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Comment Re:Display Resolution (Score 1) 591

I must second this.

In July 2012, when I started searching for and eventually purchased my new laptop, resolution was the number one criteria. It was not an easy criteria to meet. Once you choose a high enough resolution to meet your needs you quickly find that the number of machines you have to choose from has been reduced dramatically.

For me, personally, my other major hardware issue was the keyboard layout and (to a slightly lesser extent) feel. My hands are not so large that I need to worry about tiny keys, but I often cannot understand the logic of which keys are accessed via a "Function" key and which are not. Though I eventually had to compromise, I really wanted page up/down to be first level keys. In the end, though, my new laptop's keyboard is similar to my old netbook's keyboard in that page up/down (and home/end) are function-level keys attached to the arrow keys. Thankfully, at least, the arrow keys are slightly offset onto their own "island" making them far easier to find and use with just your fingers.

In the end, I chose a Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook as the replacement for my old Dell E1405 laptop. A bit smaller in physical dimensions and weighing much less, I am generally very happy with it. As I just wrote, page up/down are not top-level keys, but, on the other hand, the keyboard is backlit. I have found this feature far more useful than I thought I would. The display's resolution is 1600x900, a small increase from the Dell's 1440x900 and a big jump up from my netbook's 1024x800 (I think). More vertical space would have been very nice, but finding something in my budget and meeting other requirements essentially ruled that out...

Also, this time, I made very sure the screen was matte. I made the mistake with the Dell laptop of getting a glossy display and it was supremely annoying. Unfortunately, with the E1405 laptops the only choice for the higher resolution screen was glossy. Ugh.

Comment gReader Pro (Score 1) 78

Personally, I started using gReader Pro on my Android device approximately 15 seconds before Google made the announcement to get rid of Google Reader.

Fortunately, gReader had already made itself separate from Google Reader (or so it seems). It supports syncing what you do and what you've read with your Google Reader account, but this is optional. I've already disabled the Google Reader-related features and so far gReader is still working just fine. It has a lot of extra bells and whistles that I don't need, but the basic RSS reading functionality is very nice and is the main reason I switched to it (and paid for it). Best of all, no social media junk.

I'm still not sure if there is more going on underneath than I know about. Maybe it is more closely linked to Google Reader than I am aware? I guess I'll find out when Google Reader finally turns off.

My only complaint right now, and it is a very minor one, concerns the display of Slashdot comments at the bottom of each Slashdot RSS feed article. gReader still displays only five comments (picked seemingly at random, yet somehow never including troll/spam junk) and I can tap on the titles to expand the comment, just as in a browser. However, until recently I was still using the stock Android 2.3.4 on my Droid 3 and now I am using CyanogenMod 10.1 with Android 4.2.2. The comment box that gReader shows no longer seems to grow vertically as I open each of the five comments. A rather bizarre change, but not exactly a deal breaker...

Comment Re:Betteridge's Law has been beaten (Score 1) 605

A big problem with the standardized tests has been born from their political uses. I live in Tucson, Arizona so I can only speak to the school district here (second largest in the state) and not elsewhere.

One of the driving forces behind so-called "teaching to the test" comes directly from budgetary issues. Arizona has seen fit to divy up school funding based not just on how a school performs, but on improvement of those scores. Consequently, when a schools budget is on the line teachers are under a lot of pressure to have their students do well.

You can probably imagine some of the immediate faults with a system that relies so heavily on improvement of scores. What happens to a school that is already in very poor shape? Anything the district might do to improve the situation will take time to have an effect. If a school's scores do not improve quickly enough, that school may be forced to abandon any new improvement process for lack of funding. Similarly, at the opposite end of the spectrum, what happens to a well performing school in a good neighborhood with an active community? They can most likely improve scores somewhat in the beginning, but eventually the returns will diminish. That school is already doing very well on the tests and there is little, if any, room left for the school's average to improve.

At least this state, as far as I am aware, has not tied student test performance directly to teacher pay.

I attended high school here in Tucson at University High School, a public college preparatory magnet school (Number three high school in the nation in Newsweek's latest list and the only public school in the top five). I graduated in 1997 so, thankfully, this rash of testing hadn't yet started. As graduation neared we became aware of a situation in some ways similar to this testing mess. The University of Arizona and the state offer (at least, they used to) a full tuition scholarship to any Arizona student in the top 5% (I think) of their respective classes. The argument was made that since University High, by its very nature, attracted the top students from the other local high schools all of its students should receive the scholarship. If the students were to return to their regular local high school they would easily be in that 5% bracket. The argument didn't quite work, though the limit was raised quite a lot from 5% to 25% (If I remember correctly).

