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Comment photon mapping vs ray tracing (Score 1) 121

What you have described is called photon mapping. I think there is some support for photon mapping in at least some version of povray (I'm not sure if it ever made it in to an official release), but in any case it's an optional feature. It is more accurate to refer to povray as a ray-tracer. In ray-tracing, you send out rays from the camera position and test them for intersection against objects in the scene. These rays can in turn spawn additional rays (for reflection and refraction), and at each hit location you can cast a ray back to each light source to test whether that light is occluded by an object.

There actually are some pretty good game engines that do ray tracing. I'd recommend looking into Arauna and Brigade. (Last time I tried them they were a bit sluggish and ran at a low resolution, but that was about 5 years ago so things have probably gotten better.)

Comment safety? efficiency? (Score 1) 72

Road powered electric vehicles are awesome, I'm glad to see someone doing it, but I'm a little worried about safety and efficiency with the inductive charging technology. I certainly wouldn't want to be right on top of a 20khz rf transmitter that's pumping out tens of kilowatts. I don't remember the permissible exposure limits off the top of my head, but this sounds like it would be way above what's considered acceptable for HAM radio. Is there some way to keep that RF energy from spilling all over the place? How much of that energy actually makes it to the car, and how much is lost to RF, heat, noise, etc..?

Comment Re:Not going to happen. (Score 3, Interesting) 125

Wrong, this still requires amplifiers every 100km, just like today.

They don't explicitly say that there were no repeaters for this particular test, but that is strongly implied. (Sloppy reporting.) However, they do compare it to a test done recently over 10,000km with no repeaters:

Then in January 2012 a Japanese team working out of NEC successfully transmitted 4Tbps over a single “ultra-long haul” (10,000km) fibre optic cable (no repeaters) by making use of WDM just like Alcatel-Lucent (here). Lest we not forget all the other developments, such as the successful UK test of a new type of hollow fibre optic cable that earlier this year delivered speeds of 73.7 Tbps (here).

Alcatel-Lucent might have just set a new record and one that it is arguably most notable for its distance but such records are clearly made to be broken. GCHQ will probably get a headache if they want to “tap” (spy) on the next generation of transoceanic cables.

I had no idea that those kinds of distances were possible without repeaters. This is, indeed, big news.

Comment Re:end the lambda idolotry! (Score 2) 404

There actually is a Haskell FPS. State manipulation is a little awkward in some ways, in part because there isn't a universally agreed-on way to do it, but the tools are getting better. With lenses on top of a State monad, things start to look pretty similar to an imperative language, except that you get the benefits of functional programming as well (for instance, error handling is a lot easier when you don't have to back out a bunch of changes because you still have your original state lying around).

Comment Re: What can't you do in C? (Score 5, Insightful) 312

Return a list from a function. Sure, you can legally do it, there's nothing in the language inherently stopping you, but experienced C programmers will avoid returning a list at all costs, because suddenly you have to care about whether the caller frees the list properly, and what if the things in the list are used elsewhere and we need to do reference counting etc.. etc... I've worked on a C codebase that was a couple hundred thousand lines of code, and I can't think of anywhere that we ever returned a list from a function. I can't think of any Haskell program more sophisticated than "hello world" that I didn't use "map" and other list functions all the time.

Ultimately, the cost of manual memory allocation isn't just the extra work you have to do to make sure you aren't leaking or corrupting memory, it's the algorithms you won't allow yourself to even consider because the memory management would just be too hard.

I'm not saying C doesn't have it's place, I'm just saying that there are software engineering costs associated with using C as opposed to a higher-level language.


Internet's Energy Needs Growing Faster Than Efficiency Gains 158

Electrons may not weigh anything, but it takes some heavy lifting, both literal and figurative, to point them in the right direction. Reader terrancem writes with this excerpt: "Energy efficiency gains are failing to keep pace with the Internet's rapid rate of expansion, says a new paper published in the journal Science. Noting that the world's data centers already consume 270 terawatt hours and Internet traffic volume is doubling every three years, Diego Reforgiato Recupero of the University of Catania argues for prioritizing energy efficiency in the design of devices, networks, data centers, and software development. Recupero highlights two approaches for improving efficiency: smart standby and dynamic frequency scaling or CPU throttling."

Comment Re:Pythagoras strikes again... (Score 1) 183

Guitar and piano are usually both equal tempered, though pianos typically have a slightly stretched octave to compensate for the strings having harmonics that aren't exact integer multiples of the fundamental. (In other words, it's done to compensate for the physical limitations of the instrument, rather than to compensate for the mathematical limitations of the tuning system.)

One can, of course, tune a piano to just intonation. (My piano is currently tuned that way, partly because I wanted to hear what it would sound like, and partly because, with an oscilloscope, it's a lot easier to tune to just intonation than 12TET and I'm too stingy to hire a tuner to do it the "right" way.)

It is possible to make a just intonation guitar as well, though it's not usually done. Here is one of mine that I made a couple years ago. I just finished putting together a just intonation walnut through-neck electric bass with a 2-octave fingerboard a couple days ago.

