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


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Mojo from Chrome? Palm WebOS flashback incoming! (Score 1) 129

What is Mojo? Well it's the new API for writing Andromeda apps, and it comes from Chromium. Mojo was originally created to "extract a common platform out of Chrome's renderer and plugin processes that can support multiple types of sandboxed content."

As a former developer of Palm/HP WebOS applications, this statement fills me with dread.

The WebOS application framework was also called Mojo and forced developers to use (WebKit) HTML, CSS & JavaScript for their entire application. Writing a UI, fine ... but having to write your entire application in JavaScript -- this glorious idea alone caused otherwise decent hardware to be about as powerful as a 286* as soon as you needed to push some heavier math operations (say, for de-/compression).

Even once WebOS allowed native C/C++, the call overhead between the HTML UI and the C/C++ backend was still ludicrously high (>20ms per callback) and close to useless, unless you abandoned the UI framework entirely and wrote everything from scratch.

So unless Google only uses Mojo for the UI and allows developers to use something nicer and faster for the backend, with good callback support, I feel this platform will obsolete itself, just like WebOS did.

[*] - Of course, that was before the Google V8 engine hit the market and before asm.js and node.js were available, but still...

Comment Re: Apple(s) and oranges (Score 1) 367

And, where is Palm today?

The same place where Apple will be in 10-20 years?

After all, who knows?
IBM used to be everywhere, now it's just around.
Microsoft used to be ubiquitous in many areas, now it's only so in one ... and that barely.
Before there was Twitter and Facebook, there was MySpace and before that, GeoCities?

Before cars were made, people bought horse carriages. Can you name one horse carriage builder now?

Things change and even the greatest empires eventually fall. No country on this earth is now even remotely like it was 50 years ago.

The greatest fools are not those who predict the future, but those who believe their own predictions will come to pass as is.

Comment Re:The kilogram is based on a chunk of metal? (Score 1) 278

For that matter, 1/3 inch in 64ths, please.

21 1/3 64th, exactly. Now, 1/3 meter in millimeters, please?

333 1/3 mm; exactly.
See? Same thing.

The actual point here was that shifting that value to meter or kilometer or femtometer is all just a matter of moving the decimal dot. No need to involve fractions; unless you already had fractions before or shift the value below 1.0 (why would you?).

Problem is, you can't do that with Imperial measurements because it has different units of measurements for the same thing, and they do not cleanly convert into each other, since their base is different. In metric the base is always the same (10) and there is always just one unit for a measure.

The base could even have been 2, or 12, or 94467. Would not have mattered (much). The beauty of metric is that ALL units have the same base and thus freely convert without artificially forcing you to use fractions.

This is why: m/s, km/s, mm/s, nm/Ts -- they all convert "cleanly" into each other.

You can easily get the same out of the Imperial system, if you keep only one unit for each measurement, and use SI prefixes to alter the magnitude. If you'd only use foot or mile or yard or inch, you'd reap the same benefit as the metric system.

Point is: The actual unit does not matter, as long as the base is always the same.

Comment Re:Only seen in specific benchmarks (Score 1) 262

To clothe it in a car analogy: The difference is about the same as there being two cars, one has a top speed of 170 km/h, the other one of 200km/h. Certainly sounds like a huge difference, does it?

Unless you'll be driving both almost exclusively in a city, where the speed limit is only about 80 km/h at most. All you'd notice is a hardly perceptible difference in acceleration, as both cars don't even reach 50% of their maximum speed.

Stops sounding so terribly significant, does it?

Comment Re:You are still wrong (Score 1) 180

Strictly speaking, there's no reason for user binary other than that it makes some things a lot easier, while it makes other things a bit more difficult.

For example, during the early time of electronic engineering, the Russians/Soviets experimented with ternary computers, the "SETUN" while the USA had the "Ternac". Both had more complicated hardware than a binary computer, but were a lot more efficient at processing arithmetic instructions.


And who knows, in a few decades, people might thing binary to be quaint and outdated, given that Qubits are so much, much more efficient.

Comment Re:I have seen the factory line (Score 2) 265

Why, oh why do I always click, "Post Anonymously"? Seems I get far more +5s as an AC than as meself. The mods stop at +3 when I'm posting under me own name!


Interesting fact: It depends on where you look at your posting and whether or not you have "Excellent" Karma.

There are two ways to look at your posting: From the article's comment section and from your own comment history on your profile.

