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Comment Was I the only person... (Score 1) 291 read this whose first thought was "Woo hoo! Big-ass RAM disk!"?

Apparently, there are SATA RAM disk assemblies out there, although apparently none that will work with DDR3 RAM (not that a quick search could find at least).

RAID (or perhaps LVM containerize) a pile of these suckers together, add in all those DIMMs, and you could have some seriously fast storage on your hands.

Practical? Probably for limited applications. Damn cool? Absolutely! It would be a like a Beowulf cluster of RAM disks...


Comment Re:Download an app???? NO!!!! (Score 1) 403

Wait. You're trying to do real work on a tablet? I'll see you in 34 years after you write your first "grad school" paper using only a tablet.

I graduated from my M.Sc. program (Comp.Sci) a year and a half before the iPad 1 was released, so I didn't have the opportunity to use one to complete my 163 page thesis. That said, there are a variety of areas would it would have been put to very good use:

  • Reading/Organizing/Annotating Papers: as most computer science papers are readily available as PDFs, even from many decades past, being able to read, organize, and annotate papers on the iPad would have been wonderful. I could have easily read papers while on the bus, made notes, and kept them organized based on the parts of the paper they were suited towards.
  • Writing: this is a two-parter. There were many times when I was participating in some other activity when an idea would come along for something to add to or otherwise enhance my thesis. Jotting down shot notes during these times on an iPad would have been nice. More than that, using today's iPad, I would have been happy to write entire sections of my paper on my iPad -- as the paper was produced completely in LaTeX, it doesn't need anything more advanced than a text editor. Couple that with iCould synchronization, and I could author sections on either my desktop, laptop, or iPad, and have any changes made automatically synced and available on all the others. I doubt I would have used the iPad to compile the LaTeX document (that would still be better accomplished on a beefier system), but for composing and editing the text? I could completely see myself doing that.

As it was, the iPad wasn't available when I wrote my thesis. However, having owned and carried one around for the last year, if I had been able to leave my MacBook at home and taken an iPad with me to keep all my papers and do some writing and editing (I spent a lot or effort in the editing stage, often re-arranging written passages, editing equations, etc.), I would have readily done so.

It may not have been the sole device for this work, but it certainly would have held an important place in the effort, and would have made certain tasks much more pleasant.


Comment Re:Hypocrisy (Score 1) 862

Apparently Dawkins did not mind making negative comments about the muslim video while complaining about the comments that religious folk make about scientific claims.

Pot calling the kettle black much?

Nice straw an there -- the only negative comment he made about the video was this:

It's quite astonishingly badly done, as everybody agrees.

Have you not seen it? The production quality was beyond terrible, and was so amateurish a group of 8 year olds could have come up with someone better. And from the bits that have been released on YouTube, it doesn't even make any sense. Voices are obviously overdubbed in places, the sets are comical in how bad they are, and the dialog is incoherent. By any rational standards, it was "badly done".

Excuse me if I completely fail to see the equivalence you're trying to setup. He made a single negative comment that the film was bad, so somehow that should mean that religious fundamentalists should get a free pass when they use ignorance to criticise a well tested scientific fact? Really?


Comment Re:Wrong idea. (Score 3, Interesting) 385

- isolates kids from their peer group based on criteria they don't understand, and prevents them from forming natural relationships with their classmates.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but as someone who was both inside and outside such classes, this is certainly not true, in significant part because being in an integrated class makes the problem worse.

Picture a kid in grade 4 (~9 years old) who could generally read, write, and speak at a grade 12 level (~17 years old). Put that kid in a class of children who may or may not even be able to read, write, or speak at a grade 4 level. What do you think is going to happen? Do you think all of those kids are going to socialize well with that kid, no matter how gentle, friendly, or outgoing he was, when they can't communicate ideas at the same level? Or do you think they'll just go with the simple route of ostracizing (and eventually try bullying) that kid?

I was that kid, and let me tell you -- it didn't work for me at all. In the times when I wasn't in an enriched class (at one point because my parents felt as you did, and worried I would somehow be socially stunted), I was usually ostracized by my classmates because it simply wasn't cool to be with the smart kid, or because I didn't have the same interest in music or fashion that the other kids did. Indeed, during these times I often socialized more with kids in later grades than myself, as the communications gap was much smaller. When I was in enriched classes, I had lots of friends and good relationships with my classmates, even when I didn't always share the same interests with them.

