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Comment: "Clean power foes"? (Score 1) 203

by steveha (#49178621) Attached to: The US's First Offshore Wind Farm Will Cut Local Power Prices By 40%

From TFA:

held up by a tangle of clean power foes, regulatory and financing woes, and Cape Cod homeowners afraid it'd ruin the view.

Who exactly are "clean power foes"?

This seems like using an epithet to delegitimize others.

I'm sure there are people who oppose this project for stupid reasons, like "it'd ruin the view". But I am equally sure that absolutely nobody opposes this project because it is too clean.

I suppose that if you looked and looked, you could find someone who is so certain that an ice age is coming that he wants all power generated by burning stuff. But even this imaginary guy isn't really a foe of clean power, he's just a fan of carbon dioxide.

Comment: Heirloom Chemistry Set (Score 3, Informative) 286

by steveha (#49076137) Attached to: 1950s Toy That Included Actual Uranium Ore Goes On Display At Museum

If you want a really awesome chemistry set, you can buy one:

This was a KickStarter project. He was trying to raise $30K and he raised almost five times that much.

If you can't afford the full set, contact the store; the web page says they can sell any subset of the kit.

Hmm, if I ever make it to Kansas City I will try to go check out the H.M.S. Beagle science store.

+ - World most dangerous toy 'Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab' goes on display at museum->

Submitted by hypnosec
hypnosec (2231454) writes "The Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab — dubbed as the world's most dangerous toy — has gone on display at the Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland. The toy has earned the title of most dangerous toy because it includes four types of uranium ore, three sources of radiation, and a Geiger counter that enables parents to measure just how contaminated their child had become. The Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab was only available between 1951 and 1952 and was the most elaborate atomic energy educational kit ever produced. The toy was one of the most costly toy of the time retailing at $50 — said to be equivalent to $400 today."
Link to Original Source

Comment: One-button cell phone (Score 1) 327

by steveha (#49035089) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Panic Button a Very Young Child Can Use

How about a one-button waterproof cell phone?

I've read about phones where you program which number the phone calls, but I can't find any now. Maybe they are no longer sold.

But here's a phone that calls some sort of operator, who can then decide how to handle the situation. You need to pay a monthly fee for the operator but I think that's better for a 2-year-old than a phone that just dials 911.

If you could find a 1-button programmable phone, and program it to call you, that might be ideal.

Comment: Re:Enjoy years of splitting between 5 and 6 (Score 1) 192

by steveha (#48956499) Attached to: Perl 6 In Time For Next Christmas?

IMHO, the sooner the world standardizes on Python 3.x, the better. It contains numerous small improvements, no one of which is invaluable, but together which add up to a better language.

As for print as a statement, I only miss that for interactive use, and you can assuage the issue by using ipython with the --autocall feature enabled. And I like the simple way you can now control how the output is formatted and where it goes, and you can re-bind the name print to completely hook the behavior of printing. Overall it's a win.

The big shocking change is that you are now required to be careful about character encodings on I/O because all strings are Unicode. My own name can be perfectly written with 7-bit ASCII, but there are many people in the world whose names require more than ASCII provides, and Python 3.x programs will work out of the box for those people. I wish everyone using a web framework to build a website would use Python 3.x and be international-ready from day 0.

As for Python 2.6.x, there are some things in Python 2.7.x that I definitely want. I find it odd that you called out 2.6 specifically.

P.S. I agree with you that Python was already pretty darn good even in 2.x.

Comment: Underrated or not, Pascal has no niche (Score 1) 492

by steveha (#48910801) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

Pascal might be underrated but it doesn't matter. There is no place for Pascal in the modern programming world.

When I went to college, Pascal was the standard teaching language. I have studied it pretty thoroughly and I understand it pretty well.

Pascal was designed as a teaching language. There are features in Pascal that are stripped-down, and I think it was just to make the teaching easier. In particular, why must all goto labels be integers rather than strings? I'd much rather write goto cleanup_after_fatal_error than goto 1000. It was a tiny bit simpler to write a Pascal compiler because of this limitation.

If you know C and really want to understand why Pascal didn't win over C, get a copy of Software Tools in Pascal. Look at all the places they had to work around limitations in Pascal, and consider how to write similar code in C. In all the cases, I realized that they simply wouldn't have had a problem in C.

Also, after writing the above book, Brian Kernaghan wrote an essay Why Pascal Is Not My Favorite Programming Language and if you have rose-colored glasses for Pascal I suggest you read it.

C really is the king of the "third-generation languages". In its earliest form it had dangerously little type-checking, but in its modern form (where you use function prototypes so the compiler can check types) it has type checking similar to Pascal, with all the benefits that provides. And it has all the little things I appreciate, such as terminating a loop early using break. In Pascal, to terminate a loop early you needed to either clutter up the loop conditionals with an extra flag variable (early_exit or some such) or else you had to use goto to break out (with a numeric label target, of course).

