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Comment Re:No programmers' typeface (Score 4, Insightful) 175

...because programmers will already notice the problem when their code won't compile.

Substitutions of the letter 'O' for the number zero in numeric literals, function names, variable names, and other similar constructs will usually generate syntax errors, yes. (This makes me want to create a library called "Input0utput", just for headaches.)

However, the compiler probably won't notice if you make the substitution within a string or character literal (if the user types "Outbound", but the software is expecting "0utbound", this might be a hard problem to debug). I've only done this once or twice, but it was infuriating. It's one of those few times when commenting out the line and retyping it verbatim will actually fix the problem.

The fact that the keys are adjacent on QWERTY keyboards doesn't help anything.

...but that's true for other people writing text that might contain digits and letters, too.

I misunderstood this at first. I was picturing something like, "Mr. Orville's appointment is at 1O:OO.", where the substitution is harmless, so I didn't understand. In something like a model number, "MSO001" might be the first (001) release of a Mixed Signal Oscilloscope (MSO). Writing it as "MSOOO1" definitely obfuscates the meaning behind the model number. Of course, "MSO-001" would probably be best, but it's preferable to match the label on the hardware itself. So yes, I see your point.

But no, I'm firmly of the belief that the average programmer has a greater need (than the average typist) for easily distinguishable characters.

Comment Another Hollywood spy gadget is realized? (Score 1) 92

This sounds almost exactly like a gadget from Alias... Season 5, Episode 5, 'Out of the Box':

"There is a tomographic camera right on the bottom there. It basically acts like an X-RAY or a CAT scan. It takes images layer by layer. See? Look at that. This will allow us to take images of the Desantis files... without ever having to remove them from their storage container."

That episode aired in late 2005. Perhaps the writer should have patented it...

Alias is still on Netflix until the 15th of this month, for what it's worth.

Comment Wrong link? (Score 1) 43

The text of the third link reads "this post", but the target is "", which is not actually a post. The *expected* target (avicoder's original post) is quite possibly the most relevant and useful page to associate with the story, yet that's missing in its entirety.

I try to cut the editors some slack (typos, incomplete sentences, poor wording/grammar, etc...), but a blatantly false title and a mistargeted link are enough to pull me out of the woodwork.

Comment Re:times smaller,,, (Score 2) 60

One of the things that always bothered me about this is the ambiguity of the approximation as well. Two interpretations:
More than 500 times but less than 1500 times, using the interpretation Parent suggests, suggests ratios of 0.00067-0.00200.
More than a ratio of 0.0005 but less than a ratio of 0.0015, suggests 667-2000 times.

How much overlap is there between these two ranges? 55.5% (667-1500) of the total range (500-2000) is overlap. The same is true for writing it as ratios: the range from 0.00067-0.00150 is 55.5% of 0.0005-0.0020.

This is tangentially related to why getting 40% off from someone charging 50% over MSRP is better than buying at MSRP. Without thinking about it, one might expect to spend 10% more in the first case (50% - 40% = 10%), but they're actually saving 10% instead (1.5 * 0.6 = 0.9).

Also, what would it mean if they were one time smaller than our galaxy (instead of a thousand times smaller)? How big would they be?

Comment Physics Research (Score 2) 385

I'll try to keep this short. I am a graduate Physics research student, so I have a lot of first-hand experience here.

First, you're right. Get a laptop that runs Linux well. Others have discussed this thoroughly already, no need for me to repeat what they've already said. Second, definitely get one with the best nVidia graphics you can afford. If Quadro is an option, choose it, hands down.

I've seen people try to do physics and chemistry research in Mac OS or in Windows. It's a pain in the ass (but possible). It's really not worth the trouble... just use Linux. Worst case scenario, even running Linux in a virtual machine is better than being that one person spending half their time trying to figure out how to do XYZ in windows, because the instructions will all be written targeting Linux systems. Also, in physics research, you'll probably be writing code that will eventually run on a supercomputer (or, in our terms: high-performance cluster), so you might as well be running something as similar as possible to the cluster nodes.

Regarding graphics cards, nVidia Quadro is where you want to be (and try to get a good one, if you can afford it). I prefer AMD. I don't *like* nVidia. Unfortunately, being productive doesn't mean getting to use what I *like*. Everybody uses CUDA, which is an nVidia technology. If you want to be able to test CUDA code, you're going to need an nVidia graphics card. There are different versions/levels of CUDA support, I think the technical term is "Compute Capability" or something like that. You want to get the most recent one that you can, and I think these come to the Quadro cards before they come to the consumer lines. The Quadro cards also have other features that make developing CUDA code easier, although I forget exactly what they are. I think they're related to debugging. Consumer GeForce cards DO support CUDA, but still try to get Quadro if you can. By the way, recent "GPU equipped" supercomputers usually have nVidia hardware, too. I really hope AMD steps up their game soon, but the fact is, nVidia owns the high performance GPU computations market right now.

