Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment long term checks are needed (Score 1) 143

online tools and wikipedia are not bad at the moment. Who tells that this will remain so? Organizations like wikipedia needs money and there is no long term guarantee that not at one point in the future, a "sponsor" will jump in, and searches or articles will be "internally vetted". Like for anything, it is good to have many independent sources. And yes, I keep as many copies of old encyclopedias and handbooks as possible, so that if needed, things can be double checked. Even in math software (like computer algebra systems) it can be healthy from time to time to check results with old handbooks or other systems, like integration tables. And of course be able to look up the original sources or reproduce things yourself. Never trust one source alone.

Comment Feyerabend (Score 1) 383

There are different takes on the scientific method. Poppers view is the gold standard but there others like Feyerabend, (from whom I could myself attend lectures as a student at ETH) who similar than Lacatos had a more liberal point of view: science also allows chaotic, anarchistic developments. The hype of parallel universes is maybe just the troll which is needed to value what is science really is and what is just speculation or belief. Similarly as political trolls, they remind us what values we really should treasure. History has shown that also unscientific approaches were motivational. Spiritual approaches for example were driving mathematicians from Pythagoreans to Kepler. Historically they had value as a motivator, even so one knows now that most of these believes were nonsense: Keplers harmonices mundi for example was one of these heavenly ideas which today just look plain silly and have lost all their scientific value. The other work which was produced (Kepler's laws) is a gem. Talking about parallel universes is maybe a bit like the Cretan Epimenides telling that All Cretans are liars or Russels set of all sets which are not subsets of themselves. These paradoxa have been resolved by setting up set theory carefully and using precise nomenclature what a set is. Any theory of the universe needs good definitions first of all. A notion of a universe which which does contain more than we can access, is strange. While liars paradoxa have initially been intended as jokes or trolls, they turned out to be a central idea for Goedel when working on incompleteness results. Also on the positive side, books about parallel universes have produced interest in the public about science. With the eyes of Feyerabend, we should see it as anarchism. Compare it with Keplers harmonices mundi. Maybe there is some nice mathematics or eventially some physics coming out it which will remain valuable. There could be a much simpler explanation: it might also simply be a way to gain publicity, get grant. Parallel universes just inspire our imagination, as countless many science fiction books have shown. An nice example is Ruckers "Mathemticians in Love" in which parallel universes play a role.

Comment scroll bars (Score 1) 462

even when checking to always show scroll bars in general preferences, it happened until recently that scroll bars would disappear in some applications or worse: be there and disappear if the mouse came close to them as if somebody played a hoax. Seems to fixed now in ElCapitan. Minimal is good but too minimal can sometimes look like a bad joke.

Comment remember nonstandard Latin 1 symbols (Score 1) 246

similar than the non-standard MS symbols, which still hunt me sometimes. Since more than a decade, I use to get rid of nonstandard Latin 1. There is nothing more frustrating than have two versions of a program, which both look the same, but only one actually does the right thing.

Comment who throws the first stone (Score 1) 371

The story shows that who throws the first stone can later be hunted down by the same forces which have been evoked. The resume and previous statements of the twitter author have been checked and dissected by journalists and it does not look pretty. The episode also shows that humour can be tough to understand and that there are many flavours. Outside the UK, some seem to have a hard time parsing British humour. And it can take time to appreciate it. A lot of the Monty Python skits need time to be assimilated. Even so not always politically correct, the jokes are not meant to be offensive. The worst are hypocrites, condemning things which were intended to be funny, but who have have a questionable moral code themselves.

Comment whatever govs can do, crooks will do better (Score 3, Interesting) 134

It is in the interest of anybody to help in providing the best possible encryption because "Whatever govs can do, crooks will do better". It not only helps the industry or privacy. It also protects itself as it is likely that such mandatory back doors will be technically outdated and hacked quickly after put in place. Weak Encryption has decided the fate of Mary Queen, the deciphering of the Zimmerman telegram a hundred ago played a role in the outcome of WWI and weaknesses in the use of the enigma cryptology was important in WW2. Since then, technology has exploded and become more important everywhere. Any government proposing to weaken its own communication infrastructure by mandatory crippling their own industries will be in a disadvantage. The dream is of course that high up, secure systems are going to be used. As they will not have been well tested, they are likely to be hacked even faster than a device for the masses with a backdoor which has withstood standard attacks and gone through peer review by hackers. And if some really sweet military grade encryption will remain to be safe, it will be a goldmine for a company selling devices with such additions abroad.

Comment bravo for the promotion (Score 1) 538

The naivity of some politicians is unbelievable. In that case one could have hardly made a better job in promoting the material. The call for a removal from the book must have multiplied its distribution. Its not only a complete lack of understanding how digital material is distributed today, it also shows a total lack of insight how media work. Its naive and even could be considered borderline stupid.

Comment different from Cornsweet (Score 1) 420

There is big difference between the Tom Cornsweet illusion which is also addressed in the XKCD Also this explanation While both are well done, they miss an important point. The Cornsweet paradox works for everybody. Universally. The dress paradox not. For most people (75 percent in one poll), the paradox does not work. (I myself find it hard to believe that some see initially a blue dress). But it seems that different brains work differently. This is why the phenomenon must be interesting for psychologists.

