Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Re:track record (Score 1) 260

by swilly (#48937263) Attached to: US Air Force Selects Boeing 747-8 To Replace Air Force One

The Soviet Union adopted with the AK-74 in 1974, and most Eastern European and former Soviet Republics use it today. It has many advantages over the old AK-47, including accuracy, penetration, and muzzle velocity. With proper maintenance it is as reliable as the AK-47, and it costs less than other modern assault rifles.

The only nation states I know of that still use the old AK-47 are in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia (including, I think, India). The big advantage of the AK-47 is that it is cheap enough to hand out like candy to guerrilla fighters, and it's reliable enough to still work after years of little to no maintenance (though it's effectiveness drops quite a lot when doing so).

Comment: Re:Just give the option to turn it off... (Score 1) 818

by swilly (#48879501) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

The Pennsylvania bill did not become law, but the UK and Vermont ones did (according to the article, which is flagged as needing more than three references).

I had never heard of the Red Flag traffic laws before. You learn something new every day. I can see why they would be enacted, and why they were thought to be practical (early self-propelled vehicles weren't much faster than a pedestrian, they were only practical for bulk transport). I suspect that many disruptive technologies have crazy laws and regulations before they become mainstream.

Comment: Being an excellent language isn't enough (Score 1) 383

by swilly (#48861587) Attached to: Is D an Underrated Programming Language?

The problem with D isn't the language, which is excellent. Unfortunately, superior languages loose out to inferior ones all the time. (Yes, I'm aware that superior and inferior are subjective terms.)

Language quality is nice, but there are several factors that are more important when it comes to market success. These factors include: third party tools (compilers, debuggers, IDEs, profilers, etc.), third party libraries (both quantity and quality are important here), momentum (C++ and Java are pretty well entrenched, and it will take a lot more than being a better language to significantly displace them), and finally there is the coolness factor. Coolness relies on many things, but the one that I think is most important is having a charismatic creator or evangelist.

Now D is making significant improvements in each of these areas, so I expect it to continue to grow in market share. In particular, LLVM support and having Andrei Alexandrescu as an evangelist are pretty huge. It still has a ways to go before it can catch up to C++, however.

Comment: Re:Missing the point (Score 1) 303

by swilly (#48729097) Attached to: Anthropomorphism and Object Oriented Programming

Many definitions of Object Orientation describe methods as functions associated with data (or with an objects state) and define them formally in terms of message passing. In fact, Alan Kay (creator of Smalltalk and I believe the originator of the term Object Oriented) includes objects sending and receiving messages as part of his definition of Object Oriented. Of course, Alan Kay also stated that every object is an instance of a class, so perhaps his definition isn't quite correct today.

Multiple dispatch often relies on inheritance, which is necessary but insufficient for Object Orientation. However, it isn't clear how to map a function call into a message for an object. Message passing is too useful of a model of computation to throw away. Perhaps you can create a definition of Object Oriented that doesn't use it, but I haven't seen one.

Comment: Re:Don't take airplanes piloted by the Malays (Score 1) 275

by swilly (#48686859) Attached to: AirAsia Flight Goes Missing Between Indonesia and Singapore

This isn't 100% true. I recently flew on a United flight from Atlanta to Dubai, and the nifty map showing the flight path displayed us flying right through the middle of Iraq. Perhaps it used to be true that we wouldn't fly over Iraq, but we do now. I'm sure that there are still altitude restrictions, but I'm just guessing.

Comment: Re:Knuth is right. (Score 5, Informative) 149

by swilly (#48677503) Attached to: Donald Knuth Worried About the "Dumbing Down" of Computer Science History

Computer Science is a pretty broad area of study, but I consider these three problems to be the most fundamental.

Computability: What can a computer do and what can it not do? There are an uncountably infinite number of problems that a computer cannot solve (undecidable), and only a countably infinite number of problems that a computer can solve (decidable). Fortunately, most of the interesting problems are decidable.

Complexity: If a computer can do something, how efficiently can it be done? This goes beyond the Big O you are taught as an undergraduate, and considered language spaces such as P, NP, PSPACE, EXPTIME, and so on. It also considered not only computation time but space (unfortunately, few undergraduates are introduced to space constraints of algorithms, a great interview question is to list an example of a sorting algorithm that takes constant space).

