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Slashback: Periodicity, Vacuum, Strength 169

Slashback's updates tonight (below) bring you more information on chemically interesting furniture, old-school electronics in new-tech devices, and Brigham Young's ultra-strong building materials. Welcome to the home, car and wind-farm of the future, please mind your step.

Bratty kids get to sit near the volatile elements. Theodore Gray writes: "About a month ago there was a slashdot lively discussion about my wooden Periodic Table Table. A bunch of slashdot readers sent me elements for it: Thank you slashdot! Two people actually sent me free Ag and Pd, contrary to the jokes in the discussion. I decided the world could stand another periodic table website. Since all the eight dozen other periodic tables on the web have better reference information than mine, I used some Mathematica programs to generate links to many of them for each element. But my site is more beautiful. I'm going for science as art. Mine also has by far the best quality sample photos: High resolution, high quality macro shots of 89 samples so far."

Starts with a crank, too. ripaway writes "With all the recent stories about vaccuum tubes, I find it ironic that I stumbled on this today. Sterephile reports about the Panasonic CQ-TX5500D(link to Japanese site) car stereo that uses a vaccuum tube, with analog vu-meters. It also plays mp3 files 8-) Naturally, this is for the Japan market only."

Sounds like material for a Burning Man tent ... nm1m writes "A superstrong composite developed by Brigham Young University scientists and students has received financing for its first practical application -- mammoth wind turbine towers able to more than triple the electrical output of existing steel models. Read the story here."

We mentioned this interesting lattice-looking material a few weeks ago.

Sucking requires a context to be good or bad. Sun Tzu writes "After the recent discussion on bad software, how about a different reason for why software sucks? Maybe we programmers and users don't have it quite so bad after all."

That dadburn whippersnapper, why when I was a boy ... Junks Jerzey writes "I remember reading about Halcyon Days: Interviews with Classic Computer and Video Game Programmers five years ago in Wired News. Pretty cool stuff, with an introduction by some guy called John Romero. It was available for a long time as a commercial product that used HTML for formatting, but it's now completely online, as reported by the author."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: Periodicity, Vacuum, Strength

Comments Filter:
  • by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @07:04PM (#3740464) Homepage
    Score one for us Latter-day Saints. Now if only the comments would last five minutes without obligatory mentions of polygamy, jello, large families, missionaries or cults, we'd have it made.
    • by mph ( 7675 )
      Now if only the comments would last five minutes without obligatory mentions of polygamy, jello, large families, missionaries or cults, we'd have it made.
      Uh, too late.
    • Off-topic curiosity (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Skyshadow ( 508 )
      This is off-topic, but I'm curious:

      What's the difference between "mormon" and "latter day saint"? Is it simply a usage issue (aka, followers of Islam are Muslims, not Islams)? Is it an honorific type of deal? Is it simply a preference? What would John Smith or Brigham Young have referred to themselves as?

      Anyhow, serious curiosity. Reply appreciated.

      • They are both the same, and both are nicknames.

        The full name of the church is: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is where the "latter day saint" nickname comes from.

        The nickname "mormon" comes from a book called The Book of Mormon that is used and accepted as scripture only by members of the church.
        • by doomdog ( 541990 )
          (Previous post was cut off)...

          They are both the same, and both are nicknames.

          The full name of the church is: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is where the "latter day saint" nickname comes from.

          The nickname "mormon" comes from a book called The Book of Mormon that is used and accepted as scripture only by members of the church.

          Neither nickname is offensive to members of the church, although "latter-day saints" (and sometimes reduced to just "saints") is more commonly used for members referring to themselves or other members.

          "Mormon" is generally used by non-members of the church, primarily because they aren't familiar with the actual name (it is a tad long...). It is also sometimes used as a pejorative by non-members, although it is a rather strange pejorative because it isn't offensive to the recipients :)
          • At least "Mormon" is less offensive than the nickname the Church got in Russia - it tranlslates to "polygamist". Since the Saints haven't practiced polygamy for about 150 years now we get a bit touchy about that...
            • Don't forget "LDS" when mentioning acceptable nicknames. Also, there are pockets of mormonism that still practive polygamy even though the official stance of the church has changed.
      • by Goonie ( 8651 )
        The Wikipedia [wikipedia.com] has extensive discussion on this topic here. [wikipedia.com]
      • The official name of the church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints". [1] As you can expect, that's quite a mouthful so a nickname is necessary. "Latter-Day Saint (LDS) Church" is acceptable, and the church Presidency supports it. Likewise, it's appropriate to call members of the LDS church "Latter-Day Saints".

