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User Journal

Journal: Slashdot, you've really let yourself go 1

Journal by npsimons

I thought slashdot had hit bottom, but apparently I was wrong. I can't friend/unfriend or foe/unfoe people anymore here. On top of that, it's become even closer to useless because of all the Apple fanboys, Microsoft shills and just flat out trolls. I keep coming back to upvote posts that speak truth to FUD, but then I see informative posts like this marked as troll. Why do I even bother? Oh, that's right, I keep getting mod points.

I'll keep upvoting good posts, but don't count on me to read other comments; there are better forums than slashdot around.

Cloud

Journal: Run Windows better than Windows 1

Journal by npsimons

Reading an article about KVM being ported from Linux to a derivative of Solaris, I was intrigued by the claim that running Windows in this virtualization environment would be faster than running it on bare metal. I knew Windows was coded poorly, but is this for real? I suppose also that some tricks can be done if you know the workload, but I find it hard to believe that you'll see ten to fifty times better performance. Does anybody else envision running software ever faster by continuously virtualizing it until we reach the singularity?

Programming

Journal: Mathcad, Prolog and LISP

Journal by npsimons

However much I despise closed source, proprietary software, occasionally I have to deal with it. And sometimes there isn't (currently) anything in the OSS world that fills the niche a closed source program might. Mathcad seems to be one of those: a closed source, Windows only "engineer's scratchpad" that is an interesting concept, and somebody must like it because it's been around a while. While Mathcad seems interesting for quickly prototyping and crunching out equations, the reusability and flexibility of it's "language" leaves much to be desired. For example, even though Mathcad has loops, I can't figure out how to make them work on a list of files. The only way to really automate Mathcad appears to be through COM or VBScript (including Excel), also not my ideal technologies of choice. But at least VB is Turing complete, so I started digging up examples of that.

Looking in some of the directories of Mathcad, though, I find .prolog and .lisp files. While I don't know much about Prolog, I'm pretty sure the .lisp files are for real, but Google searches and a quick perusal at the files themselves don't reveal much. There's also some MuPAD .mu files, but those don't seem to be of much use to me.

Does anyone know what the possibilities are for automating Mathcad via Prolog or LISP?

User Journal

Journal: So long and thanks for all the fish 3

Journal by npsimons

There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over -- and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out. The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well. It's hard to recognize that life isn't a holding action, but a process. It's hard to learn that we don't leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along -- quite gracefully. -- Ellen Goodman

I probably shouldn't be indulging in such egotistical pastimes as writing what amounts to a "Dear John" letter to slashdot, but I had a few loose ends to tie up, so here goes.

To PopeRatzo: sorry I didn't get back to you earlier, and now that journal discussion is closed. Maybe I am seeing it through rose-colored glasses, but it seems that the number of submissions (and how many make it on the front page) from different firehoses (such as apple vs linux) leads me to believe slashdot is being inundated by Apple fanboys. It's too much for a Linux fan who remembers the heady early days of slashdot to take. In any case, I'm looking to move on to more Linux-y sites.

To everyone in general: I've seen far to many interesting articles in the firehose never go anywhere, only to be drowned out by Apple press releases. People here no longer seem to appreciate or even care about Freedom, and many who booed Microsoft now cheer Apple for the exact same practices. Even those who booed Microsoft now say "install Windows, it's what everyone knows and uses."

Gah. There's more, but I've made this too long already; check my first (and last submission), my comments, and my blog if you are curious; I'm going to try switching to other sources for tech news, and put more time into the blog and website. If nothing else, that should be a more worthwhile endeavor than shouting down the fanboys.

Debian

Journal: Looking for Alternatives to Slashdot 1

Journal by npsimons

I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but the focus of slashdot has shifted away from open source software (Linux in particular). Anyone who doubts this is welcome to count the number of open source articles versus blatant slashvertisements. I guess my mistake was in thinking that "news for nerds, stuff that matters" was more truthful than "fair and balanced." In any case, it's a battle I don't have time to fight, so I'm wondering: what sites would you recommend as alternatives to slashdot? What's your favorite Linux news site? How about open source, or Debian? Can I find a site dedicated to important scientific advances, instead of the latest fashion trends?

