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Comment: Re:Interesting, but ... (Score 1) 142

by JanneM (#48607289) Attached to: Want To Influence the World? Map Reveals the Best Languages To Speak

Great idea! Now we all only need to agree on which language to standardize on. I'm sure that worldwide discussion will be calm, focused and productive. Please post the results here in the thread once it's been decided.

I suggest Swedish. It's just about equally well known by almost everybody in the world, so nobody is starting out with an unfair advantage. I get a lifetime gig teaching Swedish to everybody. And you get umlauts! Win-win.

Oh, and by "suggest" I of course mean "absolutely demand or I will refuse any part of this scheme".

Comment: I thought power companies were happy to shed load? (Score 2) 280

by ZorinLynx (#48560569) Attached to: Utilities Face Billions In Losses From Distributed Renewables

We have a load control transponder here which allows the power company to temporarily shut off the air conditioner and/or water heater, basically creating a "rolling blackout" of just those devices when demand for power exceeds supply.

The fact that they deploy such devices suggests utilities would be happy to shed some load, especially during the brightest time of day when solar works best and air conditioners are working hardest.

So what's the deal? They want us to use more power after all?

Comment: Re:I use Unity. It's OK. (Score 1) 125

by JanneM (#48559313) Attached to: Unity 8 Will Bring 'Pure' Linux Experience To Mobile Devices

I pretty much agree. I'm an old-time Unix and Linux user, but Unity works pretty well for me. It mostly manages to get out of the way of my work - the single most important feature of any desktop - and things such as the single menu gives me vertical space for another line or two worth of visible code.

There are some real irritants. The window/app switcher has never gotten the distinction right (and I don't think it's possible), and the quick search misses things it should find. But these are smaller irritants on a desktop that does what it should do - be invisible unless I explicitly need any of it.

Comment: Re:So why no neural interface? (Score 2) 56

by JanneM (#48510649) Attached to: Stephen Hawking's New Speech System Is Free and Open-source

"we've got monkeys that have rapidly learned to control a robotic arm using only signals from a tiny cluster electrodes in their brain,"

"rapidly" and "control" are very much relative terms in this case. And note the "in their brain" - you need to implant an electrode array to get good, reliable signals. With monkeys you can do it to half a dozen animals and hope than one or two get a fully working implant. And the array has to be working for a few months or so. With a human patient you need to get it right every time, and the array has to be viable for a decade at the very least.

Comment: Re:Nice and all, but where's the beef? (Score 3, Funny) 127

by JanneM (#48395631) Attached to: US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer

How should one go about getting a job programming a large supercomputer?

Become a researcher in a field that makes use of lots of computing power, then specialize in the math modeling and simulation subfields. Surprisingly often it's quite easy to get time on a system if you apply as a post-doc or even a grad student. Becoming part of a research group that develops simulation tools for others to use can be an especially good way.

Or, get an advanced degree in numerical analysis or similar and get hired by a manufacturer or an organization that builds or runs supercomputers. On one hand that'd give you a much more permanent job, and you'd be mostly doing coding, not working on your research; on the other hand it's probably a lot harder to get.

But ultimately, why would you want this? They're not especially magical machines. Especially today, when they're usually Linux based, and the system developers do all they can to make it look and act like a regular Linux system.

If you want to experience what it's like, try this: Install a 4-5 year old version of Red Hat on a workstation. Install OpenMP and OpenMPI, and make sure all your code uses either or both. Install an oddball C/C++ compiler. Access your workstation only via SSH, not directly. And add a job queue system that will semi-randomly let your app run after anything from a few seconds to several hours.

Comment: Li-Ion batteries aren't good for this role (Score 5, Informative) 41

by ZorinLynx (#48388079) Attached to: Facebook Testing Lithium-Ion Batteries For Backup Power

Lead acid batteries last longest when they are fully charged and kept that way, and discharged infrequently. This makes them excellent for use in standby power situations, where they are almost always topped up ready for the power to go out.

Li-Ion batteries last longest when they are actively used. Keeping a Li-Ion battery fully charged all the time is bad for its longevity; the battery structure breaks down faster at a high state of charge. This is why it is recommended to store Li-Ion batteries half-charged in a cold environment, and why cars like the Tesla Model S normally only charge up to 80% unless you require a "full-range charge" for a road trip. Not topping off to 100% extends battery life.

Maybe Facebook intends to keep the batteries at 80%, but it's hard to believe the economics are going to work in their favor.

Not to mention that lead-acid batteries are mostly water and non-combustible sulfuric acid. A Li-Ion battery fire is 50 times nastier than a lead-acid battery fire, and produces a hell of a lot more noxious gases.

Comment: These idiots are going to ruin it for everyone (Score 5, Insightful) 132

by ZorinLynx (#48375863) Attached to: Drone Sightings Near Other Aircraft Up Dramatically

Drones are so much fun and you can get so many cool photos and video from them.

Yet these morons flying drones near airports are going to ruin it for everyone. Expect to see them heavily regulated or banned soon.

This is why we can't have nice things. :(

Comment: Re:What *is* the hard work. (Score 1) 212

by JanneM (#48356221) Attached to: New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable

Once a task has been automated to the point that a reliable mass market tool is available to do the work for you, what possible reason can there still be to do it by hand any more?

Fair point. But one remaining reason to have done it yourself is to understand how the tool actually works behind the scenes. And that deeper understanding is generally what separates a master of the craft from dabblers.

Slightly different field, but, for instance, if you are doing any amount of real numerical programming, you really should have implemented a floating-point system as well as algorithms such as FFT, matrix factorization, numerical integration and the trigonomertic functions at least once.

You should of course not use any of your own implementations in production; that's a recipe for disaster. But having done it once, and understanding some of the underlaying theory and the challenges of implementation means you're much better equipped to use the high-quality library versions in an intelligent manner. You'll understand why functions such as expm1() actually exist and how to avoid the common numerical pitfalls.

The same really goes for tools in any other field. You might want to do it manually not to actually use your work but to better understand when and how to use the tool. Or, for that matter, realize when the situation calls for implementing a completely new tool.

Comment: Re:Nothing really new (Score 1) 720

by JanneM (#48232919) Attached to: Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

The Pitapa card in Kansai is connected to your account, and deducts money automatically every month. You can use it in convenience stores and vending machines around Osaka and Kansai. And in order to be compatible with Suica and other train passes, you can _also_ add money to the card; that's effectively a second, separate prepaid card. Convenient when you're travelling to Tokyo.

Comment: Re:One thing missing (Score 1) 56

by JanneM (#48228025) Attached to: Stem Cells Grown From Patient's Arm Used To Replace Retina

So is the answer "No" she cannot see? And where did you get the safety and viability quote from?

Japanese media reported about this earlier this year when they decided to try this and were looking for volunteer patients, as well as now when they want ahead with it. It was made very clear from the start that this was a procedure to test if the cells would survive and not cause any unwanted side effects.

Kind of the same as with the man who got some feeling back in his legs after a stem cell treatment in Poland the other day. They did not expect to see significant improvement (and the other three patients had much less or no effect at all), but just to confirm that it was possible and didn't make things worse.

Comment: Re:Nothing really new (Score 1) 720

by JanneM (#48228015) Attached to: Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

The streets are very safe, and cash is accepted everywhere. A credit card, on the other hand, needs approval, has a yearly cost, and adds a charge to each transaction. People do use cards here - most people pay public transport with a card, and you can use those on vending machines and the like too - but credit cards specifically haven't really caught on.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra