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Comment: Vital information lacking... (Score 1) 486

by itsdapead (#48938387) Attached to: The Gap Between What The Public Thinks And What Scientists Know

It would help enormously if the survey makers would kindly supply the correct answers to those questions (along with some indication of confidence intervals) so we could judge whether the "scientists" or the general public had got it right.

(Hint: in most cases I suspect the correct answer is "Please could you ask a more specific question that could lead to a meaningful answer, not one borrowed from a tabloid headline?")

E.g. I don't worry about dropping dead because I've eaten a GM tomato, I worry more about GM crops who's raison d'etre is to sell more weedkiller, or what insect-repellant varieties could do to insect populations (and whatever used to eat the insects that fed on the non-GM plants) and I worry like hell about all the world's essential food crops ending up '(c) & Pat. pending Monsanto , all rights reserved'.

Comment: The scale just doesn't compare (Score 1) 236

by itsdapead (#48923319) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

There was still plenty of room left in Europe when pilgrims settled in America.

You're assuming that the task of crossing the Atlantic in the 17th Century is a feat comparable to a more advanced civilisation travelling dozens of lightyears in space. We are a more advanced civilisation - and not only are we still doing pretty badly at human space exploration, we're staring to form pretty successful scientific theories that show the task will be very, very difficult - and could be impossible. You're basing your argument on the (non-falsifiable) notion that an advanced civilisation will develop technology indistinguishable from magic - in an age where science is capable of asking quite a few awkward questions about magic w.r.t. little things like causality and the laws of thermodynamics...

At that time, travelling to America may have not been a picnic, but was still "only" a matter of months. Ships were readily available (the Mayflower was just a garden variety merchant ship). Coming back was unlikely (for the majority of the passengers) but not impossible. Trade with the old world was still feasible (much of the exploration of the new world at the time had a view to bringing resources back to Europe) and the climate on the East coast of America may have proven to be a bit nippy, but you could breathe the air, drink the water, eat native plants and animals and be reasonably confident that your seeds would go.

So, the question is, would the pilgrims still have left Europe for America if it meant a shipbuilding programme that made Apollo look like a science fair project, then spending the rest of their life on a ship, never seeing land, in the hope that their great-grandchildren would finally arrive in America - and then face the task of another generation or two on the ship terraforming the land before they could start ploughing and planting?

Especially given that, if you could buy a ship that could survive for many lifetimes in the middle of the Atlantic without support, wouldn't it be a hell of a lot easier just to build a big raft and park it sufficiently far offshore that the people you were running from wouldn't bother you?

Then, seriously, what do you think the chances are of a bunch of religious fundamentalists crewing a generation ship without overpopulating, schisming, squandering resources, killing each other and regressing to savagery (the 56th law of Science Fiction)? Yet in a society without the tendency for people to persecute each other in an argument over the colour of the sky fairy's wings, their motivation for embarking on the journey wouldn't have existed...

Comment: Re:Ugly as it can be? (Score 2) 208

by itsdapead (#48922901) Attached to: Latest Windows 10 Preview Build Brings Slew of Enhancements

But it's a stretch to say this trend is copying Apple. Windows 8 came out long before Apple's new "flat" look came out, unless I'm aware of a trend that started before that in the Apple camp.

Nah - I think the "skeuomorphism considered harmful" movement comes from form-over-function graphic design numpties who were tired of actual content, meaning or useful visual cues for functionality polluting their minimalist design and stealing valuable screen area that could be used for whitespace, irrelevant generic images of shiny happy people or corporate identity guff. It was showing up on websites etc. (Slashdot's Bucking Feta was fairly late to the party) long before Apple went flat. Google have been going down the same route for some time, too.

Apple didn't help by coming up with some appallingly bad skeuomorphic UIs shortly before they went flat: someone had completely forgotten that the point of making something look like, say, a physical book is to suggest to the user that it works like a physical book (e.g. with data arranged in pages). Apps like Contacts and Calendars looked like books, or flip-over calendars, but didn't work remotely like such things, leaving the user with a load of totally misleading visual cues. (Subsequently copying them from iOS to OSX, where the mouse-based interface made them work even less like the physical object didn't help, either). Now, the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater, and we're left with "mystery meat" UIs with nothing to distinguish the controls from the content.