User Journal

Journal: Ethics in who you work for 4

Journal by npsimons

Let's say you were approached to work for a big name company who is working on a lot of really amazing high tech products. Their current employees seem intelligent, motivated, friendly and happy to work there. The work environment looks sweet. The only thing making you have second thoughts is that some of their actions (such as pushing for lower corporate taxes) don't exactly mesh with your ethics. Sure, they're not anti-competitive; they even do a lot of open source; but more than a few of their actions have come under fire as unethical. Would you work for them? Would an employment boycott be effective?

Just for the record, no, I have not received an offer yet; I don't presume that I'm a shoe-in (they have a very high false positive rate). I'm putting this out early to get as many responses as I can. I currently work for the US DoD, which some would see as extremely unethical. If you can't figure out from what I've told you so far (and my comment history) which company this is, you probably shouldn't reply to this, but I'll take all the input I can get.

Movies

Journal: Why Movies Suck 3

Journal by npsimons

This. So totally fucking this.This is precisely why I don't even *know* what other movies came out last year, but I went to see "Inception" in the theater *four times*, and got it on DVD /and/ Blu-Ray as soon as it was available.

I'm not the most cogent person in the world, nor am I a film expert, so when a piece like this comes along that so totally defines what is wrong with Hollywood, I have to share. And yes, I consider most movies released these days to be mindless pap that is insulting to the intelligence of toddlers.

Software

Journal: Work conditions 6

Journal by npsimons

So, the project I'm on is having their funding cut, and as part of that, I've been told to move to another project. Of course, it probably didn't help that I made a big mistake (to be told in another JE; short story: always perform an estimate of time to completion up front). I'm paranoid, cynical, depressive and insecure to boot, so I have to wonder if I got let go for other reasons as well. That's why I'm writing here, to try to get a third opinion, and because I'm curious how this is handled in other places. Of course, I'm biased, but I'll try to be as NPOV as I can.

One of the things that happened before they let me go was that they suggested we standardize our platforms on CentOS. Now, I have nothing against CentOS, but I strongly prefer Debian because of it's wide selection of packages that are very well packaged and the ease of installing those packages. Just to clarify, I work where systems cannot be hooked up to the Internet, so having 5 DVDs (or 8, for Debain 6) of software packages at my fingertips makes life much easier. Not to mention some packages I have come to rely upon for fast prototyping (see this), and seeing how I don't use much besides Debian, I don't even know if those packages are available on other distros, and even if they were, I'd have to find them, download them and all their dependencies, then burn a CD and sneakernet them to the CentOS box they want me to use. Say, an hour to find, download and burn packages, versus five minutes to 'apt-get install binfmtc'. The choice is obvious, right?

No, they believed that delays were being caused by my insistence on using Debian, and they wondered aloud why I thought it was okay to go ahead and install Debian on my development machine.

Some background here: I've been a systems administrator for a decent amount of time. I run my own email, web, print and file servers, along with associated network and firewall. I'm very comfortable and confident when using Debian, because it's pretty much just fire and forget. When I get to a new project at work, usually my first step is to install Debian so I can get some real work done. Even if I'm porting to another platform, I use Debian for day to day development because I'm familiar with it and I can easily set up nightly builds to check out from the repository, build, run unit tests under a variety of code checking tools and email me the results. All without having to download a single package.

I get defensive when people with a lack of experience in software development start telling me how to do my job, and that includes what tools I use. I've tried other distros, I've tried other editors, I know what works best for me. Sure, I've made some mistakes, and I'll admit when I've messed up (if I'm aware of it), but I'm fairly certain my selection of software tools is not one of them.

