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Comment Re:Put lesson plans on (Score 1) 590

Begging your pardon for a moment, but is it not the point of university education and student teaching to provide exactly what a teacher needs to be able to do their job, and to adhere to lesson plan guidelines from state agencies and national standards? This is what I remember essentially being the case.

Again, I must reiterate: for-profit education reduces incentive to widely disseminate information. We frequently talk about open source software models being profitable not because of the content but because of the necessary services to implement it in practice. Why not the lesson plans too?

Comment Put lesson plans on (Score 1) 590

After all, if a student earns a grade for their own unique academic paper, shouldn't the teacher be required to earn their dollar for their own academic lesson plans or be penalized for it?

Reducing education to a financial transaction either needs to work both ways, or work neither way. If the teacher can buy a lesson plan and tailor it to their classroom, a student should be able to buy a paper and tailor it to their specific need too. It's an absurd example, but one that illustrates that all parties in education need to adapt to each other and not reduce things to a dollar sign and marginalize society's most important equalizer.

Comment critical mistake I should point out... (Score 1) 301

I meant to say that in my first paragraph that Verilog has both procedural and concurrent structures, and that its C-like syntax tends to push people to use more procedural constructs rather than concurrent which lead to gross compiler assumptions and/or non-synthesizability. In order to avoid confusion, I would therefore suggest that the strong typing in VHDL makes it easier to understand digital design in the context of an HDL. Sorry about the confusion.

Comment Not in the context of FPGA/HDL synthesis it's not (Score 2, Interesting) 301

You're right that Verilog has those constructs, but they're strictly used for modeling. You either won't make synthesizable code out of them, or if it handles them it's done in an implicit way that you absolutely have to know what the implications are. Again, HDLs are not programming languages in the get-to-the-chip sense, they're concurrent systems description languages. Even more reason to leave Verilog alone at the outset and learn with VHDL.

Comment Advice from a former instructor of VHDL and FPGAs (Score 5, Informative) 301

It's been about ten years since my TAs and I taught the lab section of the advanced digital logic design at my university. I agree that, generally speaking, VHDL is a better teaching language than Verilog. Part of the reason is that Verilog, being much like C, is inherently procedural. You don't want to think procedurally with digital logic except for the specific case of state machine design, and even then you have to take into account concurrency. It is this fundamental aspect of concurrency in HDLs that is key to being able to design effectively. I can define twenty clocks going into counters, just like I can wear twenty watches on my arm and have them all tell time independently and/or at different speeds. You can't really do that with procedural languages unless you're talking about thread scheduling, and then this becomes a thread scheduling exercise when you have multiple threads. Even then, you will never be able to get the speed of digital logic because you have instruction fetch, instruction decode, etc. that introduce latency that cannot be reduced even in a multi-core CPU. Not thinking procedurally will help, and the strong typing of VHDL over Verilog will help greatly in my opinion. Those Karnaugh maps you talk about are fine to learn, but HDLs use case statements in VHDL that make state machine design trivial especially when you have >8 states.

Beyond HDLs, however, are FPGAs and ASICs (and I've designed using both). Putting the differences between FPGA and ASIC aside, FPGA has some very specific ties to the vendor because of the way the FPGA is architected. Assignment of I/O, synthesis, and most of all timing constraints for guiding the "map place and route" tools for FPGAs are something you won't learn from VHDL alone (e.g. clock domain frequencies, max/min delays, input/output delays, false/multicycle paths, setup and hold times or worst-case timing paths in the design). These are essential to digital design, but not part of the HDL at all (see Synopsys SDC format for more info). In fact, shell scripts, sed/awk, Perl, TCL, Scheme and Python are also essential to know because they glue the various different tools together through scripting, processing of text files, tailing log files, and batching can be critical to being efficient. So is being thorough in understanding log file warnings and errors, timing reports. Electronic Design Automation or EDA tools also have their own idiosyncrasies, and you'll need to develop a stable "reference front-end and back-end design flow" if you haven't already. Do you use an Altera or Xilinx reference board, or an add-on PCI-based FPGA card? And how do you analyze what's coming and going at the interface? All of these questions need to be answered before you really get going on FPGAs. ASICs have an order of magnitude more complications for reasons I won't even discuss, but it just gets harder. So those state machines that you created without K maps will have synthesis pragmas that direct the compiler to create the appropriate state machine (e.g. One-hot for performance, Gray code for lower power, etc.).

