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User Journal

Journal Journal: Back into Python 1

Okay... A couple weeks ago, I decided to take another look at Python-- the first such look I've given the language since around 1997.

So far, I have the basic stuff down. I've got a quick script down that provides functions to add ANSI colors to my output, so I have that going for me. :D

I have Python 2.x on a VM on my work system, but I'm using Python3 on my home system.

Now I need to look at learning classes and lambda (I know OF classes but I've only heard of lambda in passing), and that may take me a while.

User Journal

Journal Journal: "Emailgate" 58

I will preface all this with an honest admission that this...scandal...could derail her chance at nomination. It could even, theoretically, leave a bad enough impression on a big enough chunk of the electorate to lose her the general that far. It might. Certainly a lot of man-hours and money will be spent trying, that's for sure. Though it is nice to see Republicans finally doing something about unemployment.

But honestly, it's most likely going to blow over, and there are several solid reasons why.

1. No one gives a shit. Let's do the circuit: Leftists have 2 reasons not to care, not liking Hilary in the first place as well as considering it not an offense to have been sloppy in the handling of minor state secrets. Liberal Democrats want to woo her and conservative Democrats are her base. Independents are tricky, but this is still small cheese, so they'll vote for the person who's not going to invade the middle east and their uterus.

After that, you're left with the remaining 30% who are hoping for a Guantanamo Bay finish to this story. And they're kinda busy right now with the hands-down most interesting Republican primary in 40 years. Oh, and imminent doom, there's always imminent doom. Tends to make one want to focus. Anyway, they hate Hilary already, have done for almost a quarter century now. What are they going to do, hate her more?

2. I know the election cycle starts waaaaay earlier these days, but the shot, such as it were, was fired too damn early. It's 15 months until the election, ain't noody going to remember that shit, no matter how hard you pound the airwaves. All people are going to hear is "email". Hell, millenials barely know what email is, except that it's old and antiquated. You might as well be accusing Hilary of improper use of a horse and carriage.

3. You should have learned the lesson from Benghazi. If 9/11 and the worst implementation of a major land war in Asia cannot separate an apparatchik's head from his shoulders, what makes you think this will? Hell, what makes you think it should?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Laying out some markers 32

Set in stone:

-Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President

-Biden will never enter the race for nomination

-Neither will Warren

-Trump will not secure the GOP nomination for President

Highly probable:

-Trump will not go third party*

-Warren as Dem VP pick

I got no fucking clue:

-GOP nominee for President

-Whether it goes to convention or not

Happy to eat crow if I'm wrong. Mainly putting this up as a sanity check for all the political media I have to consume daily.

*I got a bad feeling I'm wrong on this one, but human laziness is as powerful a force as vanity. Always bet the long game.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Edge kinda sucks 2

From a tablet user's perspective, Windows 8.1 had a pretty good version of IE. It was full screen (to see the URL bar/tabs/bookmarks, you had to actually affirmatively ask for them by swiping from the bottom), they made good use of gestures (swipe left and right to move through history, etc), and the browser was... well, IE, not the world's best, but it's fairly efficient, fast, and compatible.

They removed that IE interface in Windows 10 (only the desktop IE remains.) The alternative is supposed to be Edge, but it has no gestures, and is never full screen in the same way.

Worse, Edge seems to kill performance on my tablet. The browser itself only ever seems to take up single digit percentages of CPU but regardless when I start it or have it running the entire tablet grinds to a halt. Close it, and performance goes back to normal. I have no idea why. Given the low CPU usage I wonder if it's just the way it uses the graphics drivers or something similar, but it makes it unusable.

I've switched to Chrome in the meantime, which contrary to early reports and Mozilla's outburst, is actually very easy. Chrome also has the same problems as Edge in terms of not being really full screen, but it doesn't have the performance issues, and it does have the intuitive (and better than trying to hit buttons with a finger) gesture based UI that IE had.

Tablet mode in general seems a step down in Windows 10 from the Windows 8.1 approach. Oh well.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bernie Sanders 48

Not feeling it. Deeply suspicious. That doesn't mean I'll vote for Hillary - who has electability problems given the vast hoards of people who loath her - but I'm...

