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Comment Re:Is it just me... (Score 5, Insightful) 206

does anyone else find it frustrating that /.ers are in favor of unlimited property rights except when they go digital

First of all, slashdot is not a monolith. Different people will pipe up in different conversations to say their bit.

Second, there is a fundamental difference between physical property rights and intellectual property rights. The former is inherently scarce (e.g. if you force Apple to do X with its money, it can't do Y with the same money, in general). The latter is not (e.g. my copy of an ebook did not prohibit anyone else from having a copy of an ebook).

This is why some people (I'm not necessarily among them) object to using the word "stealing" to refer to copyright infringement. A copyright holder doesn't "lose" money when someone downloads content illegally, but they do, potentially, lose a sale. For some industries this distinction is important (various professional-level software packages don't bother pursuing pirates, because they know that it will increase its market share to sell to their real customers, the businesses which will pay hundreds for a software package).

Keep in mind that the purpose of intellectual property laws (patents and copyrights) is to encourage innovation. A temporary monopoly gives people a (greater) incentive to create original works, knowing that they can try to extract value from their creations. This inherently limits the rights of others, who would otherwise be able to use and build upon works in the public domain.

The trouble is that this model has been breaking down on a few levels from its original intent. The first is that copyright extensions have kept works from entering the public domain for quite some time. The second is that patents on some inventions, especially software, are/were often granted with too little deference (one can argue) to prior art and "obviousness". Instead of encouraging innovation by small players, big companies amass patents in a kind of cold war against other big companies, and keep small businesses from being able to enter (because in many industries it's basically impossible not to be sued for patent infringement for something). You see entire company purchases made just for the building up of patent portfolios (arguably a large part of Google acquiring Motorola, for example). This isn't innovation, it's a new cost to doing business in these industries.

Do I subscribe to all of the above? No. But it's not inconsistent to strongly believe in physical property rights but think that intellectual property rights have gone too far.

Finally, it's fine to argue that wealth inequality is not an ideal outcome. To describe it as "pre Renaissance" is to imply heading into the dark ages. Within the western world, even fairly poor people live much better than the richest of that era, by most reasonable measures. To say that "all anybody cares about is the Beatles" when the news is plastered with the Occupy Wall Street protests rings pretty hollow to my ears.

Comment It's not always about search time (Score 2) 434

I let my inbox fill up for 3-12 months and massively archive it in one swoop to a small number of folders (about 15). I actually use search quite a bit to help do that sorting faster. What this cleanout process does is force me to delete messages that I'm 99.999% sure I'll never want to see again. They can just clutter up search results and casual browsing.

As messages come in, I use flags to ensure that messages I need to eventually respond to don't get lost in the shuffle. Some frequent, automated stuff gets automatically archived (e.g. amazon purchases), just to help keep the recent inbox low on clutter.

Archiving has advantages and disadvantages. On my personal email account, archived messages are offline; this makes search (or re-indexing) faster but leaves me without those messages when away from my laptop. But more than anything I archive because a single inbox with X years and tens of thousands of messages is pretty cluttered, and I know that eventually I'll want to sort through them to eliminate messages that will never be useful. Fortunately, that's rarely true spam in my case. There's also the odd email I've forgotten about that I have to follow up on, if I forgot to flag it appropriately. What's the cost? Maybe 4 hours a year.

Comment Re:When Apple screws you, it's always your fault (Score 3, Informative) 443

I bought a $30 MiniDisplayPort-to-VGA adapter (from Apple, of course)... but it turned out that this wouldn't work with most VGA devices, because it wasn't actually converting the digital signal to analog. So I had to buy an actual powered converter box to get my video output into a format I could use with any monitor, TV, or projector that I had access to.

Wow, this is just false. On any modern Mac with a mini-DP (a format I dislike, but not for your reasons), the miniDP->VGA adapter works. I don't know exactly what your issue was, but it is not common to every Macbook Pro I've seen.

If what you said is true, and there was a digital signal on the VGA port, it wouldn't work with any VGA device, because VGA is an analog-only standard. The port is capable of outputting an analog signal over the same connector, though, so it could have been a software issue with the video card. It's also possible that it was outputting an analog signal with a refresh rate your devices were incapable of handling (also a software fix).

VGA will be with us for years because it is still the projector standard in conference rooms, classrooms, and such everywhere. Apple and everyone else knows this. What sucks about mini displayport is 1.) It's not like actual displayport was a big connector, introducing another is just a ploy to make more money on adapters until 3rd parties catch up 2.) The adapters have an unbelievable markup.

Comment Re:Connect it to a tablet and use it for sheet mus (Score 2) 123

- All the tablet screen sizes are too small - 10.1" max. Letter is equivalent to 13.9", A4 equivalent to 14.3", and the Henle Urtext pages are equivalent to 15.3". Yes the edges of the pages are blank, but they're still substantially larger than any tablet.

I use an ipad for piano sheet music (Stanza has a beautiful interface to free music scores). Cropping out the margins with Goodreader helps tremendously.