For background info: I personally do computational biophysics research. Yes, I have supercomputers at my disposal, but no, I'm not comfortable using them to test early versions of my code. The on-site supercomputer is CPU-only. I have a workstation that I use for development, which has a quad-core Xeon and an nVidia Tesla card in it (Teslas aren't available in laptops, otherwise I would recommend that instead). Yes, I reach the computational limits of my workstation CPU and my GPU. It's not hard in computational research. Other types of research will also make heavy use of the processor and GPU as well... the difference is that you might wait a few minutes, while a computational researcher waits 80 hours for his results. My laptop is an 8-year-old 17-inch macbook pro. The nVidia GeForce 8600M GT supports CUDA, but not a recent enough "compute capability" to be able to test code that will run on my workstation or the remote supercomputers. I mainly use my laptop to remotely connect (ssh) to my workstation, but that only works well because all of my work is command-line anyway. Speaking of remote supercomputers, I just got a grant that will let me use the Oak Ridge National Labs supercomputer, called "Titan". You can look it up, but it's got an nVidia Tesla in every one of its thousands of nodes (Maybe tens of thousands? I forget.). My advisor and I are hoping to get access to Oak Ridge's brand-new "Summit" supercomputer, which will also be running lots of nVidia GPUs. You can google Titan and Summit for details. Even if you're not doing computational research, or using supercomputers, most research packages support using CUDA for GPU acceleration, so it's a good idea to have anyway.

Point is: Linux + nVidia Quadro. As for brands? Who knows. My workstation is a Dell. My laptop is a Mac. I bought a Mac way-back-when because I knew it would be a "common" hardware configuration (since there's less variety in Macs). Common hardware means more attention from Linux developers, which in turn means you're more likely to have success running Linux. My next laptop will not be a Mac though, because Linux compatibility has come a long way in 8 years, and I kinda want an ARM processor. My workstation is there when I need to do development or heavy-lifting, and I intend to upgrade that too whenever AMD finally updates their server chipsets.

Extra thoughts: I've had major quality-control issues with HP when I used to work in IT. Lots of issues with brand new laptops straight out of the box. I've also had terrible experiences with Acer's customer service. Nothing was wrong with the laptop, I needed detailed specifications for a laptop (not mine) that were omitted from the user manual. They wouldn't talk to me unless the laptop was under warranty, or unless I was ordering a replacement part. The only other option was their toll number. I ended up pretending to order a replacement part, and asking for its specifications, then hanging up. As for Dells, their business sector is different from their consumer sector. From the business sector, I have lots of experience, and no comments (which is a good thing). They met expectations, but didn't go "above-and-beyond" much. From the consumer sector... replacement parts are generally cheap and easy to find, likely because of Dell's popularity. Most of my repairs were on Dells, but I don't know if that was just because most of the people I knew had Dells, or whether it's because Dells are not reliable. I have never personally owned a Dell, and my workstation (university-owned) is the first I've ever had to myself to use daily.

That wasn't short. Sorry.

Good luck!

Submission + - Matchstick And Mozilla Take On Google's Chromecast With $25 Firefox OS Dongle

An anonymous reader writes: Matchstick and Mozilla today announced their open-source take on the Chromecast: a $25 Firefox OS-powered HDMI dongle. The streaming Internet and media stick will be available first through Kickstarter, in the hopes to drive down the price tag. Jack Chang, Matchstick General Manager in the US, described the device to me as “essentially an open Chromecast.” He explained that while the MSRP is $25 (Google’s Chromecast retails for $35), the Kickstarter campaign is offering a regular price of $18, and an early bird price of $12.

Submission + - Canadian Teen Develops Method to Scrub Toxic Tar Sands Using 5th Grade Science (

An anonymous reader writes: Canada’s Hayley Todesco has developed a method to speed up the detoxification of oil sands tailings ponds using 5th grade science. The 18-year-old Google Science Fair 2014 finalist won a $25,000 scholarship for her idea, which involves using sand filters to accelerate the biodegradation of toxic naphthenic acids.

Submission + - School district goes "all in" on Open Source with 3500 Linux laptops (

lerchie writes: Charlie Reisinger, IT director of the Penn Manor School District in Pennsylvania discusses how they converted to Open Source software on both the desktop level and at an infrastructure level. The schools also give the students the freedom to tinker with the Linux laptops they are assigned, with each student having root access to their machines.

Comment Re:Incorrect claim 100x! (Score 1) 179

I disagree, I see FAR more CD-Rs floating around than DVD-Rs. I also find the CD-Rs are more readily available for "borrowing" from friends and co-workers, although I wouldn't consider that supporting evidence for their popularity. A 500 GB disk is roughly 700 times bigger than a CD.

Regardless, using whatever stretch you want, it was poorly worded. I read it as suggesting an increase of 100x the most dense available dvd-sized disks today, 50GB Bluray.


Court Rules Passwords+Secret Questions=Secure eBanking 284

An anonymous reader writes "A closely-watched court battle over how far commercial banks need to go to protect their customers from cyber theft is nearing an end. Experts said the decision recommended by a magistrate last week — if adopted by a US district court in Maine — will make it more difficult for other victim businesses to challenge the effectiveness of security measures employed by their banks. This case would be the first to add legal precedent to banking industry guidelines about what constitutes 'reasonable' security. The tentative decision is that a series of passwords + some device fingerprinting is enough to meet the definition of 'something you know' + 'something you have.' The case has generated enormous discussion over whether the industry's 'recommended' practices are anywhere near relevant to today's attacks, in which crooks usually have complete control over the victim's PC."

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