Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?

Comment: No complex constructs in python? (Score 1) 648

by bmearns (#48857359) Attached to: Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming

I'm curious what "complex constructs" the teacher thinks are missing from python that can be done in Visual Basic, or C for that matter. I haven't done VB in a long time, but I have significant experience in C and Python. The only construct I can think of that exist in C and not in Python is pointers, and I'd be surprised if they are covering pointers in VB in an intro class.

Any ideas what is being referred to?

Comment: Re:No progress at all... (Score 1) 160

by bmearns (#46293999) Attached to: Another Possible Voynich Breakthrough

Looking at a random page from the book, the manuscript is clearly nonsensical

Yeh, you're right. The world's greatest linguists, historians, and cryptographers have been studying this for a century and are still undecided about the nature of the work, but you "looked at a random page" and have a pretty solid grasp on it.

+ - Another possible Voynich breakthrough, this time not by botanists

Submitted by bmearns
bmearns writes: Over the past few weeks we've been hearing a lot about a possible breakthrough in decoding the infamous Voynich manuscript, made by a team of botanists who suggested that the plants depicted in the manuscrit may have been from the New World and the mysterious writing could be a form of an Aztec language. But the latest development comes from linguist Stephen Bax, of Bedfordshire University, who believes he has identified some proper names (including of the constellation "Taurus") in the manuscript and is using these as a crib to begin deciphering the rest of the text, which he believes comes from the near east or Asia.

+ - Voynich Manuscript may have originated in New World

Submitted by bmearns
bmearns writes: The Voynich Manuscript is every geek's favorite "indecipherable" illuminated manuscript. It's bizarre depictions of strange plants and animals, astrological diagrams, and hordes of tiny naked women bathing in a system of interconnected tubs that bare an uneasy resemblance to the human digestive system, have inspired numerous essays and doctoral theses', plus one XKCD comic. Now a team of botanists (yes, botanists) may have uncovered an important clue as to its origin and content, by identifying several of the plants and animals depicted, and linking them to the Spanish territories in Central America.

Comment: Re:Easy (Score 1) 330

by bmearns (#45202509) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can Bruce Schneier Be Trusted?

Yeh, and for a long time, SSL was considered "good enough".

But honestly, getting two people to assure you that "yes, this is solid, the NSA isn't trying to trick you and certainly hasn't recruited me to play along" is hardly "good enough". A dozen experts, maybe. A hundred independent experts from different institutions around the globe is getting close to "good enough". But I hardly think two people is sufficient.

Comment: Re:Trust no one (Score 3, Insightful) 330

by bmearns (#45202357) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can Bruce Schneier Be Trusted?

But from whom do you learn the math? A teacher? A textbook? Unless you derive it all yourself from base axioms, you do have to trust someone at some point. Math is logic, pure and simple: that's true, but it is subtle enough and complex enough, especially at the level of cryptography, that you could be taught something which is false and yet verifiable (i.e., internally consistent, but externally incorrect). And of course, beyond outright misinformation, there is the very real possibility that the math is sound but someone has discovered a technique for busting right through it.

But I think the more important point is that our entire society breaks down instantly without trust. Specialization is the basis for all of human advancement, and trust is the basis for specialization. You don't learn to build a car yourself, you trust an auto mfr to do it for you. You don't spend time growing or hunting your own food, you trust the food industry to provide you with safe and sufficient sustenance. If you didn't trust anyone, you'd spend all your own time and resource attending to your most basic needs.

The same goes for cryptography and software: everybody uses crypto these days (TLS, for instance), but the vast majority of people don't have any where close to the expertise to verify even the algorithms, let alone the implementations. Sure, we could have a society of crypto experts and everyone could independently verify every algorithm and every piece of code that they use. But whose going to build the the cars and grow the food?

+ - Ray Dolby Dies at 80

Submitted by bmearns
bmearns writes: NPR is reporting that audio pioneer Ray Dolby has died, at age 80. Dolby is best known for inventing an important noise reduction technique for audio called Dolby SR, and for founding Dolby Laboratories which contributed immensely to the development of surround sound technology.