I'm just curious: at other companies, how much control do you as a software developer have over what you can and can't install on your development machine? If you find a new tool that would help you get things done more quickly or reduce defects, how long does it take to get it installed? I chafe at the idea that I am trusted with vital secrets, yet they don't trust me, the expert, to select the right tool for my job. Am I overreacting?

User Journal

Journal: zcat /usr/share/state/us-constitution.gz | grep -i god 3

Journal by npsimons

Hmm, above command returns no results. Let's try another:

zcat /usr/share/state/us-constitution.gz | grep -i jesus

Hmm, no results for that one either. One more before I give up:

zcat /usr/share/state/us-constitution.gz | egrep -i "creat|divin|christ"

No results for that one either.

(note that the above was run on a Debian system with the "miscfiles" package installed)

User Journal

Journal: Relationship Change: Updated (2) 1

Journal by Zancarius

So, you've found my journal. Chances are, you're probably here because you're bored, and you noticed that I have a journal entry. I'm afraid you won't find much of interest here, but that's not why you're reading. You're reading this because you're interested to know why I'd be posting about the Slashdot relationship change notice you probably received because I have either added you as a friend or because I have culled you from my friends list and you would like to know why. Fortunately, it's really simple.

The Friends List is my User Bookmarks

It really is that simple. If you're on my friends list, you've probably made it there because you happened to have made an interesting, insightful, or humorous post that I enjoyed so much, I've decided to make you stick out like a sore thumb. I browse with friends set to +5, regardless of their modifier, so I will always see your posts no matter how ornery the moderators happen to be feeling. (Bonus: If you got moderated into oblivion, I have mod points, and you've put the time and effort into writing a good post, I might be able to get you out of it if I'm feeling charitable and want to mod you up.)

However: If you're on my friends list, it doesn't mean I agree with you. It just means I enjoyed a post you made.

If you've made it here, you've been selected as my friend exclusively for the reasons I outlined above. Chances are, you wouldn't like me in person--I'm generally politically conservative (with some socially liberal leanings, and I mean this in terms of the United States' political system), I'm religious but somewhat secular in my views, and I could probably outline a further 100+ reasons why you wouldn't like me regardless of your political affiliations (yes, I piss off even some conservatives). But here's the deal: I added you precisely because you shared a great post with the rest of Slashdot, made me laugh, or I disagree--but you made a good enough point that I think may have received an unfair shake from the moderators, so I'm watching out to make sure you don't get zinged again by someone who has it out for you (karma stalking).

That said, there are some exceptions to the rules I've outlined above. Specifically, I occasionally friend individuals I might otherwise call "flaming liberal nutjobs," because I happen to have some appreciation for the points or argument they're making. I probably disagree completely, but if that person happens to be arguing with someone who is quite clearly a total moron, I'll probably add them simply because they're the only party showing at least some signs of intelligence. I may also add people for various other reasons such as generally snarky behavior, a propensity for trolling idiots, playing devil's advocate, or because you won the lottery (not really--but you get the idea). In other words, there is probably a why behind, well, why you got added--and received the "relationship changed" notice--but it could be for any reason.

Two examples that come to mind are the users spun and tepples. Both of these guys are probably liberals, probably borderline crazy, and I know very well that they can get under the skin of other Slashdot users--and that is exactly why I like them. Both of these two characters have the tendency to get on the nerves of people who either have no sense of humor or, generally speaking, are exhibiting traits endemic to idiots. I seldom agree with either of them (spun for political reasons, tepples because of his occasional pro-Apple leanings), but because they go out of their way to make lesser beings look stupid, I applaud their efforts. Sure, they sometimes get a little out of line--don't we all?--but I think that the vast majority of people who become targets of their ridicule deserve it. Sometimes it isn't deserved, certainly, but oftentimes it is well-placed. They even occasionally post things that I enjoy reading.

