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Comment Re:That's because SciFi sucks (Score 1) 292

I liked your observation better when Theodore Sturgeon made it: 90% of everything is crap. Of course, you seem to be claiming that the value is more like 99%, but we all know that 95% of all statistics are made up on the fly.

News flash: Most other genre fiction is crap, too. For that matter, most mainstream fiction doesn't pass the test of time and is quickly forgotten, if it ever was considered "literature" in the first place.

As for filters, I would suggest that you start paying attention to book reviews. Analog still does reviews of science fiction novels, for example. Amazon posts both user reviews and reviews by established periodicals. If you need something to inform your selection process, book reviews are a good place to start.

If you don't have reviews to go by, or enough reviews to go by, there's always the reputation of the author himself. (If you happen to not like an author who is otherwise well-regarded, that's fine, but authors tend to work hard to earn a reputation.) And if an author is older, sometimes they fall into the category of authors who improve with age, while others fall prey to the Hemingway syndrome (writing their best work first). Find out which category an author falls into and then consume either their back catalog or their latest works, depending.

Comment Re:That's because SciFi sucks (Score 1) 292

Frank Herbert and Heinlein were both proverbial 800 pound gorillas. Both were best when their work was heavily edited. Both later in life got full of themselves and started pumping out works that no editor would dare edit for fear that they'd lose their rock star author.

The first Dune was good, after the first 20 pages or so. It took me about 3 or 4 attempts before I finally got "into" it enough. I wasn't impressed enough to tackle the rest of the series. Just because you happen to think the entire series is great doesn't mean everyone does or even should agree.

Heinlein always struck me as preachy, and his books were a platform for preaching to his audience. Most of Heinlein's followers (and I use that word deliberately) strike me as being very similar to cultists. It could have been Heinlein instead of Hubbard who founded a religion, after all...

As for Asimov... while he's a well-loved author of SF who published over 600 books (Wikipedia claims "over 500," but I have read various estimates from 600 to 800+), it's worth noting a few things. First, Isaac Asimov's best form was the short story, not the novel; the man couldn't do characterization, and it showed in his longer works. Indeed, ideas seem to be the central characters in many of his works. (I have to say, though, The Gods Themselves was a great novel and had OK character development. Not stellar, but not awful either.) Secondly, many of those published works were non-fiction. I don't see this as a detriment, since Asimov is a very entertaining writer with a gift for making complex ideas seem simple. Thirdly, I believe it is because Asimov was so prolific that we have so many examples of his work we can point to as "good science fiction." After all, most of us know he pumped out that many books, but few of us can cite the titles of more than a half dozen to dozen of them.

Comment Re:Stupid (Score 1) 298

You do realize that US$70 is approximately equal to UK£35. (I know the exchange rate fluctuates, but...)

Also, which provider did you try in Orlando (assuming you mean Orlando, Florida, and not one of the other Orlando cities/towns in America)? Because most locales in the States currently have at least 2 competing ISPs. Generally, that's local cable (typically slow upstream and bursty downstream) and the local telco (providing some form of ADSL or, in my case, VDSL). Depending on which one of those you have, and what their policies are, the performance can vary quite a lot. Saying "when I went to America... the internet [was] incredibly slow" isn't really meaningful without further qualification.

Comment Re:And this is news? (Score 1) 270

There haven't been any algorithmic breakthroughs in many years for most of the computer science field? I find that hard to believe. Back in 1993, I was taking a graduate level course in algorithms, and the professor told us about at least one algorithm for multiplying ridiculously large matrices had been developed and published within the prior year (maybe it was 2 years at that time) by a Russian PhD. Granted, this particular algorithm didn't provide a speed benefit over other techniques until you hit matrix sizes of a million by a million, something on that order. But that's not the point.