Comment: Early fragmentation (Score 4, Interesting) 488

by itsdapead (#48899661) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

One early problem with Pascal was fragmentation: while there were various decent, proprietary, dialects that let you actually write code that did stuff, *standard* Pascal was as much use as a chocolate teapot. Standard Pascal had lousy I/o and minimal libraries. the standard didn't even specify how to open a file, whereas C always had a decent subset of the Unix API as part of the de-facto K&R standard.

Had Pascal come a few years later when the IBM PC had crushed all before it, then something like Turbo Pascal might have been far more successful. However, back when there was more than one type of PC to worry about, C's huge standard library, and it's preprocessor for fixing minor dialect issues made it unbeatable for writing portable code.

Comment: (Score 1) 332

by itsdapead (#48894143) Attached to: UHD Spec Stomps on Current Blu-ray Spec, But Will Consumers Notice?

I miss the days of NTSC, a standard that lasted half a lifetime. This upgrade-your-TV-every-6 months crap is getting old. And get off my lawn.

Some of us grew up with PAL, which made HD even less of a priority.

Quite frankly 720 or compressed-to-shreds 1080i isn't worth the effort c.f. PAL, and although proper 1080p from BluRay is rather more impressive, I can't say it has spoiled me for anything less - a PAL DVD on a ~40" HD screen with upsampling doesn't exactly make you want to claw your eyes out.

Comment: Re:3-format packs coming (Score 1) 332

by itsdapead (#48894065) Attached to: UHD Spec Stomps on Current Blu-ray Spec, But Will Consumers Notice?

DVD, Blu Ray and UHD in the same box. For only $10 extra, be even more future proof than with just dvd and blu ray!

Don't forget the 3D Blu Ray version and free Digital Copy (download only, not compatible with iTunes, Linux or any system that our proprietary player takes a dislike to, offer expired 1 month before this disc dropped to a sane price).

Comment: Depends on the need... (Score 2) 302

by itsdapead (#48874481) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Has the Time Passed For Coding Website from Scratch?

I'd ask yourself (or the client):

  1. Is the content regularly changing?
  2. Does the client want to update and add content themselves?
  3. Are they happy with a slightly generic look and structure rather than a completely bespoke interface?
  4. Do they want 'blog' functionality - i.e. users can comment directly on each article?
  5. Do they want a system where the bloody <ol> tag is still bloody broken? :-)

If the answer to several of those questions is "yes" and you don't already have a bulging toolkit of your own solutions, then I'd go with off-the-shelf CMS or blogging software. Alternatively, you could do a really nice front-end "sales brochure" in lovingly handcrafted HTML and then link to a CMS/Blog for news, support, customer forums etc.

Frameworks... can have uses but beware the "rapid application development" tarpit whereby you get your basic site/application working in record time and then hit a brick wall because you need to do something that the framework designer never anticipated.

Comment: Easy... (Score 1) 648

by itsdapead (#48856887) Attached to: Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming

So, if it was your call, what would be your choice for the Best Programming Language for High School?

The problem I'd have with VB at that level is that it is PC/Windows-only, and only available for free/cheap subject to Microsoft's licensing whims.

Pros: runs on anything with a web browser - if you host the kids work on a server they can run their work on their unrooted phones, tablets, games consoles, chromebooks...; you can get jobs writing it; it goes hand-in-hand with web design skills and its relatively easy to make nice UIs in HTML; easy for kids to share their work.
Cons: it's Javascript!

I think I'd seriously look at Javascript because of that list of 'pros' - and if that is unconscionable, something like Dart or Haxe that 'compiled' to JavaScript but fixed its, er... more easily misunderstood features, set up with a web-based editor/UI that made writing and running a simple function straightforward and hid all the boilerplate.

Of course, an important part of the course, later on, would be to learn about other programming languages, compilers, libraries etc.

That said, the main thing is not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and not to force teenagers into something obscure or incomprehensible on the belief that if they didn't learn {insert trendy programming paradigm de jour}, or used something that didn't have a A**** freeness rating from the FSF, that they'd be scarred for life. The world will not end if they learn VB, Python or Java.

Comment: Re:Just World Fallacy vs. Vanity Industrial Comple (Score 2) 168

by itsdapead (#48849211) Attached to: FDA Approves Implantable Vagus Nerve Disruptor For Weight Loss

Well, I don't know who to root for.

