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Comment Americans have a lot of discretionary income (Score 2, Interesting) 911

Desktop computers and laptops are designed to be workstations. The iPad was designed to be a toy, and that's how most people use it. That's how Apple markets it, and that's why people buy it.

What Apple and Steve Jobs realised very early in the game is that Americans have a lot of money to spend on toys that look good. Even though most Americans spend their day using computers for work or entertainment, that doesn't make them geeks. They don't need significant computing power, create very little content and only use a very small set of hardware and software resources that are available to them.

The remarkable thing is that most Americans are wealthy enough to spend $500 to buy an iPad. And even though most people could save that money and use it to buy something more useful later, they will spend it on discretionary purchases if the product is considered fashionable enough.

Comment Re:It's not that big of deal (Score 5, Informative) 334

You can always use the c interface (which itself is weird, considering matlab's roots in fortran...)

The reason the C interface is weird is because MATLAB stores multidimensional arrays in column-major order, like Fortran. C, on the other hand, uses row-major order. However, if you work with linear algebra, then you'll appreciate the column-major layout, because it coincides with the order returned by the vec operator (which is used all the time in computational linear algebra, and stacks the columns of a matrix).

but then you'd have to learn c. Matlab is a tool for physicists and engineers, not computer scientists. They don't necessarily want to take the time to learn c, or they'd have done that. Some do, anyway, of course, but usually what they produce will be one off functions for a specific goal, not entire libraries suitable for sharing.

I work with digital signal processing and use MATLAB almost on a daily basis. The reason DSP engineers use MATLAB is not because they don't know or don't want to know C. In fact, a good DSP engineer must be very competent at writing clear and efficient C code, because that's what he needs to actually implement algorithms on hardware. Modern high performance DSPs are so complex that coding things in assembly is completely out of the question.

The reason MATLAB is so valuable is that it allows one to prototype things extremely fast with minimal performance loss (if you know what you're doing). Of course you won't have a MATLAB environment running on a DSP, so you'll eventually have to write the C code. But since most of my time is spent developing algorithms instead of actually implementing them, MATLAB lets me be much more productive.

Comment Re:Too weird (Score 3, Interesting) 174

Other OEMs that don't make similar deals may get sued by MS for using Android.

I believe this is pure speculation on your part, because MS made no indication that it intends to sue hardware manufacturers because of software patents (Android related or not!). My understanding is that Microsoft is not a patent troll. Microsoft completely understands that software patents are a minefield, and use their large portfolio for protective purposes against companies like Apple.

In my opinion, Microsoft's move has the following intent:

1) It ensures that HTC can manufacture Windows Phone 7 phones (or whatever they will be called). HTC is not only Microsoft's largest partner in mobile phones, but they make handsets with the fastest hardware (which WP7 will probably need to run Office smoothly). It would be a disaster for Microsoft if HTC was forced to remove features from their products because of Apple's lawsuit, especially with WP7 being so close to being launched.

2) It practically guarantees that Apple will not be successful with its patent trolling against HTC (Nokia is on their own, but their portfolio is already huge). If Apple had even some degree of success, they would've been encouraged to pursue further legal action using software patents.

3) MS capitalizes on Android's success.

I believe the motivation for OEMs to license patents from Microsoft actually comes from Apple, and not from Microsoft. So from my perspective, it looks like Apple's attempts at intimidation have backfired.

Comment Re:DjVu? (Score 4, Informative) 223

DjVu is a format intended specifically for document distribution which uses lossy compression to obtain small files. It's not nearly as flexible as FITS, so you can't use it to represent hyperspectral images, metadata, etc.

Since the Vatican wants a format for data archival, they probably want to preserve as much information as possible for a wide variety of documents, so they can keep the originals in a vault and not touch them for the next 100 years.

Comment Re:Soooo (Score 2, Informative) 982

Back in the day, Slashdot's readership was much nerdier than it is today. Rob Malda and Jeff Bates were undergrads, as were a lot of the visitors. I was in high school when Slashdot started. Linus Torvalds wasn't even 30 years old at the time, Linux was by no means mainstream, but everyone on Slashdot knew about it and was quite knowledgeable about operating systems and computer languages. These technology enthusiasts had 10 years to finish college, improve their skills and on average should now be working in IT, science or engineering.

Slashdot's readership is much more diverse now. When I'm not moderating, I threshold comments at +3 and hide everything with a Funny mod, because very often you find threads about science and technology that have nothing but offtopic rants and stupid jokes. For example, today's story about NASA's call for proposals was filled with garbage. This would not have happened 10 years ago.