Comment HD size (Score 1) 70

Looks nice, a bit like the air. Finally also with decent screen resolution. Harddrive size is a bit on the lower side. Applications get fatter. Can not wait for an air with 1T HD size. "Webstorage" as bundled with that machine is not a solution. In recent weeks, maybe due to weather, bandwidth has decreased considerably and in some coffeeshops, broken or slow internet. This requires to have things locally. Broadband infrastructure in the US is not expected to become better soon (even if the Feb 26 vote should go through at FCC).

Comment naysyers are needed (Score 1) 233

Just by definition, the ability to have vision, to dare something, which nobody has done, to inspire fulfilling a dream and possibly fail is is something which is not for everybody. Every entrepreneur, artist or scientist, explorer or adventurer trying to do something which nobody else has done yet, bears risks with possibly fatal or ruining consequences. Maybe, the negative and critical comments (as of them are here) provide are helpful and even needed to select the right people and even motivate them to do such extraordinary things. The word "extraordinary" already tells it. Early settlers establishing new life in "new worlds" were always considered crazy by the majority, operations might have been called a "scam". Many of them died early, many did not arrive. Tragic would be, if we would start to forbid things. One can imagine a time, when more risky sport activity like mountain biking, skydiving or climbing a mountain would be forbidden, because it is too risky. The question is whether we would become happier in such a locked down world. Back to Mars One: it would be a fantastic thing so see humans live permanently on an other planet. But it would only be really fun if there are enough nay sayers who proclaim it to be impossible or idiotic.

Comment keep it simple (Score 4, Informative) 193

all I need for a windows manager is extreme stability, low footprint, a slick way to organize menues, the ability to configure and independence of as many other components as possible. No gimmicks like fullscreen modus if a window is moved to the bottom. Light weight windows managers fullfill all this already nicely. I still use blackbox and have essentially not changed my setup since 15 years. Its all I ever need. fluxbox, xfce are very similar and would work for me too. Nice to have one text file .blackboxmenu which gives the menu and one file .blackboxrc which controls the features. There is nothing to learn about it except that right clicking anywhere on the desktop produces the menu. Also nice, the finder in OSX can be configured so that the workflow is essentially identical on both platforms (the doc is the essential difference). But its important for the workflow to not lose fractions of seconds here and there due to poor or `clever' interface design or when moving from one operating system to an other.The problem of designing a good user interface on the desktop is solved and its based on KISS. On the phone it took longer.

Comment data mining (Score 1) 421

there should be an app which constantly reports statistics how much app information is transmitted to third parties. An other good app would be able to store of old versions of apps. My previously favorate note taking app penultimate recently got swallowed by evernote. The old version still allowed emailing the notes and keeping the notes private, now everything goes through the evernote servers. It was even no more possible to the old notes without going through the evernote servers.

Comment checking for errors is crucial (Score 1) 226

What will be important when doing optimization is that no errors are introduced. Having errors in basic mathematical routines can break things at unpredictable places. The worst errors are the ones which deal with exceptional cases which are rarely hit upon. We worked once on integer factorization algorithms [We programmed Morrison-Brillard and quadratic Sieve methods, and everything in the group had been written from scratch, even the large integer libraries were written from the ground up in Pascal by a relatively large group of programmers, not using a single line of code from the outside as probably custom in any military setup.] Suddenly, our factorization algorithms did not work any more reliably. Debugging took some time but we could pinpoint it to parts where square roots were used. Indeed, the square root routine in rings of integers had been optimized by the group working on fundamental routines. It was quickly fixed, but I can only imagine a rare error in an important library of GCC. In the current case, it looks however as if the engineer knows what he is doing. Especially implementing the squaring function separately is smart and I'm surprised that this had not been done already. When dealing with integer arithmetic like taking powers a^b modulo some number, it is well known to be best first to compute powers a,a^2,(a^2)^2 by successively taking square roots, then write b in binary form and cobbling together the power a^b as a product of the precomputation which is of course the reason why taking powers is cheap in integer arithmetic and important in cryptology like RSA. So, it is important to be able to square quickly.

Comment speed is good (Score 4, Interesting) 194

having on the server side fast and efficient code is nice but there are a plethora of webserver technologies out there and they can interact with virtually any programming language in the background having various technologies working together and having them developed indpendently has lots of advantages. Why bake everything together? Having sepearte entities (server, authoring language, scripting languages, databases) allows more flexibility. Efficiency and simplicity is nice but one can also overdo it. I learned real programming in Pascal, but Wirth soon started to develop the more efficient Modula, then Oberon flavors. Pascal started to stall. Oberon was great, everything, the compiler, operating system, everything fitted on one floppy. From the application and developer point of view it is a disaster to know that the shelf life of a programming language is only a few years, until the developer loses interest finds a better way to rewite the entire thing. This is especially the case for creative guys like Wirth. At one point, (oberon I) he even thought it would be nicer to have no FOR loop, as FOR loops leads to bad programs. Well, he had to reintroduce it in Oberon II. Academic elegance and theory not always goes parallel with the real world.

Slashdot Top Deals

"Card readers? We don't need no stinking card readers." -- Peter da Silva (at the National Academy of Sciencies, 1965, in a particularly vivid fantasy)