        "Mormon" [2] is a nickname that was given to the church and its members by others, who knew that we considered the Book of Mormon to be scripture [3] (but didn't know much else about us). This is not a nickname sanctioned by the church Presidency, but most of the church members tolerate it. The problem is that using the name "Mormon" for the church and its members makes it sound like we worship Mormon, or that the church was perhaps founded by Mormon; neither is the case.

        What's worse, there are several groups that claim to be "Mormons" - most notably the "Reformed LDS Church" and the polygamists [4] in southern Utah (who I think call themselves "Fundamentalist Mormons", or something like that) - who have little to do with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For the most part these other "Mormon" churches are splinter groups formed by people who left the church (or were kicked out) because they felt that they should be leading the flock instead of the current Presidency. The legitimate leaders are understandably anxious to make a clear distinction between the real LDS church and the others that call themselves "Mormons".

        I personally respond to either and don't make a big deal about it in most cases as long as I'm sure that there's no confusion about what people mean by it.

        [1] The "Latter Days" referred to are the present times. The members of Christ's church in His day were called saints, and members of His church today are called "Latter-Day Saints to distinguish the "former" church from the "latter".

        [2] Mormon was a real person, a prophet-historian who compiled the Book of Mormon. It's his book, so it's named after him.

        [3] We recognize the Bible as scripture, too. There are also a couple of other books of scripture that we use: the Doctrine and Covenants records revelations given to Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the latter days; and the Pearl of Great Price, which records revelations recived by Moses and Abraham, found and translated by Joseph Smith.

        [4] Polygamy used to be practiced by the LDS church, but was discontinued about 150 years ago. Anyone church member who practices it modernly is promptly excommunicated. So Tom Green, on trial for various sex crimes against one of his underage wives has nothing whatever to do with the LDS church, regardless of how much he may protest that he is a "Mormon".

        • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @10:45PM (#3741515) Homepage
          "The official name of the church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"."
          And the prepositional mangling begins.

          What's worse, there are several groups that claim to be "Mormons" - most notably the "Reformed LDS Church" and the polygamists [4] in southern Utah (who I think call themselves "Fundamentalist Mormons", or something like that) - who have little to do with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For the most part these other "Mormon" churches are splinter groups formed by people who left the church (or were kicked out) because they felt that they should be leading the flock instead of the current Presidency. The legitimate leaders are understandably anxious to make a clear distinction between the real LDS church and the others that call themselves "Mormons".
          The problems with this statement are going to be tough to clear up for those just joining the Mormon debates. When Joseph Smith died, he threw the proverbial boquet into the drunken bridesmaid horde. He never left clear instructions on who was to succeed him, and he had a tendency to make crazy promises to keep people happy. In short, there were about ten people who thought they should lead the Church, each with their own valid claims of authority (see "Origins of Power," by D. Michael Quinn).

          Brigham Young just happened to be really charismatic, and got the majority of the early Mormons to accept his authority above other claimants (Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith III). The victors rewrote the history books to demonstrate their legitimacy.

          If you want a truly unambiguous name, call yourself the Brighamites. Each of the other splinter groups (gun-toting polygamists included) have every bit as much right to call themselves Mormons/Latter-day Saints as Brigham Young's followers do.

          [2] Mormon was a real person, a prophet-historian who compiled the Book of Mormon. It's his book, so it's named after him.
          Yes, Mormon was a real person. And the Native Americans really are dark-skinned Jews, and the early inhabitants of this continent really did use steel in large quantities, and really raised cattle and corn and wheat, and really rode horses into battle. The fact that there's no more archaeological evidence for any of these cultural items shouldn't unsettle you. After all, you have a testimony.

          [3] We recognize the Bible as scripture, too. There are also a couple of other books of scripture that we use: the Doctrine and Covenants records revelations given to Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the latter days; and the Pearl of Great Price, which records revelations recived by Moses and Abraham, found and translated by Joseph Smith.
          According to the Articles of Faith (also LDS scripture), Mormons believe the Bible to be the Word of God insofar as it has been translated correctly. But Mormons also believe that the modern Bible was so thoroughly mangled by "wicked and corrupt priests" that the Bible actually became a stumbling block to those who wanted to find God. Smith made numerous revisions to the Bible to make it more theologically acceptable to him (and included a prophecy of his own birth). Of course, none of these revisions match up with the earliest copies of the books of the Bible.

