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Comment: Re:Is it art? (Score 1) 31

by steveha (#48604847) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Jonty Hurwitz About Art and Engineering

Would you consider these microsculptures works of art, or a craft?

Question for you: Would you consider photographs to be works of art, or a craft?

I think there is no serious disagreement that photographs can count as art, and these microsculptures were carefully planned and posed as art. If you are going to suggest that they may not clear the bar as art, then it seems to me that you would have to rule out photography as well.

We usually consider replication or fabrication of predefined forms (with challenging technique) a craft.

Are photos art because they are easier to make than microsculptures? I don't quite follow your emphasis on the technique needing to be challenging.

All a photo really is: the visual replication of whatever the camera was pointing at when the photographer activated the shutter release. Yet we consider there is art where the photographer chooses what to photograph, how to frame the photograph, and even things like what kind of film to use (black-and-white vs. color, grainy vs. smooth, etc.). It seems to me that similar dimensions of choice were in play when Jonty Hurwitz made the microsculptures: he chose what to reproduce as sculpture, what poses to use, what scale, what materials the sculptures were to be made from, etc.

Would your position on the microsculptures change if the Jonty Hurwitz had called them "3D photographs"?

P.S. While we are debating what is and is not art, do you take a position on the dadaist sculpture "Fountain"?


Personally, I think that there is artistic merit in taking a pre-made object and changing how one looks upon it (I doubt anyone had ever conflated a urinal and a fountain before this). However, while it was radical (even shocking) in 1917, anyone trying to do the same thing today is bringing little new to art. If I put an upside-down coffee maker on a pedestal and title this work "Brown Liquid Fountain" I doubt anyone would be very impressed.

If you reject "Fountain" as not art, you are in disagreement with very many people. If you accept "Fountain" as art, then why would you not accept the microsculptures as art?

And if pre-made art is only clever the first time it's done, Jonty Hurwitz is still on safe ground; I've never heard of anyone else doing this first.

Comment: Trading off clean cars and costs (Score 2) 176

by steveha (#48576371) Attached to: U.S. Passenger Vehicle Fleet Dirtier After 2008 Recession

If you really want cleaner air, the best thing to do would be to get as many old cars off the road as possible, so that people will be driving new cars. The new cars are so much cleaner than the old cars, it's amazing.

With the above in mind, I don't think the government should tighten up emissions standards even more. All the easy gains are gone, and now it takes engineering and expense to make cars pollute even less, which means that cars will be more expensive. If the government forces all the cars to be cleaner, all the cars get more expensive so it's fair as far as car makers go; but making new cars more expensive means people are more likely to keep driving dirty old cars.

There is a good discussion here: http://keithhennessey.com/2009/05/19/understanding-the-presidents-cafe-announcement/

Thus, while it may seem counter-intuitive, I believe the best way to get the air cleaner is to leave the standards right where they are and try to get the cost of a new car to drift downward.

The new cars are much safer than the really old cars also, so getting more people into new cars will also save more lives than making the crash standards tougher.

I think that within 20 to 30 years, the majority of vehicles will be electric anyway, and emissions will be very much reduced. (The reason I think that: improved solar technology and new storage technologies will bring down the cost of electricity; and battery costs will come down, especially due to the Tesla "giga-factory". I know I'd be happy with an electric vehicle, and rent a gas vehicle for my occasional long road trip.)

+ - Bellard Creates New Image Format To Replace JPEG : Better Portable Graphics (BPG->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "French Fabrice Bellard (creator of FFMPEG, QEMU, JSLinux...) proposes a new image format that could replace JPEG : BPG. For the same quality, files are about half the size of their JPEG equivalents. He released libbpg (with source) as well as a JS decompressor : compress your images, include bpg.js in your HTML and voilà ! He set up a demo including the famous Lena image.
Who will first want to reduce his bandwidth bill by compressing better the images he serves ? Flickr ? Google ? imgur ? Facebook ? What about hardware vendors ?"

Link to Original Source

Comment: Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea (Score 4, Interesting) 100

by steveha (#48566589) Attached to: A Paper By Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel Was Accepted By Two Journals

This example was about predatory journals. There are also predatory "vanity publishers" that convince aspiring authors to pay money to get their book published.

A group of science fiction authors put together a complete novel to sting one such vanity press. The result, Atlanta Nights, is a hoot!

In one chapter, Bruce Lucent is a young hotshot software developer; in another, he is an old, broken-down shell of a man. Some chapters have new characters that are never heard from again. Near the end of the book, the full text of the first chapter appears again as a new chapter. Also, someone wakes up and realizes that it was all a dream... and then the book continues for a few more chapters. And my favorite: the last chapter was written by feeding other chapters into a Markov Chain nonsense generator. Example: "Bruce Lucent walked around anymore."

Rather than using Simpsons names, they chose a fake name "Travis Tea" that sounds like the word "travesty".

