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Comment: Re:Must be an american thing ??? (Score 1) 60

by mcgrew (#47953295) Attached to: More unsurprisingly conservative ads on slashdot

The whole "needles in the eyeball" are just a stepping stone to something truly amazing.

Indeed. I was severely nearsighted all my life, after the cataract surgery I no longer need corrective lenses at all, not even reading glasses and I'm 62. My vision in that eye went from 20/400 to 20/16. Truly a miracle.

BTW, my retina surgeon said that my retinal detachment was a result of being so nearsighted; a nearsighted eyeball isn't perfectly round like a normally sighted person's eyes.

Comment: Re:Credit cards? (Score 1) 77

by mcgrew (#47948599) Attached to: Home Depot Says Breach Affected 56 Million Cards

I'm fine with the chip; that protects me, the bank, and the retailer. I am NOT fine with the PIN. My signature can't be stolen; if someone steals my card, the signature on the sales slip proves it's not me. But if someone steals your PIN they have your every penny.

It happened to me with a debit card. I welcome the chip, but of they add a PIN I'll cancel all my cards and go back to cash and checks, even though they're nowhere as convenient.

Comment: Re:Must be an american thing ??? (Score 1) 60

by mcgrew (#47948525) Attached to: More unsurprisingly conservative ads on slashdot

I hadn't had any of the accounts I'd used, either, and wasn't sure which one it was. Still got the account back, give 'em a try.

I had cataract surgery on that eye two years before the retina came loose. I did know a couple of guys who had vitrectomies followed by cataract surgery, but the needles don't go through the lens, they go in through the whites (photos at wikipedia). I suspect that a vitrectomy involves steroids; steroid eyedrops for an eye infection caused my cataract.

Comment: Re:Must be an american thing ??? (Score 2) 60

by mcgrew (#47935755) Attached to: More unsurprisingly conservative ads on slashdot

You can get your old account back if you can remember what your email address was. Send a note to help@slashdot.org.

I'd lost my account and they were very helpful about it.

As to your surgery, LISTEN TO THE DOCTOR!!! Helping that one person could prevent you from helping others in the future. Oh, and I empathize; I had a vitrectomy in 2008. Not the least bit fun.

Comment: Re:Simple set of pipelined utilties! (Score 1) 363

by hey! (#47930309) Attached to: Torvalds: No Opinion On Systemd

I don't think people understand the Unix philosophy. They think it's about limiting yourself to pipelines, but it's not. It's about writing simple robust programs that interact through a common, relatively high level interface, such as a pipeline. But that interface doesn't have to be a pipeline. It could be HTTP Requests and Responses.

The idea of increasing concurrency in a web application through small, asynchronous event handlers has a distinctly Unix flavor. After all the event handlers tend to run top to bottom and typically produce an output stream from an input stream (although it may simply modify one or the other or do something orthogonal to either like logging). The use of a standardized, high level interface allows you to keep the modules weakly coupled, and that's the real point of the Unix philosophy.

Windows

What To Expect With Windows 9 536

Posted by Soulskill
from the solid-color-rectangles dept.
snydeq writes: Two weeks before the its official unveiling, this article provides a roundup of what to expect and the open questions around Windows 9, given Build 9834 leaks and confirmations springing up all over the Web. The desktop's Start Menu, Metro apps running in resizable windows on the desktop, virtual desktops, Notification Center, and Storage Sense, are among the presumed features in store for Windows 9. Chief among the open questions are the fates of Internet Explorer, Cortana, and the Metro Start Screen. Changes to Windows 9 will provide an inkling of where Nadella will lead Microsoft in the years ahead. What's your litmus test on Windows 9?

Comment: Re:So, a design failure then. (Score 1) 164

by hey! (#47921919) Attached to: Developing the First Law of Robotics

It depends on your design goals.

In Asimov's story universe, the Three Laws are so deeply embedded in robotics technology they can't be circumvented by subsequent designers -- not without throwing out all subsequent robotics technology developments and starting over again from scratch. That's one heck of a tall order. Complaining about a corner case in which the system doesn't work as you'd like after they achieved that seems like nitpicking.

We do know that *more* sophisticated robots can designed make more subtle ethical systems -- which is another sign of a robust fundamental design. The simplistic ethics is what subsequent designers get when they get "for free" when they use an off-the-shelf positronic brain to control a welding robot or bread-slicing machine.

Think of the basic positronic brain design as a design framework. One of the hallmarks of a robust framework is that easy things are easy and hard things are possible. By simply using the positronic framework the designers of the bread slicing machine don't have to figure out all the ways the machine might slice a person's fingers off. The framework takes care of that for them.

Comment: Re:The protruding lens was a mistake (Score 2) 424

by hey! (#47921441) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

I don't think you've really grasped Apple's design sensibility. Job one for the designers is to deliver a product that consumers want but can't get anywhere else.

The "camera bulge" may be a huge blunder, or it may be just a tempest in a teapot. The real test will be the user's reactions when they hold the device in their hand, or see it in another user's hand. If the reaction is "I want it", the designers have done their job. If it's "Holy cow, look at that camera bulge," then it's a screw-up.