          As a die-hard atheist, I could really care less. But Mormons get a lot of flack from mainstream Christians for minimizing the differences between themselves and traditional Christianity, especially when they smell a conversion.

          Oh, the Book of Abraham--purported to have been the writings of Abraham, the Patriarch of Israel--were really an Egyptian funeral book called "The Book of Breathings," written for a man named Horus. Joseph Smith got suckered, and so did his (now 12,000,000 strong) flock.

          [4] Polygamy used to be practiced by the LDS church, but was discontinued about 150 years ago. Anyone church member who practices it modernly is promptly excommunicated. So Tom Green, on trial for various sex crimes against one of his underage wives has nothing whatever to do with the LDS church, regardless of how much he may protest that he is a "Mormon".
          Polygamy was actually discontinued less than 100 years ago, in 1905. Mormons generally claim that the practice ended in 1890, but plural marriages were still being approved by the President of the Church and other apostles for fifteen years afterwards. Finally, with the second Manifesto, the Church got serious. Now they don't even allow plural marriage in areas of the world where it's legal.

          To make things more complicated, Mormons still believe in polygamy in the afterlife. A widower can choose to be married to a second woman "for eternity" without affecting his marriage to his first wife.

          Correction: Tom Green has nothing to do with the clean-cut young men on bicycles, the pretty white buildings you see from the freeway, the 2002 Winter Olympics, the commercials on TV for a free Bible, or anything else put out by the Corporation of the President. But in their zeal to distance themselves from polygamy, your presidency ignores the fact that early LDS theology left the door wide open for the Tom Greens of the world. The word "Mormon" can and does encompass all the supposedly illegitimate splinter groups.

          The basic feeling of the Corporate Church towards the term "Mormons" is as follows: You can't use it to refer to us. You can't use it to refer to anybody else. They've tried some laughable PR blitzes to change the common usage, and it's never worked.
          • ya gotta hand it 2 those wacky mormons: they sure know how 2 impress w/architecture...but isn't that the purpose of all steeples;-)

            here in Our Nation's Capital(tm dave barry;-) they bought some land near where the beltway was going 2 b built (and ya gotta admire their long-term planning;-) so now travelers on the outer loop(counterclockwise, west-bound) cresting the rise @ the georgia ave. exit are treated to the angel moroni rising atop the main spire, appearing on the western horizon like a vision (as i'm sure he did 4 ol joe smith;-) and dominating the view for the entire 1 mile downhill stretch, until it disappears behind the CSX rr bridge over the beltway, where u can still make out the over-painted graffiti: "surrender dorothy"
            hey, anybody up 4 slipping some green gels over the temple's floodlites?;-);-);-)
        • ...snip much semantic hoo-hah about drug-abusing felons not named "L. Ron" who started "churches" for dubious reasons...

          So it's basically a money thing, then?

          -B

      • I know you didn't ask, but to spread knowledge, here we go:
        Although in English, calling one who practices Islam (Submission to God) a Muslim (One who submits) seems a curious usage issue, in Arabic it makes perfect sense. Almost all words in the Arabic language are formed by 3 consonant stems. In this case, it's SLM , which implies submission. From this you form iSLaM and muSLiM in much the same way you form Christianity and Christian from the root word Christ in English.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      ... not mentioning ... cold fusion ;-)
      • Re:Brigham Young (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Uh... that was the University of Utah.
        NOT BYU.
    • Re:Brigham Young (Score:1, Interesting)

      Now if only the comments would last five minutes without obligatory mentions of polygamy, jello, large families, missionaries or cults, we'd have it made.

      Jello?

      How about White Supremacy, forced tithing (paycheck withholding; mandatory in Utah), Brigham Young's declaration of war against the US, the Meadows Mountain Massacre (look it up), and special Government-Issued underwear?

      "Jello"?

    • Score one for us Latter-day Saints. Now if only the comments would last five minutes without obligatory mentions of polygamy, jello, large families, missionaries or cults, we'd have it made.

      A limerick by Edward Abbey:

      An LDS bishop named Bundy

      Used to wed a new bride every Sunday.
      His multiple matehood
      Was ended by statehood.
      Sic transit gloria mundi.

  • Sounds like material for a Burning Man tent ... nm1m writes "A superstrong composite developed by Brigham Young University scientists and students has received financing for its first practical application -- mammoth wind turbine towers able to more than triple the electrical output of existing steel models. Read the story here."

