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Comment: Re:Why we use office (Score 2) 178

by sirlark (#49420969) Attached to: UK Forces Microsoft To Adopt Open Document Standards
I'm aware of the difference between Calc and gnumeric, but I was trying to answer the question of "what is considered a basic task?" which isn't exactly dependent on a specific piece of software. I have more experience with gnumeric, as I pointed out. And yes, once you hit large spreadsheets, you should use a database, but often I have to deal with large datasets that are stored in databases and *exported* as .csv files for analysis, or with .csv files dumped directly from sensors or other devices. Whilst I'm writing the programs that either produce or consume these, it's often easier to view them in a spreadsheet, rather than a text file layout, because the visual distinction of column is preserved. I admit, that this is probably not a common use case though, and hence not a "basic task", but databases aren't great at data analysis, which is why this stuff often gets loaded into a spreadsheet, this is where statistics applications come in. Good luck getting Bossman McMBA to use something like that. So I'd say this is probably somewhere between "basic" and "advanced". I would like to throw one more thing into the hat though, and that is the MS Word is appalling at handling large documents (40 pages plus, depending on the machine). LO/OO writer is much better in this regard, and I do regard this as a "basic task"; There are many business documents (quarterly reports, impact assessments, white papers, blah) and even personal documents (academic dissertations, and student projects, home authorship of books) that can get this large.

Comment: Re:Why we use office (Score 2) 178

by sirlark (#49390103) Attached to: UK Forces Microsoft To Adopt Open Document Standards

Okay, God forbid, I'm actually going to try and treat this fairly. Firstly, recent incarnations of MS Word work using semantic styling, but don't force you to use it. This is much the same as in OO/LO. In general MS tools load files a LOT faster, and are more visually appealing (granted, eye of the beholder and all that), however they don't handle large files. Try opening a 400Mb .csv file in Excel vs in Gnumeric. As far as user friendly interfaces are concerned, I'd say they are both about equally klunky. The ribbon is a menu, really, just looks a little different. Some people prefer it, some people don't.

Now, the "basic tasks" concept. Basic tasks for word processing to me include: writing a letter, writing business document (contract, memo, invoice, quote, waybill, meeting minutes), creating/using templates for those standard documents, designing home flyers (lost dogs, bake sales etc) . These generally require the following 'features' from the software: text manipulation, text formatting, image insertion and basic manipulation (resizing, placement, possibly cropping), tables, tab stops, template editing, headers, footers, page numbering, and text->image conversions (e.g. for banner headings). Both OO/LO and MS Word do all these about equally well imho.

Advanced features: Mail Merge, Mathematical equation editing, Track changes/revision control, cross referencing (index, citations, bibliography, table of contents, list of images etc)

As far as the spreadsheets go, excel and gnumeric are very similar in features as far as I've used them. Never used OO/LO Calc, so I can't say. I suppose charts might be a distinguishing factor, but again, I rarely use charts generated from spreadsheets.

Presentation software (Powerpoint, Impress) seems to be where things really start to differentiate. More transitions, and more bling, in general, is available to PowerPoint users, and compatibility is HORRIBLE even between between powerpoint versions, let alone PP and OO/LO.

In summary: as far basic word processing goes, I don't see a marked difference apart from aesthetics. For Maths, they're both pretty horrible. Track changes they're both about the same (revision control in word processing sucks generally), and I'm not sure about mail merge

Comment: Re: Who cares what RMS wants? (Score 4, Insightful) 551

by sirlark (#49015629) Attached to: RMS Objects To Support For LLVM's Debugger In GNU Emacs's Gud.el
Also, I should point out that the LLVM/clang situation is a bit more complex. If I recall, LLVM came about because the gnu toolchain deliberately obfuscates it's output and interoperability interfaces with other tools even within the toolchain. This strategy was chosen because the outputs of the individual software tool in the toolchain were not, and could not be protected by the GPL (any version). It would have been possible for a proprietary product to be developed that didn't link to gcc (or another part of the toolchain) to take the useful output of gcc (e.g. a parsed abstract syntax tree) and use it to any number of cool things. The product could still be distributed with gcc (and the required accompanying notices) but the rest of the code would be locked up, because it doesn't link to gcc, only depends on it at runtime. This violates the spirit of the GPL which is not only to make software free, but to keep it free.