Equivalence: Given two algorithms, do they perform the same computation? Meaning that given the same inputs they will always produce the same outputs (and yes, side effects are also outputs)? A less strict (but of more practical importance) is whether or not a program meets a specification.

Computability and complexity are both important parts of the theory of computation, which is usually built on top of Language Theory, which is itself built on top of Set Theory. The hardest problem is modern mathematics may be P = NP, which is also a Computer Science problem. The third problem requires creating mathematical proofs using Formal Logic. It is also an excellent example of an undecidable problem, meaning that there is no general algorithm that can perform it for every program (in other words, it's something that a computer cannot do).

In addition to Set Theory and Formal Logic, Computer Science relies heavily on Boolean Algebra, Graph Theory, and other areas of Discrete Mathematics. Computer Science is inherently cross-disciplinary, but at its core it is closer to Mathematics than it is to Engineering or Science.

Comment: Re:80 years it was German (Score 4, Informative) 150

by swilly (#48606621) Attached to: Want To Influence the World? Map Reveals the Best Languages To Speak

80 years ago the Lingua Franca for diplomacy was French. In fact, French dominated diplomacy from the 17th century until WW2. English didn't start getting used in non-English diplomatic circles until after WW1 (it was quite significant when the Treaty of Versailles was written in both English and French). French has been eclipsed by English, but it is still popular (it is the second most used language in the UN and the EU).

For science and technology, Latin used to dominate. Once people stopped publishing in Latin, three dominant languages appeared: English, French, and German. Which was dominant depended on the field being discussed. Before WW1, German may have been the largest of the three, but after WW1, English was noticeably more dominant (and has only continued to grow).

For business, the general rule is that whenever possible the seller speaks the buyers language. 80 years ago, there were several useful intermediate languages that could be used to facilitate business. The most common would be English, French, and Arabic. I don't know that German was used much outside of Europe and the few German colonies. French was probably the smallest here, since outside of Europe it was most spoken in Africa, where it had to compete with Arabic as a language of trade. There are plenty of other languages which are influential at a regional level, such as Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili, but these haven't had much of an impact globally. Due to its size and economic might, I expect that Chinese will become more influential in the future, and it will slowly become more significant outside of Asia. I don't see Spanish moving outside of Europe and the Americas, at least not in the short term.

Comment: Re:Empty article.. (Score 1) 438

by swilly (#48462579) Attached to: How Intel and Micron May Finally Kill the Hard Disk Drive

You fail at reading comprehension. There is nothing in the summary that says those drives aren't possible, just that they have increased heat and (therefore) an increased rate of failure. This is one reason why average hard drive speeds haven't improved much in the last 15 years.

I once bought six Western Digital 10000 RPM drives for a RAID setup. Three of them failed within the first year. Two failed the next year (including one of the warranty replacements). I replaced them all with six of their 7200 RPM Red drives and other than one DOA that needed to be replaced, I haven't had a failure in almost two years. Sure, anecdotal evidence is purely anecdotal, but it backs up the summary. (Still pissed off about the DOA though.)

In the same time frame I have owned five SSDs, including an Intel SLC that is almost six years old (works great as a small root partition on my Linux box) and I have had only one failure (a 250GB OCZ Vertex Pro). And unlike the hard drives, the data was recoverable from the dead SSD (I could mount it read only, but it wouldn't mount writable). Other than the failed SSD and my laptop drive (no idea who made it), all of my SSDs have been Samsung or Intel drives, and I highly recommend both manufacturers.

Comment: Re:Remove It (Score 2) 522

by swilly (#48170735) Attached to: Debian Talks About Systemd Once Again

I don't know about journald, but on Solaris the binary logging works using digital signatures. Each log message (and the prior log messages signature) is signed to ensure that the log message hasn't been tampered with, and that log messages haven't been removed. In the event of tampering, the log messages can still be read, but are flagged as untrustworthy. I understand that administrators prefer text messages (which is why our Solaris systems also logged to syslog), but for security auditors digitally signed binary logs are a godsend.

Comment: Re:So confused (Score 2) 376

by swilly (#48153693) Attached to: Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

There was never any question about whether Iraq had chemical weapons. After all, Saddam used them against Iran and his own people. The question has always been, "where are they now?"