Comment: Re:Just Stand - sitting is the new smoking (Score 1) 461

by bmearns (#44554311) Attached to: Book Review: The Healthy Programmer

There's basically nothing you can do that isn't bad for some part of you. Living produces wear and tear on your body.

I switched to a primarily standing desk about three years ago and, anecdotally, it's been going great. I don't think I lost any significant amount of weight because of it, but my back doesn't get tired, and I generally feel less lethargic at the end of the day. I also feel like it helps my working because I can more easily pace around my office when I need to work through a tough problem.

Most people who recommend standing recommend alternating between standing and sitting every few hours, to avoid the kinds of issues you mention. But I think part of it has to do with your general fitness level. If your legs are strong, your knees are in good shape, and you're not carrying around too much extra weight, you'll probably hold up a lot better to extended periods of standing. Then again, if you're not really in shape, you may have even more reason not to sit all day.

Personally, I sit while I eat my lunch, I typically sit a bit more on Mondays, and I just generally sit when I feel tired, but I spend most of my work day standing. And you don't need a fancy convertible desk, just a set of cinder blocks to elevate your desk, and a high chair to sit on when you feel like it (the kind you find in electronics labs).

+ - Full moon may effect sleep after all 1

Submitted by bmearns
bmearns writes: NPR is reporting that new statistical research by Swiss scientist Christian Cajochen suggests that the full moon may actually have an impact on human sleep, both in terms of duration and quality. "We found that people who entered the lab during a full moon slept, on average, 20 minutes less than people who came in during the new moon phase," says Cajochen. The results were statistically significant, but Cajochen admits that he is still skeptical of the conclusion.

Comment: Re: Really?!? (Score 1) 1448

by bmearns (#44248485) Attached to: Orson Scott Card Pleads 'Tolerance' For <em>Ender's Game</em> Movie

The burden of proof should be on the challengers of the current laws.

The burden of proof is always on the one making the claim. You're claiming that gay marriage erodes marriage. Now offer any kind of argument for how it does this.

The face that divorce is up and marriages are on the decline is a good indicator of what I said before about the destruction of the family.

I can totally agree to this, but it is in no way caused by gay marriage, that was my whole point.

Comment: Re:Really?!? (Score 1) 1448

by bmearns (#44242075) Attached to: Orson Scott Card Pleads 'Tolerance' For <em>Ender's Game</em> Movie

I am all for civil unions and I don't have a problem with what people do inside or outside the bedroom, but devaluing marriage does impact me.

Firstly, it impacts you because you choose to let it impact you emotionally. Allowing someone else to get married has no direct effect on your life. Gay marriage laws in no way impact your ability to get married or any of your other rights. Laws are crafted to protect people's rights, not to stop them from being upset because they don't feel comfortable with what someone else is doing.

Secondly, the burden of proof is on you to show that allowing gays to marry in anyway devalues marriage. If you're really worried about the sanctity of marriage, you'd should be focusing on quickie marriages, serial marriages, and divorce rates, all of which have been trending up since long before any state passed gay marriage. If there's a threat to marriage, it's that people aren't interested anymore, or else don't take the commitment seriously. How is more people wanting to participate a threat to the institution?

It boggles my mind that you can't draw parallels between your own biracial marriage and gay marriage issues. Forty or fifty years ago, a biracial marriage was at least as taboo as a gay marriage is today, and until 1967, was illegal throughout much of the US, including many of the same states that are now trying to prevent gay marriage. Back then, people made the same arguments: biracial marriage was a threat to society, a threat to family values, a threat to the institution of marriage. Did you marry a black woman because you were trying to overturn marriage? Of course not. Open your brain for half a second, and try to imagine that gay couples today are going through the exact same thing. They are being targeted, harassed, and vilified simply for being in love.

And if nothing else, just recognize that you're on the wrong damn side of history. In thirty of forty more years, gay marriage will be legal in every state and will be widely accepted, just as biracial marriage is today. And the children of that age will look back and think how ignorant and how bigoted it was to try to block that.

Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little more time for dreaming. -- J. P. McEvoy