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Comment: Re:I have been wondering about WhatsApp (Score 1) 93

by ledow (#48427015) Attached to: WhatsApp To Offer End-to-End Encryption

I've heard of WhatsApp for ages.

Most of my contacts are on Whatsapp.

But I didn't start using it until my Italian girlfriend introduced me to it - because texting internationally via WhatsApp costs you 63p a year as opposed to nearly that per text!

All the ex-pats and foreigners that I know seem to be the biggest users of it.

Comment: Re:my takeaway (Score 1) 213

by ledow (#48425911) Attached to: Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

This is my biggest problem with "green" things.

Sure, we can make changes. But what impact will the changes have and, compared to what will happen otherwise, is that better for us or not? If the changes enforced by the new ideas actually cost us more than just carrying on anyway, or gain us nothing, we're really just wasting time.

As such, I often think that all the "renewable" debate is taking too long. Can't we just pump that money into fusion and be done with it? That would give us a kickstart to having more "clean" energy than we know what to do with and THEN we can start putting serious efforts into getting the hell off Earth or compensating for the damage we've done (and, literally, we could start expending energy directly and purposefully to reverse the changes we're making if we have that much energy just lying about to be consumed for the next few hundred years).

I've read a few writeups now where they over-egg the situation, blanketing the whole of my country with green power (wind, wave, tidal and solar) for instance in one of them, and then working out what difference it would make. The answer is quite often little.

The lack of long-term insight into the COSTS of doing what needs to be done don't give me confidence in the research. Sure, we can reduce consumption, reduce pollution, reduce all kinds of metrics, at a cost. But quite what would that mean for our way of living, and how much would that cost. How many people die because they can't put the heating on if you increase the cost of electrical production (or decrease the available power at certain times) by X%? It never seems to be included in the research.

Green tech solutions to climate change often rely on complete worldwide co-operation, full funding for research, global deployment and testing, and all resources pushed into making it work as well as possible. The cost of that is rarely studied to the same detail as the potential benefits.

If the cost of stopping the sea level rising is a million deaths worldwide because of energy shortage, increased costs, raised taxes, job losses, or whatever, is that better or worse than even abandoning countries and low-lying areas entirely? I have no idea. And unfortunately, it always seems that no-one else does either.

Comment: Re:Bad sign. (Score 2) 213

by ledow (#48425855) Attached to: Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

It's all a problem of advertising hype.

Old isn't "old".

It's tried.

Whenever someone says they want to throw out the "old", especially in computing terms (e.g. init systems, *cough*), I mentally substitute those words. And when I'm not immediately keen to jump on board, I get mocked.

Until the project flops, that is, or the reinvention of the wheel, or the having to sacrifice functionality, or the realisation that two systems are needed, or whatever.

There's a reason that large companies "extend" their existing products, rather than replace them. They "build upon" or "enhance", they don't rip out and start again.

Sometimes, yes, it's needed to start again. Linux printing went through enormous flux and had to be reinvented. But always be suspicious of "new" until it's proven itself better than "old" and is also old enough to be considered "old".

You can see it throughout computing. We used to have shared computing and terminals, then everyone got their own PC powerful enough for everything, then we tried to move people back to shared terminals over many years (thin clients, etc.) and made the same mistakes as why we abandoned those ideas in certain use cases (and yes, it's often more about use-cases, than about the technology as a whole), and now we're learning that cloud probably isn't the best idea for everything and so on.

In the best tradition: "Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it". And it applies not just to Unix.

Comment: Voice recognition - AI (Score 1) 62

by ledow (#48425177) Attached to: US Intelligence Unit Launches $50k Speech Recognition Competition

Given my own personal experience with voice recognition, it's not a problem we can throw money at. We can throw money AWAY trying, but we haven't improved much in many, many years of trying.

I don't have a particularly poor speech, or unusual accent, and English-speakers all understand me - even foreign English speakers like the one I live with. But speech recognition has always been an absolute flop unless I want to learn how to talk to the computer, which is the exact opposite of what I want to happen.

Since the first days of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, it's never been worth the training time even if all I'm doing it dictating serial numbers, or product codes, using simple single letters spaced out in a silent environment. Telling the difference between "eight" and "A" is much more involved than just context matching on a rough FFT of my voice.

And, as has been pointed out, someone who can do this will get a damn sight more than $50k reward as the patents would be worth billions.

To do it properly, we're really looking into problems that are the equivalent of the higher functions of AI.

Comment: Re:TFA: "what happened to freedom of speech?" (Score 2, Informative) 302

by ledow (#48417407) Attached to: UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

For a country "without free speech", we do pretty well and I can get away with ten times more than I could ever do in the US.

The hotel were talked to by Trading Standards, and have immediately revoked the policy (because it was legally dubious right from the outset). They are currently being spoken to also about refunding this "fine" despite the idiots signing a piece of paper that says they agreed with it (which is also legally dubious). And there doesn't need to be any change in the law because already, by the laws that exist, including by default many EU laws that do include free speech, the area is more than well enough covered, thanks.