By and large, I had a very good experience throught my 13 years of public school in Tucson. Slashdot will very quickly inform you that, obviously, not everybody had such an experience. I wonder what that same trip would be like today. Would I be bored out of my skull as the teacher continued to focus on what the state tests require? Very difficult to say.

Comment Re:Simcity does city planning, environmental issue (Score 1) 162

Are you sure about that? I seem to recall that garbage would, eventually, disappear from a landfill. If anything, it seems that SC4 actually modelled that rather accurately in that trash in a landfill takes a long time to biodegrade. If you never stop using a landfill then it will never begin to clear up. Of course, the problem is that there is no way to control garbage dispersal/destination in SC4 at a fine enough level. The only way you might notice a landfill shrinking would be to export all of your garbage.

Comment Re:Dear Apple (Score 1) 471

It may be technically better, and considering it is 16 years newer than the original 1996 USB spec, it certainly ought to be. I think this is missing the point, however. Random company X could "invent" a number of new product Y's which are technically better than an existing standard, but without some sort of backing and/or lax (or completely lacking) licensing fees and rules, nobody is going to use it.

If I wanted to put a USB port on some device of mine, or even an entire USB host or slave system, how much will it cost me and to whom must I pay? The answer is nothing, zero. Unless I need a new USB vendor ID reserved or I want to use the official USB logo then I don't need to pay any sort of fees to anybody. *This* is the reason that you find USB ports on everything under the sun. Any company can add USB to anything they like without paying another company and without needing to get permission. The only moderating factor here is the need, for many devices, to have a unique vendor ID which prevents the landscape from being a chaotic free for all.

Apple, meanwhile, gets to play gatekeeper on yet another area of technology related to their phones and pads. And for what gain? Look in most stores and catalogs and it already seems that they will give the okay to just about any random piece of junk that plugs into an iPhone. They don't seem particularly picky most of the time. As for why they chose to give these people the run around for their charger? Who knows... politics, knee-jerk reaction to anything possibly Android related, stupidity, or maybe even the left hand not knowing what the right had is doing. Take your pick.

Comment Organ Soufflet (Score 1) 544

Right now, I am missing my thyroid, 3/4 of my parathyroid, a bunch of lymph nodes, most of my colon, gall bladder, appendix, a chunk of my liver, and both adrenal glands.

Surprisingly, I both feel and look pretty good. I must take some replacement hormones each day for three of those missing organs, but it's not too bad. It seems, with the right selection, you can toss out quite a few things without destroying yourself. I'm not looking forward to the apocalypse, though, as I imagine prescription drugs, even inexpensive ones, will be very hard to come by. That would be bad.

If I was going to replace anything, it would be one or both of my adrenal glands. I rather miss those. :(

Comment Re:IMO.IM (Score 1) 121

I'll second that. I've been using Imo for quite a while now. When I first got an Android device I tried a number of IM clients and eventually settled on Imo. I tried eBuddy for a short time, but it requires that you create an eBuddy account and then add all of your other IM accounts to that. Imo, on the other hand, acts like a normal multi-account client and has you manage your accounts locally with the client and logs into them directly from your phone.

I can see the benefit of the eBuddy method for a device where the network connection can change occasionally and if you really don't want to be caught offline it might be better. But, I would much rather do things locally, and I haven't had any issues with my network connection changing. When it does, Imo seems quite quick about reconnecting.

Imo has a few minor annoyances, such as wasting a tremendous amount of screen area on bars/labels/nothing when in landscape mode, but nothing that keeps me from using it. My biggest complaint has nothing to do with Imo, but rather with AIM. Every time I turn on my PC or laptop, Pidgin will attempt to connect (as it should) and AIM will send a message to both clients complaining that you are logged in twice. There is a link to follow, but I did not find anything there that would let me get rid of this.

