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Comment Hate to explain jokes but... (Score 1) 122

// Contrived, but this kind of thing can happen in duck-typed languages like Javascript
// if you're reading user input and forget explicit casts.

function duckTypingIsGood() {
    return Math.random()<=0.06;
    return 0;

var votes = '';

for ( var i=0; i<100; i++ ) {
   if ( duckTypingIsGood() ) votes = votes + 1;

console.log("In a survey of 100 programmers, "+votes+" thought duck-typing was a good idea")

// Output: In a survey of 100 programmers, 111111 thought duck-typing was a good idea

Comment Re:Scrounging is also key (Score 1) 122

The key being that they have a standard hdmi along with the composite video. Also they have 4 standard USB plugs.

The Pi Zero was a limited edition mainly designed to be 'given away' stuck to a magazine cover. Hence the low-profile ports and lack of a header socket on the IO. If it goes into full production it will probably be targeted at robotics/control projects where the lack of bulk is a plus.

But there is no scrounging the strange little mini-hdmi. I have never seen one of those in my life or career.

UK Pi resellers are selling kits with mini-hdmi and mini-usb adapters, and a few other odds and ends, for £6. In any case, they're all widely used on phones

So I don't see this new Pi as something for the kid who has nothing, but ideal for people like me with money and giant parts' bins who are building IoT and robots.

Ding!!! Reality: if the "kid who has nothing" can't scrounge a 10-year-old PC from somewhere then lack of access to computing is the least of their problems. The people really buying these are the ones that want a cheap, disposable computer to tinker with or dedicate to lowly tasks (I have one Pi doing DNS/DHCP for my network and another as a 'set top box').

Comment Re:How much do they really cost? (Score 1) 122

Surely, someone could sell a fully functional version including case, os-loaded sd card, hdmi, usb and wi-fi for ~$30 and still make money, right?

Sure - there are plenty of such bundles for the "full-size" Raspberry Pi (usually still as parts but we're talking 30 second assembly time here, unless you get one of those PiBow cases where it takes forever to peel the protective film off all of the slices...). Nobody has done it for the Pi Zero yet because its a one-off stunt to put a "computer" on a magazine cover, which they may or may not decide to put into full production. In any case, many of the applications for the Pi (especially the ultra-stripped-down Pi Zero) are for robotics, modelling etc. where they're going to be put in custom cases or - at the very least - you'll want to plug wires into them.

Despite lofty goals of teaching schoolkids to program, most of these are being bought by the sort of nerd who can already lay their hands on phone chargers, SD cards, USB hubs, HDMI cables etc. The basic Pi 2 case is about £6 and snaps together in seconds.

Comment Oh come on... (Score 1) 122

But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P. [my bold]

Well, yes - if you add the cost of the mini-HDMI-to-HDMI dongle to the Pi and conveniently ignore the fact that the CHIP needs a $15 daughterboard for HDMI. I gave up on fuzzy composite video connections sometime in the 80s. The CHIPs main advantage seems to be bluetooth & wifi - but many applications of the Pi Zero won't need it: just load up the SD card on a PC or another Pi, plug it in and go. Its all swings and roundabouts, and which is best is going to depend on your application. If you actually want a general-purpose computer you'd probably do better to push the boat out on something like a Pi 2 model B.

The USP of all of these devices is that they are sufficiently cheap that (a) if you make something you want to keep, you just buy another one and (b) if, in your tinkering, you let the magic smoke out, there's no great drama.

Lets get real here, though, the Pi Zero is a single-run "special edition" mainly created for the publicity stunt of giving one away 'free' on a magazine cover and is already pretty much sold out (reference here) and the CHIP is only available by pledging to the kickstarter campaign (3rd FAQ here). While its quite likely that either or both of them will be popular enough to go into full production, who knows what the actual prices and specs will be?

Comment But we're already relying on artificial scarcity (Score 4, Interesting) 563

there will always be something that someone has which someone else wants, but can't get on their own

Star Trek and Iain Banks' Culture books would be really boring if that wasn't the case :-) - both are mainly based on the adventures of the minority of society who were not content to sit at home and enjoy their free bread and circuses.

