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Comment: Re:Cult of DevOps? (Score 1) 114

by slifox (#37579504) Attached to: The Cult of DevOps
You hit it right on.

I think many admins are ok with the "reboot fix" technique, because they don't work in high-stakes environments. If Bob in Accounting's windows desktop goes down twice this week due to the same issue, who cares (just reboot it again). The same goes with most non-mission-critical services (and those without strict SLA). The same can sometimes also apply in vastly-redundant heterogeneous environments, where having one application instance go down is not a big deal since you have 1000s more identical instances (e.g. content delivery networks, etc; unless the bug ends up taking down everything!).

That approach can't be applied to high-stakes environments, where peoples' lives or money depends on bug-free operation. Try explaining to management why markets have been halted several times this week due to a problem that could've been fixed the first time with a little bit of investigation.

Sweeping important problems under the rug is a great way to drive customers to your competitors.

Comment: Re:Doubt It (Score 1) 674

by slifox (#36913694) Attached to: Why Your Dad's 30-Year-Old Stereo Sounds Better Than Yours
I have a KRK set (2x Rokit 5" G1 + 1x 10S G2) which is awesome but pricey.

However I also have a pair of M-Audio BX5a, which are $200 for a PAIR, and sound extremely good for the price (way better than other M-Audio gear I've tried -- I was very surprised). They don't have as flat frequency response as the KRKs, however they nonetheless sound very good for just listening (not necessarily for audio mixing, though). I like them so much that I use them as my main system on my computer desk (the KRKs are a bit too big and powerful for being 2ft from my head!)

Of course the BX5a lack the extreme low frequency range, so a subwoofer (preferably with built in crossover) is definitely recommended. I have mine paired with a KRK 10s G2, which is overkill but sounds great. If I could find a smaller sub, I would've gotten it. However it seems like all the studio monitor subs are 10", and the M-Audio & Behringer subs are just as pricey as the KRK (so there's no competition -- the KRK is the best deal by far).

Comment: Misleading Summary (Score 4, Informative) 104

by slifox (#36755556) Attached to: Lizards Beat Birds In Intelligence Test
The article itself points out that the conclusion is NOT that lizards are smarter than birds, but rather that this particular lizard is extremely smart:

While the study found unexpected cognitive abilities in the lizards, an expert on bird intelligence, Louis Lefebvre with McGill University, says that the study doesn't necessarily mean lizards are smarter than birds since birds still have larger body-to-brain ratios than reptiles. Instead it may mean that anoles are among the most intelligent of the reptiles.

This study shows that anole lizards are particularly quick learners when it comes to this type of test (quickly learning under which cap the food is located).

I don't think that speed of learning is necessarily definitely correlated to capacity for learning; it's possible that a parrot might learn more slowly than this lizard, but might still eventually be able to achieve more extensive and higher levels of cognitive processing.

Certain birds (parrots in particular) actually have the capability to count; have object permanence (understanding that an object still exists even when it is out of range of senses such as sight/smell/etc); have self-awareness (understanding that a mirror is showing an image of themselves, not another animal); construct and utilize tools in indirect arrangements (e.g. use one tool to obtain another tool, which is then used to complete a task); learn by observation; and organize in complex social structures with intricate communication. These are all cognitive abilities that are found in early human childhood development.

That said, this lizard is pretty cool! I kinda want one now...

Comment: Hosted Alternatives (Score 5, Informative) 482

by slifox (#36464782) Attached to: Open Source Alternative To Dropbox?
There are some decent-looking hosted alternatives to dropbox which do client-side encryption. I've looked into this a bit, but I haven't tried any of these yet, so YMMV...

One particularly interesting one is TarSnap. The best part is the client is OSS, so you can verify that encryption is done properly (strong & client-side). You could even reverse the protocol and design your own server software, if you want.
http://www.tarsnap.com/

Another interesting one is SpiderOak. However their client is not OSS, so you have to trust that they're doing the encryption properly
https://spideroak.com/

Here are some other potential hosts, but I'm not sure exactly how proper the encryption is:
http://www.boxcryptor.com/
http://syncplicity.com/products/

Comment: Re:Outbound Firewall (Score 1) 98

by slifox (#35045982) Attached to: New Android Exploit Discovered To Steal Data
No, and it doesn't have to by whitelisted for other things to work. Obviously you most likely want to include things like Gmail, Gtalk, and a few other odd system-related users. It'd be great to narrow it down even further, but you do what you can...

I don't really think smartphones make very good web browsers anyways.

Obviously there is no failsafe protection -- the best you can do is add some more layers and diversify enough that you're not part of a huge group of easy targets.

Comment: Outbound Firewall (Score 3, Interesting) 98

by slifox (#35045208) Attached to: New Android Exploit Discovered To Steal Data
My phone has too much sensitive data to allow just any random program connect to the internet. So, my default iptables policy is to drop all outbound packets except those matching a whitelist of apps (set by the app's userid). This includes not allowing uid=0 outbound access, in case malicious apps escalate to root.

DroidWall gives a convenient interface to manage the iptables rules (requires a rooted phone).