Part of it is Obama. Sure, Obama's kinda, in the last few months, turned back into the guy who ran for President in 2008, but he's still not really that person. Obama's job as candidate and President was to teach those uppity liberals that they can whine and/or get as hopeful as they want, the next guy will always be as bad - as terrible even - as the last guy. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Part of it is Ron Paul. Ron Paul - from the right- got the same kind of "genuine", "honest", "non-establishment", "heartfelt" plaudits as Sanders gets from the left. People supposedly knew him from the beginning, he's always been the real thing according to them. The Ron Paul Newsletter fiasco gave cause for concern on that. Then my professional life intersected with groups that Ron Paul is associated with indirectly, and in one case directly, and it became obvious the man's a huckster, someone who's very carefully cultivated an image designed to appeal to certain groups who'll donate money, subscribe to paid newsletters and podcasts, and so on en-mass. He's actually better at it than, say, Huckabee, who needed to run for President, or Limbaugh, who probably couldn't get it to work without the backing of a radio syndicate.

So I'm kinda cynical these days. He might get my vote in the end anyway, but it may well be a reluctant one, given on the day of the primaries and then forgotten about.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fallout 7

Pretty interesting, that Reddit has been undergoing some grief over their policy changes. Many of their readership have jumped ship (to one extent or another) to voat.co, a site that has recently incorporated as an American entity in order to improve their chances of success. Factors in play (according to their announcement) include the ability to host in the US, ability to get financial support from the readers, and freedoms guaranteed under the US Constitution.

Reddit looks tired and old. Voat appears refreshing (mostly), though some of the attitude that drove Reddit is now driving Voat. By this, I mean the Hive Mind is active there, already able to "downvoat" points of view that they don't like.

I'm really hoping Slashdot improves again. The tales I've heard of Dice wanting to sell Slashdot might be a Good Thingâ, if it means that the buyer is willing to go back to Grass Roots.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Belonging to a different era 2

Feeling a little nostalgic at the moment, but also beginning to sense a serious part of why I feel like a dunce today when it comes to computing when once I felt like a genius.

Quick wall of text on the Nostalgia bit

That article on Vector Graphics the other day reminded me a little of the S-100 bus, and the whole move to the PC ISA that came just before I really got into computing. The first computer I really touched was our school's RM 380Z, which was a proprietary CP/M based system, but exposure to that at school was mostly a "You can book 15 minutes to use it at lunchtime but otherwise the school maths teacher will use it to demonstrate things now and then." So the first computer I learned anything from was a friend's VIC 20. I then used a variety of cheap single-board-computers until my Amiga 500+, the most powerful of which was a Sinclair QL.

So... I never touched S-100. And I didn't really touch the PC until there was literally no other choice that was viable. S-100 was never an option for two major reasons: it was expensive, and it was crap. I mean, seriously, awful. S-100 survived because the home computing establishment's equivalent of the Very Serious People decreed it was Serious, and it was Serious because it was "standard".

A typical S-100 system consisted of the S-100 box itself - a dumb motherboard (very dumb, the only components on it were the edge connectors and a few capacitors and resistors to do all that magic EE specialists understand and I could never get my head around) enclosed in a card cage, plus a CPU card, a completely separate memory card or three, a completely separate disk controller, and a completely separate serial I/O card. The disk controller would be hooked up to a disk drive it was designed to control (yes, proprietary), which would be unlike around 90% of other disk drives out there - that is, if you were lucky. And the I/O card would be hooked up to a terminal that frequently was more powerful than the S-100 computer it was hooked up to..

Each combination of I/O and disk controller cards required a custom BIOS so you could run CP/M with it.

The bus itself was essentially the pins of an 8080 turned into a 100 line bus. So you were essentially wiring each card to an 8080, or something pretending to be an 8080, in parallel. This required quite a bit of hardware in each bus to make sure each didn't conflict with other S-100 cards.

Now, technically, you could get graphics (and maybe sound) cards, but that was unusual. Likewise, you could get more exotic CPUs - though getting software for them was a problem. But the typical S-100 system was text only with a Z80, and the typical S-100 system owner spent rather a lot of time trying to figure out how to order a "standard" CP/M application in a form that would run on their "standard" S-100 system, taking into account their disk drive that only 10% of the market used and their terminal that used VT-52 codes rather than VT-101 codes or (insert one of the other popular terminals here.)