- They're too low resolution. The iPad looks like it would work, but 1024x768 is simply inadequate for any complex scores. It turns many of the details of an intricate Chopin or Listz score into a blurry mess. e-ink should have the advantage here, if it didn't take so long to turn pages.

Granted, I'm not playing unbelievably complex music, but classical pieces are often available from Mutopia and can be re-typeset to a smaller page size.

Your point about eink is hogwash: they are not high resolution screens. In tricky lighting situations an ipad is much nicer. This is coming from a Kindle owner. Eink can be deceiving about its resolution for two reasons: there are no tiny spaces between "pixels", and the fonts are highly optimized for the exact screen configuration. This eliminates antialiasing and the fuzziness you perceive. It does not help at all for music scores.

- AFAIK almost nobody is truly digitizing music. They're just scanning old sheet music into PDFs. The music score publishers are deathly afraid of going digital because they figure everyone will just copy all the scores instead of buying it from them. They've been milking the "change a few fonts and publish a new version with a new copyright" workaround to copyright expiration for centuries. So all that's left are independent musicians to take the time and effort to convert an out-of-copyright score into something like a .mus (Finale) file or MuseScore or LilyPond.

See Mutopia. This is better for piano players than others, but it is the Project Gutenberg of the music world. As for more modern music, you're stuck with scanned PDF. Of course, if you know you're going to do that, you can try to find music in a relatively small page form factor suitable for viewing on a 10" portrait screen with cropped margins.

Comment Connect it to a tablet and use it for sheet music (Score 1) 123

One of the first ideas I had for a tablet for musicians was to display sheet music. The only trick is flipping the page. Granted, this is easier with a tap than a real page turn, but it could be even easier with a foot pedal.

A bluetooth "keyboard" could do this nicely and connect to hardware like the ipad without any special driver support. USB not so much, but presumably one of the other tablets out there could be made to work. If you have lots of people, though, bluetooth might suffer from interference.

Comment Finally, KDE again (Score 1) 249

I was a long time KDE user from 1.X through 3.X, and waited until about 4.1 to try the 4.X series. It was a disaster, with huge stability problems with dual monitors, an unpolished look and feel, and general slowness (despite turning off animations, desktop effects, etc.). GNOME2 + compiz by comparison was polished, reasonably customizable (something I never liked about GNOME was that in many versions things were hard to tweak), and fast! My Intel chipset doesn't have good 2D performance; ironically, 3D acceleration of window drawing via compiz made things like desktop switching much faster (and more like my slightly older Intel chipset which always did fine with 2D...).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and my choice was the Unity interface in Ubuntu or the GNOME3 shell in the new Fedora. I realize I could stick with GNOME classic, but deprecated platforms will only be around so long. I knew from descriptions and screenshots that Unity wasn't my kind of desktop environment, so I gave the new Fedora + GNOME3 shell a shot.

Yikes. It takes simple to an extreme - right clicking doesn't do much anywhere. The panel up top is small and there was no obvious way to add anything to it, so it was generally a waste of space. The activities button produced a huge, ugly menu with giant icons and tiny text. it has the feel of a tablet environment but would be a disaster to use on a tablet as is (with some UI elements being finger-sized, others being tiny).

xfce in principle is decent, except that the 2D rendering on my chipset is slow enough that it made it feel slower than GNOME2 + compiz. I suppose I could run compiz with xfce as well, but compiz produces a bug with R's data editor that I was interested in eliminating anyway.

We're up to KDE 4.6 though, so I figured it was worth another shot (having tried 4.1 and 4.2 briefly). Turns out that the distribution matters - I've had a few less issues with Kubuntu than Fedora Core 15. In FC15, some GNOME apps like gnome-terminal would have their windows shrink whenever I launched them, very odd. KDE as a whole finally feels polished, fast, and powerful. I would choose is over an updated 3.X series. Its handling of docking and undocking with multiple monitors is still more tempermental than GNOME2, but manageable. And kwin for compositing lets me avoid compiz and its R editing bug. Best of all, I get back some of the things I really like about KDE - the file picker with kio slaves being the biggest among them.

The bottom line is that Unity and the GNOME3 shell are a huge step back for users who like a more traditional desktop with lots of customizability. xfce and KDE can step into those roles, and I think we'll see renewed interest in them.

Comment Text messages (Score 1) 428

Text messages, limited to 140 characters because they literally fit into a header field of a cell phone packet, are a bit of a hack. Yet here we are, years later, still using the very same system (and paying up the nose for the privilege in many cases!). But you know that anyone with a cell phone can receive a text (though you might be costing them $0.05-$0.10), you still can't be sure about its alternatives. IM clients require an always-connected client, whether that client exists on the phone itself (battery draining to retain that IP connection) or a server (that's how IM+ works for the ipod/iphone/ipad), and tend to have "push" technologies which are inferior to the built-in text messaging system.

So we still have a system where you vote for things, send donations to charities, and communicate entire long IM-like conversations. The limit on characters proved so popular as to give us Twitter (of course, it helps that you can tweet as a text message). The legacy of the system is not just its stupid overcharging, but modifying online language to be even more concise (to put it generously) than it would have been otherwise. And I don't see it dying for years.

