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Comment FYI: Something worth be paid for is hard to learn (Score 1) 527

Good grief - how far have we come?

"The middle school years are critical for students in reaching conclusions regarding their own skills and aptitudes,"

Yes educators should make things understandable, yes we should make learning fun but there is a whole big nasty world of hungry people who would kill for the chance to "reach conclusions about their own skills...".

Where are the parents or schools telling students that engineering, maths and science can make the difference between having a job and not? Because at the end of the day those students need to get the cold hard fact: Do something useful and get paid, or hope somebody else will just give you a living. Presumably they don't expect to be hungry no matter what happens.

N.B. please reread the "Yes educators should make things understandable, yes we should make learning fun" line before replying.

Comment A word on statistical errors... (Score 1) 747

I can see a lot of people talking about error bars on graphs and the traditional 95% confidence intervals but typically they don't write as if they have understood them. So to help /.'s general understanding:

A 95% error bound merely means that the author thinks, based off several (possibly) sound assumptions, that what we are saying could arise by chance in 5% of cases.

If the graph has datapoints that fit within a 95% bounded line then all you can say is "this data didn't arise by chance in 19 out of 20 cases if the datapoints lie within this bounded path". Typically this 95% probability isn't per point, i.e. when you look at the graph you can't take the fact that each point lies within the bound as repeated 95% probabilities correctly turning out which would combine to a much higher confidence.

In the hopes that this helps,

Richard Feynmann has a lot to say about this, and is well worth listening to.

Comment Suspected limitations (Score 2, Interesting) 175

Obvious limitations from the demo:

1) Objects must be sitting on a consistent(ish) surface with a low rate of change compared to the object. Desk, Chair, Bathroom, Wall, Hubcap, etc.

2) It doesn't handle strong shadows (or they are not showing us it doing so).

3) It makes the greatest amount of mistakes with the shadows anyway.

Please add anything I missed to future posts.

I would like to see it erase a boat from a choppy sea where there are 5-7 waves for the length of the boat as I expect that to be a pathological case. I would also like to see it erase a discolouration rather than a very different object to see its behaviour. Cool technology though!


Submission + - Computing in the new world: Scaling to 1e6+ Cores ( 2

mattaw writes: In my* blog post I describe a system designed to test a route to the potential future of computing. What do we do when we have computers with 1 million cores? What about a billion? How about 100 billion?

None of our current programming models or computer architecture models apply to machines of this complexity (and with their corresponding component failure rate and other scaling issues). The current model of coherent memory/identical time/everything can route to everywhere just can't scale to machines of this size. So where did the scientists** at the University of Manchester (including Steve Furber one of the ARM founders) and the University of Southampton turn for a new model? They took one straight out of their own heads. Quite literally: their brains.

Our brains just don't work like any computers we currently make. Our brains have a lot more than 1 million processing elements (more like the 100 billion), all of which don't have any precise idea of time (vague ordering of events maybe) nor a shared memory and not everything routes to everything else but anyone who argues the brain isn't a pretty spiffy processing system ends up looking pretty silly (assuming they have one). In effect modern computing bears as much relation to biological computing as the ordered world of sudoku does to the statistical chaos of quantum mechanics.

Read the article*** to see a preview of the brain turned into hardware (and of course you will read all the papers from Manchester's website before posting won't you). Who says science is boring?

* Note the subtle declaration of interest. I also work at the University of Southampton, UK.
** I am not and have never been one of these mighty people trying to change the world. I claim no credit. At best I helped some of the PhD students and staff with a few bits and bobs plus the odd ARM development kit.
*** No free lunch here /. You may have to actually read the source article.


Submission + - Paris to Install Hydroturbines on the River Seine (

An anonymous reader writes: Paris recently announced plans to infuse its grid with renewable energy by installing eight hydroelectric turbines in the waters of the River Seine. An urban ecology study of the French waterways has already been conducted and has identified four potential sites along the river’s path, and the city is currently seeking proposals from companies to provide possible solutions and technologies. The city hopes to have the hydro turbines installed early next year.

Submission + - British nukes were protected by bike locks (

mattaw writes: From an article in the BBC's Newsnight program: Until 1998 the RAF nuclear bomb was protected by a bike lock.

After the Americans implemented coded arming systems their was an attempt to get these fitted to the British systems however this was rejected by the Navy with the following statement:

"It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders".

That's alright then.

The Military

Submission + - British nukes protected solely by bicycle locks

StationM writes: Newsnight at BBC2 has revealed that British were secured only by a bicycle lock and 'trust' in the integrity of the officers in charge of the weapons. "Newsnight has discovered that until the early days of the Blair government the RAF's nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key...The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted:

"It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders".

Neither the Navy nor the RAF installed PAL (Permissive Active Link) protection on their nuclear weapons.

The RAF kept their unsafeguarded bombs at airbases until they were withdrawn in 1998."

sure makes me feel safe!

Submission + - AMD/ATI's opensource efforts revealed

mattaw writes: Phoronix have revealed in some detail the plan of AMD/ATI to support a community written Radeon opensource driver.

To whit, they are releasing specs and some example code under NDA and an opensource library that connects to the card's BIOS. They already have XOrg developers onboard and have also attracted Jerome Glisse who reverse engineered ATI cards to make the Avivio driver (incidentally probably killing that driver but the new ATI open driver will surely benefit from his excellent work).

While not completely open, this is pretty open for starters, HOWEVER I for one am not certain of things like support for hardware video decoding or extra on board hardware (TV-Out etc.).

Checkout the final comments: "The aim of this open-source driver is not to overtake the fglrx driver but rather is designed for those who just want a working desktop with 3D capabilities and basic video playback. This new driver is ideal for FOSS enthusiasts and those wishing to run the latest development kernels and versions of X.Org."

Still there is no argument that this is a brilliant result.
The Almighty Buck

Submission + - How to avoid hiring an American

netbuzz writes: "Keep this video in mind next time someone like Bill Gates complains that they just can't find qualified American workers to fill key tech jobs. "Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified U.S. worker," a marketing executive for a law firm tells his audience. And what's the advice for those employers who fail to achieve that goal and are confronted with a qualified American: "find a legal basis to disqualify them." 1"

Submission + - Father of Sony PlayStation steps down (

djabbour writes: "From the story, "The chief architect of Sony's PlayStation game console stepped down on Tuesday as the Japanese company struggles to defend its dominance in the video game industry and revive its reputation as an electronics pioneer... he departure of Kutaragi, an icon among gamers, marks the end of an era at Sony Corp. that saw the company long dominate the video game industry with its flagship PlayStation consoles.""

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