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Comment: Desalinisation (Score 4, Interesting) 268

by steveha (#47989505) Attached to: IBM Solar Concentrator Can Produce12kW/day, Clean Water, and AC

The article is pretty terrible on the details. It seems that this CPV device is intended to be built near the ocean, and use salt water for cooling; the water can then be run through a desalinization system.

The hot water can then be used in an attached desalination system that creates drinkable water by passing itwater[sic] through a Gortex-like membrane.

According to Wikipedia there are several desalinization processes available that use heated water and a membrane.

The article is vague on how the CPV system provides cooling, but the CPV system produces heat as a byproduct, and it is possible to use extra heat for cooling. There are refrigerators that run on propane, with no motors. (There is a sort of pumping of coolant that relies on gravity.

There are a lot of places in the world that get lots of sunlight, are near salt water, and could use more fresh water. So this sounds like a good idea, but it isn't going to be installed everywhere.

Comment: Re:Who cares about succinctness .... (Score 2) 165

by steveha (#47989331) Attached to: Rosetta Code Study Weighs In On the Programming Language Debate

I was surprised at how many instructions that developers previously spread out over multiple lines are now packed into highly idiomatic one-liners.

As with many things, Python one-liners can be good or bad. When done correctly they are awesome.

Consider this code:

bad = any(is_bad_word(word) for word in words_in(message))

If words_in() is a generator that yields up one word at a time from the message, and is_bad_word() is a function that detects profanity or other banned words, then this one-liner checks to see if any word in a message is a bad word.

I love the any() and all() built-in functions in Python.

You can take this too far. Instead of defining a function is_bad_word() you could put the code inline as part of the on-liner. And instead of defining a generator that yields up one word at a time, you could add the splitting code to the one-liner. Then you would get:

bad = any(word in bad_words_list for line in message for word in line.split())

Or let's say the definition of a bad word is that any substring in the word is from the bad list (thus "frakking" is a bad word if "frak" is in the bad list), with it inline you get:

bad = any(any(bad_word in word for bad word in bad_words_list) for line in message for word in line.split())

I think we can all agree that the above is horrible, but I hope you will agree that the first one was pretty nice.

Comment: HP MicroServer (Score 1) 286

by steveha (#47975671) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: What's In Your Home Datacenter?

I have an HP MicroServer running Debian Stable, with several VMs running under Xen.

I love the MicroServer. Quiet, easy to work on, and inexpensive enough that I'm going to just buy a second one as a hot spare.

It doesn't support hot swapping of hard drives, but for my home use I don't need four nines reliability; powering down to swap drives is just fine for me.

I run an email server with a small number of users (family and a few friends). This makes me appreciate sysadmins more.

I am planning to switch from using Xen VMs to using Docker containers.

Comment: This seems like a very veiled attack on systemd (Score 1) 221

by steveha (#47970421) Attached to: Outlining Thin Linux

He points out, correctly, that many servers don't need much. Particularly with cloud services, servers might spin up a whole bunch of very lightweight virtual machines doing one thing (running a web server like nginx for example).

So his big idea is a "server-only" distribution that doesn't have any support at all for GUI operation. But he doesn't really explain the benefit. As far as I can understand, he names one single benefit: such a distro would be "not beholden to architectural changes made due to desktop package requirements."

The only "architectural changes" I can think of recently are related to systemd, so I guess this was his very roundabout way of wishing for a Linux distribution with no systemd support.

Am I wrong here? Did you manage to find any other advantage listed in his article to explain why it would be great if you were unable to set up a machine running your server OS with a GUI?

Comment: I do want digital albums (Score 3, Interesting) 358

by steveha (#47946501) Attached to: U2 and Apple Collaborate On 'Non-Piratable, Interactive Format For Music'

I really do want digital albums, complete with very high resolution art, full lyrics, liner notes, and extras.

I'd actually like to have the ability to buy the "full album" that would include video files of each music video from the album, "B" sides from old 45 releases of songs from the album, backstage videos, interviews with the artist, whatever.

The old album covers from the 70's, the ones that were supposed to be on large vinyl record jackets... I want to be able to put those up on a large flatscreen TV while the album is playing. Preferably not just a scan from a CD printing, but the original image scanned in high resolution. I'd like to be able to see all the details in Hipgnosis images like the jacket art to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway or Wish You Were Here. (Hmm, someone made an animated GIF for that last one... heck, I'd like it both ways in the digital album, original and new animated version.)

Of course, I want this all using open file formats (FLAC, JPEG, HTML). But since nobody else got around to doing this, Apple is doing it first, and of course with Apple it will be proprietary, opaque, and likely patented somehow for maximum lockin.

I don't think this will revolutionize music, but it really is something I want.

Comment: Re:You want a ChromeBook (Score 4, Informative) 334

by steveha (#47933371) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Remote Support For Disconnected, Computer-Illiterate Relatives

Agreed on the ChromeBook.