You'd also be amazed at what effect seemingly insignificant choices in the implementation of an algorithm can make. The most extreme case I ever saw like that was something like a factor of 2 difference in speed. You might chalk that up to bad coding, but when that code is locked away inside libraries that ship with the language, rank-and-file developers might get stuck with a suboptimal implementation. So it's not just the algorithms themselves that yield new wins, it's careful analysis and improvement of older implementations.

Getting back to the topic of this article, I want to point out that I actually used NIO in a project in a corporate environment, and it seemed to give us wins in stability, thread utilization, and memory consumption, among other things. For the environment, it was probably the right choice. Had we been dealing with a newer Linux environment, or a less heavily loaded server, I suppose going with the "old" pre-NIO way of doing socket I/O would have been better.

Had we been on a Solaris system, I'm told the NIO way would have been the best choice hands down, but the company was moving away from Solaris. Still, this raises a valid point -- in the end, you need to tune your code for the environment in which it's running. So if the OS can't do threads well, the whole thread-per-socket approach will stink compared to select-based semantics. I haven't fully read the PDF yet, but it seems like most of this testing was done in Linux. Results for other OSes are not guaranteed to be the same.

Comment Re:And this is news? (Score 2, Interesting) 270

Java may not be "sexy" anymore (or "all the rage" as you put it), but it is not exactly a niche language. It still runs in surprisingly many places, like cell phone apps (yes, a lot of us still use regular cell phones, and Android is Java-ish but with some tweaks), and more importantly just about every corporate data center uses Java. That last "niche" is pretty huge, and the only thing that threatens Java in that space is dot-Net, the Java platform clone.

Java, like it or not, has become the COBOL of the 21st century. It's ubiquitous.

I agree that Perl makes code hard to maintain (especially in the sense that one developer won't necessarily readily understand another's Perl code, since everyone has his own favorite idiom), but you make a lot of claims that I don't see supported by facts. Perl CGI might be frowned on these days in some circles, but there are plenty of sites that use Perl as a basis -- including this one, Slashdot. So saying Perl is no longer used for CGI scripts is probably false, as there are plenty of folks who clearly think it's "good enough."

You're trying to make Perl and Java both sound like fads, but the truth is neither language is going away anytime soon, as each is too useful for too large a segment of the developer population.

Comment Re:Does anyone really prefer 16x9 instead of 16x10 (Score 1) 646

It's only funny if you didn't grow up decades ago watching 4:3 TV sets. (The first TV I remember my family owning was black and white, and it had vacuum tubes. One of the best Zenith TVs we ever owned.) For some of us, this new 16:9 screen format isn't "TV." For me, it's "high def TV," and the old format will always be plain old "TV" to me.

I should also point out that digital vs. analog doesn't enter into it, because 480i/480p content still dominates many networks -- and I'm saying this as a DirecTV subscriber. Those black side bars have become a common sight on my HDTV screen, since I absolutely can't stand seeing 4:3 content stretched horizontally unless some kind of "smart stretch" algorithm is applied (where the distortion increases toward the left and right edges of the display, but is zero at the center).

I should also point out that many laptop manufacturers deliberately choose 16:10 aspect ratio for their screens because their customers demand the extra real-estate, and because such designs allow widescreen HD content to be rendered while leaving room at the bottom or top for player HUD, controls, or for other use. Apple uses 16:10 for the MacBook Pro, for example.

Furthermore, Samsung widescreen monitors are often 16:10 (I own one for a desktop machine, purchased within the last year). I could go on. There's nothing preventing the display of 16:9 content on a 16:10 screen -- those extra scanlines are either going to be letterbox area, or they'll be used for controls or information. It's not the huge swath of black that letterboxing on a 4:3 screen causes.

I don't think your supposition on the market size for 16:10 monitors (or "non-16:9 widescreen," as you describe them) is supportable, considering how many 16:10 devices are on the market right now.

Comment Re:3M (Score 1) 646

Ah, wish I had the points to give you a +1 Insightful or something equally appropriate.

Unfortunately, there isn't also a +1 Pedantic. ;-) But then you'd lose that point because you didn't also point out that the Gregorian Calendar doesn't have a year zero.

