Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment Re:To Be Fair (Score 1) 404

Difference for the sake of difference hurts everyone.

Just imagine if steering wheels were patented each each car vendor were forced to come up with a unique way to steer a car that no other car vendor came up with.

Not only would this be a waste of energy, it would also make getting a driving license nearly impossible and it would make driving someone else's car or buying another vendor's car also practically impossible.

If something works, it *should* be copied. If it can be copied without much effort or it was implemented independently without knowledge of the patent, it has no business being patented. If it's being patented to lock people out of a technique, it has no business being patented.

Comment Re:It's not Optimism, (Score 1) 344

Not really a new idea. If you look at medieval maps of the world, you'd regularly see things like "Here be dragons" and other sorts of odd human-like creatures in the less explored areas of the map. Look at Gulliver's Travels. It contains more than a few non-human creatures with intelligence in the distance. Yes, those were islands on earth, but sea voyage was the space travel of that age.

More significantly, Saint Thomas Aquinas deal this this issue in the 12th century:
http://dermottmullan.com/aquinalien.htm
http://www.unav.es/cryf/extraterrestriallife.html#texto4

In short, there is no reason to believe that God is limited to just humanity and there are no implications to Catholic Theology if the universe is teeming with life.

Given that the universe is made for God's glory, it would be presumptuous of us to automatically assume that we're the only ones here, even if it ultimately turns out to be true. But given the size of the universe, this will likely remain an open question if we never achieve first contact.

Comment Re:AND it's no longer relevant. (Score 4, Informative) 243

I'm on 11.10 now after stalling at 10.10 until about a month ago. I figured GNOME 2.0 is on the way out so I'd eventually have to get used to some other environment.

I gave Unity a shot, but it was too slow. Unity 2D is pretty snappy and not too bad, but it's really meant only for people who run one application at a time. I don't so it was always getting in my way. I couldn't stand Kubuntu and Lubuntu felt awkward.

But Xubuntu is most definitely a viable option even if it is a step down from GNOME 2.x.

I would have settled on XFCE, but discovered to my surprise that GNOME Shell with extensions gives you 95% of everything GNOME 2.0 did and has almost the same look and feel. It's what I'm using now and I'd rather move to Debian than give it up (if Ubuntu stopped supporting it).

So I'd suggest to take the plunge and upgrade. You have at least two viable options awaiting you.

Comment Let's look at the predictions (Score 2) 219

Here's my take:
(1) People power will come to life.

Hmmm, most people who use a PC or tablet (unless they're playing a game) tend to sit quietly at location for hours on end. There's not a lot of opportunity to harness power. Now it might be possible for such harnessing to power cell phones and iPods, but unless cell phones use significantly less power, this is a no-go.

(2) You will never need a password again. Biometrics will.....

Yes, immediately after voice recognition and AI take over. Biometrics might take over for informal use, but it's too flawed (either too many false negatives or false positives) for widespread use. It's much more likely that a personal SKEY-type personal RFID might become available.

(3) Mind reading is no longer science fiction.

It's no longer science fiction today, but even if it is cheap enough, our minds are too scattered to have this as the primary mode of input.

(4) The digital divide will cease to exist. Mobile phones will make....

May parts of the world live on less than one dollar a year, virtually no infrastructure, and have virtually no need for technology that doesn't directly contribute to the bottom line (i.e. surviving). The digital divide will be around for years to come.

(5) Junk mail will become priority mail.

This might be come true, but it would be priority mail for mail services who want to gain extra income, not users.

Okay, let's assume that all people play by the rules of using this smart feature (and that there's enough gold at the end of the rainbow to end world hunger).

Smart junk mail is the modern equivalent of Microsoft Clippy. Yes Clippy tried to be helpful, and often did provide users with valuable information, but it was still hated precisely because it was unsolicited.

This is not to say that junk mail can't be made valuable. If mail could be pulled into three bands by mail providers, "Regular Mail", "Smart Mail", and "Junk mail". It has to be something that depends on the mail providers, not solely the mail publishers since we can't trust them. For most people, smart mail would be ignored unless you were looking for a deal. You could then call on it as a supplementary knowledge base.

Comment Re:So... (Score 1) 387

> Einstein didn't even believe them. They were ultimately proven
> true as technology advanced to the point that the relevant
> experiments became possible.

True, but until Einstein's theories were tested, they were just one mathematical model among many.

I think one problem many people have is the assumption that a model has anything to do with reality. They don't necessarily. There are plenty of weird models that work out but are not realistic. For instance, Nonstandard analysis has shown than using infinitesimals and infinities is valid for solving real physical problems, even though infinitesimals and infinities do not exist (see Heisenberg and Cosmology).

Similarly quantum theory doesn't necessarily posit that light is both a wave and a particle. It simply posits that light is, it does not correspond to our real world understandings of either waves or particles. Both are merely approximations that our feeble brains grasp onto for intuition's sake.

