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Comment The trend is towards closed computing. (Score 4, Interesting) 284

It's always a little amazing to see how people cheer on the leaks and cracks when they appear in a closed system, yet continue to support these closed systems with their money and attention when open systems are available.

It's just this very weird disconnect in consumer psychology. You don't have to crack a PC (yet) to do what you want with it. But you make a computer small and flat and suddenly you find yourself having to pay $1+ for every little program, from a collection of programs that somebody else has decided you shall have access to. You don't see the "fuck the man" attitude at the store, you only see it when a Scandinavian high schooler comes up with a crack for your game console and the manufacturer tells you you can't have it.

I just don't get it. How many years past DeCSS are we and banging our heads against the same wall?

Comment Thank you for your interest in this topic. (Score 2, Interesting) 357

Efficiency in wireless communication is something of a purple elephant, mostly due to interference concerns that aren't at issue in wired Ethernet transactions. True, wired connections will have the occasional collision (though this is largely solved by modern algorithms and operating systems) but digital transmissions over an analog medium are difficult enough when they aren't running into each other in the air. And then you have other interference introduced by microwaves, whether from devices like cell phones, microwaves, or sunspots. It's a very noisy environment!

The concept of using algebra is a unique step forward in this field. Most here would agree, if you're in a crowded cafe and trying to carry on a conversation, it's easier to shout "Pythagoreas" than to talk about squares and triangles. But with computers it happens to be exactly the opposite because they're designed to compute -- it's what they do and what they like to do. So feed it generalities and, often, it can come up with specifics, much like the Monty Hall Paradox.

The next step appears to be to move from algebraics to broad descriptions of the type of data you want to download. This is waiting on computers with a great deal more processing power and perhaps emergent AI, but there will come a time where instead of feeding a bunch of packets over a noisy channel the Internet will simply say to your computer "short film with 20-something actor wondering whether to marry now or enjoy life for a while longer" and your system will fill in the rest, completing the transfer mathematically. This is down the road a ways, but newer technology such as lossy compression for data is already available and potentially lucrative for those who are willing to think outside of the conventional box and try something with a few more holes in it.

Comment Couldn't be happier. (Score 1) 1002

As much as some quarters would dismiss today as slacktivism or a cheap stunt, the Internet has needed for a long time now to take the political process seriously.

There is this sort of mythology that has been embraced regarding the idea that technology can route around misapplication of the legal process; that some combination of steganography, encryption and dark fiber will always allow us to enjoy the freedom we've taken for granted on the Internet. But we're on borrowed time. The abuses of copyright law as it currently stands are myriad, whether it's publicly funded research locked down in private journals, or fair use aggregation and citation of news coming under legal attack, or DMCA takedown notices being inappropriately filed, without repercussion, by "content owners" who don't actually have a right to the content they're taking down.

Hide inside TOR if you want to, but the fact of the matter is some truly awful precedent is being set and horrible legislation crafted because only one side reliably shows up to this fight. Take solace in the idea that someone will make you a "free Internet", at least until encryption is illegal over cable and airwaves. Enjoy your privacy until it becomes mandatory to provide ID to browse the web -- commercial interests already examine everything you do and put it in your permanent file. At the end of the day, do not expect technology to provide an answer when the law sets the specifications for the Internet.

I couldn't be happier that the Internet is finally creating a notification and response system for awful legislation. Now it's time to let your representatives know they'll lose your support if they draft, sponsor and pass anti-Internet bills. If they ignore you, vote Rastafarian. Also, consider buying your movies and music used, selling back to the used market, and encouraging your friends to do the same. It's high time to send a fuck you back, because right now everybody thinks we're a joke.

Comment I do a great deal of computing work (Score 0) 194

And I think it's wonderful that somebody has come up with a low-cost, low-profile system new programmers can cut their teeth on. But given my background, I also know it's a bad idea to mix sugary fruit with silicon.

That said, are you concerned that the name of the project will lead to gastronomic problems with its users, or are you encouraged by the relatively trouble-free history of Apple Computers in this regard?

Comment I humbly disagree. (Score 2) 349

You raise a good point that a all-in-one solution, such as a laptop, would be ideal. But what's so interesting about the $25 PC is that it's not all-in-one, and encourages thinking outside the box. After spending a month or two toying around with Linux, students could be encouraged to explore cutting-edge technology by pushing all their Raspberry Pi computers together and building beowulf clusters, render farms, or protein folding simulators at very low cost. Or perhaps even create a next-generation videogame console with this PC at the heart!