Did I mention this is expensive? While the original Altair 8800 was $500 or so, it came with nothing but the card cage and motherboard, the CPU card, and a little bit of memory. And even on this, the makers barely broke even, expecting to make the profits on after sales. Useful memory, a terminal, an I/O card, a disk controller, and a disk drive, pushed up the prices considerably. Realistically, typical "useful" S-100 systems cost somewhere around $4,000.

Given all of that, it's not really surprising it got supplanted by the PC. Much is made of the fact IBM was taken more seriously by people outside of the personal computer industry in 1981, and that undoubtedly helped, but I can't help but feel that S-100 couldn't have survived for much longer regardless. You could buy a complete system from Commodore or Apple that was more capable for a third of the price even in 1981. The PC didn't need to be cheap, it had IBM's name behind it, but it was obviously more capable than S-100, and it was obvious that if the architecture was adopted by the industry, machines based upon it would be more standardized.

The "Feeling like a dunce" bit

So anyway, that was my train of thought. And it occurred to me that the fact I even have opinions on this suggests my mindset is still stuck there. Back then, even when you programmed in BASIC, you were exerting almost direct control over the hardware. You had a broad idea of what the machine did, what memory locations were mapped onto what functions, and every command you typed affected the computer in a predictable way. The computers themselves were (mostly) predictable too.

As time wore on, especially with the advent of multitasking (which I welcomed, don't get me wrong) you learned to understand your software would be only one party to how the computer behaved, but you understood that if you followed the rules, and the other programmers did too, you could kinda get your head around what was happening to it.

And you felt like a genius if you understood this. And I say "if", because it was possible.

At some point that stopped being possible. Part of it was the PC ISA, the fact an architecture from 1981 was still in use in the mid-nineties by which time it was long in the tooth and needed serious work. Its deficiencies were addressed in software and hardware. Intel essentially replaced the CPU, leaving a compatible stub there to start older applications, and the industry - after a few false starts - threw out most of the PC design and replaced it with the PCI architecture, again, like Intel leaving compatible stubs here and there to ensure older stuff would work. And Microsoft worked on making Windows the real interface software would use to access the hardware.

After a while, there were so many abstractions between your software and the underlying system, it really became hard to determine what was going on underneath. If I program, I now know there are rules I can follow that will reduce the chance of my application being a problem... today. But I don't know if that's the case for the next version of Windows, and all I know is how to reduce the chances, not how to eliminate them. I don't know if the Java I'm writing will generate a webpage that contains Javascript that will contain a memory leak that'll cause the part of the process managing the tab its in to bloat up an additional 100M or so. I can hope it won't, and use mitigation strategies to avoid things that might cause problems, but there are so many things outside of my control I have to trust now, it's just not practical.

Logically the right thing to do under the circumstances is to take back control, to use lower level APIs and simpler sets of rules, but in practice that's just not practical, and doing so means that my tools no longer fit inside the ecosystem with everyone else's. So it's not the right thing - it's actually the worst thing I can do, and if I tried to do it, I'd be shunned as a developer.

I was a genius once because I (mostly) understood the computers I was programming. I feel like a dunce today because that's just not possible any more.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Google, my Hero! 6

Yeah, I said that.

Many, many moons ago, anyone that knows me that long might remember me asking about where to find a two-page advertisement that Sun Microsystems had put out some time around 1998. It had a picture of Sally Struthers and a caption that said something like "Thinking of running your critical apps on NT? Isn't there enough world suffering?"

Well, it's been found in the November 23, 1998 issue of InfoWorld, on pages 8 and 9.

Needless to say, I'm very happy. :)
User Journal

Journal Journal: Well, this should be fun... 3

I went to SlashCode.com and saw there was a link for the code that runs Slashdot (well, probably several versions ago). Fine. I have a file called Bundle-Slash-2.5.2.tar.gz . There's a link for instructions, BUT it's a dead link.

I wonder how long it will take before I have something useful?

If I can get it running, I'll let you all know... Pudge, if you're reading this... A little guidance would be greatly appreciated. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: First Contact, FRB 170806, Mark Your Calendar

August 6, 2017 could be a momentous day - this could be the day we have definitive proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

We currently have a list of 11 FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), two of them are almost certainly from the same source, FRB 110220 and FRB 1401514, as can be seen from their detected locations.