Comment: Re:You can add all the very you want (Score 1) 130

by sirlark (#48882277) Attached to: New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild
Yes ... but over a long enough time (a shorter time probably) those same mutations might occur naturally. And if the mutations are not beneficial to the organism (as opposed to beneficial to humans), then they are very likely to lost again. Look, if they create an e. coli strain that produces something amazing, for instance, a viable crude oil substitute, but it also happens to be highly effective at out-competing wild type e. coli in the human gut as a side effect, and coincidently killing us because we've basically swallowed litres of crude oil, I'd say it might still be worth the risk. If they're producing vanillain, or insulin, then definitely. The problem with the crude oil scenario, is that an escapee colony would start producing a never ending oil slick. But again, the mutations would likely be lost because the organism won't need them.

Comment: Re:I`ll be the pessimist (Score 4, Insightful) 130

by sirlark (#48879159) Attached to: New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild
The whole idea is that the escapees won't survive long enough to reproduce, as being without their essential amino acids, their growth would be limited, and bacterial reproduction rates are tied to growth rates. Also, consider that as long as they're provided with the non-native amino acids, they're under no selective pressure to revert to the wild type. Yes, it's possible, but very very unlikely.

Comment: Some more details and fixing some missing details (Score 4, Informative) 160

by sirlark (#48763359) Attached to: Over 30 Uber Cars Impounded In Cape Town

Captonian here. The summary is a bit misleading. In South Africa there are two nationwide requirements for anyone (including Uber drivers) to transport members of the public. They must be personally licensed to drive (i.e. have a valid drivers license), and also licensed to transport members of the public (a public drivers licence, which requires not having a criminal record, not having ever had your driver's license revoked, etc...). In Cape Town specifically, there's an additional by-law that means the vehicle must be licensed. This requirement is the case in most municipalities in South Africa, although some municipalities classify Uber's service as "chartered transportation" and Cape Town classifies it as a "metered taxi service".

A local talk radio show had both a representative from Uber and a representative from the city’s Safety and Security department. Both Uber and the city confirmed that Uber only checks the national requirements, i.e. the driver's credentials. Uber doesn't check that the vehicle is licensed to transport. To be fair, Uber apparently goes above and beyond the minimum checks regarding the driver, doing deeper background checks etc, but they do not check that the vehicle is licensed. All of the impounded vehicles were impounded due to a lack of the vehicle license. Uber seems to be trying to spin things saying that the City's bureaucracy is way too slow, but what it comes down to is the fact that are plenty of metered taxi's already, they need to be licensed, and there are a limited number of licenses. Uber's been categorised as a metered taxi service, so no new uber drivers are going to be given vehicle licenses. Uber wants to be reclassified as a chartered transport service, and here things get a little fuzzy. As far as I can tell, a chartered transport service requires an upfront statement of cost, i.e. the driver/company has to provide a quote for the proposed route. Airport shuttles fall under this for example, because they charge a fixed amount per suburb/area, they don't charge per kilometre. I'm not sure how exactly uber determines the fare, but it's not fixed, so technically, they're not a chartered service.

So it doesn't look like it's the city's fault. They're following the law. Now, it's open to discussion whether Uber is at fault for not ensuring their driver's vehicles are licensed, or whether it should be the driver's responsibility, but from the consumer side, I'd say the expectation is that Uber has done their due dilligence.