Finally, there's the work world. As other posters have mentioned, North America is primarily focused on Verilog while the rest of the world is VHDL. Most synthesizable IP cores for various functions come as Verilog. So, the truth is, you should know both major HDLs, but you would be better off being proficient in Verilog in the real world for the simple reason that it is the present and future (or at least its successors, such as System Verilog, are the future) are for many reasons. Also, in the work world, it's critical to know the major EDA vendor software and to put it on your resume (i.e. Mentor Graphics, Synplicity (for FPGA), Synopsys, in roughly that order, and Cadence and Magma for ASIC) as well as all those scripting and other languages like Perl and TCL that I mentioned. Don't completely ignore VHDL, however.

As an ironic point, there are SystemC compilers for hardware that are becoming more and more crucial in large scale development for video algorithms and the like. The results tend to be difficult to formally verify (i.e. C code != Verilog out) and often inefficient or even not realizable in physical design, so you may need to go in and modify pieces heavily to be able to close timing. At your level and given the class of devices you're working on, it's quite premature to consider this, and I would strongly recommend to focus on the HDLs first. In fact, I don't even know if there's a university program for that software either.

My best advice here is to focus on learning digital design and VHDL first, then Verilog, then seeing how it applies to an FPGA kit (e.g. Altera Cyclone or maybe even MAX CPLD, or Xilinx Spartan) from a major vendor, then learn some of the other industry-standard EDA tools that work with their tools (e.g. Synplicity FPGA compiler, Mentor Modelsim waveform simulator for test benches and back-annotated (i.e. timing-aware) simulation, possibly some formal verification tools as well). This topic is way too big for even this post, and I feel like I'm swatting at a cloud of flies trying to get rid of them, but knowing FPGAs will greatly help your career since advances in process technology are making FPGAs more SoC like and cheaper all the time.

Comment Two changes that could've been made (Score 4, Insightful) 852

1. Less talk and more subtlety. This means very little or no explicit dialog, no in-your-face pictures of dancing robots (but maybe Baltar and Six in front of an electronics store), and Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along The Watchtower playing on some radio in the background of some guy on the street. As it stands, it was too overt and tried too hard to make its point for viewers already accustomed to needing to think a bit more.

2. What probably would've happened after Lee recommended all technology go away is a split between those who still wanted it and those who didn't. The two sides would create a pact to keep separate from each other, the small minority of technology-loving people going to live on a small continent off the west coast of Africa... Said continent, of course, to have been destroyed at some future point in time by natural disaster and essentially all technology along with it. This would solve what would be an obvious dilemma and split in viewpoints of the remaining people while reasonably explaining what would've happened to their technology.

Comment Re-type them and post them anonymously (Score 1) 931

Seriously, how is she going to track this down? If you're afraid of being found out, post it to Wikileaks where they are beyond any court order. If she tries to pull anything on you, tell her that she needs to prove it was you, and if she can't that the university will be on the financial hook for it (i.e. back off).

As a former lab instructor, my job was to share my knowledge with students, not to prevent them from taking it with them. Hard-ass instructors like this just pissed me off because they think people won't show up to their lectures if they have their notes. There's no better way than to return the favor than to do exactly what they tell you not to.

Comment Re:Both sides of the Prop 8 debate are wrong (Score 1) 1475

Because it offers legal incentives for people who choose to engage in it. The problem here isn't a legal question, but an overly-emotional argument over the word "marriage" itself, the lequal inequities that result from legislation like this being a mere side-effect that doesn't concern those who pursued Prop. 8.

There should be be no legal incentive or disincentive for people to marry or not marry. It shouldn't be the government's business beyond the enforcement of any other standard legal contract with absolutely no special status. Again, you seem to focus on the word marriage when I'm saying you're engaged in entirely the wrong debate.

Specious arguments like this are fielded by Prop. 8 supporters (most common being Daddy and Daughter want to marry) to distract from the question at hand, mainly by painting it as opening the gateway to incest.

First off, it isn't a specious argument to ask for people who aren't in romantic relationships but otherwise cohabitate to ask for additional rights granted to those who are currently "married". I know two men who are likely never going to marry, but aren't gay and would like a say in the same aspects of their lives that a currently "married" couple would. In fact, it's the fundamental point of the debate - that marriage as it's currently defined abrogates the rights of many individuals within society. That includes those in straight, gay, transsexual, polyamorist or platonic relationships alike. Nobody is any more or less special than anyone else, so don't treat anyone more or less special. Period, no slippery slopes, no extras, just full equality.