Comment Being a spokesman vs being a person (Score 1) 1223

There's something that bothers me about this story. Linus's G+ account is basically a personal blog. It isn't tied directly to Linux or the open source community in any way other than that the author is Linus Torvalds and his posts occasionally mention Linux or open source software. If we were to judge everything Linus says about anything in public based on the criteria of how it "reflects on the open source community", then doesn't that essentially mean that we don't think Linus has a right to express his own opinions in public?

If you don't like those opinions, or find them offensive, that's fine. But let's not always assume that any famous person expressing an opinion must always be representing something bigger than him or her own self.


Ask Slashdot: Updating a Difficult Campground Wi-Fi Design? 237

MahlonS writes "I am a retired network hack wintering in my RV in a campground in southern GA. 3 years ago I reconfigured the Wi-Fi system to a marginal working ability; It's now ready for a serious upgrade, prompted by a new cable net connection replacing a weak DSL. 5 dual-radio HP Curve access points connect to a 6th via single or double radio hops (effectively a Wireless Distribution System) in heavily wooded space. Unidirectional antennas at the APs (the APs are in water resistant enclosures) are placed on poles above the RVs, about 15 feet above ground. Primary hops are about 300 feet to 3 of the APs, secondary hops about the same. Signal measurements indicate that there is adequate RF between the access points. In 2008, average user count averaged about 30 users; newer devices (smart phones, etc) will likely increase that number (winter population total is about 80 RVs). While the old design worked OK when lightly loaded, I suspect that the single DSL line generated so many packet resends that the APs were flooded. This is a quasi-State Park, so money is always an issue, but there is enough squawk from the user community that a modest budget might be approved. The main AP connects to an old Cisco router. Burying wire is frowned upon, due to shallow utilities, and campfire rings that float around the campsites — sometimes melting TV cables. Since I'm not up on current Wi-Fi tech, are there solutions out there that would make this system work much better?"

Comment Re:Start a software project at home. (Score 1) 516

I second the functional language suggestion. For awhile, the only two languages I used regularly were C and (to a lesser extent) Perl, and felt a general sense of dissatisfaction with programming -- it wasn't clear at the time if it was the tools, or just me. I happened to take a pretty hard class on game tree search, and realized I needed to learn a more expressive language fast if I was going to keep up with the assignments. I picked Ocaml, and within a few weeks I was more productive (for the kinds of problems that were assigned as homework in this class) than I would have been in C or Perl. I stuck with it and eventually used Ocaml for some bigger projects that I did on my own. After a few years of Ocaml, I switched to Haskell because I wanted better parallelism support. By then, I'd become sufficiently accustomed to functional idioms that Haskell didn't scare me, and I've been using Haskell ever since. Not at my current job though, unfortunately... that's still C, but I rest easier knowing that there is a more pleasant way to get stuff done and I don't necessarily have to write C the rest of my life.

Comment Different is OK, but it has to work. (Score 1) 1040

I have a netbook with Ubuntu 11.4. I didn't mind Unity at first, but then I quickly realized that a) it is designed to prevent me from working the way I want to and b) it's really buggy.

I won't elaborate on the second point. If you already know what I'm talking about, then fine, if not then it must either be working fine for you, or you aren't using Unity at all. Regarding the first point, though -- there seems to be someone out there with some sort of religion about not having two windows of the same application at once. Years back, there was a big controversy about Nautilus not opening a new window when you double-clicked on a directory. I didn't pay much attention because I don't use Nautilus. More recently, I've been using gedit quite a lot to write code (take that, vim and emacs users!), but every now and then I want to have two windows open so I can look at more than one file at once. Can't do it. If I try to open another gedit window, it just creates a new tab in the existing window. Maybe there's some way to turn this off, but it seems like a pretty bad default to have an application go out of its way to prevent a user from ever looking at two files at the same time. Fast forward to Ubuntu 11.4. Now, the application launcher thing on the left has some default launch buttons that can be deleted and replaced with the applications I actually use (good bye, word processor; hello, terminal). These launcher buttons have strange behavior though -- if the app is already running, they just highlight the window of the already opened app instead of opening a new window. I'm not convinced that's a good idea even for a word processor, but for terminals it's just unusable.

To be fair, it is possible to open multiple terminals if you don't use the launcher, but instead click on the magnifying glass with a plus in it, which (contrary to every GUI interface I've ever used before) isn't actually a zoom button, but rather is used to search for applications. Searching for terminal and launching it from there allows you to open more than one window.

I feel like the party line about Unity is that "It may be different from what you're used to, but Unity is a significantly better, more usable interface and it will be worth a short learning curve." In actuality, it seems like the real story is, "Working with multiple windows is too messy. We've fixed that bug by not allowing you to use multiple windows. If this upsets you, then you're not Ubuntu's target audience."

I haven't tried the newest Ubuntu. If it isn't any better, I think it might be time to start looking for a better distro.

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