The reason it makes news is not because it's legal to do what the hotel did. It absolutely is not legal. It's because it's OUTRAGEOUS to even try, given the current laws. And they are quickly finding that out in more ways than just the Streisand Effect as they now have a lot of lawyers and government departments breathing down their necks.

There is nothing whatsoever in law that gives the hotel the right to do this, only the opposite, and no need for explicitly stating this beyond the existing laws. UK laws do not explicitly enshrine a number of things, like the "official" language of the country, the rights of free speech, etc. because they are just automatically entrenched in the law and the case law.

We don't have a "You have the right to say anything" law because we haven't needed one. You have pretty much the same rights as anywhere else in the EU, and a damn sight more rights than the US.

Remember the UK "super-injunctions" that supposedly stopped people talking about the very existence of another court injunction? It went down the pan because the media basically ignored it, made it front-page news for several months and then exposure of their existence meant they were dead - legally speaking - from that point. I can't imagine US media fighting like that for a second.

And the UK's defamation laws? We gave them to the US:

They've been through changes, and a number of high profile cases lately have resulted in changes, but asking someone who says you're a paedophile to prove so (and not be unchallengeable in court unless you can prove you're not) is not the end of free speech. And all those laws have been fixed for quite a while now.

You cannot, and cannot ever have been, successfully sued for your reasonable opinion, in any first-world country in modern times. What you can have been is defamed with absolute untruths and then had the defamer hiding behind "his opinion". That's always been true in any system.

Hence, as a Brit, I've never been one to hold back on forums, or otherwise. The threat to me is zero. I'm either clearly expressing an opinion or stating fact, and you cannot ever have been successfully sued for that.

The problem with the US is that they think they are a free country. However, whenever I've been there people are shocked at the opinions I express, the way I express them, and friends have honestly believed that I would get into trouble for expressing them. Yet, in the UK, if anything I'm considered quite passive.

The UK defamation laws give this place NO RIGHT whatsoever to block reviews of their business, nor to charge for them. Hence why the policy has been revoked on the same day and why government departments are "in discussions" with the hotel. That's English politeness for "We're currently explaining the law to them, and won't stop explaining it until we have to take them to court or they stop doing it of their own 'free will' ".

Comment: Re:Go back in time 5 years (Score 3, Insightful) 534

by ledow (#48416757) Attached to: Debian Votes Against Mandating Non-systemd Compatibility

Agreed. I don't get systemd. If people want to use it, fine. But, like Windows 8 taught Microsoft, giving people a one-click way of going back to the old-and-tested interface is always a) possible and b) sensible.

If systemd was really that good, I wouldn't need it foisted upon me forcibly, I'd be voluntarily choosing it rather than the default init on every distro I boot.

I think worse than pushing it on your users is this - saying you won't support the old way of doing for those that don't want to change.

All we need is one remote-root in systemd and people might start to think again.

Comment: Re:"Just pay extra..." (Score 1) 468

by ledow (#48409041) Attached to: Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

In my day too.

But you can't really have multiple peer-run servers co-operating in an MMO without cheating taking place. And that's basically what they've turned off - you won't get any "alternate universe" run by gamers on their own servers here.

The days of MUDs, and even just community servers, died when cheating became profitable. Sure, you can run your own TF2 / CS / other servers, but they won't be a part of the official game unless they defer to Valve's central servers for weapon drops, etc. As soon as any kind of digital content is the preserve of only paying people, all control is taken from the community's hands - and you can see why that has to be.

P.S. I have, or still do, run many servers for CS, CS:CZ, Altitude, OpenTTD and a multitude of other games.

Comment: Re:Apparently "backers" don't understand the term (Score 4, Insightful) 468

by ledow (#48409023) Attached to: Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

Agreed. However, crowdfunding for something and then completely abandoning the idea is only going to prompt ire.

You're still obliged, in law, to deliver what you promised you would. Sure, it's almost impossible to enforce that, but you can't go spending the money on holidays in the Caribbean nor can you use it to develop an entirely different game or product. People have had their projects shut down and been chased through the courts for failing to deliver on Kickstarter. It's not easy, but it's no different to any other payment. If you misrepresent what you're going to receive in return for someone's money, it's fraud whether it's an investment, crowdfunding, or written into a sales contract.

To be honest, E:D is my worst Kickstarter. I've contributed to a handful and they've all been great, whether for physical products, digital content, or whatever. I've got several rare beauties of games (I collect mathematically-interesting board / card games), good video games on Steam (including copies), video graphics hardware, all kinds from it.

E:D is disappointing, however, mostly because of the constant demands for more money and the complete under-delivery of the base product. I backed it out of retropathy, yet I have ZERO idea how it plays as yet. That doesn't bother me. But being told "Just X amount of money more and you could see how it plays!" every week in an email is really grating. I regret backing E:D just because of the lack of real return for the backers as yet, and the constant demands for more cash.

That said, it was such a pittance that I don't really care because I always follow your "rule": Never crowdfund with money you can't afford to lose.

Comment: "Just pay extra..." (Score 5, Informative) 468

by ledow (#48408995) Attached to: Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

Elite Dangerous is a shower.

