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


Forgot your password?
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Comment The patent’s novelty is not about bags (Score 1) 201

I want to start by saying that I’m never going to buy an iPhone 7. I understand that removing the audio jack saved some room inside the iPhone. But the water proofing argument is stupid, the “courage argument” is bullshit, and the primary benefit is to Apple’s bottom line to sell us more expensive adapters and annoying wireless earphones.

I’ll buy a MacBook Pro because of the extended warranty, the fact that a comparable PC laptop costs only a little less (and looks less cool), industry support for Linux on laptops sucks, and I hate Windows. I bought an iPhone 6+ because I’m too lazy to research to find out which Android phone is the best, I can be sure that the iPhone is at least “good,” and I have an investment already in iPhone apps. But I hope to God (and all the other deities) that Apple fans are smart enough to sit this one out. Apple needs to get smacked hard in the pocketbook for such a stupid decision.

That being said, this patent is not about paper bags. It’s about making a more sturdy glossy white paper (from which you can make a bag) out of recycled materials.

Comment Dedication and hard work (Score 1) 629

I have had chronic fatigue syndrome since 1994. It hit me like a truck and has only very slowly been getting better. Even now, I have to very carefully manage my time and energy. Regardless, I managed to have a successful software engineering and chip design career, then got a PhD, and now I work as a professor at a major public university and research center. To do this, I had to cut things out of my life that others are not willing to give up. For instance, I don’t have much of a social life, and I don’t get to watch much TV or spend time playing video games.

Some of us may disagree with Hillary’s political views or whatnot. Putting that aside, is she healthy enough to do the job? I don’t know the details, but we can see that she has had a successful political career. In public appearances, she seems to be healthy enough (but then again, so do I and I feel like total crap much of the time). Keep in mind that lots of past presidents have had significant health problems that did not stop them from doing the job.

We also have a fall-back plan. Is Tim Kaine any good? Can he take up any slack? If Hillary tanks, can he adequately take over the job? Also keep in mind that Bill Clinton will be around and he will be a very active first-spouse.

Comment Re:Clusterfuck (Score 1) 315

Well, obviously there are different opinions on this. But it’s different from pre-EU or pre-UK-in-EU. For one thing, there are the feelings of abandonment by other members of the EU and concerns about the wisdom and stability of the UK government. It’s like having a friend that you like and might want to have a deeper relationship vs. having had a deeper relationship and then breaking up. The latter interferes with trust around future dealings.

And as many have pointed out, the costs to be an EU member are small compared to the bureaucratic overhead that will be required for all of the new trade treaties, all of the businesses that have to move out of the UK because they are required to be in an EU state, etc.

Comment Clusterfuck (Score 1) 315

As an American, I should appreciate the value of gaining independence from a far-off country who taxes you with a less than desired level of legislative representation. But the truth is the American revolution is as unlike the UK/EU situation as you can get. The UK paid some nominal fees in order to have unfettered travel and trade with the European continent. Brexit is going to completely fuck up the UK economy along with many other major world economies. The Japanese aren’t going to sit back and just watch this happen, and the truth is that the rest of the world’s major governments should speak up as well.

Comment Why fundamentalists can’t accept deep time (Score 3, Interesting) 76

Evolution implies death before sin. If there was death before sin, then “original sin” and Jesus’ atonment for that sin are meaningless. They’re not going to accept something that breaks their religion, because they have a deathly (no pun intended) fear of not having a life after death. They are also wrapped up in fear over some mythical “moral decline” that they believe is caused by moral relativism that they seem to think evolution implies.

What’s interesting is to uncover the inconsistences in their beliefs. They claim to read the Bible literally or “at face value.” But when it comes to original sin, the Bible is only clear about HUMAN SPIRITUAL death as a result of original sin. They extend this to physical death of all animals. But when pressed, they cannot identify specific Bible verses that speak to this. Rather, they fall back on an assumption they make about the meaning of “very good” which they ASSUME (a tendency they say is a problem with evolutionists) means there could have been no animal death before human sin. They presume too much to know the mind of God and what God may have thought was “very good” beyond what their Bible claims while trying to convince us that the primary source of truth should be the Bible.