"But wait," some of you are muttering. "I used to write Pascal programs and I remember using break..." No, you didn't used to write Pascal programs: you used to write Turbo Pascal programs. When Borland created Turbo Pascal they fixed all of the worst problems of Pascal, pretty much by just doing whatever C did first. I wrote a lot of Turbo Pascal and I liked it very much.

But this points out the biggest problem of Pascal: it was not well specified, and as a result it didn't work a lot of the time. Where a spec is weak, you tend to get different implementations doing different things, which is horrible for portability. The wonderful book Oh, Pascal! discusses the brokenness of the I/O in Standard Pascal, and the various ways that Pascal implementations work around the problem, and summarizes with Cooper's Law of Standards: "If it doesn't work, it doesn't stay standard."

For Pascal to have a niche, it should do something a lot better than C, for it is C that it needs to displace. But IMHO there really isn't anything it does very much better than C, and there are numerous areas where it's a non-starter unless it copies features from C.

Given the massive installed base of C, C isn't going anywhere, and that leaves no room for Pascal; Pascal does the same sort of things as C does, but not as well.

Comment: Re:and when BSD moves to systemd... (Score 1) 403

by steveha (#48832821) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Migrating a Router From Linux To *BSD?

So when things are wrong a frequent reason to use such a command is used), it wastes my time to display something I didn't request and don't want to see.

When things are wrong, you don't want to see the recent log events to diagnose what went wrong?

It's a legit complaint if this display slows you down, but I'm amazed that you are so hostile to the idea. However, as a sysadmin I'm just a dilettante so I will defer to your expertise.

Citation needed? I seem to remember that X could also run as non-root before systemd.

The main problem with systemd is that it is beeing pushed onto and by the mayor distributions without fixing the problems first.

Makes sense to me. I'm glad that Debian did the work to leave SystemD as optional.

Comment: Re:Some hard-core SystemD haters are still not hap (Score 1) 403

by steveha (#48832687) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Migrating a Router From Linux To *BSD?

0) Okay, I agree that I should have phrased that differently. Note that I didn't use a pejorative phrase; I didn't say something like "morons too stupid to understand the greatness of SystemD" or whatever. I really only meant to say "some people who strongly disapprove of SystemD do not want it involved in logging at all."

1) I hope you didn't intend to lump me in with "systemd people" because I'm not one. I am an interested observer looking in from the outside. To the extent that I care about Linux and its future, I care about SystemD; I've been trying to understand how good or bad it is.

But the vast majority of the criticism I have read of SystemD has been just opinion-based flaming. To read most of the posts on Slashdot, there must not be anything good about SystemD and the people who choose it must be deluded or fools or something. I wanted to push past that and understand why smart people might not reject SystemD.

for those of us that use 'sed' and 'grep'

I'm quite skilled with grep so I can query plain-text files just fine, but I'm not opposed to SystemD making a binary log with an index for its own purposes.

If you set up rsyslog or whatever, you will still get a plain-text log file, and you have the option to simply ignore SystemD's own log file.

Windows style 'Services' (your word)

No, don't lump me in as a "systemd person". And don't assume that I'm your enemy or something.

And don't ask "how are they forcing" again, that isn't helpful when I can't get just turn the package off and sysv init on.

In Debian "jessie" you can do just that.

Comment: Re:and when BSD moves to systemd... (Score 5, Informative) 403

by steveha (#48823113) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Migrating a Router From Linux To *BSD?

systemd insists on binary logs

My understanding is that SystemD makes binary logs for its own purposes, and that the binary features include indexes so it can very quickly answer queries like "what were the last ten things logged by Apache?"

However, SystemD permits continuing to run a time-tested conventional log daemon. The current recommended way to get network logging is to run rsyslog.

Some hard-core SystemD haters are still not happy, because the log events flow through SystemD on their way to the conventional log daemon.[1]

takes over vast chunks of functionality that it has no business touching

I'm not certain this really is the case. SystemD is a collection of services, and each one has a specific area of concern. The actual technical analyses I have read suggest that the basic design of SystemD is sound, and that it is doing things that people want to be done. For example, SystemD allows the graphics system ( to run as a non-root user.

One criticism of SystemD that may have some validity: that the only documentation is whatever the source code contains this week. SystemD is being developed at a rapid pace and documentation may be suffering. This is one reason I am glad for projects like UselessD... they will force the SystemD interface to settle down a bit and be documented a bit better.

But I'll say it again: from what I have read (in technical analyses) the basic design of SystemD seems to be sound. The Debian technical committee that evaluated the situation concluded that SystemD was the best choice for Debian. (Then the politics blew up but that's another story.) Do you think that the Debian technical committee spent months evaluating SystemD and were just wrong about it? (That's not to say that SystemD is perfect. But something can be imperfect and still be the best choice for the future.)

makes it basically impossible to debug problems

I will not comment on this because I have no experience with SystemD yet. I have seen comments like this multiple times.

Perhaps, even if SystemD is the future, it should be adopted slowly and carefully in the present. Debian "jessie" has SystemD as optional which seems like a very good thing to me.

