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Comment Re:Open API? - what a dumb name (Score 1) 224

Undocumented != Closed, and anyways you can certainly write apps to undocumented APIs if you can figure/reverse engineer what they do.. but you'd generally be unwise to as undocumented typically also means unsupported so they may disappear without warning in a subsequent release.

The article anyways isn't talking about documented vs undocumented - they are struggling for the right words to describe the trend towards "platformization" of web based products - exposing their functionality via web-services APIs as a way to:

a) directly make money via pay-per-call

b) encourage 3rd parties to help the product become entrenched and attract additional users by building customized apps on top of it

Comment Open API? - what a dumb name (Score 1) 224

An API is just an interface - there's nothing inherently open or closed about it. The code behind the API might be either open source or closed source, and in this case we appear to be talking about closed source.

Not only is open vs closed a meaningless adverb to apply to an API (the closest concept might be public vs private - e.g. hidden Winodows API's), but the trend the article is attempting to discuss is the growth of cloud based platforms - i.e services made available via web services (SOAP, .NET, etc).. it's got nothing to do with open or closed source.

Maybe the ultimate example of a "platformization" is Amazon - whose entire company is based on their own publicaly available (at a cost) web services, and this is where they make a lot of their money - from other companies building their web-based stores and services on top of the amazon platforms/services.

Comment Re:Old New Year (Score 2) 219

The cult of Sol Invictus and Roman Mithraism were not the same thing, notwithstanding that there may have been some relationship between the two that we've yet to fathom. Mithras may have been associated with the cosmos as a whole, as opposed to Sol Invictus who was specifically a sun god. Sol (maybe Sol Invictus) appears in some Mithraic paintings alongside Mithras, so they were certainly not one and the same.

The celebration of solstices, part of the cycles of the natural world is near universal in ancient societies, and it was common to assign the winter solstice as a birth date for solar-related deities... However, AFAIK Natalis Invictus didn't itself co-opt any existing celebration in the Roman empire at that time. You need to go further back, or switch empires, to find other celebrations on this date.

It's actually very easy to determine the exact solstice date, once you've figured the position of the celestial equator (the plane bisecting the earth at right angles to it's rotational axis) relative to the constellations. The solstice is simply when the setting sun crosses the celestial equator, so you just need to remember the point on the horizon where the sun set until nightfall when the constellations are visible. Of course the Romans believed the universe revolved around the earth rather than the earth around the sun, but the position of the celestial equator is the same either way, and accurate contemporary globes mapping the constellations and celestial equator attest to the Romans' knowledge of the night sky.

I don't see any reason to doubt a historical Jesus. He was part of a tradition of wandering "miracle" working god-men, not even the most famous in his own lifetime. e.g. early Christian apologists had trouble touting their man in the face of the greater miracles attributed to Jesus' contemporary Apollianus Tyaneus, who was most certainly a historical figure... Christian apologists also cited the phoenix (bird) as evidence of the reality of reincarnation to assuage converts who had a hard time believing in the resurrection of Jesus (the phoenix was considered a real bird back then), so one doesn't need to assume a supernatural Jesus to assume an historical one.

It's very unlikely that there was any celebration of Jesus birth before he was assigned the traditional Dec 25th, since early Christians didn't celebrate birthdays - they regarded this as a pagan practice.

Comment Re:Dubious (Score 4, Interesting) 164

RISC isn't an instruction set - it's a design strategy.

RISC = reduced instruction set computing
CISC = complex instruction set computing

The idea of RISC (have a small highly regular/orthogal instruction set) goes back to the early days of computing when chip design and compiler design wasn't what it is today. The idea was that a small simple instruction would correspond to a simpler chip design that could be clocked faster than a CISC design while at the same time being easier to compile optimized code.

Nowadays advances in chip design and compiler code generation/optimization have essentially undone these benefits of RISC, but the remaining benefits are that RISC chips have small die sizes hence low power requirements, high production yields and low cost, and these are the real reasons ARM is so successful, not the fact that the instruction set is "better".