They go on to create a subculture where evidence is something we can take or leave as we like as it fits or doesn’t fit our preconceptions. Then they turn around and call evolution a preconception. It was Christians who came up with the idea!

Comment Java’s problem is memory usage (Score 2) 427

That’s funny, although unless you’re bumping up against your VM memory limit, it’s not such a problem. When you DO approach your memory limit, performance drops to a crawl. In the 32-bit days, I hated the fact that my colleagues in AI developed in Java instead of C++ for programs that worked on really huge datasets just because of this issue. The programs would be frozen on GC for as much time as they did computation. That doesn’t mean I hate Java; I really like it, but this was the wrong time to use it.

But a bigger problem is that Java VMs are memory-hungry. After a little while, a long-running Java app has grown to its maximum size and stays there tying up system resources that it’s not really using. This can happen in C too, but with Java, you can’t avoid allocating and freeing objects constantly, while you can keep memory allocation well under control in C/C++, keeping your process size small. You can’t keep your Java process size small AND have good performance.

BTW, despite this, I do all kinds of work in Java. Mostly server stuff and some swing. When I need speed, I use C and/or C++. When I want to do something like string processing or just want to hack together a one-off, I use Ruby. When I want to do symbolic math, I am forced to use Python (a language whose syntax I object to on moral grounds) because sympy is the awesomest thing ever.

My FAVORITE language? Probably Verilog. I’m a chip designer, so you can just assume that any piddling arguments you have over programming languages will just make me roll my eyes over how trivial the differences are. That’s like watching a Lutheran and a Methodist try to argue over the infinitessimally trivial differences in their religions. Just to piss people off for fun, I’m going to say that software languages (except maybe Haskell, which is scary for other reasons) are these arbitrary constructions that people argue about like religions. On the other hand, Verilog is grounded in reality and science; it has some rough edges too, but that is the way of science. (Our VHDL bretheren fully recognize that the two languages ultimately have the same semantics.)

Comment Re:It's not aliens (Score 1) 282

I have trouble conceiving of intelligent beings with the ability to imagine things that are not right in front of their faces as being incapable of committing an unethical act. It seems inevitable, as a function of the way intelligence works. At some point, hominids were capable of committing atrocities but didn't have sufficient capability for premeditating these things. Gradually over time, they evolved greater and greater conscious volition, which enabled them to become gradually more "sinful." Something similar would have happened with language AT THE SAME TIME, because to communicate a message about the past requires that one be able to imagine something that is not right in front of them.

If the Bible has anything value at all beyond mythology of primitive peoples, then it only makes sense as an allegory. Sure, it contains history. All myths contain elements of real history, but the (a) the main purpose isn't as a science or history book, and (b) at the time it was written our modern idea of "history" didn't really exist apart from what we would also today call myth or urban legend. And we all know that the Torah was an oral tradition long before it was written down, and we can associate stories in it with stories from other cultures. Also, based on the way many ancient writers described things, they barely distinguished dreams from waking life, seeing random brain activity as being visions from God. I'm not saying there were no visions from God, but I am saying that most dreams surely were not, but ancient peoples tended to not make these distinctions.

So if things like creation, original sin, and the flood have any real meaning, it's within the context of the culture they came from and their limited knowledge of the universe, so if there's a spiritual message implanted in it, we have to be careful to separate that spiritual message from any "factual" content that it completely out of date. Imagine if God had revealed to people things about cosmic distances and quantum mechanics; nobody would have believed it, resulting in a still-born religion.

Comment Re:It's not aliens (Score 2) 282

Those are a lot of assumptions. Does "alive" mean the same thing? Do they have individuals who breed and are born and die? Or are they some kind of hive mind that's essentially immortal, even though parts of it may wear out and have to be replaced? Does a hive mind need to communicate in the same way that we do? Obviously, to have an advanced technological civilization, they would have to understand math and other things we call science, although those things could possibly be much more intuitive to them, if "intuitive" has any meaning here.

An argument I have been trying to use to shake Christian fundamentalists out of their madness is to talk about what Jesus would be like in an alien civilization.