Other individuals, like Opportunist, cayenne8, TheRaven64, and at least a dozen other people who may or may not have added me in return (see my fans list for a comprehensive rundown of most of these people--save for a handful--and sorry if I haven't expressly mentioned you) make posts that I greatly enjoy reading. Again, I may not always agree with them, but these individuals are typically very civil, respectful, and informative in the majority of their posts. Sometimes their posts are just outright entertaining.

Minor update: I should have added mcgrew to this list a long while back, because he's another one of the individuals whose posts I enjoy reading. Although, if I recall correctly, I had added him precisely because of a journal entry he had posted (either on mcgrew or another account) that I found very educational. mcgrew also continues to update his journal fairly regularly, so you should put some effort into reading it if you don't already. Yes, I'm guilty of not reading it as much as I should, too!

Of course, you could probably guess which of the two groups you fall into--or maybe you can't. Either way, you've done something I enjoyed if you're reading this.

Big Deal You Long-winded Baffoon! Why Should I Care that You Added Me?

Well, you shouldn't. There are some minor benefits, but in most circumstances, you shouldn't care. If you don't care, you probably wouldn't be reading this.

For the rest of you that have more time on your hands than I do (you are reading this, after all), here's what benefits you may (or may not) receive by being friended by me:

1) People on my friends list are more likely to be modded up whenever they make a good post.

- This means that if there's 2 posts I find really interesting and I have only 1 mod point left, yours gets priority. There is one exception to this (below).

2) Your posts will be visible to me, regardless of their rating.

- I browse with friends set to +5. That means you'll have at least an audience of one. This really only implies #1, but you get the idea.

3) If I catch a post hinting that you've been the victim of a karma stalker, I might (if I'm feeling charitable) look through your comment history for posts I feel were unfairly modded down. If I have the points, I may try to make what corrections I can to offset the damage to your karma.

As I mentioned, there is an exception to #1: If I have 1 mod point and you've made an interesting post, you will receive priority if you have friended me in return. Fans of mine receive priority over friends, so if you need a bit of a karma boost, and I feel you've made a good post, I'll probably throw you a bone karma-wise. I usually feel a bit more charitable toward people with whom I am both a friend and a fan.

Of course, your posts really do need to be worthy of a boost; if you post some inane one-liner (e.g. "in Soviet Russia..."), I don't care who you are. I'll ignore the post, and it won't receive any moderation from me. The one exception to this is that your meme usage--or whatever it is--has to be exceedingly clever. If it is, I may mod you funny. Of course, +1, Funny doesn't receive a karma boost, but if the post is something I feel worthy of karma (and it's funny), I might mod you +1, Insightful/Informative and let the other moderators sort out and puzzle over why a funny post got modded "incorrectly." I can't guarantee you'll keep the karma given the meta moderation, of course, but that's just how things are.

Okay, but You Removed Me from Your Friends List

I'm sorry. It happens. I don't read Slashdot incessantly enough to be a subscriber, so I'm fairly satisfied with my friends list being limited to 200 people. Unfortunately, this is a limit that I hit about a year or two ago, so I do occasionally need to cull my friends list. If you're reading this because I removed you, I'm truly very sorry. However, there are some ground rules I've set for people I'll remove, and if you're here, I removed you because you matched one of these rules:

1) Friends on my list must have at least one (1) post or one (1) journal entry made sometime within the last year or so. This means, for example, that since it is February 2011 as of the time of this writing, you'll be culled from my list if your last comment (or journal entry) was on or before February 2010. Yes, you may still browse Slashdot while not actively participating, but I have no way to tell the difference between someone who doesn't visit the site anymore and someone who just doesn't want to comment anymore.

2) You've marked me as a foe. This doesn't happen often (if at all), but someone who marks me as a foe will probably be taken off of my friends list. I might even add you as a mutual foe. I might just leave you neutral. Or, hell, I might just change my mind at random every day for three weeks. I figure that anyone who marks me as a foe either doesn't like something I wrote and can't handle a respectful or vehement disagreement (translation: you're being petty) or you're just in a bad mood--and that's OK! That's what I'm here for. I'm here to remind you that you might just have one last friend in the world. Or not. It depends!