For as long as communities have existed, there has been evidence of bartering. Unless you have infinite resources...

Yet one of the "wonders" of modern society is that we have a "fiat" monetary system that has dropped any pretence of a link between the value of money and essential resources. In the past, people could have starved because a crop failure made food unaffordable. These days, its just as likely for the problem to be that nobody has grown any food because the markets have gone chaotic and dropped the price of food below the cost of production. At times in the recent past, farmers in the West are being paid not to produce food to create artificial scarcity. Oil-producing countries will deliberately reduce their output to prop up the oil price.

For many people, most of their salary goes, not on food, but on paying back the artificially-inflated price of the roof over your head (and much of the other money you spend goes to pay other people's wages so they can pay their rents and mortgages). The only reason housing costs so much is that the prices have been severed from 'what people are willing or able to pay' to 'how much phoney money banks are prepared to lend'.

The other area to look at is software, music and film: in the 21st century the cost of physical production and distribution has become trivial, the only significant, necessary, expense is the human talent - and that work is sufficiently enjoyable that people are prepared to do it for nothing. The open-source software scene is the closest we come to 'post-scarcity' economics, and it doesn't seem to be a total bust. The internet was largely created by government-funded science, education and military establishments (i.e. by people who had food, clothing and housing provided by society so they could work on interesting things) who gave away the software. Early websites were made by volunteers - capitalism's main contribution since then has been continual efforts add artificial scarcity to the internet by introducing proprietary standards and abusing the patent system. Music and film, again: the whole digital rights mess is caused by the old industries trying to create artificial scarcity - film and TV are being pushed 'upmarket' because the low end of the market are happy to watch their peers' cat videos on Youtube.

The problem is always how we could get from here to there, not whether "there" would work. If everybody is provided with food and a place to live so they don't need wages, all your resources are harvested by machines and your machines are made by other machines then it won't cost you anything to build the infrastructure to give everybody food and a place to live etc. Oops. serious bootstrap problem.

Plus, human nature - one problem with Socialism/Communism etc. is that, in the past, if the wealth had really been shared out evenly, it would have been spread rather thinly and the majority of people (at least in the 'first world') would have to put up with a simpler lifestyle, so huge numbers of people have an incentive to game the system and be a bit more equal. Post-scarcity needs to improve the life of the majority, and to provide plenty of opportunities for the remaining psychopaths to become starship captains, order people around and shoot Romulans or join Special Circumstances and go rogue on some primitive planet...

Of course, in the Culture it kind helped that humans were basically being kept as pets by all-powerful AIs, and in Star Trek every citizen of the Federation seemed to be such an absolute paragon of virtue that you wanted to slap them...

Comment Re:Like my boss always says (Score 5, Insightful) 281

No, but they can make a baby a month for 9 consecutive months. Increase the number of women a little and you can have a baby a month indefinitely.

Yes, but that involves waiting 9 months for the first baby. Our competitor already has a baby, so we need a baby now and I'm a manager which entitles me to behave like a spoilt 2 year old so don't give me any of that "I know biology" bullshit and get me a baby by the end of next week or I'll fire you and give the job to my nephew who says that we can have a baby in 7 days if we use Agile Procreation techniques.

9 months later: still no baby, but sprint 0.53.2 did produce a shaved rat embryo in a blue romper suit.

More seriously, producing one baby a month is routine production, and production lines work well for that. Producing software is almost always design and development, which is much harder to scale (of course, there must be a lot of creationists in management because even when they grudgingly accept that it takes 9 months to produce a baby, they still seem to think that the design and development should only take 7 days).

Comment Re:My nerdrage says: it's "Doctor Who" (Score 1) 79

It's called "Doctor Who." It's never been called Dr Who.

Hang on. If you looking carefully at the end credits for 'An Unearthly Child' (which is widely available on the interwebs) you'll see that - all the nerdy NOOO!!! he is called THE DOCTOR!!! notwithstanding - the character is actually credited as "Dr. Who".

If I'm found dead in a ditch with my head smashed in by a thermos flask (traces of Bovril detected) and fibres of imitation rabbit-fur under my nails (consistent with an anorak or parka) then we'll know that I should never have spoken of this...