[1] I think that's probably an overreaction... if Red Hat can't get SystemD to reliably pass through log events, that would imply a level of brokenness that would preclude the widespread adoption that seems to be taking place.

Comment: Re:Benchmarks for that AMD chip look bad... (Score 1) 180

by steveha (#48817493) Attached to: Tiny Fanless Mini-PC Runs Linux Or Windows On Quad-core AMD SoC

remember when the speed would double and the cost would halve like clockwork? Those days are gone forever.

True. If you buy AMD processors, you aren't getting the fastest possible, but they will still be plenty fast enough. I built my wife's computer with an AMD FX-8350 and she's very happy with it (and I want one for myself).

And as I said, I would be happy to buy the tiny computer discussed in TFA. Sounds neat. (I'd also be happy to buy a tiny computer based on an ARM chip, but I'd rather have full Linux than just ChromeOS so I probably won't buy a "ChromeBox".)

Comment: How to choose a UPS (Score 1) 180

by steveha (#48815399) Attached to: Tiny Fanless Mini-PC Runs Linux Or Windows On Quad-core AMD SoC

My feelings towards big UPSes is that the battery only lasts a couple years, and costs a ton to replace.

Just make sure to buy a UPS that takes a standard battery. All my UPSes will accept a standard 12V 9ah battery (search for "UB1290") which you can get for $20 or less. I bought a six-pack from Amazon for $100 or so.

It pays to buy a decent UPS with decent status reporting. I have some old ones that I bought cheaper, and they don't report how loaded they are (they have a single "overloaded" light that lights and another single "battery problem" light). My better ones have a little bar graph for how loaded the UPS is, and another bar graph for how charged it is, plus various status lights.

My old UPSes can report status through a serial port, but my newer ones can report through USB. Again, do your homework: some UPSes use a wacky undocumented proprietary protocol, while others are just plug-and-work under Linux. (But I haven't spent any time messing with this yet.)

Also, when your UPS goes into battery fail, replace the battery right away. If you leave the battery too long, it can cook, swell up (from expanding gases I guess) and be difficult to remove from the UPS. <shifty_eyes>Not that I am speaking from experience..</shifty_eyes>

Comment: Re:Benchmarks for that AMD chip look bad... (Score -1, Troll) 180

by steveha (#48815237) Attached to: Tiny Fanless Mini-PC Runs Linux Or Windows On Quad-core AMD SoC

I wonder, though, if the benchmarks were made using code compiled with an Intel compiler.

Oh, but surely by now they have stopped doing it? Nope:

(Isn't it cute how the legal notice is embedded in an image file, so it's hard for search engines to find it?)

It really is true that Intel chips are better than AMD chips now. Intel has fixed the problems in their chips (the Pentium 4 had serious issues) and Intel is two generations ahead on semiconductor process technology.

Intel could be beating AMD fair and square, yet they still engage in the sleazy underhanded practice of making their compiler sabotage the competition.

Intel's remaining chip problems are self-inflicted: they want to maximize the dollars they extract from the customers, so they make a bunch of different chip versions, and different versions have features enabled or not. AMD is #2 and trying harder, so AMD chips always have all features enabled.

So I would be willing to buy one of these AMD-based mini PCs. It will be slower and/or consume more energy than an Intel version; but I just plain don't approve of Intel, and its performance will be adequate. I'm not going to be computing digits of pi on this thing.

P.S. The best thing I can say about Intel: they have cooperated well with the Linux kernel team, and Linux support is great for Intel chipsets including graphics accelerators.

But AMD is doing a pretty good job of cooperating with the Linux kernel guys, and I'd rather give AMD my money.

Comment: I've never liked Intuit (Score 1) 450

A few years ago, a relative bought a new laptop that came with Windows Vista. She asked me for help putting her QuickBooks onto it.

Her version of QuickBooks simply wouldn't run on Vista. So I went to the store to buy an upgrade. I carefully studied the feature lists on the boxes for the various versions, trying to figure out which one she needed. For $100 I got some version ("Express" or "Starter" or something like that). It had all the features she needed and was $100 cheaper than the next version.

It turned out that it was missing one key feature: it didn't support upgrading! It would have been fine for her if she had started out with it, but because she was upgrading from an old version, she had to get the $200 QuickBooks. That's right, her reward for being a long-time customer was to pay $200 instead of $100 for a version that would run on Vista. (And it really didn't say on the box that upgrading wasn't supported. I had to figure it out... when I couldn't find an "import" dialog in the menus, I searched their web site; and I found a knowledge base article that plainly spelled out that importing was a feature reserved to the $200 and above versions.)

If I ever start a home business, I'll run it on some open source system. No Intuit products for me, not ever.

Comment: The loudest football stadium (Score 2) 25

by steveha (#48770071) Attached to: How a Shaking Stadium Is Helping Scientists Track Earthquakes

The Seahawks stadium is designed to be loud. It tends to focus noise rather than dissipate it.

I guess the fans like to do loud things like stomping as well. So this really is the right place for this sort of experiment.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.