Marriage has benefits conferred upon it specifically to discourage this. Why do you think gays want to get married?

Again, why should marriage confer special benefits if they don't want them? Did you ever think that maybe some people don't want those benefits or the responsibilities that come with them? This is why I specifically brought up the issue of states automatically deeming cohabitants as common-law married. People can ask for those rights if and when they want to. Why should they be "discouraged" in any way if they don't desire to be married? If you're of the age of majority, you choose who you want to be with and who you don't. That's part of being a grown-up, and living their life as they choose (as you yourself say below).

If the question comes up, we'll answer it (and hopefully on the side of them being free to choose how they live their life as they choose.)

It is an issue, but just not one covered by mainstream media or in the forefront of people's minds.

Sure they have, mostly by supporters of Prop. 8 to discolor and trump up fears and smear opponents. Otherwise, they're completely not relevant to the question at hand.

Show me one article for anyone on either side of Prop 8 discussing the destruction of wealth, or the negative side effects of the broader problem of divorce on children (and I don't mean those who say if Prop 8 is repealed that their families will be "broken up"). This is what I'm talking about. You're again misidentifying what I'm trying to argue - that marriage, as it's defined today, and regardless of whether it's among two straight or two gay people, has many other negative side effects that nobody seems to want to address.

Comment Both sides of the Prop 8 debate are wrong (Score 5, Insightful) 1475

The real issue here is why the government is involved in the business of marriage to begin with. Government shouldn't be involved at all in the current fashion.

What bothers me personally is this artificial dichotomy that people have created surrounding this issue on both sides. This isn't just about gays and lesbians. What about spinster sisters that simply live together and want their civil rights? Boyfriend and girlfriend forever? Polyamorists? Where are their rights? And what about states that automatically deem a couple to be in common-law marriage without them consciously having entered into that contract? None of these issues have been covered by the proponents or opponents of Prop 8.

Marriage should be replaced by a comprehensive standard (but modifiable) civil contract between two or more consenting adults like any other business contract. Whether one goes to a church to get married, or to a lawyer's office, they can choose to call it what they will and associate as they want to, but that's separate from the contract. In effect, every "civil union" will be bound by a prenuptial agreement that must be consciously entered into by all parties that defines all of the criteria for what is currently deemed marriage. Assets coming into the marriage shouldn't be deemed automatic community property unless the parties choose this consciously. Child custody will always be split equally amongst the individuals unless otherwise specified in the contract or unless it can be clearly proven that harm is coming to the children from one or more of the parties; joint custody is implied even when they live together (since that's effectively the same thing, just that they're under the same roof). In addition, this will also function as a living and non-living will so that probate judges don't erode an inheritance for the state's benefit as opposed to the individual's benefit, and also to avoid conflicts with the families of the individuals involved. Also, just like a standard contract, individuals will not be entitled to things like lifetime alimony and must mitigate their "damages" by being obligated to find work and/or getting educated to find better work. The contract may be modified at any time with the consent of the parties. During a "divorce", the parties will be bound by the separation provisions of the agreement, thereby reducing the amount of time that lawyers and judges are involved, the amount of tax money spent on courts, and the amount of personal money spent on lawyers in protracted litigation. For those in current marriages, their marriages would be subject to the same standard civil contract rules with modifications from any pre-existing prenuptial agreements.

Neither of the candidates in this presidential election nor any of the state or local candidates made any mention of the damage that the process of divorce has on families, and on individuals' wealth. Divorce is one of the biggest destroyers of wealth in society today and contributes to other societal problems such as childhood delinquency. Why not take on both the issue of civil rights and of divorce, and redefine fundamentally how society organizes itself? If people were forced to think carefully on what a marriage really is - a business transaction - then they might treat it as such. Wrap whatever other window dressing you like around it, but it all boils down to business at the end of the day.

I'd say that if any corporations were truly progressive, they would push for this too. At the end of the day, this would be to their benefit when an employee "divorces" since there would be less time spent off of work. Too bad Google doesn't get this, and even more humorously undermines its own argument by laying off people. Mixing business and politics isn't smart business anyway, as being neutral on issues pisses off the least number of potential customers as I'm sure Google will lose a few of its customers. Unfortunately, everyone loses when we force these dichotomies down people's throats, and business money like Google's simply aggravates this.