Imo did have a rather serious bug that I seemed to hit with regularity where it would start forgetting account details. I normally have five accounts and suddenly there would be only three or four listed. I submitted a bug report and they asked for more info, but I never heard anything more. Fortunately, I found a work around by pressing the logoff button, then logging into one account. This would cause the list to refresh and all accounts would reappear. I haven't had this happen in a while, though, so perhaps it has been fixed.

Comment Re:Palm didn't die then (Score 3, Informative) 188

As somebody who formerly wrote Palm programs (Weasel Reader), I don't really agree with your hardware assessment. Like most small systems with both an API and a method of direct hardware access, the amount of portability depends almost entirely on how well you use the provided API.

Up through Palm OS 4.x, the hardware all ran on m68k series processors, but there was nothing in the API specific to this hardware. Then, with Palm OS 5.0, Palm began using ARM hardware and provided a translation/emulation layer so that the new devices could still run all the old Palm OS programs. If you wrote your software according to the API guidelines then the emulation layer would run your old programs perfectly fine. In fact, because the new ARM hardware was so much faster the old Palm programs ran better than they ever did on native m68k hardware.

Of course, if you did direct hardware access then things were rather different. Most likely your program wouldn't work at all. Even then, though, the OS provided a method for checking for OS capabilities and underlying hardware. If you wrote your program properly, and checked for these option bits, then you could gracefully turn off direct hardware access if you weren't sure it would run correctly. Most likely, if you really needed that sort of access, you would add new hardware specific code for the ARM hardware.

The move to WebOS need not have killed off the old application ecosystem. There was no reason they couldn't have written another translation/emulation layer so that existing Palm OS programs could be run. Keep in mind that, even with OS 5.x, most of these apps were not that complex and most users would never have noticed a speed decrease, if there even was one. And in the worst case, they could have axed support for OS 5.x programs and provided support to run anything pre-5.x (m68k binaries), knowing that the WebOS hardware would be able to run those programs at a fast speed.

I don't know why they chose to completely ditch existing apps. If they had kept support, WebOS could have launched with the ability to run the many thousands of existing programs and that would have been a big plus, especially for businesses which might have company-specific Palm programs (inventory, point of sale, etc.) and would then have had an upgrade path.

But, as this article and numerous others have made clear, the history of Palm is overflowing with bad choices...

Submission + - Space Quest Creators' Kickstarter Underway (

Elrond, Duke of URL writes: "The creators of the Space Quest series of adventure games, Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, are currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a new "SpaceVenture" adventure game. They've put up a number of great interviews, Q&A sessions, and artwork to entice contributors. For the game, they've already lined up some impressive voice talent, including Rob Paulsen, Ellen McLain, and Gary Owens. There are only five days left in the campaign and they still have a way to go, and as someone whose early computer usage was all but defined by Sierra adventures, I definitely would like to see them succeed. The contributor rewards are pretty nice, too..."

Comment Re:Wait, what now? (Score 1) 462

I use emacs for 99% of my stuff, and I have to say, while it's a great editor, I wish I had IDE-level code browsing abilities (and to a lesser extent, intellisense-style stuff). I'd kill someone for good "go to definition" support. Ctags-style stuff is a shitty substitute, at least on our code base, and I've never really been able to get the fancier stuff to work well. VS isn't perfect there either, but it's still a lot better...

Could you explain this a little more? It seems to me that "go to definition" is a rather basic thing for any IDE and since CTAGS' primary job is exactly that, I don't understand why it would not work so well on your particular code. I mean, all it has to do is understand the difference between a definition and not a definition (i.e. it doesn't need to fully understand the code), so if it is having trouble doing that job it certainly reflects poorly on the tool.

I guess I'm just curious what sort of code or code layout would cause it problems.

Comment Re:Wait, what now? (Score 1) 462

You know what this story actually tells? That even FOSS users don't like their IDE's. They want to use Visual Studio from Microsoft because frankly, it is much better than the open source alternatives.

No, no, and again, no...

This story only serves as flamebait and the only real thing it demonstrates is that the editor (timothy in this case) shouldn't have bothered to post it. The vast majority of FOSS developers and FOSS users (those would be people who primarily use FOSS) use the free IDEs. Why? Because most FOSS developers actually run a FOSS operating system and those, surprisingly, do not run Visual Studio.

Yes, there are some FOSS devs who do their work under Windows, and they may be slightly impacted by this (as you said, VS 2010 is still free), but it is by no means a majority.