FRB 110220 2011/02/20 01:55:48.957 22h34' -12deg 24'

FRB 140514 2014/05/14 17:14:11.06 22h34' -12deg 18'

We have not been looking for this type of astronomical phenomenon for very long, and have not yet devoted many resources to the search (likely the list of FRBs will rise). There are probably multiple ways in which FRBs can be generated -- most of them quite exotic and rare -- neutron star mergers and Blitzars are candidates. These type of phenomenon would not repeat in the same location. There are certain types of hypothesized stellar flares that could be recurrent, of course they wouldn't be recurrent on a constant time scale. So should there be an FRB on August 6, 2017 (08:29:24 UTC to be precise), then we are looking at the first unequivocal evidence of a extraterrestrial signal of intelligent origin.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot could recover top spot from Reddit

So Reddit - where most veteran Slashdotters have been hanging out these days - is melting down, and for good reason.

I've been coming back here more lately.

But man, there's things that Reddit does better. No limit on mod points, for one. A better story queue mechanism for another.

There is a window here, if Slashdot admins have the balls to try. Implement Reddit's up vote system and subreddits. Maybe limit the latter to departments more traditional for Slashdot, but allow all users to submit stories in the Reddit manner. Hell, just clone the thing! You'd get a huge amount of your readership back.

Maybe the Slashdot front page is curated a la /r/bestof to get that moderator filtered quality for the front page, but subslashes should be open season.

Is the spirit of Rob Malda still alive in /. HQ? Can a tiger team code this in a hurry? You should.

Ah, nobody will ever read this....

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thanks, Obama! 37

Talking to a Caribbean-based business acquaintance this week reminded me that, no matter my feelings for the Obama administration, I will be eternally grateful that he's taken Cuba off the table. Because in the pantheon of stupid american wedge issues, the Cuban embargo is near-lock for the title IMO.

Bonus conspiracy fun: The lifting of the embargo, and its timing could be seen as a nice little spoiler for the only 2 GOP candidates who have any shot at beating Hillary next year, Bush and Rubio. Most of the other candidates can choose a wide range of answers when presented with questions on the topic, whereas the Floridians actually have serious history and ties on this, making finessing the issue that much harder.

Oh, and before someone thinks they're clever by telling me that President Perry or whoever would just go back to the status quo faster than you can say "fuck you liberals!", good luck with that. The GOP only cared that it reliably delivered Florida's electoral votes, and it stopped doing that a good couple of cycles ago. It's dead, Jim.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Refuting the Chinese Room Argument

Chinese Room

I find the using of the Chinese Room argument to disprove AI is possible to be completely backwards. Most everyone agrees consciousness is the process that arises from the passing of electrical signals between neurons in an organized fashion. Each individual neuron is merely executing/passing along instructions based on reading instructions (receiving incoming nerve impulses) with no understanding of the overall program. Thus our minds ARE a Chinese Room. Consciousness is the byproduct of the process of message passing between neurons which individually have no understanding of what they are doing.

It may seem alien and ethereal, but should you create a Chinese Room large enough to simulate in sufficient detail the message passing of the neurons of someoneâ(TM)s brain, then that Chinese Room would possess a consciousness (albeit one that runs incredibly slowly). Not just a simulation of one.

It shouldnâ(TM)t matter whether the message passing is pieces of paper with a number representing the weight of an action firing potential or a flood of sodium ions in an actual synapse. Both are message passing between discrete elements. In the case of the Chinese Room simulating a human mind, when the person in the Chinese Room shuffling papers gets bored and quits then the Chinese Room mind dies, just like a human mind dies when its brain is starved of oxygen and its neurons decide to quit their jobs.

Now to get our Chinese Room mind up to speed lets do our message passing with electrical signals between transistors in a computer. This is much closer to how our neurons work anyway (though irrelevant as to where consciousness derives from). Whether it is conscious or not will strictly be determined by its degree of self-awareness. Not what components it is made of.

Note: this is a re-posting of a response I made to Android Authorityâ(TM)s Will the emergence of AI mean the end of the world?

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

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