The possible answers are that he still had them somewhere, that he gave them away, that he destroyed them, or that he had run out. Each of these answers presents problems. If he still had them, then where were they and who might still have access to them? If he gave them away, who did he give them to and why? If he destroyed them, why not let the West verify this and stop the sanctions (and also prevent an invasion)? If he used them all up, why didn't he make more? Saddam's actions suggest that he had something to hide, or that he wanted people to think that he had something to hide (I always liked the idea that he wanted Iran to believe he had them, but wanted to plant doubt in the US, and he couldn't pull off that balancing act).

I don't know if I believe the article, but it would be nice to have a conclusive answer one way or another.

Comment: Re:German illegal? (Score 2) 323

by swilly (#48142621) Attached to: How English Beat German As the Language of Science

This was very common. Germans emigrated in large numbers in the late 19th century, but you wouldn't know it today. In response to public outrage at unrestricted submarine warfare many Germans immigrants Anglicized their names, turning Schmidt into Smith, Wilhelm into Williams, and so on. Anglicization also happened in England, with the most notable case being the rename of Saxe-Coburg to Windsor (yes, the English royal family were Germans with blatantly German names).

Comment: Re:WTF? (Score 3, Informative) 265

by swilly (#48132689) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Can't Google Block Spam In Gmail?

I agree. I can't remember the last time I had spam reach my Gmail inbox. Google is incredibly good at finding spam.

In fact, my complaint is the opposite, Gmail is too aggressive in flagging mail as spam. I get notifications from Fidelity about my account, and most emails are fine but things like dividend payments are consistently flagged as spam. I always flag them as "Not Spam", they match an existing filter, and I've even forwarded them to Google for review, but none of that has helped.

I occasionally have other emails incorrectly flagged as spam, but its pretty rare. The Fidelity messages aren't time critical, so this is more of an annoyance than a problem. I wish Google (or Fidelity) would get better at recognizing the difference between spam and legitimate emails that happen to be sent to a lot of people.

Comment: Re:Top Gear had an interesting experiment (Score 1) 403

by swilly (#48093579) Attached to: Fuel Efficiency Numbers Overstate MPG More For Cars With Small Engines

That's not surprising. The Prius has an Atkinson cycle engine which can be efficiently and quickly turned on and off, but it has a very low power density. This means that the Prius performs well when coasting (as it can turn off the gasoline engine when it doesn't need it), but poorly when accelerating hard. Most driving consists of short periods of acceleration and long periods of coasting, and the electric motor can handle a lot of the work for low speed acceleration and maintaining cruising speed, which means that the power density of the gasoline engine isn't very important for every day driving. However, if you are constantly accelerating hard, then the electric motor is wasted, the advantages of the Atkinson cycle engine are minimized and the disadvantages are maximized. If you keep it up for a long period of time, the Prius will not perform well at all. (The aerodynamic body would probably help when constantly accelerating hard, but I suspect its benefits would drop off as its speed increases.)

Comment: Re:In other news: Are 4K displays worth getting ye (Score 1) 204

by swilly (#47839027) Attached to: Dell Demos 5K Display

Most Linux desktop environments are DPI independent for fonts and toolkit controls, but it can be a bit hard to change as such things are often tied to your system theme. Of course, that doesn't help with scaling things like images. For many years now you could get desktop scaling using Compiz, but that requires hardware with good OpenGL support so few distributions use it. The current standard for things like 4K monitors is HiDPI (which Apple is calling Retina for marketing reasons).

The only Linux distribution I know with good support for HiDPI is Linux Mint Cinnamon. It even selects it automatically if it detects that your monitor exceeds a certain number of pixels per inch. The setting is in Settings -> General -> Desktop Scaling. I find that with HiDPI and a some tweaks to the default fonts, only web browsers don't display how I want them to (I prefer a 110% zoom for my web browser). Fortunately, changing the default zoom in Chrome works very well, it can even scale Flash content properly.

Other desktop environments that use Gnome libraries like Unity and Gnome Shell should have HiDPI working soon (if they don't already). It looks like KDE has HiDPI support, but they still have some issues to resolve. I'd expect the new KDE 5 desktop to work well.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

Working...