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Comment Re:In the end? (Score 1) 115

You did not read the article. The balloons have limited "steerability" in that they can be raised or lowered by signal, allowing them to move in differently-directed air currents at different altitudes. The plan is that when the balloon starts to falter, it would be "steered" over a collection center (multiple instances around the globe), where it would be "collected" and its payload become reusable. Sounds almost doable. In any event, there are not supposed to be lots of balloons randomly falling to earth, and they will not fall in the sea, either, if Google can help it.

Comment Re:Tech specs (Score 1) 115

One of the videos I watched about this said the wireless service would be "3G-like", but gave no specs. It is clear that it is not WiFi as we know it at home.

When I read about this, I first wondered how it was going to play out with the effort of the NZ government to bring "ultra-fast broadband" to most of the country. That has been going on for several years and offers to continue for several more years before anyone can actually sign up. Even so, the government effort is only targeted at 75-80% of the potential users in the country. So much of NZ is remote and rural, that deploying physical internet infrastructure is a huge undertaking. After reading more about Project Loon, I realize it is not meant for NZ alone, but if it works it might be a cheaper way to have attacked the problem for NZ in the first place. Good luck to this effort. If it proves to work, I might well sign up.

Comment Re:Actually, consumers didn't mind DRM (Score 1) 212

I will stand by what I said because the people you know and the people I know are far from "most" people. I still think most people will not even be trying most of the things you list. The only thing on your list that I have encountered is region-coding on DVDs. I have a player that plays all regions equally. Most of the things you mention are not things that ordinary people do for the most part unless they are egged on by a techie such as yourself. I consider downloading copyrighted stuff to be unethical at best and criminal at worst, and avoid doing it - not to mention that where I live the data costs for downloading are pretty stiff.

Comment Re:Actually, consumers didn't mind DRM (Score 1) 212

Who doesn't sell ebooks to non-US residents? I am a non-US resident, and have bought ebooks from Amazon and other places with almost no trouble. But I tell them where I live, and I abide by the various licensing issues that come up. Once I had a problem trying to buy a book while travelling on a cruise ship. I think it was because they know I reside in X and the cruise ship wasn't X. After I got back home I could buy the book with no trouble. Once I bought a book that I really wanted after figuring out that it was sold where I live under a completely different title. It was the same book.

Last Christmas I used Amazon's ebook gifting mechanism to buy an ebook for a friend in California. When he tried to redeem the coupon, Amazon said that he couldn't because the book had been bought in X and he was not in X. It did offer him the option of trading in the coupon for a gift certificate, which he did and then used to buy the book in California. Convoluted, but it worked.

Comment Re:depends on what you're going into (Score 2) 656

And it is very important to understand O(x) concepts. When you did not understand you built code with an O(n**2) dependence and n got very large in your production installation one night at midnight and you wind up spending the wee hours frantically trying to find a different algorithm so the system can actually do useful work in reasonable time again -- you will understand what I mean.

Comment Re:depends on what you're going into (Score 1) 656

Excellently said!

I would recommend that a person wanting to do serious software development, they should study some core subject and then do a minor of CS for learning progarmming skills. If one then starts developing software to solve problems in their core subject, they will use the math knowledge from that subject to inform their work, and will likely do better than someone who just did straight CS.

In general, doing the advanced math operations is seldom if ever needed. What is important is to gain an understanding of concepts so that aspects of the problem at hand might be addressed in a more rigoroud manner. Linear algebra and discrete math are the main topics a developer should know because they come into play in understanding complexity of algorithms and such.

Comment Before home computers (Score 2) 623

In 1960, as a freshman at Carnegie Institute of Technology, I was given the opportunity to enroll in the first undergraduate programming class offered there. I thought it would be interesting and something that other people were not doing. The class was taught by Alan Perlis, a well-known thinker about programming and languages. (He later was the first winner of the Turing Award.) We learned to program the school's IBM 650 in SOAP (Symbolic Optimizing Assembly Program), which optimized the layout of the program instructions on the magnetic drum memory so that the next operation was ready to pass under the read/write heads just when the previous instruction had finished (a mind-blowing concept that later was useful when programming CDC machines with multiple functional units and independent execution). Later came an early form of FORTRAN. By the time I graduated, the school had changed machines and was mainly using a form of Algol. I only took the one course as a freshman, but I fell in love with computers and software, and found a way to incorporate programming into my chemistry degree, working with the resident theoretical chemist.

My graduate work was in computational quantum chemistry, and I had a part-time job in the university computing center. Gave me the opportunity to dabble in lots of different things. We got one of the earliest CDC 6600 supercomputers and learning how to get the most out of that beast was a challenge.

By the time I was done with my chemistry PhD, it was pretty clear to me that computing was where I should spend my career. The university was starting a Computer Science department in 1968, and I was invited to be one of the first faculty. I taught mainly in programming languages and programming techniques. I was mainly self-taught. I had long-since left academia before I got my first home computer, a C64. In 1984 I had a chance to buy a FatMac at the Apple employee store, and the rest is history.

Comment Find out what they fear ... (Score 1) 159

and address those fears.

In the early '80s I was Assistant Program Manager for Software on a large project for the government. The development was being done using the same mimicomputers that would be shipped as embedded components of the system. There were more workers doing development than there were to be users of the finished system. We were having more and more trouble meeting our development goals because the load just could not be accommodated. We did a fair bit of analysis and decided that the major problem was there was just not enough RAM.

I requested that more RAM be purchased and the Program Manager repeatedly balked and said No. Meanwhile he kept the heat on us for progress on development. This Program Manager was an experienced aerospace engineer with lots of satellite launch experience. He was totally dedicated to the idea that the "launch window" was fleeting, and it had to be met. When development lagged and making the window was threatened, he knew how to make one squirm.

Finally I went to him and explained that without the additional RAM we would have increasing difficulty meeting the deadline, and why was he so opposed to adding it? He revealed that he was mortally afraid that adding more memory would slow the computers down, and the system would miss its performance targets. i.e. "miss the window" He did not understand how RAM worked!! In his mind if you made the memory bigger, then it must take longer to find and retrieve data. He was jeopardizing the project out of FEAR!

I was able to explain how it worked and convinced him to order more RAM. He did, and we went on to a very successful completion and delivery of the system.

Comment Re:Focus on what they want to know (Score 1) 159

I first heard these rules back in the early '60s when I was in ROTC during my undergrad years. The crusty old seargeant was teaching a class on "Military Teaching Principles", and those 3 were the principles to be learned. I used those principles throughout my career, and they work!

I once had a manager who wanted to have a weekly status report from each of the development teams working on the product. (large scientific computer) We learned soon enough that to avoid flak and to keep the manager happy, we just needed to come up with lots of slides with tables and colored graphs, and the more slides we had, the happier he was. That idea really influenced our behavior! And that was back in the day when making slides was not as easy as using Powerpoint.

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