3) Your account has been banned/deleted/disappeared. Okay, this doesn't happen (as far as I know), but there's nothing much else to say about it either way. :)

4) You're trolling (and not in the good way) or generally contributing to behavior that I don't like. Maybe you used a derogatory term toward someone inappropriately. Maybe you're starting to spam Goatse links. Maybe you're trolling in an exceedingly childish form. If that's the case, I'll remove you. I friend people exclusively because I enjoy their posts. If I stop enjoying them, I'll remove them very quickly.

5) I removed you because I felt like it. This hasn't happened yet (unlike #4 and earlier), but I do reserve the right to remove you for whatever reason I like.

In short, I need the room on my list, and your number came up. I'm sorry. I truly am. There is a silver lining, though: If you continue to make insightful posts, I may just re-friend you again.

Just remember one thing. You're on my friends list because your posts entertain me or maybe because I learned something from you. As such, if you continue to be fairly reasonable with others and continue to participate on Slashdot, you'll probably stay on my friends list indefinitely.

There is yet one more exception to the culling that I occasionally perform (like now) on my friends list. If you have added me as a friend, you're automatically immune to culling. I don't have a lot of fans, so I can't imagine that the number of fans will approach 200 users any time soon, and for the foreseeable future, if you've friended me in return, you'll never be removed from my list. Fans are slightly more likely to receive beneficial moderation than exclusively friends, but you do still have to make a worthwhile post.

Okay, I get it. Do You ever Downvote Friends/Fans/Foes?

Nope. I never downvote except in cases of obvious spam which is almost never. I will never, ever, ever, ever downvote anyone. Even if you've added me to your foe list and you hate everything I stand for, I will never downvote your posts. Modding posts down is, as far as I'm concerned, a filtration method for spam and clearly abusive posts. I realize some Slashdotters tend to resort to downvotes as a means of -1, Disagree, and I think that's wrong. That's why you'll never receive a downvote, even if I disagree with you 100%.

Of course, as I pointed out, you will probably receive upvotes from me for various reasons--much more often if you're a friend or a fan--and it's not because I agree with you. Upvotes are useful for increasing the visibility of quality posts, posts that correct the obvious errors of others, or posts that otherwise deserve to be made more visible.

Again, you're on my friends list because it's a useful bookmark to make your posts more visible to me. Nothing more, nothing less. There are some (rough) rules that I follow to maintain the quality of my "organic bookmark" system, and if you're here, hopefully you've learned a little about why you received that ominous note: Relationship Changed.

Portables

Journal: Uploading photos from N900 to a photo gallery on my server

Journal by npsimons

Dear lazyweb,

I'm looking for some software (possibly two pieces) that I can use to upload photos quickly and easily from my N900 to my personal web server and have the web server add them to a publicly viewable gallery. I've heard of pixelpipe (http://pixelpipe.com/), but I don't want to use someone else's server(s), that's why I have my own. I know I could probably throw something together with SCP + {Perl|PHP|Ruby|Python}, but I'm lazy and very much don't like to reinvent the wheel (what security holes might I being missing? how long will it take me to work out the bugs on software that's not my day job?). Just thought I'd drop this question in the spirit of lazyweb questions I've seen on http://planet.debian.org/. Thanks in advance!

Programming

Journal: Boost UBLAS matrix iterators and templates - Solved

Journal by npsimons

UPDATE: I had a look around, figured I would try substituting a std::vector<std::vector<double> > for the uBLAS matrix<double>, still got the same error. So I started looking better into templates (no, I'm not quite done with vol2 of "Thinking in C++") and found out about typename. Seems to fix the problem.

I know I should probably post this to stackoverflow or the Boost/UBLAS mailing list, but I figure there are plenty of smart people here at slashdot.