Putting all the kids in the same class doesn't magically make socialization easy when there are vastly differing levels of communicative ability. Indeed, virtually every class stratifies into groups based on differing levels of communications and interests, and if you're the one ultra-smart kid in a class of regular kids, you'll quickly find yourself in a strata all your own -- and kids can be merciless to other kids in their own strata (and not just due to intelligence -- I saw the same things happen to kids from less frequently represented religious and ethnic backgrounds face the same struggles, which is probably why most of my best friends throughout grade school were the Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu kids in my predominately white grade schools).

I don't necessarily disagree with everything you said above, but you totally missed the mark on that one.


Comment Re:Your Favorite Misunderstanding of Your Own Work (Score 3, Insightful) 1142

My bible says "fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). "Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart."

I think the modern scientific concept of "wisdom" and the religious/biblical meaning of "wisdom" differ greatly.

I don't know Prof. Dawkins, however I'll assume his definition of "wisdom" is along the lines of "being informed by current scientific theories that bear the preponderance of evidence, eschewing concepts for which there is no evidence, while being open to changes as more evidence and better models present themselves."

Unfortunately, the religious definition of "wisdom" typically winds up meaning "is able to quote bible/torah/koran verses verbatim".

The point being, "wisdom" is a very slippery word with a very nebulous definition that changes depending on who you're talking to. Which one do the verses you quote above refer to? Probably depends on who you ask, but I suspect most "experts" in this area would point towards religious wisdom rather than rationality.


Comment Re:They shrink (Score 1) 510

Filesystems, generally speaking, aren't resilient to the underlying disk geometry changing after they've been laid down.

No, but many filesystems do have a way of flagging bad blocks as used, so that they can't be accessed. Depending on how the drive fails, as more blocks get marked as bad, the available free space can (conceptually) dwindle down to nothing without any changes in geometry. The simplest way is to claim the sectors as used by a "bad blocks file" so they can't be used for future writes -- which doesn't require any geometry changes.

That being said, it's been a very, very, very long time sine I've seen a disk fail in this manner. With over a billion sectors on a 500GB disk, chances are very good the entire drive is simply going to fail to function completely before every block is added to a filesystems bad blocks list.


Comment Re:Apple's interest (Score 1) 344

Just to point out here the assumption of the question is wrong. Apple is proposing the exact opposite of ubiquitous computing. They instead have two products iOS and OSX which evolve semi-seperately so that data can pass between similar applications but that the applications are quite different.

Unfortunately, you've seriously abused the concept of ubiquitous computing . Ubiquitous computing doesn't require every computing device to be running the same software; instead it is the HCI idea that computing be implemented and "thoroughly integrated into everyday objects and activities."

Ideally, these computing devices can talk to each other in some manner (Internet, LAN, PAN, etc.), and interchange data. These devices may also contain sensors to read input from the real world, and could have actuators, displays, and other outputs to interact with the real world.

Everything running a single OS and the same apps, however, isn't a requirement of ubiquitous computing. It may not even be desirable, particularly when we consider minute-scale devices that don't yet exist where an embedded OS makes more sense. Specifically, "Windows Everywhere" isn't ubiquitous computing, it's a marketing strategy.

So great strawman there. Sorry I had to take it apart on you after you built it up and tried to knock it down.


Comment Re:my mom gave away toothbrushes one year (Score 1) 437

My dad was a dentist and my mother decided to give out toothbrushes with his name on them one year for Halloween. She still dosent understand why our house was the only one in the neighborhood to get toilet papered.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when I was young my father worked for a company that made pop cans, and was able to buy entire cases (of 24) for $1 each from the bottlers. He'd buy 25 cases at Halloween.

Can you say "Most popular house on the block?"

Lots of funny things happened because of this...

First off, the cases being sold off for $1ea were typically "defective" in some manner. Typically the defect was that some can at the top of the palette leaked and damaged the cartons below it, so usually the carton was stained, but the cans inside were fine. On occasion, we'd get the case with the leaky can, and you'd find one empty can amongst the rest. However, from time to time they were being sold this way because of a filling error -- we had one hilarious year where we gave out Orange Crush cans that were full of Grape Crush. The reactions of the kids who decided to pop it open and tuck in immediately was always priceless.