If you're an AC, your comment gets a nifty 0 moderation. People need to upmod you 5 times until it's at +5.
If you're logged in, you get an immediate +1 that is visible to you and everyone. People only need to upmod you 4 times until it's a +5.
If you have "Excellent" Karma, you get another +1 putting your posting at +2.
... ... but that one is only visible on the article's comment section. In your own history, it will appear as a normal, regular +1 posting.

Since people stop moderating when a comment reaches +5, your own history will never show them as more than +4.
If then someone downmods it only once shortly before the thread is archived (and moderation gets closed), your posting will sit at +3 in your history forever ... even if the article lists it at +4.

You see, you don't even need Slashdot Beta for the posting system not to make any sense. :-D

Comment Re:Oh great (Score 1) 549

As others have pointed out above and before: Passphrases are neat and easy to remember --- but a nightmare to type.

There is no functional difference between typing X letters of a word, or X letters of random garbage once memorized. Indeed, I would rather argue that the (almost) random garbage is probably faster, since you could choose it for maximum typing comfort/speed, like more strongly alternating hands for typing and avoiding "distant" key combos, without greatly compromising entropy.

Now, add to this that words in almost all languages follow a nice pattern: Consonants-Vocal-Consonants-Vocal. Usually with a 1.5:1 ratio of consonants to vocals. So your actual entropy for pure word-length compresses down by a similar factor.

So, in difficulty of brute forcing (if the attacker knows you chose either garbage or words) 10 letters of random garbage equal about 15 letters of regular words; give or take a few characters.Add to that the speed argument above, once you've memorized them

This means that a passphrase gets more secure only after it has already become far more time consuming to type.

Finally, at some point (currently at about 10-16 chars, depending on the algorith), it becomes easier to break the password hashes by finding collisions that to brute-force the password.

So congrats for your passphrase having 2000 bits of entropy, when it still only takes 15 minutes to find a SHA1 collision against your password.

Comment Re:Oh great (Score 1) 549

I have to type my password 100+ times a day. I can touch-type, but one typo usually means I have to delete it all and start over.

It's really hard to get Ctl+Alt+A wrong.

Try doing that in an SSH login shell. Or in a textual DBMS management console. Or in a general CLI tool that expects a password. Try it in a computer game that uses its own home-brewn dialog boxes.Or, do it in a text box that does not echo out characters, hiding the length of the password. Or password boxes that disable highlighting entirely.

Now do it, while knowing that you get locked out for 15 minutes when you enter the password wrong once or twice.

There are many situations in which the only way to recover safely from a typo in a password entry field is to hit backspace a few times.

Comment Re:~/.cshrc (Score 1) 208

> And some foolish folks decided to go ahead and replace /bin/sh with bash.

Have you ever taken a look at the original Bourne Shell code? All the way up to V7, this header file was applied to each and every line of source code of the original Bourne Shell:

Essentially, this header turned C into a really crummy version of ALGOL -- and the source code was written with that in mind. It took them until 1984 to de-ALGOLize the source code, and it was still a horrible mess after that.

So the Bourne-Again Shell (Bash) was created in 1989 as a response to the shoddy code (and other limitations). Then, when that one bloated out of control, people started going back to the "minimal Bourne Shell" approach in the modern incarnations of Ash and Dash; but by then, Bash had already become the de-facto replacement for Bourne Shells.

In the end though, for any nasty bug you find in Bash, you'll probably find two in the original Bourne Shell --- only hidden behind virtually unreadable source code.

And it is very likely, that nasty things lurk in tcsh, ksh and others. After all, as someone sage once said: "Any non-trivial program that consists of more than three lines of code has at least one bug."

Comment Re:Over the next days, we will be flooded! (Score 1) 116

Just a (sort-of-quick) reply, to what you raised.

Pumping water reservoirs is done all over Europe, without flooding vast areas, as it simply uses already existing glacial areas that were created by similar processes to begin with. It's not meant to be done in flat areas, certainly, but no-one every said one solution fits everything. There are no silver bullets.

I briefly considered splitting natural gas production and the simpler hydrogen/oxygen production, but then found it just belabouring the point. The idea of turning electrical energy into bond energy is chiefly the same in both cases, they just arrive at it with different means.

Yes, flywheels are for short duration load balancing, of seconds to some dozen minutes. Newer designs actually promise a lot more, given the ever advancing march if science. Plus, see again the point about the "no-silver-bullet" thingy.

As for the shuttle, to split hairs, I never specified it stored the flywheel energy for electrical purposes. Reaction mass is energy, too. But I yield to your point, that I should have been more specific. The main point was, that it can store energy for weeks without significant losses, anyway.