Speaking of pedantry... your ordinal number is wrong. It should be 21st, not "21th." It goes 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th.

Comment Re:Spamhaus was right to ignore it... (Score 1) 378

So how will the judgment against Spamhaus be enforced? How will anyone force Spamhaus to pay, assuming they don't voluntarily fork over the money?

I'm not talking about what you think is right and wrong. (And on a personal note, I am perfectly OK with ignoring or disregarding laws I personally think are unjust, or which I do not generally agree with. But that's not terribly relevant either.) What I am asking is, very simply, how anyone can force Spamhaus to honor this judgment and pay up.

Since I don't think they have any U.S. assets of any kind whatsoever, nothing can be seized in the U.S. I suppose the spammers here who brought the suit could agitate for "justice" and try to squeeze blood from a turnip, but how? They could go to the UK and petition the courts there, I suppose, but the UK courts aren't obligated to enforce a civil ruling from a U.S. jurisdiction.

Similarly, your Microsoft analogy from a couple posts back is flawed, because Microsoft is a true multinational corporation with a real presence in Germany, and they have real assets that can be seized there. But while Germany might have the power to seize assets of Microsoft in Germany, it certainly can't seize assets held in another country without the cooperation of that country.

Your talk about what is OK or not OK to "publish" in various locales/jurisdictions is interesting but hardly relevant. I publish material routinely on my blog which is legal in the U.S., but is illegal in many other countries. If someone sues me in Turkey for something I post that he believes is defamatory to Islam, or the country of Turkey (it's illegal by Turkish law to disparage Turkey or "Turkishness"), do you think I'm going to hop on a plane and submit to their legal system? Absolutely not. Do you think I'm going to pay up if they fine me? No way. Would I deliver myself to their prison system? I don't think so!

So, I can totally understand why the Spamhaus folks would choose not to show up in a U.S. court to defend themselves and run the risk of lending more credence to an already questionable legal proceeding.

The problem with the notion of "universal competency" (courts that claim competency to hear cases outside their national borders) and so-called "long arm" legal tactics is that national sovereignty suffers as a result. I might add that sovereignty is something guaranteed by the UN, at least in principle.

You speak of how doing business in another country opens a company up to that country's laws. True enough, but again, it's a matter of enforcement. China prohibits direct access to all kinds of things, but the U.S. State Department actively works to make resources illegally available to Chinese citizens. OK, so this is lawbreaking sponsored by a government, not a company, but the principle applies similarly. Furthermore, while the ABC Company might be headquartered in Nebraska but do business in Thailand, that doesn't mean ABC Company has to have a physical presence in Thailand to do business there. If ABC Company runs afoul of some law in Thailand, they might be fined for it (especially if it's a civil and not a criminal matter). Should they choose not to pay the fine, there are many means that the country could bring to bear -- network filtering for an internet company, or blocking shipments of physical goods at the border. But they can't go to the State of Nebraska, or the U.S. federal government, and demand that money. (Well, they can, but they probably won't get it...)

And anyway, since it has been stated numerous times (including in articles linked from this Slashdot story) that there's no way for this judgment to be enforced in any way against Spamhaus, I have to ask again, how exactly can Spamhaus be forced to do anything in this matter? They can't. I challenge you to explain, in detail, what mechanism that could be brought to bear and force them to accept the judgment and pay the fine?

This has nothing to do with right and wrong. This has nothing to do with petty grudges, or what you or I personally feel about either party involved. (Personally, I think spammers were scum, but I have read that Spamhaus essentially forced or blackmailed many ISPs into using their services, basically by blocking any ISPs that didn't join up. So I don't see how either party has clean hands.) My one and only interest is in determining how this judgment can be enforced.

Then, when you finally realize that enforcement of judgments is what gives courts their power, maybe you'll understand that yes, Spamhaus really can ignore the U.S. courts in this case. The same way I happily ignore the laws and courts of repressive countries every day of my life. Maybe when the commandos come in the night and take me away to face trial or prison somewhere else, then they'll have the jurisdiction they need. Until then...