    Wow. Brigham Young and burning man mentioned in the same sentence?

    Having attended one of the above, I can guarantee you this will not be a frequent event.

  • I guess you meant Au, tsk tsk, and we trust you to build perodic tables. :)
  • There is also a motehrboard using vacuum tubes for onboard audio, here is a link to google's cache of the page [216.239.37.100].
  • by GigsVT ( 208848 )
    or its first practical application -- mammoth wind turbine towers

    The first impractical application was for shoes that could have doors slammed on them and not injure the wearer.
  • .. and safe to have around, so long as you don't eat them (these ones are alpha emitters; alpha particles can't penetrate a sheet of paper). They're also unregulated (in retail quantities) so you don't have to get NRC approval to have them.

    Polonium: You can buy photographic negative brushes that contain polonium, from good camera shops. The polonium gives off alpha particles that help to discharge static from the negatives as you brush them. $10-$20.

    Americium: Smoke detectors contain Americium-241. A tiny speck of it is in the detector head -- the roughly cylindrical gizmo that looks like a stamped-metal flying saucer. $9

    Uranium: pitchblende is comparatively easy to find, and of course the infamous 1970s Fiesta Ware is still to be found (though getting more difficult).

  • I've found a novel new place to find the little buggers. Take a trip 20-30 minutes out of any major metropolis and you'll find that the rural outskirts are often littered (sadly) with old appliances. Often very old appliances. I found a basket full of buggers out of a few old TV sets on a friend's property last week. They tend to weather the elements pretty well. The load I found were probably dumped at least 10 years ago and were all in perfect condition.

    Then, if you're a real man/woman, clean up the old trash.

    Meet Fake Tom Cruise [lostbrain.com]

    tcd004
    • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @08:26PM (#3740858) Homepage

      I found a basket full of buggers out of a few old TV sets on a friend's property last week. They tend to weather the elements pretty well.

      Sadly, TV tubes don't tend to be very valuable. With the number of 6GH8As that I have, one would think that I should be a millionaire, but most people don't need a bandpass amplifier for a 1960s color TV.

      I've grabbed a few tubes out of the backs of radios, TVs and industrial equipment I've found mostly in (primarily) automotive junkyards. Usually the type number is washed off the glass, making the tube nearly useless. If you can tell a triode from a pentode by looking through the glass, you can make guesses and then careful analysis on the tube tester, but that assumes the tube was good to begin with.

      Only TV tube I've ever got like that which was useful and rare enough to warrant the effort was a 6BK4. Fortunately, those are pretty easy to spot through the glass, it looks like a death ray in there. (High voltage triode, designed as a shunt regulator in early (late 1950s) color TV sets.)

    • In the UK at least, there are quite a few companies that import valves from the former USSR. I'm not sure where it ended up, but IIRC in the early 80's Mullard sold off their *entire* valve factory to the Soviets. They now make extremely high quality valves for all kinds of applications. Cheap, too...


      I use Sovtek (one of the brands) EL34's and ECC83's in my guitar amp, and they sound great. A quick Google will turn up the US equivalent of these, but the EL34 is a large power pentode used in the output stage, and ECC83's are the dual triodes used in the preamp.


      The Russian valve companies also produce the bloody big transmitter valves that most high-power TV and radio transmitters depend on. They can only be described as a work of art. The actual designs haven't changed much, but 20 years of development in precision engineering has improved the quality of these devices greatly. I've got a "dead" UHF transmitter output valve sitting on my bench - about the size of a coffee mug, beautifully machined aluminium thing. The whole anode is one big, shiny, CNC-machined heatsink, to dissipate the 250W or so that it produces.

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @07:17PM (#3740518) Homepage
    There's a really simple reason why Software Sucks:

    Software development is driven by clueless pointy-hairs, overreaching sales guys who make baseless promises and people who've never had a single software development class or written a single line of code

    I realized this at my last company -- I was in a high enough staff position to see the whole tragedy unfold. Features were driven by what the sales team promised, deadlines by what was written into contracts without development's input, and product managers would bypass the release process and give customers internal test versions of the software. The developers were simply issued marching orders and then ignored.

    I believe this is the way most crappy software comes about, regardless of how obvious this process is.

    Of course, leave it to the geeks and you'll get Mozilla (good, solid, standards-compliant and really, really late). There's a balance between shipping decent software and shipping a product in time to stay alive as a company. id Software has this balance, ION Storm certainly did not.