Comment Re:Old New Year (Score 4, Interesting) 219

Not quite... Saturnalia was a separate holiday celebrating Saturn that grew to be a week long celebration ("the best holiday") starting on December 17th. Saturnalia did have a tradition of present giving that may have been carried over to "Christmas", as possibly was the extended and raucus nature of celebration.

What Christmas actually co-opted, or attempted to, was the December 25th holiday of Natalis Invictus - the celebration of the (re)birth of the Sun god Sol Invictus, founded by emperor Aurelian c.270AD. Although dedicated to Sol Invictus, Natalis Invictus was essentially a winter solstice celebration since Dec 25th was at the time the shortest day after which the Sun was reborn (days begin to get longer again).

When the Roman Catholic church was later unable to convince people to stop celebrating Natalis Invictus (and more generally the cult of Sol Invictus) they crudely tried to co-opt the date by restyling it as the birth of Christ rather than the birth of the Sun.

The other holiday that got combined into "Christmas" was the northern European winter solstice celebration of "Yule" from whence we get Yule logs and I believe most of the tree/holly/mistletoe Christmas greenery.

It's hard to say that the Christian/Catholic co-option of Natalis Invictus/Solstice/Yule was very successful as the major pagan elements of the holiday - date, tree, greenery, roaring fire, presents and feasting are all still intact, and for most people the holiday serves as a seasonal/solstice end of year celebration as much as a Christian one. Even the Angel some folk like to stick on the "Christmas tree" has it's pagan origin as the winged victory goddess Nike (also of sports shoe fame!).

Comment Re:Google versus Apple (Score 2) 360

Matching a search with useful information is kind of what google does best. For voice recognition, they've been doing voice-search on Android for a long time, plus their now defunct goog-411 and that's a lot of voice recognition experience.

Siri/Majel is really just a UI layer on top of those two things.

I have to disagree.

Certainly it's the

  • goal

of Google to decipher intent from search queries and deliver matching content, but I've yet to see any examples where what Google currently does really goes beyond basic keyword matching. Do you have any examples where Google is interpreting what you mean as opposed to what you actually typed (dumb keyword matching)?

The real value of Siri is in it's AI - it's ability to determine what you want from what you say (including prior context), and then of course act upon that via it's interfaces to real world systems and applications. This AI part is what Google will have a hard time replicating any time soon.

Comment Re:A real sample test (Score 1) 845

You'd have to me a moron not to get those.

First five:

1 D "bisect = two equal halves. wow - tough"
2 H (1.5x)^3/x^3 = 1.5^3
3 C (got 4 sides, and it not a rectangle ...)
4 628 cm^2 - they provide the formula for you!
5 56.3' (atan(12/8)\

Really, it's *pathetic* if a school board member can't solve "problems" like these.

Comment Re:How is this news? (Score 2) 80

Well, Qt is relatively hardware dependent - both due to assmbler used for low level stuff and needing OpenGL/VG for acceleration. They've done a lot of work in making Qt more portable, but not surprisingly it still takes some work to get it up and running and optimized on a new platform. Don't forget too that the Pi is ARM based.

Comment Re:Just one question (Score 1) 396

Not sure... you can drag (copy) applications from the menu to the top menu bar as well as the desktop, but if you click on the menu bar there's no context menu to add custom lauchers.

Additionally, the menu bar functionality seems very limited. The icons there are (by default) tiny and can't be placed or spaced out. The only form of rearragement that seems to work is dragging icons to the end of the existing icons, which makes for rather laborous rearranging.

IMO it's a bit of a limited menu bar to launch mint 12 with, but hopefully it'll improve with time to bring back something closer to GNOME 2 in functionality.

Comment Re:Since we're talking about Linux Mint 12... (Score 1) 396

OK, well that kind of makes sense of why the important apps are hided away, but not of the awful placement of the "Other" menu. I assume the menu can be reconfigured if I really want to, but I'm a recent Ubuntu to mint convert and havn't bothered to look into it yet.

I tried the Mint Xfce rolling edition briefly, but there seems to be an annoying bug where the window manager dies (or can accidently be killed during normal use) leaving you with unmovable borderless windows... You can recover by lauching a new window manager (so I've read) but it's a PITA so I switched back to the GNOME edition for stability.

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