I'm one of the backers of the Kickstarter. I am absolutely TIRED of being asked for more money for every damn thing they do.

The number of paid Alpha's, premium content, several Beta's (Beta Premium!) is unbelievable and they seem to want to make me wait until the very day of release before I get anything out of my backing unless I pay more money.

Sure, I get a "reserved Commander name" and a couple of bits of digital content but I have seen nothing of the actual game in all that time except for the occasional screenshot. They have probably made more from the Beta's than they have from the Kickstarter, and every damn newsletter is "just another $15 will get you this...".

I've totally lost any interest and regret backing but, unlike some, I'm true to my word so have written off the money I've given them so far. I've truly not expected to see the game because every preview/screenshot/update still without any access by myself but with begging all the way through it just disappoints me further. If they are milking it that early, what the hell is going to happen in-game when they want to form the economies?

I'm honestly fatigued by the requests for money, which they are still putting in every newsletter. It makes me worry that any final game is going to die from budgetary shortages the second it's release because the begging is so intense.

Meanwhile, all I have to show for backing it is a cart with one item "bought" that I can't touch for another month or so and that's all I ever had.

Honestly? I'm sick of it already. And I haven't even got to play it. Given that it was one of the largest and most successful Kickstarter projects there was, I'm a bit disgusted by how much more they seem to want in order to let me see how it plays, even in a tiny demo.

It's gonna be an over-hyped flop, isn't it? Or crash and burn in the first few months when the servers can't be kept running due to lack of budgeting. And to leave it until NOW to tell people about the lack of single-player, while you're still pasting in 4K screenshots and plugs for various books written in the Elite:Dangerous universe (that doesn't exist yet as far as I'm concerned)? I just don't care any more.

The one Kickstarter project that I really regret backing.

Comment: Re:I don't understand the attacks. (Score 2) 546

My problem with systemd is not the features. It's the way they are implemented.

I'm not sure that a slightly faster boot-up or easier package maintenance can ONLY come about by completing abandoning every vestige of a well-established init system. And I'm pretty sure that if we wanted to, someone could make the same features work with SysVInit too.

Feature-creep is the real problem. For the cost of slightly faster bootup, I lose an awful lot of old functionality that's been around forever, for no reasonable reason. There's no reason logs have to be binary, etc. in order to make that work.

And as has been discussed here before, most of systemd's nice features come about because of things like cgroups and other new functionality, not systemd itself. Make SysVInit cgroup-aware and things could be an awful lot nicer.

Standardising on a format for init files isn't worth completely abandoning all the previous init system and every Unix principle for. But the only people who care about that are the programmers and geeks, not the "so long as it just works" desktop users (of which Linux apparently has a surprising amount nowadays).

Comment: Re:Coward (Score 1) 546

I think it takes a much braver person, mid-flow, knowing they are going to attract vitriol, to stand up and say "Sorry, I don't think I can do this". Only cowards are subject to peer pressure like yours.

How many large projects would be saved (maybe we couldn't say they weren't delayed or hindered, but still saved) by someone stopping in the middle saying "It's too much, I can't do it". Rather than the management-ese of "Let's push on through anyway", I'd much rather someone said.

It's also an indication of the state of the project. Say you have poured your heart into a project. And then realised that it's not going to work, it's not what you thought it was, it's too much work for such an outcome. Are you saying that you shouldn't say "stop"? Or at the very least "Sorry, I'm out". If things aren't heading where you thought they would be, and you can't steer the ship back to the right course, it's better to abandon it than help it crash into the rocks.

Sure, it sucks to be the guy that takes over, but that's not his concern because he WAS the guy that was doing all that stuff already - and they are all volunteers, anyway. I believe it says in the various Debian stuff about how nobody should feel obliged to continue in their post if they don't want to.

A coward would keep their heads down, run the ship into the rocks, then quietly slip away. Or even just say nothing and not do any more work. It takes a person of character to announce "I'm abandoning" and jumping into the ocean first, alone. At least then, everyone knows where they stand.

Comment: What about? (Score 1) 223

by ledow (#48391045) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Programming Education Resources For a Year Offline?

Take nothing except a bare-bones computer.

By hook or by crook, with the tools you have, build a compiler, then from there build up libraries. Then build up what you can with no external help.

Thousands of people have done this in the past, on new platforms, custom hardware, and just because nothing existed at the time. It's not impossible. And I think you'll learn more from doing that than anything you can carry on a Kindle could teach you.

Programming is about DOING. Any idiot can read a C++ book and understand it. Try applying it and it's a different matter.

You'll understand more about a computer than any book can teach you by having to get it going yourself.

Comment: Re:Ok, even giving them the benefit of the doubt (Score 3, Insightful) 262

by ledow (#48384825) Attached to: Ubisoft Points Finger At AMD For Assassin's Creed Unity Poor Performance

"pre-release copies they gave game reviewers came with an embargo that lasted 17 hours into the release date"

Always an encouraging sign to any sensible buyer.

STOP BUYING STUFF ON RELEASE. Wait a day. A week. A month. Until then, I have no sympathy for people lumbered with a buggy release based on paid-for or embargoed reviews.

Chairman of the Bored.