Sometimes the pop we were giving out was canned for the restaurant industry, or was for some no-name brand intended to be sold elsewhere, in cans nobody had ever seen before. In one such year, giving out cans that were simply purple and silver with no fancy graphics, one really little kid stared wide-eyed on our doorstep at the can he had just been given for a few minutes, before turning triumphantly, raised the can in the air, and called out "Dad! They gave me a beer! ". We attracted a lot of dads within earshot for the next 5 minutes or so.

Of course, as the evening went on, we'd start to get the teenagers wearing a jacket with a hockey team logo claiming to be out as "hockey players" looking for free pop. That's usually when we decided it was time to turn off the lights and close the front door and call it a night. Which was fine with my brother and I -- we were allowed to (slowly, and only with permission) drink whatever was left over. And the years when the cans and contents didn't match were always great for post-Halloween pranks at school.


Comment Re:American Creep (Score 1) 437

Also it sucks that Halloween gets bigger every year, but Guy Fawkes (less than a week later) gets smaller – Do kids not want to blow things up anymore?

So, you want children on a major sugar high from the past week's gorging, playing with explosives???

Do you take adults? If so, please sign me up! If not, please sign my daughter up. She's 2, so she'll need my supervision with the jawbreakers and nitrogen triiodide.


Comment Re:Coase costs and the interface between cars/bike (Score 1) 1651

I ride a bike in London, don't own a car and am in my 60s, to declare interest. I don't wear a helmet and am unwilling to do so.

The arguments that I citing in the heading are summarised here: that is, neither car nor bike is particularly 'wrong' about any of this. The best thing [that we don't really have in London] is safe bike lanes.

So you've made the assumption that the only way you can have a head injury from cycling is by being hit by a car, and have built an entire argument around this premise then, huh?

Please allow me to relate the following two stories of accidents I've been personally associated with, one where the cyclist was wearing a helmet, and one where they weren't, with differing outcomes, and both occurring on cycling trails completely away from any motorized vehicles:

Back in the late 80's/early 90's, my brother (then a teenager) was riding helmetless on a cycling path, doing a good clip downhill when the front forks on his bike, without warning, broke off completely. As you can imagine from the physics, he landed face first on the pavement. He broke his skull in numerous places, broke his nose, jaw, and numerous teeth, had hair and skin ripped from his scalp, and suffered from a major concussion. At the hospital, my parents were told to expect that he may not make it through the night. He spent over a month in hospital, with his jaw wired shut. My grandmother sat at his bedside every day feeding him pureed watermelon through a straw. And while he has made a full recovery, 20+ years later he a) still has no memory of the incident, b) has numerous dead teeth, and c) bears the scars.

Two years ago I had an accident while cycling to work on a paved commuter cycling trail (a "mature urban cycling system" as someone terms such trails below), when I lost traction on a wooden bridge that spans a creek at the bottom of a hill. After sliding for 10m or so, my front wheel hit the pavement on the other side of the bridge at an angle, and I wound up going down hard. I broke my collarbone, impinged my rotator cuff, bruised all the ribs on one side of my bode, along with associated scrapes and bruises. I suffered no head injuries (and was assessed in hospital for concussion), but the impact at 20+km/h broke the helmet in half. I required a few months of physiotherapy for the collarbone, shoulder, and neck issues, but my head was fortunately unaffected.

So if you think your skull is somehow invulnerable, and there is no possible mechanisms for accidents and skull injuries because there are no cars nearby, then you are a total idiot. Helmets are cheap and effective, and there is no reason why any rational person shouldn't consider them standard gear when cycling. They do save lives -- and more importantly, minimize suffering.

I wouldn't wish what my brother and parents went through on anyone, including you. So good luck on your continued tempting of fate. I hope none of your loved ones ever has to hear the words "we don't know if he'll make it through the night" after you go out for a quick cycling trip.


Comment Service courses. (Score 2) 337

Most colleges and universities offer these sorts of "service courses"; a sort of out-sourcing of expertise from one (or more) department(s) to another.

They are often required by students of non-CompSci degrees in order to become familiar with the basic software in use by their respective departments, in order to permit those departments to focus more time on teaching the material, and not the software.

Many faculties/departments have very exacting standards for how reports are formatted (i.e.: APA formatting and citations), or require Excel and/or Access experience due to their use in their faculties for data retention/organization/statistical analysis. Never mind that computing may have better solutions for these -- many of the professors in these departments aren't interested in computing, have a good knowledge of MS Office, and use it as a golden hammer to fit all their needs. They're interested in furthering their research, and not learning other toolsets. They want the students working under them to have a basic knowledge of the same tools as again, their purpose isn't to teach general purpose computing, but to get those students up and running quickly to further their own areas of research.

