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Journal Journal: Alternative Slashdot interview method?

While the current Slashdot interview method works, It has a few slight limitiations. One such limitation is that it is not really possible to ask a foillowup question based on the the person's response. There are some others as well. An interesting alternative in the case where the person beng interviewed happens to be a regular Slashdot contributer is a "realtime" interview. The questions are posted as normal, but, the person being interview may simply answer the question by responding. Now, ideally, the responses from the person being interviewed should be automaticcally +5'ed, as the answers are the whole point of the interview. Either that, ot give the person being interviewed, unlimited mod points, like the admins, but restricted to that article. This might even be limited to only positive moderations, to avoid abuse.

The advantage of the mod points based system is that the person being interviewed can make sure the questions are +5'ed as well, as the questions are also an important part of the interview.

Any ideas or comments?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Media Center and Media Center Extender

This article is about Microsoft's Media Center concept. I suspect that MythTV has all, or at least most of the features mentioned, but I am familiar only with the Microsft offering.

For those who do not already have a large investment in audio-video components, except perhaps an expensive television, a Media Center PC may actually be a wise choice. Media Center Computers combine multiple components into a single box.

This solves a few problems. First the components can be well integrated, avoiding the problem of having having to chage the mode of three or more devices just to switch between television and DVD. Sure that may not be a problem for slashdot readers, but I know quite a few people who have difficulty with this. Second, there is only need for a single remote.

Third it cuts down on the wiring mess. Trying to connect each device in a typical home theatre system is non trivial, and eventually your devices will run out of inputs. Definately not ideal.

It may not be obvious what devices a Windows-based Media Center is intended to be able to replace, so I shall provide a list. Of course not all media center PCs ship with the hardware required to support all of these features.

  • FM Radio Tuner
  • Internet Radio Tuner
  • Digital Radio Recorder (Think Tivo for radio)
  • CD Player
  • CD Recorder
  • Digital Jukebox (No need for that 500 cd changer ;-) )
  • DVR/PVR (Better than Tivo brand DVRs, because no subsription is needed).
  • DVD Player
  • Dvd Recorder
  • Surround sound decoder. (You still need the speakers of course.)
  • Lastly it can still function as a PC

Many people who criticize the XBOX360's limited media support, fail to understand the concept of a Media Center Extender, so I shall explain.

A Media Center computer is a great concept. As I mentioned above, they avoid the problem of inter-device communication. There is also the added advantage of interface consistancy.Yet there is a problem. A Media Center PC really only serves one TV. That is great for those who only have a single TV they watch regularly, however many people have more than one tv.

So Microsoft created the Media Center Extender. This is a device that connects to a secondary television, and to the Media Center via a network. The extender provides an interface to acess the content of the Media Center, which is streamed via the network to the extender.

The XBOX360 is one such device. Connect it to a television, a surround sound decoder, and the network, and that TV has access to all of your media as well as your entire Xbox/Xbox360 game library. (Yes, Microsoft does intend for people to stream live and recorded TV through the XBOX360.) This works best in conjuction with with the Universal Media Remote and a second tuner in the media center. Quite intersting is that new features added to the Media Center Interface of the Media Center PC can be used by the XBOX360, and things like an NES Emulator are currently available.

The ability to read music/pictures from an MP3 Player/Digital Camera/Standard XP PC was added to the 360 as an afterthought, and is not the primary Media functionality of the 360.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Patents 2

One of the biggest problems with the patent system is that it requires product makers to check to make sure that no part of the product is covered by a patent. This is absolutely unreasonable. It is extremely difficult to determine is something very specific is already covered by a patent. The USPTO cannot even do this. There are cases in which two patents for the EXACT same idea have been granted. Then there are many patents that are nearly identical to existing patents, but just slightly different, etc. If the USPTO cannot always successfuly discover existing patents when they are looking for one specific thing, how can a product maker be expected to find all patents that apply to any of the (potentially) several million components of the product?
User Journal

Journal Journal: For Those Who Care About Consumer Level Thin-clients

On several occasions I've had those who are somewhat computer literate remark that the current method of managaging several computers in unsatsifactory. They suggested what you and I know of as a thin-client architecture. A home would have one primary computer which might be fairly expensive (although even a cheap consumer PC could handle this). Then throught the house there would be inexpensive thin clients. The advantages of such a system should be clear. There is no need to remember what computer a file is stored on. There is only one computer to update every few years. One only needs to install programs on a single computer etc.

This is not to say that they system is without flaws. Some flaws are obvious. If the main system breaks then no 'system' can be used untill it is repaired. Other problems are more complex. For example, Games generally assume that there is a local graphics processor which outputs directly to the display. Remote hardware accelleration of graphics is currently an under-developed feild. The hardware graphics accellerator shpuld be on the server to keep the costs of the thin-clients down. Games also make other assumptions which might not be true in the case of a thin client.

The biggest problem however is architecural. Windows has some support for such a system, however the support is limited, and is not really intended for such a system. However, if we go with a non-Windows solution, then all the usual problems come into play. All too many people have been tried to use Microsoft Office and would have trouble with the transition to anything else, including OOo. Not to mention the clueless end-consumers would have trouble accepting that the software in the store won't magically work on their systems.

Let us assume that this hypothetical end-consumer has no problems with Microsoft compatability, and while not fully computer literate, happens to have one of us arround to maintain the System. The most obvious way of setting this up is the use of a user-freindly GNU/Linux distribution. The thin clients could be an X terminal. Sounds great. But there are problems. Many GNU/linux appliations that use X11 receive minimal testing of the case where the X11 server is not on the local machine. Some of them have problems with this. The X11 protocol lacks support for sound. Some seperate sound daemon would need to run on the thin client. To the best of my knowledge, there very few such sound daemons still being maintained. AFAIK X11 has no special support for allowing remote clients to access local drives.

One project minimizing the problem with the GNU/linux based solutions is the Linux Terminal Server Project. Perhaps if a solution to the Microsoft Problem(TM) can be found, a thin client platform could work well for end-users. Comments?

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The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford