. I'd love to find a way to just migrate one iPhone to the next with a click, but so far I haven't found it—the only way to do this appears to be to have an iTunes installation that predates your original phone and to which the phone has been synchronized since it was new. Then you can restore the backup to the new phone. But if the iTunes installation is newer than old phone, as far as I can tell users are SOL for easy transitions.

And most everyone I've helped to upgrade simply doesn't have this. Most of them don't even use iTunes at all.

Comment: It's not just apps, but speed and UX. (Score 5, Informative) 471

by aussersterne (#47874201) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Smartwatch Apps Could You See Yourself Using?

This is I think the thing that so many people miss about the Apple Watch announcement. The problem with existing smart watches hasn't been that the features aren't useful, it's that the promised features simply don't work. I owned two different smart watches and had the same experience:

- Extremely limited app selection
- Very, very slow and oversimple apps that did exist
- With input that was just plain cumbersome and unreliable
- And bluetooth connectivity that had to be constantly restarted/reconnected (like, every time you tried to use it, bluetooth was down)

As I've said in previous posts, I'm one of those that does still wear a watch every single day, so I could be an obvious target for a smart watch, at least moreso than people that don't wear a watch at all and haven't done so in years, if ever.

But for a smart watch to make sense, it can't be a worse experience than pulling out the phone. Watches will always lose on the screen size front, so it's got to be compelling in other areas. The phone experience does have some problems (you have to pull it out, it's risky to pull out and manipulate in some contexts—walking in the city, for example, where a drop can kill it and jostles from pedestrians can come easily, it's bulky and conspicuous, you have to put it back, and so on), so it's not inconceivable that a smart watch could make sense.

But smart watches thus far have been lessons in user friction—you had to really, really, really want to do a given task *on your smart watch*. One that I tried for a few days (the Sony watch) only recognized about 10% of the taps that you made (Want to tap that button once? Then tap manically on the screen over the button 15 times in rapid succession and hope one of them takes.) and was so slow and oversimple (presumably due to lower processing power) that even aside from UI horribleness, it just plain didn't do anything very well in practical terms.

If the Apple Watch has:

- Processing power analagous to that of smartphones
- A high-resolution display
- Input surfaces and controls that are as reliable as those of smartphones
- Battery life long enough to get through a day with certainty
- Reasonable ruggedness
- Stable bluetooth connectivity without hassles

Then it could well be a winner, not because it claims to do anything new, but because it actually managed to do what smart watches claim to do. So far, my experience with smart watches was that they claim a lot, then do absolutely none of it in practice. It's not that the feature list sucks, it's that the features themselves haven't actually been implemented in such a way that you can use them without sitting down for ten minutes to have a "smart watch session" and eke out a tap or two.

Comment: I, and most other consumers, have already made the (Score 1) 326

by aussersterne (#47856513) Attached to: Stallman Does Slides -- and Brevity -- For TEDx

choice. Again—the freedom to do what we want vs. the inability to do the things that we want/need to do, yet labeled conveniently as "more freedom (*though you can't do what you want/need to do with it)."

It's a losing argument. I'm happy to pay for a view. The market has set prices reasonably well. I'm happy to pay for Kindle books, for an iPad, for Adobe Creative Cloud, and many other things. They enable me to do the things that I need to do before I *die*.

Free software can offer none of these things right now. My life is finite; I don't have time to wait for the second coming before doing my computing. The freedom to be shafted? Sure, I suppose if that's how you want to see it. Nonetheless, it's what I want to do. Telling me not to, then selling that to me as "freedom" is just not persuasive. Paternalistic, sure. Persuasively free? Not really.

I used Linux exclusively as my desktop for 17 years (1993-2010). I did it because Linux did what I needed at a price that I needed—for most of that time. Toward the end, it became clear that Linux wasn't able to do the things that I wanted to be able to do—that it was restricting my freedom. The pendulum had swung; I switched to the GNU toolchain way back in the SunOS days because it gave me more freedom, not for ideological reasons, but for practical ones—the freedom to get stuff done that I couldn't otherwise get done; by 2007 or so, being stuck with the FSF world was like using stock SunOS back in the '80s—there were things I wanted to get done that I just plain needed other tools in order to accomplish. I was willing, and remain willing (and most consumers are willing) to pay a reasonable cost to accomplish those things. When powerful computing cost $tens of thousands, GNU was persuasive. But now that it's priced reasonably, we're happy to pay.