When I was doing my graduate work, I had several occasions to teach classes such as this (and several that were significantly more advanced). For some of them, we taught basically MS Office, a bit of RDBMS, and a little bit of scripting (Perl). We had other courses teaching C and FORTRAN to students studying other sciences (Physics, Chemistry, etc.). Typically, such courses are restricted such that CS students (and those in related fields of study) are disallowed from taking them, seeing as how they're considered far too basic.

Fortunately, most good schools (particularly if they have a COmputer Science department) do offer more advanced courses which you can take if you so desire. If you already have sufficient expertise in the area at hand, talk to a student advisor about an exemption (many of these courses, where they are mandatory, can be skipped if you can show sufficient proficiency in the subject matter at hand).


Comment Friendly public reminder. (Score 2) 232

Before too many more people go off half-cocked, please allow me to remind everyone that every major tech company, particularly Apple, patents all sorts of crazy stuff that they never use. Here is an article detailing 10 patents from the last few years (the article is a year old) of crazy things that had /.ers (and others) predicting all sorts of weird and crazy stuff -- and not a single product has been released using any of them.

Remember when Apple patented touch gestures for the rear of an iPhone-like device? In the four or five iPhones released since then, have they ever implemented it? No. Seems doubtful they ever will at this point.

I'd wait until such a device actually exists in the wild before getting excited about it. Like a lot of companies, Apple simply builds up their patent portfolio for offensive and defensive purposes.


Comment Re:Obvious troll is obvious (Score 1) 466

WTF? The iPhone was missing a major feature which Android has had for over two years, and which my regular phone has had since 2004? Navigation was one of my reasons for upgrading to a smartphone - so I wouldn't have to pay for a dedicated in-car GPS and map updates, and I was tired of squinting at a map on a 1.5" screen.

I've heard that Apple's contract with Google prevented them from providing turn-by-turn navigation using Google's maps data, which apparently was one of the big deciding factors as to why Apple ditched Google Maps and rolled their own solution. That's just what I've been hearing -- take it FWIW.

That having been said, there have long been third-party apps with turn-by-turn navigation.


Comment Re:It really irks me... (Score 1) 171

PS Your username caught my attention; is that a reference to the Yaztromo of the Fighting Fantasy paperback-rpgs? I was a huge fan as a kid... Forest of Doom was the first one I got, and I read that one to bits; so I made countless stops at Yaz's tree. Heh, thanks for the trip down memory lane.

You are indeed correct -- that would be the original source.

True story -- the first time I logged into a BBS system that required an alias back in '86 or '87, I was momentarily stumped. I had never used an alias anywhere before, and didn't have any particular nicknames, so I wasn't sure what to put. Not wanting the system to disconnect due to an input timeout, I reached for my bookshelf, grabbed the first book within reach, opened to a random page, and used the first name I came across, figuring "I can always change it later". That book was indeed "Forest of Doom".

Fast forward 25 years later, and nothing better has ever come along to replace it. There were times when, in certain circles (including offline) I was better known by my alias than by my real name. I've stuck with it, and it's stuck with me.

(And I still have virtually all of the Fighting Fantasy series on my bookshelf -- the first 50 books (along with a smattering of the others ones in the 50's in the original series), the entire Sorcery series (minus the spell book -- that's one of the first books I ever lent out that was lost. No big loss, as it's duplicated at the back of every volume anyhow), the original multiplayer version, The Riddling Reaver, the original large-format versions of Titan and Out of the Pit, the two-player Clash of the Princes set, three novels, Casket of Souls and Tasks of Tantalon (not really part of the series, but they take place in the same world). I haven't read one in probably 15 - 20 years at least, but keep them in case any of my children ever get interested in them).


Comment Re:It really irks me... (Score 3, Funny) 171

And if it's anything like when I attempted to play a Gameboy game in the tub through a ziplock bag, I imagine it'd be irritating as hell to use an e-reader through a ziplock bag as well.

Sir/Madam, I doff my hat to you for even attempting to play a Gameboy through a ziplock bag in the tub. Whomever you are, I consider you a true connoisseur of the bath. Bravo!


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