    Rant over. Please go about your business.

    • Don't forget that software is a huge house of cards built of rickety state machines. And these state machines were written by us simple humans, all the way down to the metal. I'm often surprised that it works at all. Developing a large software application is like building the Empire States Building, but you can only see 21" at one time. Well, my monitor is 21" at least.

      That said, people been harping about the "software crisis" for the past thirty years. I disagree. I think modern software is an impressive feat, when compared to the alternative (no software).
    • iD is a great example of a company which knows how to please it's target audience.

      Simply put, their products work well, and they sell well. They sell well; other game developers notice this, and they license their technology.

      They please the geeks by releasing linux versions of their products, as well as releasing source code to their old engines which no longer pull in any cash for the company (after all, what good IS the source doing on a dusty pile of old disks in the closet?). They also release game sources for mod developers and such: once again, they help themselves by helping others, but they aren't loosing anything by doing this (have ANY 3rd-party games incorporated the QuakeII engine since the release of the QuakeIII engine?) This generates a highly positive image for the company.

      Now only if they could please the overprotective parents!
  • Halcyon Days (Score:4, Informative)

    by q-soe ( 466472 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @07:24PM (#3740554) Homepage
    This is indeed an excellent read and well worth the time - if you want some other online books which discuss the earlier days of computing and hacker culture try these

    Free As In Freedom - Sam Williams [oreilly.com] - A biography of Richard Stallman and an excellent read for those who would like to understand the man a bit more or even understand how GNU and Open Source actually happen. I reccomend this to even people who dislike RMS (as i did) as you will understand the man from a new perspective

    The Cathedral and the Bazzar- Eric Raymond [tuxedo.org] - This book has been condemmed and praised by many and provides an intersting look at open source and the different models of software - worth a read

    Underground : Hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier - Sulette Dreyfuss [underground-book.com] - A great look inside the world of the cracker and very intersting and compelling to read

    There are heaps more out there - post them as you find them - BTW if you have a bit of cash to spend i reccomend Hackers by Steven Levy and Fire in the Valley by freiburger and swain for 2 more great books on computer and PC history

    • Re:Halcyon Days (Score:2, Interesting)

      by unicron ( 20286 )
      This may be a little off topic, but Halcyon by Orbital is such an awesome, completely beautiful song.

      The word Halcyon, if you care, refers to a hallucionigen(sp?) that was used as a pain medication in dentist's offices a long time ago, but turned out to be incredibly addictive. The song is about the Hartnoll brothers dealing with their mothers addiction.

      I know, off topic, but if you've ever heard the song you'd agree with me, and the word is hardly common english, so I have to get my plugs in when I can.
      • The word (a la dictionary.com [dictionary.com] means:
        idyllically calm and peaceful; suggesting happy tranquillity; "a halcyon atmosphere" 2: joyful and carefree; "halcyon days of youth" 3: marked by peace and prosperity; "a golden era"; "the halcyon days of the clipper trade"

        Which is probably why the dentists named their drug after it.
  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @07:32PM (#3740597) Journal
    I mean, sure there's a market for a high end tube amp in cars. The car, that rather noisy accoustical nightmare that, no matter how you try, you will never ever be able to fit good speakers in. Oh well... but why does the thing have to look so damn.... tacky? Come on. Analog VU meters and the tube exposed, combined with what looks to be a gold finish. Almost as ugly as a Marantz set.

    Not that I think modern car stereos look good... give me those they made about 5-10 years ago: decent button layout, single color displays, and no frigging light-shows. *sighs*
    • Then you need to check out the Nakamichi [nakamichi.com] mobile equipment. No flash, just good sound...
    • Not that I think modern car stereos look good... give me those they made about 5-10 years ago: decent button layout, single color displays, and no frigging light-shows. *sighs*

      No kidding. I don't know where I'm gonna get another Denon 970 for my new car. This is the second time I've traded a car in without pulling the head unit thinking, "There's gotta be something better available, now." *dumb, dumb, dumb*


    • Come on. Analog VU meters and the tube exposed, combined with what looks to be a gold finish. Almost as ugly as a Marantz set.

      Hey! At least there's solid engineering in the Marantz. This is just something shiny for the home-boyz who think a CD hanging from the rear-view mirror is a status symbol (or helps them avoid laser speed guns, something else I heard and gave me a much-needed laugh).