Comment Re:Spamhaus was right to ignore it... (Score 1) 378

First off, here is the corrected link for that article:

LICRA vs. Yahoo

(This is why it pays to preview, and it pays to not use the auto-linking feature when the URL contains weird punctuation like the exclamation point.)

Secondly, although Yahoo! lost in civil court in France, it did not lose in criminal court.

Thirdly, Yahoo! was being somewhat disingenuous in how it handled matters, because it could have easily implemented controls to prevent French citizens from accessing the U.S. version of its auction site. (The article notes that locale-specific advertising appeared on the site, which hurt Yahoo's case.)

Fourth, Yahoo! was threatened with fines; although they could have simply refused to pay, they would have had to give up any subsidiaries in France or any other EU country that France could reasonably exert influence through in order to obtain fines. It's also likely that any Yahoo! corporate office, such as the President, would have to think twice before visiting France. (Although since this was a civil matter, and Yahoo! prevailed on the criminal grounds, so perhaps the President of Yahoo! didn't have to worry about being arrested.)

Fifth, when Yahoo! brought its case to a U.S. district court in the hopes that the French ruling would be effectively declared unenforceable in the U.S., Yahoo! initially prevailed. This case was then appealed by LICRA and the UEJF on the grounds that the court had no personal jurisdiction over them. So it's very interesting to me that the French courts claim expansive jurisdiction over U.S. corporations and citizens, yet the interested parties in France apparently have no shame over claiming U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over them. The appeals court accepted the personal jurisdiction argument.

Lastly, Yahoo! chose to comply with the French court by banning all auctions of Nazi memorabilia, rather than blocking French users from accessing such auctions. While they technically could have merely restricted French users from accessing such auctions, or all auctions altogether, there were technical issues at stake (e.g., insufficiency of geolocation based on IP address, which was only 70% effective at the time, or reliably tagging auctions of banned material).

This has the effect of chilling protected speech in the United States, a constitutional matter due to the First Amendment. The problem with so-called claims of "universal competence" by courts is that this very concept violates the notion of national sovereignty, something even the United Nations pays lip-service to.

My take? As an individual, or even as a corporation located solely within the United States, if I were faced with a fine or other legal ruling arrived at in another country, I'd simply say "Fine me all you like" and never pay. And then make sure I never set foot in that country again.

Comment Re:It's easy to feel good about Apple's policies.. (Score 1) 422

And when Apple's legal theory is tested and vindicated in a court, then (and only then, unless there's an appeal) is it a settled matter of law. Otherwise, Apple doesn't get to act like an authority and claim to tell you what is legal and what isn't.

Since their claims haven't been tested, their stated position is merely interesting. I certainly wouldn't automatically buy their position. At stake is the principle of "I get to do whatever I want with whatever I buy."

Also note that Apple is claiming that the jailbreaking procedure is a violation of copyright. However, if the jailbreak is performed by you, the end user, on your own hardware, and was not distributed in any way, there is no dissemination of copyrighted material without permission, and therefore no copyright violation. Jailbreaking in this case is akin to scribbling in a book you bought.

The EFF article you link to goes into other justifications that I won't bother to enumerate here, like reverse engineering (which is explicitly legal in the United States, though perhaps not in other countries).

Comment Re:Geez. (Score 1) 368

Since when are lobotomies considered minimally invasive?

Well, in actuality, a lobotomy can be performed as an outpatient procedure -- and this was done quite a lot in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Basically, you insert a long, slender needle or other cutting instrument in through the ocular orbit (the bone is thin near the top of each socket), punch through the bone and tissue and then swipe the needle across the inside of the skull to sever the frontal lobe. Controlling the angle of insertion lets you control how far back you cut...