Comment Figure it out for yourself (Score 1) 475

There are only a few major browsers. IE (7 and 8), Firefox (3, since you've tried 4), Safari, Chrome, and Opera. Each have their pros and cons with regard to speed, features, etc. How these get weighted depend on what your preferences are and which sites you visit.

There are two browser hogs of resources: flash and javascript. If you can, get rid of flash altogether. If you can't, at least use a browser/plugin/etc that allows you to "click to play" flash. That'll do more than any browser switch.

Use each one for a day. See what kind of memory usage it has (512 MB is plenty for all of them, but if you use non-browser apps you may need to be pickier). The bottom line is that relatively few people will have tried each of the browsers and have similar taste to yours. The benchmarking sites may give you some speed tests, but not necessarily ones relevant for the sites you actually visit.

Comment Re:Pretty Good (Score 1) 229

It was a lot easier to avoid impulse buying and to plan out what was actually needed when I could place the order online

Impulse buying groceries is a really interesting phenomenon, and something I'm very prone to myself. The question is, how does your purchasing change in the long run if you can eliminate impulse buying? There seems to be only a few possibilities: 1. You buy healthier items and aren't tempted by junk food and instant gratification foods as much 2. You buy less and throw out less food and 3. You bargain shop better by carefully weighing the value of items. Unlike non-grocery items, sooner or later you'll consume calories, so the question is of what type and whether you can consume these impulse-purchased calories before they spoil.

That said, $14 seems like a lot of money for those benefits, given that grocery shopping is the only type of shopping I enjoy. If I want to cut down on impulse purchases of food for whatever reason, I make it a point to eat right beforehand. If I didn't have a car, though, I'd certainly be interested in grocery delivery.

Comment Re:They are late to the party, but... (Score 5, Interesting) 229

My other slightly off-topic question is: why aren't there any fast food hamburger delivery chains?

A food's ability to be delivered depends a lot on how well it handles a 30 minute wait. Pizza is okay luke warm, cold, or re-heated. Chinese isn't so great cold, but you can insulate it pretty well and keep it warm enough for arrival, same with Indian food (both reheat okay). Cold sandwiches/subs deliver fine too.

A burger, on the other hand, gets soggy, cold, and disgusting by the 30 minute mark. Fries are similar. These days most fast food places have pretty fast turnover of their fries, and within about 15 minutes of them being left out they're a pale imitation of how good they taste when you first get them. Tex-Mex is similar - tacos get soggy, so much that Taco Bell tastes much worse if you get it in the drive through and drive 10 minutes home with it.

On the other hand, fried chicken products tend to do okay with the wait time. So while we don't see very many chicken-only delivery places, the major pizza chains often add chicken wings to their delivery options.

Comment Re:Hard drives need upgraded (Score 3, Informative) 89

It would be a fail to think they would store anything needed on such servers, other than os. The servers are probably linked to a harddrive farm by network or fiber-channel.

Wrong. Google stores its data all over the place, including on each individual server. They designed their own networked filesystem for the purpose. If they really didn't store data locally, they'd almost certainly PXE boot and avoid drives on each server altogether. I suspect the video just used some dated footage (from a training or other internal video perhaps?), as this article clearly shows SATA drives. Every server has two drives, and since no one node is critical for anything they also wouldn't bother with RAID1 for an OS boot drive as you suggest.

Comment Re:Pure subscriptions? (Score 1) 117

I received a free subscription for the rest of the year, "sponsored by Lincoln" (the car company). No idea what exactly triggered that, but I was/am a pretty regular reader. Not sure if I'll pay or not when the time comes. It'll be interesting to see what the Washington Post ends up with for a paywall.

Comment R makes great graphs, but... (Score 2) 64

R makes great graphs functionally speaking, but without mucking about with the options and some post-processing they are not the most attractive. Open up your favorite financial/data intensive news source and look at the visuals and you'll find that generating that style with just code is fairly difficult.

Until about Office 2007, the defaults in Excel charts were also atrocious. Openoffice.org is still pretty bad, and Matlab is not much better than R. The good news is that you can generate PDFs from each of these and easily open them in Inkscape/Illustrator, where making vector-based edits is easy.

Anyone who regularly visualizes data needs to pick up resources on how to clearly organize and display your data, like "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward Tufte (though some of his examples are a little dated). Books like that are full of examples that would be very tricky to replicate without any post processing, because it usually involves eliminating excessive lines and cluttering detail.

Comment GUi vs. command line-based OS (Score 1) 210

On my main Linux machine(s), I keep my desktop 100% clear; I even disable the normal icons to eliminate all clutter. My general principle is also to use lots of virtual desktops set to hotkeys and eliminate the taskbar (I use the same workspaces for the same applications, so I can reach them much faster).

On Windows machines and even Macs, my desktop tended to get a bit cluttered. Any OS where the primary file management/file picking scheme is to use the GUI means that the desktop is one of the easiest places to work with recently-used/downloaded files. On an OS where the command line is a little more central, I sometimes use ~/, which I occasionally must clean out. Same messiness in the end, I suppose, but one is more visible than the other.

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