The heavy costs of a complete platform switch in mid-life kept me on Linux from about 2007 through 2010, but eventually it became clear that a switch was in order. My labor in maintaining a working Linux desktop and trying to bang free and open software into shape to do the things I needed was exceeding the costs of buying an off-the-shelf solution from a proprietary vendor, by several orders of magnitude.

FSF advocates can argue all they want that somewhere down the road, as a result of my having chosen a "non-free" platform, my freedom will be restricted—but I'll be happy to deal with that eventuality when it comes. I have no interest in sitting around for decades to wait and see if more freedom to accomplish my tasks arrives in pure FSFland; by then, my working years will be over. It's not a tenable proposition.

Comment: Stallman's record does speak for itself. (Score 1) 326

by aussersterne (#47855327) Attached to: Stallman Does Slides -- and Brevity -- For TEDx

I began to use the GNU toolchain on SunOS in the '80s; RMS and I are of the same generation, and I value his code and contributions.

However, at the end of the day, his utopian and context-independent understanding of freedom falls flat. Freedom is not about potential, or about futures unrealized. It is about agency, today—at least for most people.

In very simple terms, if what you want is the freedom to watch DRM'ed content that you value, then RMS has no answer for you other than sacrifice—i.e. give up that freedom in the interest of some other freedom that he promises will be better. But that's not an answer to the question, nor is it—practically speaking—freedom at all. I want to watch that movie. RMS suggests that I should choose not to, as a matter of ethnical responsibility and self-interest.

But I already know where my self-interest lies—in watching the movie. And the ethical responsibility to others may be laudable—but it rings hollow to call that a measure of freedom: "Your freedom lies in not doing what you want to do, and others not doing what they want to do."

That's a strange definition of freedom, indeed. It's rather like other utopian versions of freedom, say under the Soviet system—"We are all setting each other free! We have almost no freedom at all today, particularly in comparison to others, but by god, someday, maybe a few decades or a few generations down the road, we'll get there and have far more than them! In the meantime, heads down and sacrifice, everyone! And stop complaining!"

You just won't get that far in the world if you're selling that as "freedom."

Comment: Stallman can't separate free in theory (Score 2) 326

by aussersterne (#47850357) Attached to: Stallman Does Slides -- and Brevity -- For TEDx

from free in practice, i.e. he is missing any concept of substantive freedom or constitutive practice.

Most users can make this distinction easily.

Free in theory but utterly constrained in practice is something most users don't care for. Since most users are not coders, most are much freer in practice with software that "just works." Sure, they *could in theory* be more free with free software that does less, since they could just rewrite the missing parts themselves, without IP encumbrances, but in practice, they would have to dedicate time and resources to learning how to code and architect software that most do not have the time and resources to dedicate.

The choice between "live without functionality that makes you more practically free" and "sacrifice other important parts of your life and study to become a programmer instead if you want that functionality" does not feel like freedom to most users, it feels like constraint.

On the other hand, "take this money that you already have, buy a product that you can already afford, and do the entire list of things you'd like to do" feels very much like freedom to most people.

Stallman's argument is a long-view, edge-case worry that will never affect most users. I'd argue that for 90 percent of the users out there, limiting themselves only to free software would actually make them less free in practice, because the actual, real-world universe of things they could likely manage to do with their tech on a day-to-day basis as a result would, in practice, be shorter.

Stallman's myopia is not new—it goes fairly far back in western philosophy. But as has long been pointed out, finding a way to drop out of society may be the path to the greatest freedom in theory, but in practice, society (roads, planes, trains, automobiles, electricity, grocery stores, and so on) makes most of us more free, even though it comes with a bunch of restrictions (a.k.a. laws) that don't afflict the lone "natural man" that has no connection to it.

But in fact the lone "natural man" is unlikely to ever be able to duplicate, in practice, every enablement and enabling facility that society is able to grant—even if he is free to duplicate them himself, without rules, when outside of society—in theory.

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.