      VU meters... what, the thing is a recorder, too? No? Then what do you need VU meters for?

      Not that I think modern car stereos look good... give me those they made about 5-10 years ago: decent button layout, single color displays, and no frigging light-shows. *sighs*

      Got two that I love. There's a Clarion double-shaft in my 1976 Dodge Ram. The thing is gorgeous - simple button layout, good digital tuner picks up WRVA in Richmond VA all the way from Toronto, Canada, good cassette deck, line inputs for when I finally get around to stuffing a low-end machine behind the seat as an MP3 player. And it drives the 6x9s in my doors hard enough that when I play Black Sabbath, all the little children in the Hondas get scared. (Generally not wise to eff around with a Black Sabbath fan who drives a 25-year-old pickup truck.)

      (Pre dot-com meltdown fond memories: driving that truck through the financial district after work on a nice summer's day, stuck in a traffic jam, windows rolled down, stereo playing Paranoid loudly, my hand resting on the driver's side mirror, wind blowing up the sleeve into my Armani suit jacket. The non-sequitur was enough that guys in Mercedes, Porsches, Acuras, etc. did a double-take. :) )

      The other one that I love is a 12-year-old Alpine pull-out CD player and matching cassette deck. I got them both out of cars I bought for parts and then junked along the way. I keep both under the driver's seat in my winter beater and pop in the one for the media I want to listen to. Nice tuners, well laid out controls, no blinkenlights for das dummkopfen.

  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @07:39PM (#3740635) Homepage Journal
    "People are understandably reluctant to add real engineering discipline to software development..."

    I found this 'alternative reason to why software sucks...' to be true with 3D Animation as well.

    As a hobby, I assist people entering into the world of 3D art. My goal is to teach them professional methods to achieve their goals. What I've found interesting, though, is that a lot of them are reluctant to actually design what it is they are building or animating.

    With new recruits, I can almost never get them to actually sit down with some paper and design the robot they want to build, for example. What they try to do is just sit down and build it. I'll hear stuff like "Oh I can't draw...", or "It's faster if I just sit down and build it. I know what I want it to look like."

    The results? Well, the models they invent are ... well.. ameteurish. But when they make a model that they have lots of reference of, like the starship Enterprise for example, then they look top notch. Even presented with such a startling comparison, they still refuse to do the design work. Why? Because it adds overhead to their project.

    I really think what happens is that they have in inaccurate impression of what being a 3D artist really entails. This is similar to what Ray said in his post about why software sucks [librenix.com]. The sad thing is that until they start taking approaches like designing your model, they'll always look like a 3D newb.

    Is there a solution? Well, I have an idea as to how to help both the 3D Artists and the Programmers out there: Make it clear that there is more to their job than just poking keys. I had no idea what all a Software Engineer (I used to call them Programmers...) did until I got a job at a software company. I had the impression in my mind that all they did was write code. The thought of them doing things like 'designing the UI' was alien to me.

    Heck, before I got a job doing 3D, I thought all I had to do was build a model as fast as I possibly could. I expected they'd give me 3 days to do what would normally take me a week. I had no idea that they'd actually give me time to design and understand my model before building it. I spent over a year trying to be faster in LW, only to find that faster isn't what they wanted.

    In short, I think it's very important to alter the perception out there about what a job really entails. If somebody aspiring to be a programmer knows that they need to pay attention to design and UI, then they'll be far more observant about those aspects during their education. If I had known how much learning to draw would help me with my 3D work, I would have done a lot more drawing exercises in high school.
  • "That kid is on the Europium again!"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Since it is three times taller than the usual turbines, that means it'll be visible three times farther away, so it will be an eyesore to nine times as many people. Wouldn't you get just as much power by building three of the normal size turbines instead?
  • by sheepab ( 461960 )
    What are those, they use em in Hoover Windtunnels right?
  • Why software sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @08:36PM (#3740910) Homepage
    The biggest single problem is C, with its casual attitude towards arrays and pointers. So many thousands of bugs stem from this. The main justification for Java and C# is increased safety. If it weren't for the safety problem, there would be no need for two more languages so much like C. That's a major indictment of C right there.

    The second big problem is weak interprocess communication. UNIX is partly responsible for this. Interprocess communication was retrofitted to UNIX in several different ways, most of them bad. The basic problem is that what you usually want is a subroutine call, but what the OS gives you is an I/O operation. If you build a subroutine call on top of an I/O operation, (think Sun RPC, or CORBA) it's slow. This leads to big, monolithic programs that crash all at once, instead of little, intercommunicating ones that contain the damage caused by a bug. It doesn't have to be this way. Take a look at QNX to see this done right.