Comment Re:The machine can do it because we allow it to. (Score 2, Informative) 502

I think you're misguided. Did you read TFA? The Emily Howell program uses a different approach from Cope's previous work. It's entirely different work, sounding nothing like an existing composer. The new approach seems much more interactive, and involves machine learning, so the new program seems even more strong-AI-ish and more creative than the older, retired program that generated Mozart-like sonatas.

TFA spends a fair bit of time talking about how the software has been tuned to break the rules creatively, and is able to determine when it's OK to do so -- the older software did so to a degree, the newer software (Emily Howell) even moreso.

Cope is still right about one thing -- we are what we eat, and with music, we are what we hear. Or rather, we compose what we hear. Sometimes that inspiration comes from birds (Beethoven's Fifth comes to mind) or other environmental sounds. Usually, it comes from other humans. So yeah, there are going to be social, cultural, and regional influences... on stuff that various societies, cultures, and regions pick up from other societies, cultures, and regions. Nothing is created in a vacuum, and there is very little that is novel or original in music that isn't derived from something else. That's more of an evolutionary process, not spontaneous generation of art from pure nothingness.

So let me turn your assertion around: Humans won't be able to tread where humans haven't, since we only know the rules we give ourselves. Sounds a little absurd? Maybe. But largely a correct assertion. True innovation enters the system only slowly, usually introduced by some inspiration that impinges upon humans -- natural phenomena, new discoveries (scientific, philosophical, etc.) that shake our cultural foundations, even disasters.

Comment Accidental monopolist? (Score 1) 450

At worst, you can say it's a highly repentant, largely accidental monopolist.

This is such a skewed view of reality, I had to laugh -- it's something only an engineer working within Microsoft could write, completely ignoring (just to pick one predatory example) the kinds of lopsided contracts that Microsoft's business side was penning with all sorts of hardware manufacturers, prohibiting them from shipping computers with rival operating systems or web browsers...

There was very little "accidental" about these predatory moves, and the monopoly trial very clearly showed that this was a pattern of behavior.

Contrast with:

The problem comes when the [internal] competition becomes uncontrolled and destructive. At Microsoft, it has created a dysfunctional corporate culture in which the big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence. It's not an accident that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft's music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left.

Gee, that sounds like the same kinds of behavior, just writ small. This strikes me as one of those "you reap what you sow" type of situations. Definitely, the offspring-eating behavior is well ingrained in the DNA of this particular organism...

The poetic justice is delicious. Pity that the author of TFA doesn't see it.

Comment Re:Art? (Score 1) 372

Anyone who still clings to the largely irrelevant requirement of technical skill [...]

That's what you wrote previously.

It sure seems that you're arguing the "relevance of skill," so it's a bit amusing that you'd contradict yourself in a subsequent comment and say you're not arguing the relevance of skill. Yes, you did clarify your previous intention, so we now know you meant that Duchamp had obvious technical skill, and so should not be dismissed. (Picasso had some great technical skill, too -- some of his earliest works looked photo-realistic to me.)

But it also seems that you're claiming one does not need technical skill to make art, that technical skill is "largely irrelevant." So you're also kind of saying, "Hey, you unwashed heathens, here's this artist who is acknowledged as being great, and I know you judge technical skill, so don't dismiss this guy on the grounds of technical skill... even though technical skill is irrelevant anyway, and you're all mistaken for judging by that metric."

I used to date someone at Syracuse University who was an art major there. I was shown all kinds of student art projects, and there was one that made me scratch my head -- some student was doing oil paintings of printed circuit boards. Now, I personally like the look of printed circuit boards, and I even find them aesthetically pleasing enough to put them on display occasionally. But I found the paintings to be sterile and aesthetically displeasing. When I commented that I found them to be the antithesis of art, what was I told? "You lack training in art, so nothing you say about these paintings is valid, except for your own personal aesthetic."

I still like to date artists, but that pretentious attitude was a bit much to handle. Just because I lacked the proper terminology and framework for doing "real" art criticism doesn't mean I have no valid opinions aside from what pleases me aesthetically.

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