Comment Re:Voting? (Score 1) 225

True, but it's the nature of the problem.

Before the periodic table, the elements were grouped by non-essential properties like boiling points, conductivity, colour, etc. The problem with such groupings is that different people group things differently. With such groupings, some kind of voting or fiat declaration is the only way to define the things.

When the periodic table was created, there was finally a grouping based on essential properties, so no such voting is required.

If you want to avoid this problem, you have to come up with a similar non-arbitrary measure. For instance, the difference between a black hole and a really heavy star is pretty clear and depends only on a universal constant (speed of light). The difference between a Planet and Dwarf Planet is not (i.e. it's possible to turn a Planet into a Dwarf planet by adding debris in the path of the orbit). A better definition for a planet would be it is massive enough to have a stable satellite (whether or not such a satellite actually exists) and a dwarf planet doesn't.

With the galaxy, we need to do something similar. I don't know enough to propose such a definition, but if we don't come up with a real definition, we'll end up with the Pluto situation where a different vote will cause a lot more fuss than makes sense.

Comment Re:A Few Logical Problems (Score 1) 431

I think what the author of the article has a vague idea that the interface and use will be scalable.

Essentially, the tablet should function on its own, but if you wanted to, you could hook in a real physical keyboard (as some models currently allow) and possibly an external monitor (as nearly all laptops allow).

If you think about it, there's little need to have several devices when one will do. A decade and a half ago, IBM demoed a device (I believe it was called "the cube") which took this to the extreme. The idea was that all your data was located in a memory stick in a common format. If you plugged in the stick into a PDA, the PDA would work as if this were the main device memory. If attached to a laptop, the memory stick would be the main hard drive, and ditto for a desktop. As long as the PDA, laptop, and desktop organized the memory stick and its metadata in a compatible way, the transition should be seamless. The concept failed because this seamlessness is hard to achieve when Windows is in the picture. Power constraints is also a factor (PDAs need low power memory. Desktops need fast memory).

But we are getting to the stage when this vision is possible, except that memory and monitor will be the common device. I would be very surprised if in 5-10 years this wasn't the default.

Comment Or simply disciplined awareness (Score 1) 430

It might not even by psychosomatic. It might simply have to do with disciplined awareness.

For instance, you're forced to take the pills before eating. Since you're aware that you're going to eat, you subtlety change your eating habits (perhaps eating more conscientiously rather than wolfing it down or not overeating or avoiding foods you you you shouldn't eat) such that you ease our condition. Such easing might not be immediate, but over a period of time it could add up.

A good way to test this hypothesis would simply have three groups, "control 1" which does nothing, "control 2" which is asked to record what the person is going to eat before eating it, and the test group which eats the sugar pills.

If the sugar pills still have an effect distinguishable from the control groups, then perhaps sugar *is* an active ingredient and we just don't know it.

Comment Yawn, propaganda as usual (Score 1) 277

Shrug. What value is there in knowing that 20% of the population is composed of Jedi Knights and the ethnicity of 30% of the people "Tan" since they're a mix of two or more "officially recognized ethnicity"?

The log form census has many questions that are either ill defined or none of the of the government's business or can be more accurately gathered from other sources (e.g. several questions ask you about information that you would have filled out in your income tax or birth/citizenship certificate). If you don't fill out all the questions, you'll go to jail so you have to fill it out, even if you fill it out with junk data.

How reliable is this? Why not use actually reliable data for once?

What is being proposed by the government is simple, make the long form census *optional* (i.e. you won't go to jail for not filling out pointless questions), removing questions that can be gathered from other sources (e.g. the income tax ones), and if necessary, moving important questions that used to be on the long form census to the short form (e.g. what is your primary language). The short form census is still mandatory.

What's wrong about that? Europeans and Americans already do this without suffering from any data loss.

Comment Re:But (Score 2, Insightful) 449

Curse words really have no purpose.

There are two common uses of curse words:
(1) An expression of spontaneous bad emotion.
(2) As way of hurting someone else without really thinking.

The first purpose already has an international language. If someone in any culture hits their hand with a hammer, they all use the same sounds whether or not they ultimately say a curse word. Curse words add no value.

The second usage is just plain laziness. If you really want to put someone down, you should put some thought into it. For examples, take a look at all the Winston Churchill or Mark Twain put downs. They could insult you using your own opinions in such a way that you're defenseless, or make an insult sound like a complement that everyone except the person listening would understand.

Comment Re:Any entity (Score 1) 308

Actually, the Christian God isn't anything in the universe. He's the creator of the Universe.

A good analogy is that God is the programmer of a video game. Humans would be character in the Game. If you're a Christian, you believe that God assumed the persona of one of the video game characters.

Slashdot Top Deals

Computer programs expand so as to fill the core available.

Working...