    The third big problem is DMA. The idea that the peripherals see raw address space and can read and write to it dates from the early days of minicomputers, when it required fewer transistors to do it that way. Mainframes had "channels", which connected peripherals to memory in a controlled, secure way. You could take full control of a peripheral on an IBM mainframe, run a driver as a user program, and still not be able to crash the system. With channelized I/O, drivers aren't as privileged. They can only mess up their own peripheral, not the whole system. This improves system stability considerably. IBM tried to put channelized hardware in PCs, but at the same time, they tried to increase their profit margins on peripherals. This killed the IBM PS/2.

    Fourth, Microsoft likes a complicated OS. Ballmer has said so publicly. If PCs came with channelized hardware and a microkernel in ROM, the OS would have far less to do, and would be more of a commodity. There'd be alternatives, like KDE and Gnome on Linux, all of which ran the same applications. Standardized interprogram communication, enforced by the kernel and hardware, would make components more pluggable. All this would dent the Microsoft monopoly severely.

    Down at the bottom, at the foundations of personal computers, those are the problems. And that's why software sucks.

    • by janda ( 572221 )
      Um, no. The major reason why software sucks:

      People don't know what they want.

      The secondary reason why software sucks:

      The "marketing" department.

      Put the two together and you get the "office paperclip".
    • Java and C# are not like C, they are maybe similar to C++, but not C.
    • > The biggest single problem is C

      The alternative to C is not Java, it's
      assembly. In the absence of C the situation
      would be profoundly worse. So you've seen
      a few misapplications of C. That hardly
      justifies an indictment of the language itself.

      > The second big problem is weak interprocess
      > communication.

      Solaris Doors are really cool. They allow you
      to call into another user-space process. But
      I disagree in part. Even if I were to accept
      that RPC is the primary function of IPC -- which
      I don't: although the importance of RPC has
      grown over the years most of the bytes going over
      IPC are raw data flow, even today --
      network-transparency requires that the RPC be
      implemented over an I/O layer. Really, the
      only reason anyone uses local domain sockets
      is to pass capabilities! Besides which, there
      are plenty of RPC APIs on top of network I/O.
      How could their implementation model be impacting
      the quality of software so negatively as to
      merit being in your quirky list?

      UNIX is partly responsible for this. Interprocess communication was retrofitted to UNIX in several different ways, most of them bad. The basic problem is that what you usually want is a subroutine call, but what the OS gives you is an I/O operation. If you build a subroutine call on top of an I/O operation, (think Sun RPC, or CORBA) it's slow. This leads to big, monolithic programs that crash all at once, instead of little, intercommunicating ones that contain the damage caused by a bug. It doesn't have to be this way. Take a look at QNX to see this done right.
    • The biggest single problem is C, with its casual attitude towards arrays and pointers


      While C pointers are the bane of undergrads and junior programmers world wide, the resulting bugs are squashed quickly in production environments. Most of the big, hairy, bugs are both more mundane and more subtle: complex and misunderstood 'business logic', inadequately tested reporting and summarization routines, databases without any consitency checking, and incorrectly implemented multi-threaded systems.

      Some of these problems can be laid at the feet of the implementation languages, but most of them are the fault of hasty, clumsy programming, regardless of language. Some can also be laid at the foot of the client/contractor interface: the client only has a vague idea of what they want, and the contractors are more interested in not antagonizing the client with too many questions than producing usable specs. Lets not even consider the problem of who to bill for properly maintaind developer documentation.

      The second big problem is weak interprocess communication...The basic problem is that what you usually want is a subroutine call, but what the OS gives you is an I/O operation.


      Weak inter-process communication isn't a problem, it's a feature! The best way to build reliable, maintainable systems is with loosely coupled processes that exchange data through simple file-like streams. Then, when something fails, you can remove the misbehaving part, without disrupting the rest of the system, and examine the intermediate files to diagnose the problem.

      In fact, one of the worst culprits in the modern software rogues gallery is the database, precisely because it strengthens the coupling between all parts of the system. Sophisticated IPC tools, that make IPC look just like a function call, result in brittle, opaque systems that can't be easily maintained or diagnosed.

      The third big problem is DMA... With channelized I/O, drivers aren't as privileged. They can only mess up their own peripheral, not the whole system.