Let's say you are using UBLAS from Boost and you want to implement a cumulative summing function for matrices. Here's what I think is a fairly straightforward way to do it:

// For boost::numeric::ublas::matrix<>.
#include <boost/numeric/ublas/matrix.hpp>

// For std::partial_sum().
#include <numeric>

template<class T>
boost::numeric::ublas::matrix<T> cumSum
(const boost::numeric::ublas::matrix<T>& input_,
const bool& colWise_ = true)
{
using namespace boost::numeric::ublas;
using namespace std;

matrix<T> result_(input_);

if (colWise_)
for (matrix<T>::iterator2 colIter = result_.begin2();
colIter < result_.end2();
colIter++)
partial_sum(colIter.begin(),
colIter.end(),
colIter.begin());
else
for (matrix<T>::iterator1 rowIter = result_.begin1();
rowIter < result_.end1();
rowIter++)
partial_sum(rowIter.begin(),
rowIter.end(),
rowIter.begin());

return result_;
}

For now, I'm ignoring completely templatizing this to make the row-wise/column-wise distinction disappear in the code and focusing on just getting it working. Only it doesn't work; won't compile. Couldn't figure out why, but g++ kept saying it was expecting a ';' before colIter and rowIter. I had a hunch and replaced one of the iterator's 'T's with 'double' and it stopped complaining about that one. Am I missing something, or does UBLAS not implement iterators properly?What am I missing?

Bug

Journal: Slashdot link weirdness solved: rogue link tracker 5

Journal by nacturation

In the last week or two links to external sites on Slashdot generally don't seem to work unless I click several times. This only appears to happen on Firefox... Chrome is unaffected. I haven't tried IE, Safari, or any other browser. Finally fed up with it, I decided to look through the javascript to see if there was anything funky going on. Looks like there's a script being included from leads.demandbase.com that defines some kind of click tracker. Here's a snippet:

  • else if(a[i].className.match(/clicky_log_outbound/i)){clicky.add_event(a[i],"mousedown",clicky.outbound);}else{clicky.add_event(a[i],"mousedown",clicky.click);

So if you find you've oddly had to click a few times to RTFA, it's not your mouse button dying. Open up adblock and disable everything from leads.demandbase.com and it will be fixed. Links clicked once in Firefox will properly load as they used to. Thanks Slashdot for using an external company for tracking my click behavior. Though perhaps implementing this poorly is Taco's way of giving us a heads-up. Much like the "Idle" section, his overlords may have mandated the addition of this awesomeness to the site and by making it break it alerts us to what we need to block. In which case, a non-sarcastic thanks is due.

I also found this wonderful gem:

  • function pageload_done( $, console, maybe ){
            pageload.after_readycode = (new Date).getTime();
            pageload.content_ready_time = pageload.content_ready - pageload.before_content;
            pageload.script_ready_time = pageload.after_readycode - pageload.content_ready;
            pageload.ready_time = pageload.after_readycode - pageload.before_content; // Only report 1% of cases.
            maybe || (Math.random()>0.01) || $.ajax({ data: {
                    op: 'page_profile',
                    pagemark: pageload.pagemark,
                    dom: pageload.content_ready_time,
                    js: pageload.script_ready_time
            } });
    }

Unless my javascript is really rusty, won't this report 99% of cases?

Anyway, pass this information on so everyone can RTFA without the hassle.

User Journal

Journal: "I could care less"

Journal by nacturation

It's amazing how people try to rationalize away the phrase "I could care less", much in the same way that Star Wars apologists try to rationalize the use of parsecs when talking about the Kessel Run. Maybe there are black holes to navigate around, and minimizing the distance is the sign of a good pilot, or maybe this, or maybe that... or maybe George Lucas just made a mistake, you know?

So when it comes to people rationalizing away "I could care less" as being some nonchalant way of saying "yeah, I could but I'm not going to bother" I just don't buy it. It's a misquote of the perfectly unambiguous phrase "I couldn't care less". So when I stumbled across a rationalization of that, my mind wandered upon what I think is a pretty damned good analogy of why it doesn't make sense: I could eat more.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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