Comment Banking is typically slowest to change its crypto (Score 2, Insightful) 300

Of all the industries that are slow to implement change in cryptographic practices, banking is by far the slowest. Part of this is bureaucratic inertia, part of this is lack of trust of newer algorithms until "proven" safe, and still part of this is reliance on legacy HSMs in their server facilities. Even the NSA has mandated a faster transition to better crypto (e.g. Suite B) than banking. Banking is still using 3DES instead of AES128, although for practical purposes brute-forcing 3DES at 112 bits of effective security isn't that much worse than AES' 128 bits. Banking won't move quickly unless someone starts stealing many thousands of high-profile accounts, but it'll be a bit like a buffalo stampede.

Still, it's mind-boggling that MD5 is still in use by anyone at this point given that it is susceptible to collisions. NSA Suite B is very clear that SHA2 256 is the minimum acceptable hash, and so it should be elsewhere regardless of your symmetric or asymmetric crypto. Back in the day when RSA512 was still used for PKI because of limited computing power, there might have been an excuse to stick to MD5. And yet, we all moved on to RSA1024 and RSA2048 because RSA512 was broken too. SHA2 is free, and it works. It really is time to move on from MD5 for all uses.

Funny enough that the entire security of the Internet as most users see it is based on the MD5 hash of the browser binary...

Comment Why don't agencies improve authentication? (Score 3, Interesting) 50

The fundamental problem here isn't the data loss (other than a possible loss of privacy), but one of what someone other than the authorized owner of that information can do with it. Credit reporting agencies, property title offices, passport offices, and a whole host of other people need a much stronger form of authentication. These fools have ignored this problem for years, and impose costs not only on the victims but on everyone else due to prosecution, police investigation, etc..

From a practical security perspective, security on data use is really limited to the "something you have" aspect (i.e. your name/SSN/DoB/address), less on the "something you know" and rarely the "something you are" categories. Both government and private industry needs to wake up and start making it much more difficult for people to have anything bad done to them simply because someone uses their data ON TOP of mandating cryptography and security for information (which I deem to be separate concepts).

An idea - digitally sign the hash of a person's fingerprint, retina, signature and a non-obvious PIN (i.e. pictures, phrases, numbers, questions), put the root certificate authority in a government-controlled secure bunker or military base with FIPS 140 secured HSMs and multiple independent layered checks and balances, and use the signature/verification chain for both government and commercial uses.

1080p, Human Vision, and Reality 403

An anonymous reader writes "'1080p provides the sharpest, most lifelike picture possible.' '1080p combines high resolution with a high frame rate, so you see more detail from second to second.' This marketing copy is largely accurate. 1080p can be significantly better that 1080i, 720p, 480p or 480i. But, (there's always a "but") there are qualifications. The most obvious qualification: Is this performance improvement manifest under real world viewing conditions? After all, one can purchase 200mph speed-rated tires for a Toyota Prius®. Expectations of a real performance improvement based on such an investment will likely go unfulfilled, however! In the consumer electronics world we have to ask a similar question. I can buy 1080p gear, but will I see the difference? The answer to this question is a bit more ambiguous."

"Free Wi-Fi" Scam In the Wild 332

DeadlyBattleRobot writes in with a story from Computerworld about a rather simple scam that has been observed in the wild in several US airports. Bad guys set up a computer-to-computer (ad hoc) network and name it "Free Wi-Fi." You join it and, if you have file sharing enabled, your computer becomes a zombie. The perp has set up Internet sharing so you actually get the connectivity you expected, and you are none the wiser. Of course no one reading this would fall for such an elementary con. The article gives detailed instructions on how to make sure your computer doesn't connect automatically to any offered network, and how to tell if an access point is really an ad hoc network (it's harder on Vista).

The Best Graphing Calculator on the Market? 724

aaronbeekay asks: "I'm a sophomore in high school taking an honors chem course. I'm being forced to buy something handheld for a calculator (I've been using Qalculate! and GraphMonkey on my Thinkpad until now). I see people all around me with TIs and think 'there could be something so much better'. The low-res, monochrome display just isn't appealing to me for $100-150, and I'd like for it to last through college. Is there something I can use close to the same price range with better screen, more usable, and more powerful? Which high-tech calculators do you guys use?"

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