Atlanta Nights was accepted for publication, but after the authors had their press release the publisher changed its mind.


They got a bunch of famous authors to give tongue-in-cheek blurbs about the book. Jerry Pournelle: "Don't fail to miss it if you can!"

+ - A Cheap, Durable Robot Hand With An Adaptable Grip

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Building robot hands that mimic human ones may not be doing robotic grasping any favors. Authors from iRobot, Harvard and Yale describe the success they've had with an underactuated, three fingered hand. It doesn't look human, but thanks to a design that prioritizes flexibility and adaptability, it can do a lot of the same jobs with a lot less programming than previous models. http://spectrum.ieee.org/robot..."

Comment: Chromebooks -- pieces of junk? (Score 4, Interesting) 193

by steveha (#48507661) Attached to: Chromebooks Overtake iPads In US Education Market

The Chromebooks aren't going to last more than a few months. Ever try any of these pieces of junk at BestBuy?

No, I haven't. But I did buy a Samsung Chromebook and I have been carrying it around and using it.

It seems no more fragile than my old Atom-based laptop, which is still in perfect working order.

They are equipped with dim TN LED-lit panels, low resolution, and the keyboards are the most uncomfortable things ever.

Huh, which model in particular are you thinking about? Because IMHO my Samsung Chromebook is kind of like a Mac laptop, only less expensive. Both use similar "chiclet" keyboards, both have multi-touch touchpads (and both *use* the multitouch gestures). The Chromebook costs less, weighs less, and has long battery life; and it is adequate for the things I usually want to do when I'm out and about.

The screen doesn't have a "wow" factor but neither am I suffering when I use it. The 1366x768 resolution is pretty common for a device that size.

You make it sound horrible, but so far I love the thing. It's far better than my old Atom-based laptop (which struggles even to play a YouTube video).

But I digress, I've always hated the "chiclet keyboard" that all the laptop vendors have switched to.

You can thank Apple for that one. They did it first and then everyone else followed.

It does allow for a thinner laptop but I wish there were more laptops still made that have more ergonomic keys.

Comment: Re:Where Docker failed (Score 5, Interesting) 71

by steveha (#48504565) Attached to: CoreOS Announces Competitor To Docker

Disclaimer: I'm not super experienced in this stuff. I am open to correction if I have any of these points wrong.

Do we really need a full OS image running in a container?

I think we probably do.

One of the key selling points of Docker is that the container is load-and-go. Do you have some wacky old software that has a hard dependency on particular versions of some libraries? You can build a container with just the right libraries and get your software to work... and, after you do that work, the container is just another container. It may have been a pain for you to get it working, but then anyone can run it on any Docker host as easily as any other container. This seems kind of powerful to me.

Do you need to see how your software runs on CentOS and Debian? You can set up a container for each, and run the tests on a single host system.

And if you want maximum security, it's kind of neat that each docker container can use just its own private file system and containers can't affect each others' running state.

So, if you are content with running an up-to-date system, and always running the latest versions of everything, and upgrading everything together, you could make a security isolation system lighter weight than Docker, but trading off some of the simplicity and flexibility of Docker. You might think it's a good choice, but I don't think you can reasonably claim that it's better in all ways.

Containers should run a single process. We shouldn't look at containers as a more efficient VM.

As I understand it, it is considered best practice in Docker to run a single process per container. Some people do use Docker as a sort of lightweight VM but not everyone likes it.

Are you arguing that Docker is flawed because it doesn't enforce one process per container? Because I'm not seeing it. I would rather have the flexibility; if I want to use Docker as a lightweight VM, the option is there, and I don't see that as a bad thing.

Do you really want to have to run apt-get or yum inside every container?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that you don't have to run a package manager inside every container. You would have a "base system" image, and you would update that image from time to time; then you build your specific containers as layers on top of the base image.

I believe a container could simply be a script that starts up a service, and config files that configure the service, with the actual packages for the service in the "base system" image. I'm not sure if that is standard practice or what.

I'm hoping that with Docker I could make micro-servers, like a Docker container with just a web server in it, not even a Bash shell. If someone cracks my server I want him in a desert, with no tools to help him escalate his privileges. I'm not sure how feasible that is now, but I think Docker is at least headed in that direction.

I'm not opposed to this new Rocket thing, but I'm still not clear on its actual advantages over Docker.

Comment: Re:TIE-Fighters flying in Atmosphere?!?!?!?! (Score 1) 390

by steveha (#48481709) Attached to: First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

Keep in mind, JJ Abrams also had the Enterprise submerged in under water. I could maybe buy that if they had the shields up the whole time and the water never got to touch the hull, but it was made completely clear that no, it was just dunked in water and functioning normally.

In short, JJ Abrams doesn't care about geeky physics and engineering concerns; if something looks kind of cool, he'll go with it.