Comment Re:I prefer it not come from Slashdot (Score 1) 275

No... I must completely disagree. If you actually read the poll, there is absolutely no way you could accidentally mistake this for a serious marketing poll.

A legitimate avenue for conversation is whether or not the poll is actually funny. Personally, I think it is. It's a pretty good example of buzzword bingo, but the real humor here is that this poll only exists because of all of the "Slashdot has gone uber-commercial!!!1!!!" complaints and shows that the editors are aware of the prevailing opinion.

I understand that there are a lot of humor-impaired people out there, but I suspect that a lot of the whining is from people who merely glanced at the poll, saw a buzzword, and then assumed it was a marketing poll. And, to be fair to /., there were like two or three stupid marketing polls. That's it. The haters, along with not being able to detect humor, are now defaulting to assuming that everything /. does has a sinister PHB motive unless there is some sort of mountain of evidence to the contrary.

That said... SlashBI is a pretty terrible idea...
SlashTV started really bad, but it certainly looks like they listened to the complaints and it has improved markedly, though I still pay little attention to it.

Comment More photos of Baikonur (Score 3, Interesting) 66

My gallery on my university/work machine has a great collection of albums documenting a trip to Baikonur and the Cosmodrome. They were taken by Chuck, a friend of mine and retired engineer, during his trip there for the launch of ECHO. This was an AmSat (amateur radio) relay satellite. He took a great deal of photos covering the flights, the locations, the integration and launch of the satellite, and some other interesting places in Baikonur.

ECHO Launch Campaign

I also had a satellite launched from the Cosmodrome. I worked on the University of Arizona's Cubesat Project and wrote all of the onboard code controlling the satellite. In the end we built four satellites, three of which were completely functional. There was RinconSat 1 and 2, AlcatelSat, and an engineering model. The cubesats are small 10cm cubic satellites with a control/computer board, power board, radio board, an array of 24 sensors, and an array of solar panels on the outside frame.

The hardware was quite simple, but we didn't need anything super fancy. The computer board had a PIC microcontroller and using the I2C bus could communicate with two 32 kB FRAM (ferromagnetic RAM) storage chips, a clock chip (which kept time in binary coded decimal), and the sensors. Unfortunately, at the time there were no FOSS PIC compilers so we had to use a Windows/DOS/command line compiler which was really lousy, but we managed to work around the bugs as we found them.

I was very happy with our final results. We did a great deal of testing on the ground and did radio testing by taking the satellite up to the top of a nearby mountain and then communicating with it from our groundstation. The onboard code supported one- and two-way communication and had several modes of operation. It had a default mode in case communication could not be established, a real-time mode that would broadcast a constant stream of sensor readings for a period of time while the satellite was overhead, and a regular mode that would collect readings based on a schedule and store them in the FRAM storage which you could then later command the satellite to transmit to you.

After many delays, we finally got a launch opportunity. We sent RinconSat 2 and AlcatelSat to CalPoly where they were integrated with other cubesats into the launch mechanism. They then sent them to the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the launch. At first, everything seemed to be going well, but we soon found out that it was far from well. The first stage of the rocket failed to separate and the rocket crashed 70 km downrange in a flaming crater, destroying all of the cubesats as well as the far more expensive primary payload (some sort of communications satellite). Sigh...

We don't have any sort of web site, sadly, but one of these days I need to gather up all the photos, documents, source code, and other random stuff I still have access to and make a nice web page for our late satellites.

Comment Re:Let me know when Android devices equal the N900 (Score 1) 107

I'm typing this on a Droid 3 and it meets many of those requirements. It is most notably lacking out-of-the-box root, but I fixed that soon after getting the phone. I am still rather pissed that the bootloader is locked, so even when I change the ROM I can't change the kernel. And, with it rooted, wifi tethering is open to me if I wish. The body is also fairly rectangular. Except for the rounded corners, it's quite straight.

It would be nice to have Debian beneath Android, though.


Submission + - Steve Wozniak Calls For Open Apple ( 1

aesoteric writes: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has voiced a renewed desire to see the company open its architecture to the masses, allowing savvy users to expand and add to their products at will. However, Wozniak qualified his desire for a more open Apple by arguing that openness should not impinge on the quality of the products themselves. He also sees any change of heart on openness as a challenge when Apple continues to rake in huge cash with its current model.

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