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Comment: Re:Don't do it. Linux sucks as an XP workgroup (Score 1) 451

by michael_cain (#46718259) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace?
Yeah, the OP seems to imply that there are other people who have newer hardware running something other than XP -- he's talking about stragglers. One of the starting points is to go see whoever is responsible for budget planning. In my experience, they're more likely than anyone to be locked into the full-blown Windows version of Excel (full-blown meaning VBA, Solver, particular statistics packages, etc). Ask them how much of the budget data flow is broken if people don't have Excel compatibility at that level. And whether they're willing to rebuild the data flow around a different spreadsheet program (again, my experience is that the answer to that is not only "no," but "Hell, no!").

Comment: Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (Score 1) 512

by michael_cain (#46612147) Attached to: Why <em>Darmok</em> Is a Good <em>Star Trek: TNG</em> Episode
Or enough math to do the physics for warp drive. Ask anyone who's taken math-heavy graduate classes: notation, the language, matters a lot. The British fell behind Continental Europe in terms of advancing analysis, and stayed behind, until they finally tossed Newton's notation in favor of Leibniz.

Comment: Re:Code I consider 'elegant'. (Score 1) 373

by michael_cain (#46585999) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?
My standards for my own code are considerably lower. I settle for, "If I can read it and understand how it all works after not touching it for six months, that's good enough." Once upon a time I had to use APL to to handle a batch of numerical problems, and never managed to reach that bar no matter how hard I tried :^)

Comment: Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (Score 1) 127

by michael_cain (#46233337) Attached to: National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy
No mod points today, but yeah, I think maintaining precision in the process of capturing power output at the level of several hundred megawatts is going to be interesting. I'm getting up there in years; I've pretty much given up on commercial fusion power in my lifetime.

Comment: Re:Do they need it? (Score 1) 212

It's interesting to look at the county-level primary maps prior to the point where everyone else folded and gave the nomination to Romney. In state after state, Romney won the urban and inner suburban counties (that Obama would win in the general). And lost the rural areas, usually to the "more conservative" candidate du jour. There was a steady stream of headlines of the form: "<X and Y> win primaries" with the subhead "Romney increases delegate lead". The Republicans' fundamental policy and demographic problems can be summed up as, "They hate cities, and most of the people who live in cities." Long-term trends suggest that's going to be a serious problem.

Comment: Re:duh (Score 1) 265

And, if so, why is society prepared to live with their politicians and staff acting like such douchebags?

Consider for a moment what it takes to get elected as governor of one of the big populous states, or as President. The media is going to go back through most of your adult life with a fine-tooth comb. They're going to demand that you explain anything of potential interest in your tax returns. If you stumble over the wording in a speech, the tenth or twelfth time you've given it and you're sick of it, the stumble will be analyzed to death. You'll be called all sorts of vile things. If you're married, your spouse will probably get called names also. And then there's the fundraising bullshit... someone you can't stand offers the campaign a million dollars, and you have to play nice with them.

The kind of people that you (and I) would like to see in public office, who worry about doing the right things by their state/country, run screaming from even the idea of putting themselves and their family through the process.

Comment: Misc Titles (Score 1) 796

by michael_cain (#45840991) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Books Everyone Should Read?
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet -- Given the number of good things that have been written that borrow the whole story, it's worth reading the original. Shakespeare borrowed the story himself, but improved it greatly.

Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye -- Ignore how much Larry and Jerry wish we would give up an elected executive and install a monarch; it's still one of the very best first contact novels.

Michener's The Source -- Fictional but well-researched story of the evolution of religions in the Middle East, warts and all. Actually, more about the warts than anything else.

Comment: Re:A step backward (Score 1) 606

by michael_cain (#45796417) Attached to: How Ya Gonna Get 'Em Down On the UNIX Farm?
At some point I ended up writing a couple of small GUI applications with CodeWarrior, although on much more capable machines than the one where my colleague first ran MPW. The only thing I remember about the experience was being frustrated by having to learn yet another text editor, and one that wasn't -- IMO at the time -- nearly as competent as vi for writing code.

Comment: Re:A step backward (Score 1) 606

by michael_cain (#45793313) Attached to: How Ya Gonna Get 'Em Down On the UNIX Farm?
The guy in the cubicle next to mine got one of the early versions of MPW for the Mac. He thought it was hilarious that the first thing the software did when launched was open up a 24x80 terminal window running a CLI... More seriously, small text-based interfaces can provide a lot of bang for the buck when resources are scarce. MacFORTH was the first development environment for the Mac; you still see FORTH implementations in boot loaders; text-based interfaces ought to be in most programmers' box of tools, even if they seldom need (or in writing most software, want) one. Developers are sort of a natural group to make use of such interfaces, since the very large majority of them are going to spend lots of time writing down what the computer should do in a procedural text-based language...

Comment: Re:Probably Apple (Score 1) 59

by michael_cain (#45507191) Attached to: Intel Opens Doors To Rivals, Maybe
There were a whole series of stories in the EE Times about 18 months ago when Intel started selling capacity on their then leading-edge fab line. The reality at the time was that Intel couldn't sell enough parts to keep the line full, and were going to eventually have to take big write-downs unless they found a way for the line to generate more revenue. That continues to be true. The really interesting event over the last 18 months has been the announcements by a number of Far East foundry companies that they can't afford to build fab lines that go below 20-nm. There seems to be a growing body of evidence that Rock's Law is starting to bite, and that as components shrink past 14-nm, there will be very, very few places in the world where you can get such parts made.

Comment: Re:Fucking rednecks (Score 1) 1030

by michael_cain (#45496811) Attached to: A War Over Solar Power Is Raging Within the GOP
If it generates electricity, China is pushing it -- solar, wind, coal, NG, giant hydro dams, nuclear... They're trying to lift hundreds of millions of people up to some sort of modern, at least lower middle class lifestyle in a remarkably short period of time. And understand that to do that will require prodigious additional generating capacity.

Comment: Re:No, for many reasons (Score 1) 226

by michael_cain (#45492139) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Reproducible Is Arithmetic In the Cloud?
The LANL presentation (and related material) is important to anyone who conducts extremely long-running calculations and thinks that they can have repeatability. Nor are the results new. 20+ years ago, paired lock-stepped 68020 processors with external hardware continuously checking pin states on output found that single-bit differences in results occurred about once every 30 days (proprietary data that I was shown under NDA, don't know that it was ever published). Contemporary hardware has considerably smaller geometry and runs at much higher clocks and lower voltages.

Ma Bell is a mean mother!