Comment Tips for efficient computing and data warehousing (Score 1) 38

The cloud is a big thing these days. Cloud this, cloud that, it's almost like we're all in a fog trying to wrap our minds around how to make use of it.

But as with many new technologies, its own hype precedes it. Sure, you can put everything you own data-wise into a cloud, but should you is the question we need to ask ourselves. And you know, it's not even that the answer is "no" as you might be expecting from the way that question was phrased.

As the name suggests, clouds are mainly good for carrying very lightweight data. Your e-mail, for example, has effectively been in a cloud since the day it was invented (at least until you download it). Websites are in their own clouds. Games and operating systems, on the other hand, are very rarely in clouds.

So if you're trying to figure out whether or not to use a cloud for yourself, you should ask, "Is this a game or operating system?" If not, I say go for it wholeheartedly. And you know what, even if it is the case, go for it. You're your own man and nobody tells you what to do.

Comment An ill wind blows nobody well (Score 0, Flamebait) 645

We're at the point where consoles have achieved parity with personal computers in all ways except freedom. Which begs the question, why not go back to personal computers for gaming? It's ironic, but for most games that come out on consoles a keyboard and mouse are the superior input solution, and you can do a lot more with a computer besides.

The whole situation brings to mind a discussion I had about information security the other day at the bakery. Ten years ago, who even thought you could play music on a computer? And now look at things. We need to get to a point where instead of using credit card information for transactions we use tokens instead -- that way, if someone gets into a database, they end up with a whole bunch of tokens instead of credit cards. Good luck using tokens anywhere else, they don't take em. Or maybe we should go back to paper for billing.

Anyway, computers are conclusively better if only for the fact that you can play MP3s while you game. That rules.

Comment *illions lost to piracy, counterfeit goods... (Score 4, Insightful) 283

The missing element in these claims is the citation of some sort of study that combines an examination of buying power and psychology to determine when piracy or the purchase of a counterfeit good represents a lost sale to the afflicted rights holder and when it does not. You can't just multiply retail cost of original good by estimated number of IP violations; that very likely surpasses the upper bound of the "damage" that has been caused. It's faulty journalism to ignore this fact or pass the responsibility for the veracity of this information to somebody else, but that doesn't seem to stop anybody from breathlessly regurgitating these sky-high numbers.
Slashdot.org

Submission + - Slashdot Struggles to Remain Relevant (nytimes.com) 2

gollum123 writes: Earlier today we published an analysis of the top traffic drivers in social media, based on data from Web analytics company Woopra. The biggest traffic driver was StumbleUpon (51%), followed by Digg (30%), Hacker News (12%) and Reddit (5%). Surprisingly, tech news community Slashdot was not in the list of top referrers. In fact, according to Woopra CEO John Pozadzides, Slashdot "drives close to 0% of traffic to the sites Woopra measures." (emphasis ours). Why is Slashdot almost irrelevant to the social media community? It used to be the biggest driver of traffic to tech web sites, but now it hardly delivers any traffic at all to them. We explore some of the reasons, including input from our own community.

Comment It's a bit unfortunate... (Score 2, Insightful) 254

...that rampant piracy has diminished the useful and legitimate purposes of these devices to such a degree that they must be criminalized. I grew up in an era where "homebrew" was the only type of gaming there was. One could say that it actually created the game industry.

But the game industry has grown up now into serious business, and while landing a couple of pasted-together white blocks onto a platform of larger white blocks used to be great fun, I don't think anybody wants to give up Mario 25 and Zelda 21 just yet.

Is that the price to be paid in a world where these devices are permitted to exist? A better question, perhaps, is do you want to take that chance?

Comment Running red lights is no joke. (Score 2, Interesting) 567

Especially now that people text while driving, it's probably a good thing that we're bringing automation to bear on traffic problems.

They could do more to prevent problems than to catch people after the fact, I think. They're able to drop crossing guards on railroad tracks and tollbooths; why not set them up at every practical intersection as well? There's some good talk out there about adding a breath test to the steering columns of every vehicle, but how about in-car interference of the cellphone frequency?

I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg on what can be done here to ensure safety.

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