The thinness thing hasn't been about practicality for a long, long time; certainly not since smartphones got thinner than 12mm or so. They always been practical things the could have given us other than thinness, but what they want you to do is pick up the phone and say, "Look how thin the made this!" The marketing value of that is that it signals that you've got the latest and greatest device. There's a limit of course, and maybe we're at it now. Otherwise we'll be carrying devices in ten years that look like big razor blades.

At some point in your life you'll probably have seen so many latest and greatest things that having the latest and greatest isn't important to you any longer. That's when know you've aged out of the demographic designers care about.

Communications

Browser To Facilitate Text Browsing In Emergencies 40

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-upgrade-flash-now dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Programmers at Fast Company are developing the Cosmos browser to allow text browsing from Android phones when networks are buckling under the load of local disasters. A common phenomenon when disaster strikes is the overloading of cell and data networks by massively increased traffic. The Cosmos browser is intended to facilitate using SMS text messages, which often still get through in such circumstances. To quote one developer, "We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it." Sort of a Lynx comes to Android affair. The Smithsonian contemplates the possibilities, here."

Comment: Re:Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 4, Insightful) 191

by hey! (#47915329) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

I'd argue that we do try to write about the future, but the thing is: it's pretty damn hard to predict the future. ...
The problem is that if we look at history, we see it littered with disruptive technologies and events which veered us way off course from that mere extrapolation into something new.

I think you are entirely correct about the difficulty in predicting disruptive technologies. But there's an angle here I think you may not have considered: the possibility that just the cultural values and norms of the distant future might be so alien to us that readers wouldn't identify with future people or want to read about them and their problems.

Imagine a reader in 1940 reading a science fiction story which accurately predicted 2014. The idea that there would be women working who aren't just trolling for husbands would strike him as bizarre and not very credible. An openly transgendered character who wasn't immediately arrested or put into a mental hospital would be beyond belief.

Now send that story back another 100 years, to 1840. The idea that blacks should be treated equally and even supervise whites would be shocking. Go back to 1740. The irrelevance of the hereditary aristocracy would be difficult to accept. In 1640, the secularism of 2014 society and would be distasteful, and the relative lack of censorship would be seen as radical (Milton wouldn't publish his landmark essay Aereopagitica for another four years). Hop back to 1340. A society in which the majority of the population is not tied to the land would be viewed as chaos, positively diseased. But in seven years the BLack Death will arrive in Western Europe. Displaced serfs will wander the land, taking wage work for the first time in places where the find labor shortages. This is a shocking change that will resist all attempts at reversal.

This is all quite apart from the changes in values that have been forced upon us by scientific and technological advancement. The ethical issues discussed in a modern text on medical ethics would probably have frozen Edgar Allen Poe's blood.

I think it's just as hard to predict how the values and norms of society will change in five hundred years as it is to accurately predict future technology. My guess is that while we'd find things to admire in that future society, overall we would find it disturbing, possibly even evil according to our values. I say this not out of pessimism, but out my observation that we're historically parochial. We think implicitly like Karl Marx -- that there's a point where history comes to an end. Only we happen to think that point is *now*. Yes, we understand that our technology will change radically, but we assume our culture will not.

Comment: Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 5, Insightful) 191

by hey! (#47914675) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

The pessimism and dystopia in sci-fi doesn't come from a lack of research resources on engineering and science. It mainly comes from literary fashion.

If the fashion with editors is bleak, pessimistic, dystopian stories, then that's what readers will see on the bookshelves and in the magazines, and authors who want to see their work in print will color their stories accordingly. If you want to see more stories with a can-do, optimistic spirit, then you need to start a magazine or publisher with a policy of favoring such manuscripts. If there's an audience for such stories it's bound to be feasible. There a thousand serious sci-fi writers for every published one; most of them dreadful it is true, but there are sure to be a handful who write the good old stuff, and write it reasonably well.

A secondary problem is that misery provides many things that a writer needs in a story. Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I actually Tolstoy had it backwards; there are many kinds of happy families. Dysfunctions on the other hand tends to fall into a small number of depressingly recognizable patterns. The problem with functional families from an author's standpoint is that they don't automatically provide something that he needs for his stories: conflict. Similarly a dystopian society is a rich source of conflicts, obstacles and color, as the author of Snow Crash must surely realize. Miserable people in a miserable setting are simply easier to write about.

I recently went on a reading jag of sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and when I happened to watch a screwball comedy movie ("His Girl Friday") from the same era, I had an epiphany: the worlds of the sci-fi story and the 1940s comedy were more like each other than they were like our present world. The role of women and men; the prevalence of religious belief, the kinds of jobs people did, what they did in their spare time, the future of 1940 looked an awful lot like 1940.

When we write about the future, we don't write about a *plausible* future. We write about a future world which is like the present or some familiar historical epoch (e.g. Roman Empire), with conscious additions and deletions. I think a third reason may be our pessimism about our present and cynicism about the past. Which brings us right back to literary fashion.

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