The average reader's spelling skills is significantly better, though.

Comment Re:Soooo (Score 2, Informative) 982

People with low UIDs are typically IT professionals, engineers or scientists with at least 10 years of experience in their respective fields. Back then, Slashdot was much geekier and the Internet was much smaller.

On average you're much better off getting a technical consult from people with low UIDs.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised (Score 1) 840

This is exactly the same as when cases are sealed here in the U.S.! They aren't burying these cases, or dismissing them, or hiding the names of the accused, or the results of the case, just sealing the proceedings themselves. Someone took a look at the Latin (which, btw, is available on line at the Vatican's website), mis-translated and mis-understood it, and came up with this wild and inflammatory explanation.

Contrary to your statement, the Vatican did withhold names of the accused and refused to prosecute priests involved in child abuse cases. It only makes sense to seal a case to protect the victim or the innocent accused if you have complete confidence in the judicial process, otherwise sealing a case effectively buries it. And since the Vatican's judicial process is biased in favour of the priests (being, of course, presided by priests behind closed doors), sealing a record as a "pontifical secret" is as dirty as it sounds.

On a related note, I find it ridiculous that the Vatican publishes material in Latin hundreds of years after the language died, and then people like you complain about improper translations. It's bullshit like this that brought forth the protestant reform, more than 400 years ago.

Comment Microsoft is all about business (Score 3, Insightful) 367

If Apple suddenly disappeared, people could easily get equivalent products from other manufacturers, since other companies sell equivalent phones, MP3 players and computers. While they don't have the Apple brand and may not be as polished in some aspects, they do essentially the same things.

On the other hand, the reason Microsoft has so much overhead is that they provide infinite backwards compatibility for their corporate clients. People love bashing Microsoft, but they forget that MS must provide binary compatibility for their clients who unconditionally have to run really old apps, because their businesses depend on it. Windows must run on a huge variety of hardware combinations, and must be supported over 10+ year lifespans. For example, Windows XP licenses were sold from 2002 to early 2009, and Microsoft will support this platform for many years into the future.

Apple products and Linux distributions often break compatibility between revisions, for legitimate technical reasons. But Microsoft can't do that even when they want to, because their hundreds of thousands of corporate clients can't be expected to update all their software accordingly. The thousands of hardware manufacturers won't all update their drivers either. Regardless, Microsoft tried doing that and Vista happened. It took several years for manufacturers and Microsoft itself to catch up, and we got Windows 7, which works quite well.

So if Microsoft is reluctant to leave the past, it's because it has contractual obligations to support its clients. Apple makes no such commitments and sells primarily to end users. Thus, it can afford to make more aggressive changes.

Comment Re:Sigh... (Score 4, Insightful) 467

Why is western society obsessed with mathematics, deluded into thinking it's useful in general, and why are people so stressed over learning this useless and dryly-presented subject?

Essentially because:

1) Everyone should learn logic and disciplined thought. Otherwise you'll end up with adults who can't read instruction manuals, have an attention span of 5 year olds and can't see their own mistakes and contradictions due to disorganized thought processes and hubris. Math can have a humbling effect on people.

2) Proper mathematics is used constantly by good electrical engineers, physicists and mathematicians. If you want a good engineer, you have to teach him math from childhood. And since you can't have a grade school for scientists and another one for everyone else, everyone has to learn math.

3) Math greatly contributes to keep idiots out of the sciences, med school and other important professions.

Comment Re:Downtime is the name of the game (Score 1) 172

Really? Honestly I haven't ever had any real issues with Flash since I've been running the 64bit release of about a year ago.

I also haven't had any issues with the 64-bit prerelease under Fedora 11 and 12. That said, the lack of hardware acceleration is very annoying and several years overdue.

Adobe Reader is fine as long as I don't install the plugin. Every time I click on a PDF, it completely downloads the file and launches the Adobe Reader binary. When I used the plugin, it tried to load the file incrementally (even when I explicitly configured it not to), which very often locked the browser.

Comment Re:Lots of comments on's coverage (Score 4, Insightful) 354

But instead, Google went off into a corner, created their own solution behind closed doors that nobody in the kernel community likes and now it can't go upstream.

No one in their right mind is going to start a lengthy debate with kernel developers when they have a deadline to meet and a product to ship.

In the industry, getting things done on time is priority #1. Google's implementation may not have been ideal, but it was delivered.

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