Comment Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (Score 1) 79

Use the TARDIS to travel back to the first broadcast, capture it on a VCR, and be done with it?

It has been suggested...

"Certainly better than television and a great deal easier to use than a video recorder. If I miss a programme I just pop back in time and watch it. I'm hopeless fiddling with all those buttons..."

Douglas Adams: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (...but would probably have been in Doctor Who: Shada were it not for a strike at the BBC).

Comment Re:So basically (Score 1) 684

So basically, it would be exactly like the passage to the New World was, only a) without gravity, b) with far better entertainment and medical options, and c) you can actually phone home.

Except that when you got to the New World you could step off your ship - without simultaneously asphyxiating, freezing, getting fried by radiation and being covered in rather unpleasant dust - shoot a few buffalo for food and start planting your crops in the fertile soil. Even Antarctica or the top of Everest are pretty cosy compared to Mars. Plus, the great thing about sailing ships is that they didn't rely on your destination having fuel refineries to get back.

Trouble is, a lot of us grew up with the image of Mars as, at worst, somewhere you could get by with a fur coat and an oxygen mask or, at best, Barsoom. That meme takes a lot of shaking.

That said, when did "because its there" cease to be a good reason for doing something? Only, this time, please send some bone-fide scientists along with the jet jockeys.

Comment Re:The United States of America (Score 1) 263

Other countries don't have party-political candidates for school crossing attendants and second assistant dog catchers and hence have nice simple ballots where you have to write one X in one of half-a-dozen boxes or - at worst (where they use the alternatively-unfair-vote system) - write numbers in a few of them.

In that case, bits of paper with Xs on and human counters are a nice, scalable solution given that its only needed every couple of years.

Oh and other countries, if they really don't like the result, have a civil war. The US prefers to have lawsuits which (while obviously better from a humanitarian point of view) are more demanding when it comes to audit trails.

Comment Failing to be omniscient is not dumb (Score 1) 89

You called the article "dumb" because of your lack of knowledge? Interesting concept...

Not a difficult concept. Articles are supposed to transfer knowledge from people who know it to people who don't, and summary articles, in particular, are supposed to let everybody quickly decide whether they are interested enough to read on. If everybody knew everything we wouldn't need articles. Things that don't do what they are designed to do are dumb.

The "Version 1.25 of Qxwrple launched" pathology is common on Slashdot and really should be something high on editors and article submitters checklist. (At least in this case you only need to read as far as the second paragraph in TFA to get a clue as to what Plex does).

Of course, some judgement is required - this is a tech website after all - but there's a distinction between expecting the audience to know technical terms and expecting them to recognise every tech product name.

Comment Some clarification needed (Score 1) 142

For £15 you can get a sim with 20GB of data to use in a month in the US

This is probably the solution... if you live in the UK and visit the US for short periods. Yes, any voice calls to/from US phones count as "international" but if you call home it just counts as normal minutes. Yes, even if you have the 'unlimited data' plan, you only get 25GB when you're in the US - but that's probably still better than the locals are getting.

However it only makes sense if you live in the UK and use Three as your regular network. ISTR you need to have been subscribed for a month before they'll enable roaming. I assume that you can't sign up without a UK address - even if you can it's not going to make sense. So its not going to be a solution for our Scandinavian OP.

Unless some Scandinavian networks are offering a similar deal....

Comment You lost 90% of PC users at 'type'... (Score 1) 394

It took me less than 10 minutes to type apt-get install and receive the packages.

I opened the internet and typed Apt - get and I just got a Google page with a lot of nonsense on it.
Try typing it in the terminal, you say? Er, it says something about a lock file... What's that you say? Pseudo? Suedo? Er, what's my password...? Look, on my Windows machine I just typed "Skype" into the internet and it gave me a thing to download and run...

Seriously, although I agree that TFA smells seriously fishy, and I've known non-techy people who were quite happy with a well-set-up Linux system, people who say "you just type apt-get" and such are completely, utterly out of touch with the abilities of typical users.

There's such huge inertia behind Windows that MS can get away with debacles like Vista, Win 8 and the Office ribbon. Linux doesn't have that advantage - it needs to be twice as easy to use as Windows to win.

Adapt. Enjoy. Survive.