I'm not sure about making a ChromeBook use dial-up, so the solution is to somehow get a WiFi router on dialup.

I think there used to be WiFi routers that could manage a modem directly, but there isn't much call for them these days so I doubt you can find one.

You could set up a computer with Linux just to manage the dialup, and plug that into the router's WAN port. But maybe you can just customize a router to do what you need:

Buy a router that is well supported by open firmware and has USB ports. Install the open firmware, login as root, then customize the router to do the dialup with a USB modem.

In the past, I have used TomatoUSB with an Asus RT-N16 router (costs about $80 new). It was a pleasure to work with. The router gives you about 24 MB of usable storage using onboard flash memory, but you can trivially plug in a USB flash drive and have gigabytes of storage if you need it. But you can probably set up the needed scripts to manage the modem in the 24 MB space.

There are newer routers with bigger onboard flash if you prefer. I only mention the Asus RT-N16 because I have actually worked with one, and it's very inexpensive. And it has plenty of CPU speed and RAM for this application.

The above solution is cheaper than using a computer to manage the dialup, and should be bulletproof. Also your relatives are unlikely to mess with it.

P.S. Hmm, I did a quick Google search and there are still routers with dialup support. Here's one for about $150... I've never used one so I don't know how well it works.

Comment: Much better article in _Nature_ (Score 5, Informative) 106

Key points:

* The coating on the nanobeads binds to many different things, so it's useful even if you don't know in advance what is making the patient sick.

The device uses a modified version of mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a protein found in humans that binds to sugar molecules on the surfaces of more than 90 different bacteria, viruses and fungi, as well as to the toxins released by dead bacteria that trigger the immune overreaction in sepsis.

* The device can process about 1 litre of blood per hour; compare with about 5 litre blood volume for a typical human, thus this should be able to completely process a person's blood about once every 5 hours. If a faster rate is needed, multiple devices could be used in parallel.

* This has been successfully tested on rats. They infected rats with bacteria and 89% of the rats treated with the "artificial spleen" survived, while only 14% of the control group survived.

* This could move to human clinical trials relatively soon.

Nigel Klein, an infection and immunity expert at University College London, says that the biospleen could also allow diagnosticians to collect samples of a pathogen from the blood and then culture it to identify it and determine what drugs will best treat it. As blood transfusion and filtration are already common practices, he expects that the biospleen could move into human clinical trials within a couple of years.

Read the whole article. It's not long and all of it is interesting.

Comment: Legal precedents (Score 1) 206

by steveha (#47838645) Attached to: Should Cyborgs Have the Same Privacy Rights As Humans?

To decide this, we need to look at the history of the 5th Amendment and how the courts have interpreted it. I'm not a lawyer, but I think it's pretty clear that cyborgs' personal data will be covered.

According to Wikipedia's article on the 5th Amendment, courts have been pretty expansive. You can't even be required to turn over the password to an encrypted hard drive if it would incriminate you.

If I understand the history, the 5th Amendment was partly a backlash over the horribly unfair "Star Chamber" legal proceedings, and also against the use of torture to extract a confession. As a minarchist libertarian, I think it is wise to hold government on a short leash, and I am in favor of keeping the government from taking shortcuts that lead to convictions. But on the other hand, I'm in favor of the truth winning in trials. If you are driving a car and there is a collision, I want experts to be able to examine the "black box" from your car (assuming your car has one); I don't think you can reasonably claim that turning over your "black box" would constitute self-incrimination. So if we imagine a sort of "black box" inside the body of a cyborg, it's hard for me to think that should be private while I think the black box from a car shouldn't be.

Of course, I don't want to see someone have their cyborg body's black box hacked to plant fake evidence against them, but that seems awfully hypothetical at this point.

Hmmm. I wonder if anyone is going to be required to produce the data from their FitBit or other exercise tracker during a criminal investigation anytime soon. I'm guessing that the courts might hold that the 5th Amendment would protect that data. But it would be pretty amazing if you had a guy accused of stabbing someone, and his wrist device had a log showing his hand making stabbing motions at the time the murder occurred!

+ - Google Serves Old Browsers Old Search Page

Submitted by Rambo Tribble
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "In an apparent move to push those using older browsers to update, Google is reported to be serving outdated search pages to said browsers. The older pages lack features available on the newer versions, and this policy compounds with the limits announced in 2011 on Gmail support for older web clients. As a Google engineer put it, "We're continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers." The BBC offers a fairly comprehensive analysis, here."

+ - âFakeâ(TM) cellphone towers discovered in U.S.->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Seventeen mysterious cellphone towers have been found in America which look like ordinary towers, and can only be identified by a heavily customized handset built for Android security â" but have a much more malicious purpose, according to Popular Science.