Comment: Re:Free Enterprise (Score 2) 184

by sirlark (#48562127) Attached to: Swedish Police Raid the Pirate Bay Again

While I agree with most of what you say, including your conclusion that the complete removal of copyright will mean de facto replacement by a patronage system, you miss two crucial points. Firstly, the fundamental difference between the arts in before the 19th century and today is that the distribution costs are now negligible, especially if the distribution is digital, but even if the distribution is physical. It costs less to produce most art in physical form and more importantly to reproduce than ever before in human history, yet prices do not come down. There's also a clear divorce between production costs and retail costs. A new DVD from a block buster movie with a budget in the 100's of millions costs the same or less to buy than the latest top 10 CDs with production budgets in the 10's of millions. Consumers get this, they understand they're being screwed by the CD producers. They're being charged what the CD producers think the market will bear... except clearly the market won't bear it, because piracy is rampant. Music producers (especially) love to harp on about lost sales, but flat out refuse to consider piracy as market indicator. Let's assume there were a full proof way prevent piracy. Sales would stay pretty flat, or I suspect drop a fair bit. People pirate way more than they could ever afford to buy, and if suddenly forced to buy everything, they would pick and choose a lot more, like back in the 80's and early 90's when kids saved their pocket money to buy that one album they'd been eyeing for three months. Concert and performance revenue would probably fall off (except for really big, well publicised, acts, i.e. the guys who are already coining it) because of lack of exposure. CD prices would be forced down. Lack of exposure is why I think CD sales might actually drop in this scenario. The same argument holds for other types of digitally reproducible art.

Secondly, the content-creation (for want of a better term) industry is a lot like the the professional sports industry. We only really here about the super stars, who are 1% of all the attempts at success. The current copyright regime is already in effect a patronage system, except the "rich dudes" are rich corporations who decide who they will promote. Yes consumers can vote with their money, which only constrains who will be promoted to largely popular inoffensive artists, whereas in a true patronage system the individual tastes of the rich dudes funded a wider variety of creative efforts. There are also a lot more "rich dudes" now than ever before. They're called the middle class. They have a fair amount of disposable income. No single person in the middle class has the money to fund an artist in the same way as traditional patronage systems, but there are vastly more potential consumers for art than ever before in human history, and what's more is the skills required to reproduce a performance and the costs involved are way less than before too, allowing artists to either manage distribution themselves, or pay substantially less than previously to someone else to do it for them.

I view piracy as a form of civil disobedience protesting inflated prices. If digital content were reduced to 25% I'm pretty sure sales would more than quadruple. Also, considering the percentages the artists get paid, they're getting screwed the least by piracy. I know that there are plenty of other people involved in music and film production, but for the most part, they all get paid salaries, not royalties. So they're not getting screwed by piracy.

P.S. I'm viewing things from a South African perspective, where minimum wage is approximately $1 an hour and new release DVDs cost about $18 ~ $25, and a new CD will set you back around $20. E-books range widely from $1 to $15, and physical books are minimum of $25 hard cover, $12 paperback. At minimum wage South Africans have to work 2 and a half days to afford a DVD/CD/Ebook/book.

Comment: Re:Something we don't really need (Score 2) 30

Main advantage: I want a phone with everything... Best camera, biggest storage best screen. Right now, that cost's me bout $1000 in my country before the reverse subsidizations kick in. I say reverse, because in my country, buying a phone on plan costs more over time than buying the phone outright upfront for the more expensive phones, taking into account the costs of the plan without any phone. That's a BIG layout where I'm from, but if I can buy those components over time and upgrade according to my own priority list, I can assemble the phone within my budget. Better, after two years roll by, I only have to upgrade the components which are underpowered for me. The screen won't degrade over time, so I can keep that. The battery might need replacement, and the camera upgrading. Chances are a quad-core will still be sufficient in 2 years, if PC's are anything to go by. Wifi, bluetooth, NFC, qi charging, etc... once they're in, they won't need upgrading for a while.

Comment: Re: Oracle (Score 2) 146

by sirlark (#48109331) Attached to: Google Takes the Fight With Oracle To the Supreme Court

It does NOT require creativity. It requires logic. I do this for a living too, and have done so for 30 years. Two people trying to solve the same problem (developing a communications protocol, because that's what an API is) are almost always going to come up with the same solution. Even if they don't, the number of possible solutions is small, and it's NOT a creative choice picking one above the other, it's a technical choice.

Comment: Charge for fixed costs (Score 1) 488

by sirlark (#48025819) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power
Where I live, one pays a hefty deposit when your are connected to the grid in a residential property (refunded when you sell, paid when you buy). In addition, one is charged a flat monthly connection fee plus a usage based fee. It sound like the utilities just need to (a) start charging a monthly connection fee to cover their fixed costs, and (b) if they are already charging this, increase that fee accordingly as renewable power generation increases. If someone doesn't want to pay the connection fee, and feels they can get by on power generated by themselves alone, they can disconnect from the grid.

The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side. -- James Baldwin