Don't worry - the tendency to see both sides of an issue is a genuine medical affliction brought on by an over-active brain. Soon they'll have an implant to help such people reduce every issue affecting the world to a simplistic false dichotomy, taking away the uncomfortable urge to try and deal with complexity.

Meanwhile, you just need to rely on willpower to suppress your skepticism when reading stories like this.

Comment: Re:Can I have four? (Score 1) 148

by itsdapead (#48830141) Attached to: Best current live-action TV show based on comics?

After being burned by them so many times I'm afraid of watching the show and liking it, only to turn around and watch it get cancelled on some cliffhanger

Spoiler: Gordon survives to become police commissioner, young Bruce Wayne survives and grows up to be Batman, Selena Kyle survives and becomes Catwoman; Cobblepot survives and takes to wearing a tux and top hat; several "good" characters with familiar names and hints of a "dark side" survive and turn into villains; while any character that doesn't appear in the comics probably won't survive a cliffhanger.

Comment: Re:Utopia? (Score 1) 148

by itsdapead (#48829927) Attached to: Best current live-action TV show based on comics?

I don't think it was cancelled, in the sense that it was never implemented as a series in the way a traditional US series is implemented (100 episodes to guarantee syndication etc.)

Well, that's true of virtually all UK shows (and they're generally better for it). I think "cancelled" is still appropriate when the creators looked set to continue but the channel pulls the plug for commercial reasons (which seems to be the case for Utopia) c.f. ones that are intentionally concluded like "Life on Mars".

Of course, with some shows its hard to tell a cliffhanger from a conclusion.

It really, really annoys me when shows end the season without resolving anything - have the makers never heard of shows getting cancelled? At least both series of Utopia resolve the main plot in the final episodes before throwing a curve-ball cliffhanger.

NB: Apparently there's talk of a US remake of Utopia. Hmm.

Comment: Re:Freedom of what exactly. (Score 1) 894

by itsdapead (#48820975) Attached to: Pope Francis: There Are Limits To Freedom of Expression

Freedom of speech is freedom from oppression from the government.

No, freedom of speech is freedom of speech.

What you say may be completely true of the US 1st Amendment, and somewhat true about Article 10 or the European Declaration of Human Rights, but neither of those is the be-all and end-all of the ideal of "freedom of speech".

Comment: Utopia? (Score 2) 148

by itsdapead (#48814871) Attached to: Best current live-action TV show based on comics?

OK, Utopia is neither based upon a comic or, technically, current (since its been cancelled*) but it does feature a fictitious comic book as a plot device and the cinematography is heavily influenced by comic book art (if you like over-saturated colour, you're in for a treat).

Not for the faint hearted or easily offended, though.

(* but it does come to a reasonably satisfying conclusion so don't let that deter).

Of the official list: only really seen two: SHIELD is OK (but it ain't Firefly, although 'the bus' looks hauntingly familiar from some angles) and Gotham is rather good (and certainly isn't like any Batman story you've seen - I just hope they keep their nerve and don't break out the tights, top-hats and make-up until the last ever episode).

Comment: Re:All words (Score 1) 174

by itsdapead (#48810677) Attached to: Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

The full unabridged OED takes up a huge chunk of wall space

...or a memory chip the size of a baby's fingernail. I mean, it is reassuring to have a few physical copies sitting in libraries around the world for sentimental purposes and backup in the event of the great EMP, but there's no other rational need for a paper dictionary. In modern society, if the power has been out for a week, the inability to have a properly refereed game of Scrabble is going to be the least of your worries.

Up until the coming of digital books nobody had space for a full unabridged OED

...which ceased to be an issue a quarter of a century ago with the arrival of the CD-ROM. Not sure exactly when it became feasible to have the entire OED on your phone, but it certainly wasn't yesterday.

Consequently, you now need exactly 2 versions of a dictionary: the unabridged version and one abridged just enough to make it unsuitable for professional linguists (so you can make a profit from the pros). Size is not an issue for any of those and there's no reason whatsoever to take out words 'to make room for new ones'. If a word has fallen out of use, make a note to that effect: the fact that it was used is valuable information.

"May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." -- George Carlin