The fake âtowersâ(TM) â" computers which wirelessly attack cellphones via the âoebasebandâ chips built to allow them to communicate with their networks, can eavesdrop and even install spyware, ESD claims. They are a known technology — but the surprise is that they are in active use."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Board games (Score 1) 382

by steveha (#47777423) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Best Games To Have In Your Collection?

For group get-togethers, here are some great board games to have on hand.

Can't Stop -- 2 to 4 players. An elegantly simple "push your luck" game. You only need to make one decision: keep going, or stop?

Incan Gold -- 3 to 8 players. This is a reworked version of a classic called Diamonte. It's another "push your luck" game, but it's very different from Can't Stop in that it's group game. The whole group plays in parallel: they all decide whether to keep going, or stop, and all reveal their choice simultaneously. This means that the 8-player game doesn't really take longer than the 3-player game!

I'll second the vote for Pandemic. But if you want something a little simpler than Pandemic, with a less depressing theme, you can play Forbidden Island (2-4 players). Forbidden Island was designed by the same guy who designed Pandemic, and uses many of the same game mechanics. I love the art, which reminds me of Myst; and it is inexpensive and doesn't take up much space in your closet. Very suitable for kids.

All of these suggestions are good for convincing non-gamers to try playing a board game.

P.S. When I was a teenager, some friends and I used to play Wiz-War, and had a blast. It's a simple game: either steal two treasures from other players, or be the last player standing. There is a deck of cards, which includes all kinds of crazy spells you can cast.

Once when I was playing, another player hit me with Slow Death, which makes you lose one hit point for each card you draw; I countered with Reversal, which reverses the effects of a spell, and started drawing two cards each turn (the max). I thought this was a good thing, but the other players were now very worried about me, and they all ganged up on me and just killed me. So the Slow Death worked after all, in a fashion. :-)

The game is now available in a deluxe edition (which I haven't played yet).

Comment: There's something to it (Score 5, Interesting) 281

by steveha (#47752577) Attached to: The Evolution of Diet

I think there is something to the "Paleolithic Diet" idea, but many people are Doing It Wrong.

The prehistoric people exercised all the time, every day. They ate meat when they could get it, which wasn't 100% of the time, and the meat they got was lean. They ate fruit when they could get it, which was almost never (e.g. berries in late summer, a few dried berries other parts of the year). They ate a variety of high-fiber roots, leaves, and other gatherable food. They didn't eat any processed carbs (white flour, white sugar, etc.).

If we lived more like that, we really would be healthier.

But some people take the idea to places I don't think are good. For example, making a "paleo cake" with no processed sugar sounds good, but if it has large amounts of ground nuts and cooked fruit, and is sweetened with maple syrup... it's really not something that the prehistoric people would have eaten and I'm dubious about the benefit.

Also, it is possible for people to adapt to changing conditions in a few generations; it's not necessarily true that evolution works so slowly that the diet from 10,000 years ago is still perfect for us. TFA talked about lactose tolerance in adults. In the cave-man days there was no evolutionary advantage to being able to consume dairy as an adult, but once people started keeping livestock and harvesting dairy, that changed. Now many people can digest lactose as adults.

TL;DR Eat lean protein, complex carbs rather than simple carbs, and get lots of exercise, and you will be healthy.

+ - New Type-C USB connector ready for production->

Submitted by orasio
orasio (188021) writes "One of the most frustrating first world problems ever, trying to connect an upside down Micro-USB connector, is bound to dissappear soon.
Type-C connector for USB is declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group ("

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Will AMD APUs ever support ECC RAM? (Score 1) 117

by steveha (#47584557) Attached to: AMD Launches New Higher-End Kaveri APUs A10-7800 and A6-7400K

The socket AM3+ does support ECC (if you choose the right motherboard, ASUS usually do...)

Yeah, I have standardized on Asus for all my builds, and the ECC support is one of the reasons.

If you want ECC for cheap you could buy a lower-end socket AM3+ processor like the FX4350

My most recent build was an FX8xxx part. FX8350 I think.

otherwise Xeon is clearly the better choice.

I have made the choice to not give Intel any of my money if I can help it. I don't like the unethical games Intel plays (example).

Processors are so fast these days anyway, that the difference between the best AMD and the best Intel are not that big a deal for my purposes. And while AMD loses on absolute performance, they generally win on performance-per-money-spent.

Comment: Will AMD APUs ever support ECC RAM? (Score 0) 117

by steveha (#47583469) Attached to: AMD Launches New Higher-End Kaveri APUs A10-7800 and A6-7400K

I have a strong preference for using ECC RAM when I build a new computer.

I would be perfectly happy to use an APU to make a very quiet computer, but the chipsets that support the APUs don't have ECC support.

I admit I'm probably a weird outlier. People who want APUs probably don't want to pay extra for ECC RAM most of the time. Still, will there ever be even one chipset that will add ECC support?

Is there any technical reason why ECC shouldn't be used with an APU?

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_