      DMA and device drivers are only the concern of a very small fraction of programmers. Most of those programmers who do have to deal with such things, however, are well able to manage any of the resulting complexities.

      I/O channels are nice, I admit, but their lack is not a fatal flaw. Perfectly stable systems can be built on simple interrupt or DMA driven architectures.

      Fourth, Microsoft likes a complicated OS. Ballmer has said so publicly. If PCs came with channelized hardware and a microkernel in ROM, the OS would have far less to do, and would be more of a commodity. There'd be alternatives, like KDE and Gnome on Linux, all of which ran the same applications. Standardized interprogram communication, enforced by the kernel and hardware, would make components more pluggable. All this would dent the Microsoft monopoly severely.


      The lack of channelized hardware or an in-ROM micro-kernel is not why we don't have a comoditized OS on Intel PCs. In fact, we do have comoditized OS's: Linux, the BSDs, Solaris etc. are all adequate counter examples. However, Microsoft has managed to manipulate the market in order to marginalize any significant competition. The fault is entirely a political/economic one which cannot be addressed technologically.
    • I agree with you, and in general you can sum up your argument as follows: Software sucks because we use inappropriate abstraction mechanisms.
    • While this is partly true, i don't think it's the main problem. The things you mention make it harder to write a bug-less program, but in no way imposible. The same can be applied to thing like C# and Java, less effort is needed, but it's by no means impossible to write bad software. The programming language is just the tool, the program is the design + implementation. And design is the larger part here.
      Compare it to building say a treehouse, that will be easier given good tools, but is your design looks like flying carpet, you will never get a treehouse, no matter what tools you use. But is the design is allright you might even manage to build a treehouse with your bare hands...
    • Fourth, Microsoft likes a complicated OS

      And so does everyone else. Linux and OS X are in the same complexity ballpark. You could argue that Linux is simpler than Windows, but that's like saying that a 747 is simpler than a 777.

      When you look at what people are doing on systems without operating systems--take a look at Grand Theft Auto 3 on the PlayStation 2--then it makes you wonder.
    • If you have ever actually been involved with an engineering project, or with real design, you would simply not be bashing C. Without C, there would be absolutely zero technology in place. Just think, the computer you posted your message was running a C based kernel, and C based driver, and even the firmware in your monitor and keyboard, AND mouse, if not written in assembly was written in C. There is just no better language for writing anything complicated than C. C# and Java are by no means portable or even viable in any sort of embedded or critical application. A kernel based on, good Lord, C# or Java? That is unquestionable, unless you are prepared to have an extrememly large footprint and processing requirements (those VM's are bitches). Try to imagine your cell phone running a java based operating system. Or simply trying to even control hardware through C#. It won't work, will it? Somewhere there must be C.

      And so before bashing the language which simply is responsible for virtually all of the technology we have, realize that using a different language will not make software better. A good design will be good design, regardless of the language. A bad design may result in an average program, but will more than likely result in an extrememly bad program. Java, I don't know why you considered C++ on par with it,simply protects the programmer from him/herself. If the programmer/designer cannot be relied on to provide a good design, then they should not be employed.
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday June 20, 2002 @08:50PM (#3740993) Homepage Journal
    Always wanted to play with Mathematica, never could afford it. Now I hear from a guy who uses it as an HTML editor! I think I'll have him killed.
  • Can someone explain to me how these things work? Are they similar to solar chimneys or what?
    • No, they mean just the tower of the wind turbine. Usually these days, they are tubular (actually, slightly conical) steel towers, hollow on the inside, so that you can step up the ladder, circular staircase or elevator. (Try climbing a 60m ladder three or four times in a day, as the maintenance guys do - keeps one fit!)
      These tubular steel towers reach heights of about 100 m (99m is the highest I've seen so far, on the DEWI [www.dewi.de] test field).
      In the olden days, lattice towers were used quite frequently (see all the old machine forests eg on San Gorgognio or Altamont passes). Nowadays, the nicer aesthetics plus the possibility to put the electrical gear inside has nearly completely replaced them. However, for getting significantly higher than 100m, they might be much more cost-effective (I've seen one 114m lattice tower wedged in a forest - yes, it's a stupid idea).

      Plug of the day: If you're really interested in wind energy, try windpower.dk [windpower.dk]. This will tell you everything you wanted to know, and then some.

  • As 007, I guess he would have access to things like Thallium.

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