Yes, this is overkill for a regular user, and it cuts out a lot of the convenience of a smartphone (being able to run many internet-using apps). But for me it's less of a toy and more of a personal communication device (email, and yes, occasionally phone :) as well as a personal assistant (data storage, GPS mapping, etc). I wouldn't give a random Windows desktop access to all that data, and Android is becoming very similar to any random Windows desktop (high marketshare of devices; many apps; apps are easy to install; apps can abuse their privileges or often request too many privileges; user base is willing to run any app they see on a whim => exploiters have motive and means to attack)

On the other hand, the fact that very few "regular users" use iptables on their phone, means that exploiters have no reason to try to target and bypass it. ;) sometimes it's good to be different

Combining a strict firewall with some prudence in which apps are downloaded/run results in a pretty secure platform.

(and yes, the data is encrypted/protected against physical loss and communication interception)

Comment: Great Forum for Input Devices (Score 4, Informative) 310

by slifox (#34019200) Attached to: Ergonomic Mechanical-Switch Keyboard?
I hate to point you elsewhere rather than provide an answer, but the GeekHack forum is a very rich source of information and reviews from people who know what to look for in a keyboard (or any input device), and they've probably reviewed every keyboard out there (and modified them). I don't use ergonomic keyboards, but I am very adamant about mechanical-switch keyboards that have just the right amount of tension and tactile/audible response.

Check out the forum here:
http://geekhack.org/forumdisplay.php?f=31

There are also some interesting vertical keyboards like the SafeType and the Kinesis Freestyle Ascent, but they're kinda expensive and might take a bit of relearning.
Here's a survey of ergonomic keyboards: http://nsx.underbase.org/db/kbd/keyboard-survey.htm

Personally I use a DSI ASK-6600 and a Scorpius M10, and I like them both very much. The DSI keys need a bit more force to push, and it has the large "Enter" key I like from old Keytronix keyboards (as opposed to a large Backspace key and a repositioned backslash character, like the Scorpius and Model M have).

These two keyboards probably don't appeal to you because they're not curved/natural keyboards. I avoid wrist problems while using a regular (straight) keyboard because I have a custom typing style, wherein my wrists are not angled when they rest on my "home row" (e.g. index fingers rest on V and N instead of F and J). This limits my upper bound of typing a bit (under 100wpm), but fast continuous typing will only get you so far in programming and sysadmin work, whereas wrists that don't hurt are quite nice... I also remap my CapsLock key to be another Ctrl, for easy one-handed reach to Ctrl+F1-F5/etc.

While you're at it -- upgrade your mouse too! I found all my wrist problems went away when I moved to a Logitech Cordless Trackman (wish it was corded, but whatever). This has a finger-operated trackball and a thumb-operated left-click, which I find MUCH more accurate and comfortable than a thumb-operated trackball (e.g. most trackball mice on the market now). Trackball mice are usually considered to be more accurate than regular mice anyways. One of the big benefits here is the fact that your wrist isn't as twisted as with a regular mouse... if that's your main goal, there are also some expensive ergonomic vertical mice that might be comfortable.

Comment: Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (Score 5, Insightful) 870

by slifox (#33568360) Attached to: Preventing Networked Gizmo Use During Exams?
First off -- I applaud your use of open-note exams. That is the ONLY real-world way to learn and demonstrate knowledge. There is almost never a situation in the professional world where one must solve a problem with absolutely no references (and it would be stupid to do so on a production system -- when solving a critical problem, why risk everything based on what you *think* is right, when you can verify against documentation; at least if something breaks, you can point to the incorrect docs...)

Some people can simply memorize anything they look at, while others struggle at this. A proper exam should be designed to test one's ability to demonstrate processes: exams should give you all the information you need, but the questions should be designed such that only someone who has invested prior effort in practice and learning will be able to solve the questions in the allotted time.

For less-concrete subjects such as the arts, I'm not so sure how this can be accomplished. However this is a trivial design decision for exams in maths, sciences, programming, and engineering.

Furthermore, I think any physics or math exam that requires a complex calculator really has a wrong approach. Assuming everyone at this level has already demonstrated their ability to perform arithmetic several times over, the calculator should only be there to free them from making mistakes on the menial number crunching (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squares, squareroots, proper value of e,Pi, etc...). The exam should test for core concepts: ideas where you simply must understand the knowledge through prior practice and learning.

Sadly, I think many professors fall back on rote-memorization exams just because they can't be bothered to design proper exams each semester. These types often teach straight from the textbook-provided lesson plans, and then wonder why students cheat...

But honestly -- an exam is but one facet of demonstrating proficiency in a subject. Personally, I think projects & labs the best way: sure one can cheat, but it's easy to determine who has spent time polishing a proper unique lab report. In this respect, open-ended projects are the best, as the room for creativity limits the possibility for undetectable cheating, and lets the students show their enthusiasm for the subject. If you're really worried about cheating, a lab-practical may even be a legitimate tool: it's pretty damn hard to make stuff up as you go while you've got a one-person audience of the professor.

Short answer: let them use basic scientific calculators, the textbook, their notes, and a dictionary; design your tests so that students have all the resources they need, but don't have enough time to learn-as-they-go during the exam.