Now may people just think of Jesus as a social genius who was born at a time when the Roman empire had taken over and enabled broader travel and communication, and much of the mysticism around him was filled in later by his followers. Also, Jesus may really be a composite of multiple people of that time.

But let's pretend Jesus was God. Surely aliens would be sinful and need to be saved and all that. (In this scenario, "original sin" is something that evolves naturally in creatures that develop the ability to imagine non-immediate events and can make conscious choices that we would consider unethical.) On earth, death has been a big deal to humans, so martyrdom for Jesus isn't especially necessary for atonement (because God could have chosen any means he wanted). Rather, it's just fabulous marketing. What better way to spread a religion than to teach a bunch of disruptive ideas and then get gruesomely killed by the Romans?

So in an alien society, the "sacrifice" of their incarnation of Jesus would be entirely different. For instance, let's say that we have a hive mind creature that can temporarily split off individuals (or how else would they be able to explore their planet broadly and go into space?), and as a result of that need to do this unnatural splitting off, they have developed communication strategies. But let's say that staying disconnected from the hive for a long time is detrimental to that individual in some horrific ways. So an example of a personal sacrifice here, in a world where death doesn't mean much, might be for an individual to live out a disconnected life and utilize these invented communications methods to teach his message.

I'm not sure if the argument will work, because most fundamentalists just deny that aliens could exist.

Comment Re:It's not aliens (Score 1) 282

We may be more advanced technologically than hunter-gatherers. But we’re the same species, so we have evolutionary common ground and we’re more or less in the same range and style of intelligence. An alien civilization would have nothing in common with us at all. If they came to visit us, there’s no reason why they should necessarily even perceive us as having intelligence.

Comment Amazing they get so much right! (Score 3, Interesting) 109

I realize Melbourne, Australia is a big deal, and it seems like with a city that large, Microsoft and Apple and others could afford to hire one person whose job is to make sure they get stuff right.

But at the same time I find it amazing that they don’t have more mistakes. The navicable roads across the whole world are vast, and living in an imperfect world, there’s alway going to be some probability and degree or error in everything we do. Getting Melbourne’s location wrong because Microsoft may have copied Wikipedia is funny. But when it comes down to it, for all the things they could have wrong, this mistake constitutes a SINGLE BIT error. Yeah, it’s a super big deal bit, but in terms of raw information content, you have to be surprised that they don’t suffer from single-bit errors all the time in less significant but noticable ways.

Also, given what we all SHOULD know about science, we should understand that every model of anything is going to be correct only within certain statistical bounds. Yes, that the universe was smaller in the past and has to have been dense enough to have undergone a phase change (cf. CMB), so the big bang as a whole is essentially settled. However, there are details we don’t have filled in yet, so whenever someone comes out with some new alternative to inflation, we look at it with a critical eye. We should be doing the same when it comes to these electronic gadgets we use. There are many different failure modes. When we become so trusting and dependent on them that we can’t recover from their failure, then we’ve got a problem. They’re never going to be perfect. Moreover, different services will implement different algorithms that will give us different results. When navigating somewhere, you need to use your brain to decide which route is best, not just trust what the routing algorithm says. Moreover, local knowledge always trumps an algorithm whose knowledge of traffic patterns and back roads is extremely limited.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say I’m a little to the east of Binghamton University on Vestal Parkway. If I ask either Google or Apple Maps where the nearest gas station is, they BOTH give me a location on the opposite (north) side of the river in Johnson City. Why? Because they use cartesian distance. As the crow flies, that gas station is the closest, but to get there, I would have to back-track to the west to 201, take it north to Riverside Drive, and then back-track to the east. Either that or try to drive across the river. A much FASTER gas station to get to from there (although with only a slightly shorter total driving distance) is actually in Binghamton, to the east, on the same (south) side of the river, where there are no turns or traffic lights in the way. In other words, these routing algorithms are stupid about rivers and other common traffic phenomena. And of course none of these have a way to consider the fact that I actually live in Vestal and am likely to want find a gas station between where I am and my house. Sure, they’ll list multiple gas stations, and I can choose the right one, but this is an example of needing to use my brain to make the decision, rather than relying blindly on software.

Slashdot Top Deals

Any given program will expand to fill available memory.