Comment: Re:Lightsaber crossguard wtf (Score 1) 390

by steveha (#48481659) Attached to: First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

I wondered why no one ever came up with the idea of a blaster that fired three bolts in a slightly spreading triangle.

And I wondered why nobody ever used simple projectile weapons, like a 20th-Century assault rifle or even a shotgun. With blasters, when you shoot at a Jedi, you or one of your buddies gets hit with the deflected blaster bolt; so use simple bullets that would vaporize on the sabre even if the Jedi could get them all.

Or if you want to go all science-fictiony, lasers. Go for what Larry Niven once called "a mile-long invisible sword".

Comment: Paper trail (Score 1, Redundant) 127

by steveha (#48471025) Attached to: Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County

Should we go back to paper ballots?

Yes, yes, yes.

I live in the Seattle area of Washington State. We used to have a nearly perfect system and I would like to see it adopted everywhere. (We now have mail-in voting only, which is convenient but I worry about fraud.)

Here's the perfect system:

Ballots are stiff paper/very light cardboard, printed with oval "bubbles" next to the things for which you can vote. You vote by filling in a bubble with an ink pen.

Once you are done voting, you feed the ballot into an optical reader over a collection bin. If you have made any obvious mistakes (such as voting for both candidates for a single position) the machine kicks the ballot back out to you; you then get a fresh ballot and vote again.

Once my wife had a little ink smudge on her ballot, and the machine kicked it back. It was designed to err on the side of absolute clarity; if it accepted a ballot, that ballot was unambiguous.

The optical reader keeps an unofficial tally, and at the close of voting the tally is forwarded to the state elections department. An unofficial but very accurate result is available within an hour or so of the end of voting.[1]

There are physical paper ballots so there is a literal paper trail. Recounts are easy.

There is no "hanging chad" problem; the optical scanner at the polling place makes sure that each ballot is unambiguous.

Then all you need is a good "chain of custody", making sure that all ballots are delivered (and no fake ballots are introduced into the counting).

[1] Of course, absentee ballots will also be counted and the absentee results will not be available that fast; but non-close election results will be known that fast.

+ - Microsoft losing the schools to iPads and Chromebooks

Submitted by dkatana
dkatana (2761029) writes "Microsoft licensing scheme, high cost of support and difficult management of devices are the key factors making schools drop Windows for better alternatives as iPads and Chromebooks.

Google is making a dent on education with Chromebooks. The internet giant has been promoting the use of Chrome OS with specific tools for schools to manage the devices, their apps and users. Its Chromebooks for Education program is helping schools deploy large numbers of devices with an easy management system.

While Google is successful with Chromebooks as school laptops the clear winner on tablets is Apple. iPads are a the preferred platform for schools deploying tablets as digital learning devices."

Comment: Intel isn't going to win this one (Score 4, Insightful) 91

by steveha (#48374601) Attached to: Intel Claims Chip Suppliers Will Flock To Its Mobile Tech

I've said it before: companies that are perfectly happy with ARM chips now are not going to be in a hurry to lock themselves in to sole-source chips.


Intel would have to be better than ARM, and not just a little bit better... they would have to be dramatically better, such that the risk of being locked in to a sole source vendor would be worth accepting. It hasn't happened yet and I don't expect it to happen.

It will be difficult for any company, even AMD, to really challenge Intel in the high-end CPU market. But it would take a miracle for Intel to lock down the mobile CPUs market.

Intel's plan:

0) Get everyone locked in to needing to buy chips from Intel.
1) Charge stiff margins for those chips.
2) Profit!

Intel does have some chips in some Android devices, but they aren't charging the stiff margins they would like to charge. I don't think they will ever manage to do it.

Second best would be to not charge stiff margins but at least get a large chunk of the available profits from the mobile space. But I don't think they will be able to push out ARM and gain majority share of the market; they will continue to be a niche player.

+ - Pitivi Video Editor surpasses 50% crowdfunding goal, releases version 0.94

Submitted by kxra
kxra (2826067) writes "With the latest developments, Pitivi is proving to truly be a promising libre video editor for GNU distributions as well as a serious contender for bringing libre video production up to par with its proprietary counterparts. Since launching a beautifully well-organized crowdfunding campaign (as covered here previously), the team has raised over half of their 35,000 € goal to pay for full-time development and has entered "beta" status for version 1.0. They've released two versions, 0.94 (release notes) being the most recent, which have brought full MPEG-TS/AVCHD support, porting to Python 3, lots of UX improvements, and—of course—lots and lots of bug fixes. The next release (0.95) will run on top of Non Linear Engine, a refined and incredibly more robust backend Pitivi developers have produced to replace GNonLin and bring Pitivi closer to the rock-solid stability needed for the final 1.0 release."

"Laugh while you can, monkey-boy." -- Dr. Emilio Lizardo