"Never memorize something that you can look up." --Albert Einstein

Comment: Welcome to College (Score 5, Insightful) 428

by slifox (#33040234) Attached to: Your Online Education Experience?

The main problem is that I am not learning anything. I have several years' experience with Web design, yet I was not allowed to bypass Intro to Web Design 1. Similarly, there are other classes on my list that will teach me very little I don't already know, yet will cost me money all the same. Now, I do have a great desire to learn and to further myself academically, but I just don't see much value in continuing to take classes I could have aced in ninth grade. It is also difficult when fellow classmates clearly have very little intelligent input to offer

Hey, welcome to college! Going to an online school might have lowered the standards a bit, but it's all part of the same experience.

The truth is that academically most of college in just highschool part 2. For anyone who is getting a degree in a field that is already their passion & hobby (e.g. someone who has invested 10000+ hours of personal time into programming and then goes for a computer science degree), it's only in the final 1 or 2 years that the coursework is even worthwhile. The rest of the time is spent underachieving because the content is so rudimentary that you can't even stay focused. You think the colleges want you to just buy the quality courses at the end? Hell no, they want you for 2-4 years of tuition!... errr I mean "broadening experience!"

Furthermore there are always a few assholes in the class who think they know more than the professor, and take every opportunity to bicker with them about each point. You may know a lot about the current subject, but most of the professors are teaching way below their knowledge level anyways... So that's a check on "incompetent classmates" too (not even mentioning the ridiculous amounts of cheating that goes on to pass tests that have no practical value except testing your ability to remember things)

So yeah... welcome to college. If you want a real higher-learning environment, go for a masters and then a Ph.D with a quality advisor. First though, you need to get to that point... and a lot of us call it quits after a bachelors anyways ("it's good enough, and I can't bear another semester")

Academically and averaged out over the entire experience, college (bachelors level) is a waste of time. A lot of people don't even work in the field they got their degree in -- I learned hardly any practical knowledge in college courses that relates to my current job... Of course, it's not all bad -- you do learn how to learn (supposedly), and you learn rigor (lab reports, etc), and you do get a bit of exposure to other interesting fields. Furthermore, if you're not an hermit, you can have a great time with social life. Well maybe that last bit isn't quite applicable to you.

Summary: tough it out and get a degree, then forget the experience and get a well-paying job. You can be bitter all you want afterwards, but at least you'll have a good salary :) OR conversely, tough it out and do well, then get into a decent master program, and use your performance there to get into a top-quality Ph.D program

Comment: Re:UI Lag (Score 1) 261

by slifox (#32661842) Attached to: Firefox 3.6.4 Released With Out-of-Process Plugins
I keep firefox sessions open for months at a time, with 150+ tabs.

I use 64-bit firefox v3.5.9 on Debian linux, with 19 extensions, java disabled, and flash isolated using 32-bit flash + nspluginwrapper (meaning that flash runs in a separate process for compatibility, and the huge extra benefit is that flash crashing can't take down the browser).

Javascript is fully enabled, though I do have AdBlock to remove annoying ads.

I have no problems: firefox runs very fast (pages render very quickly) and it doesn't leak memory (though 150+ tabs DOES use 1GB+ memory, but I have 4GB total and lots of swap)

In short: Firefox performs remarkably well under extreme circumstances. I doubt Chrome or Safari could deal with these cases, and even if they could, they don't have the extensions that make them usable with so many tabs (mainly Tree Style Tabs -- best extension ever!).

Comment: Parents are the Biggest Factor (Score 5, Insightful) 156

by slifox (#32564694) Attached to: Teaching Fifth Graders Engineering
It's great that schools are doing this, but I think parents are the biggest factor. Parents have a strong influence on the toys kids get at an early age, and at that early age children can show an interest in almost anything.

Want your kids to grow up with a healthy respect for / interest in engineering? Buy them Lego, Meccano (aka Erector Sets), K'Nex, etc... any toy that lets them play in a sandbox with minimal limitations, and particularly any toy that allows the creation of functioning mechanisms

Supplement this with some old hardware that they can take apart with only a screwdriver (and do it with them if they're too young to do it safely).

Computers and programming languages are also a great place to start, especially since the sandbox they provide allows easy experimentation (if you made an error, things don't blow up -- you can always reset and try again). However programming is arguably something that's best for slightly older children, whereas taking apart old mechanical/electrical hardware can be enjoyed by many children even as early as age 5 or before.

Of course this won't necessarily result in an engineer -- after all a child's interests can be largely determined by their personality, their school, and their social environment. However, by setting the foundations with these types of toys, your kid will at least have an understanding of engineering, which can only be beneficial. The fundamental point, I think, is that you can't just rely on schools -- as a parent you have to lay the foundations for learning (of any field or subject) at home, by spending time with your child and guiding them towards productive fun activities (and no, using the TV as a babysitter all the time will not accomplish this goal).

I'm not a parent yet, so I guess I'll see how well I do in this area when the time comes... However I do know what my parents did, and I think it worked pretty well

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

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