The grid-storage idea currently only falls flat because of the design of the network in most parts of the world, which is geared towards putting energy production facilities smack next to energy utilizing facilities (like coal plants next to aluminium smelters), and isolating these nets from each other, with long switchover times. It's never going to store energy for hours -- but then again, many parts of the net actually have the lowest demand during the night. Which is why power is cheaper at night to begin with (for large consumers, at least).

Even Liquid salt reservoirs with just 6h of time are already enough to cover a night during the shorter nights of the year. Certainly not a factor of 10 difference --- or barely even 2, if you used binary magnitudes.

As for your point about rich/poor people: You forget that companies use most of the power in industrialized countries; it's what makes them industrialized. No-one can tell me, that Google can't afford a few million less net income -- and mid-level companies usually do not need multiple mega watts. Sure, the cost may be large ... but then again, how much did the nations of this world offer as trust coverage for the bad banks from 2008 to today?

Point being: It's our short-sighted greed, that causes us to avoid these expenditures. No-one is going to starve because of a 5% price hike on energy -- which, by the way, is a hike that'll come anyway once fossil fuel gets more expensive. I mean, how much has the oil barrel price risen since 1970? Several thousand percent? Sounds about right.

Also, for a more cynical point, the jobs lost are offset by the jobs gained building this improved infrastructure. Just ask the weavers, spinners and loom operators of the 18th century, what they thought about the automated loom; and look how many jobs were created precisely because of the raised productivity this brought.

Comment Re:Over the next days, we will be flooded! (Score 1) 116

Additionally, you forget, that we don't actually have to store all the energy in chemical batteries. There are quite a lot of storage possibilities:

- Pumping water to higher locations
- Splitting hydrogen and oxygen from water
- Spinning up large-mass, high-velocity, low-drag flywheels (it's how the venerable Shuttle stored energy for its week long missions)
- Storing the energy in the electrical network itself (the capacity of several million kilometers of copper cable can be astounding)
- Heating liquid salt reservoirs (which can give back energy via the good old steam turbine)

The list continues for quite some time. Additionally, this is not even considering that you can just get your power from other parts of the world that are not currently cloudy or shrouded in nighttime. It also disregards, that we have other means of generating electricity, like water power, which runs continuously.

The question is not, IF we can produce renewable energy in sufficient and even excessive amounts (after all, remember that all power except for nuclear fission comes directly from converted sunlight. And nuclear fission simply uses up the results of old supernova explosions, instead of regular solar fusion).

The question is: WHEN do we get off our collectives asses, are ready to pay a bit more for power for 10-20 years and then get rid of the problem entirely. And that's assuming power prices wouldn't rise in 20 years to begin with, due to oil, gas, coal and uranium price hikes.

Comment Re:Moo (Score 2) 469

Your comparisons are ridiculous for anyone who has ever played a violin.

There are so many things that are wrong with this study. There are so many things that differentiate violins BESIDES how they sound to an audience.

But the question is, given that any musician's ultimate target is to eventually have an audience, shouldn't how an instrument sounds to them be the quintessential point of evaluating the quality of an instrument?

Remember: Price and rarity are another set of entities altogether. A solid gold violin couldn't be played, but would be worth a ludicrous amount of money. The very first violin ever created in the world would be a rare find (as it probably does not exist anymore), but would probably be in a condition in which you simply could not play it at all.

You are right that there are many qualities a musical instrument can have, but you are wrong in assuming that they have any relevance on the most important quality of an instrument: If it can create music people want to hear, in the quality they want.

Comment I always wondered (Score 1) 392

The article highlights that 150 people is too low a number to preserve all the genetic diversity over multiple generations. This is in line with other estimates, that say that below 250 and 500 individuals, genetic diversity collapses rapidly.

But I always wondered: All these statements assume normal sexual selection, where some gene lines die out in the long run.

But what if one would remove the element of chance? What if you know the genetic pool of your colonists and could ensure over dozens of generations, that no genetic diversity is lost. Additionally, what if you could preserve the original genetic pool via cloning or DNA storage & synthesis?

Since the initial stock of colonists are presumably genetically healthy, it follows that their offspring should be healthy, too, if you eliminate loss of gene lines. And even if some issues appear, you still have the originals "on backup".

Of course, like others pointed out, such a strict procreation scheme might lead to adverse psychological effects in the population. :)

Slashdot Top Deals

Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so. -- Josh Billings