Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


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 Nonsense (Score 1) 78

Real programmers use visual tools when they are the right tool to use. If you are trying to lay out a pixel-perfect preference dialog for a retail app they can't be beat, and real programmers use them. And if anyone ever came up with a visual tool that makes the actual work of programming simpler, real programmers would flock to it; but don't hold your breath.

Programming is a process of progressively deeper understanding of a problem space. Visual tools allow you to easily represent a shallow understanding within the space explicitly supported by the tool designer, but the basic geometry of pictures is hopelessly inefficient (compared with text) at representing anything complex.

The work spent on making visual tools would be better spent writing high-level libraries for a modern language. I like google's go, but there are lots of equally good efforts out there. Given such a high-level library (which implicitly must exist to support the visual tool), the sorts of programs that can actually be expressed with visual block tools - like the one by the article writer - can be written in a short page of code, and not hit a brick wall when you need to step outside the designers problem space.

But the inefficiency of representation of visual tools is not in itself a killer defect. The real problem is that they fool novice programmers into ignoring the genuine complexity of even trivial programs, which leads to the production of bad software.

Comment So here's my one-line proposal (Score 1) 260

Have the government set a standard - not set up an administration or anything, should take about a page - for web-sites to accept log-ins using self-signed public key encrypted XML forms with a minimal set of optional identity/contact/billing/revoker fields. Leave everything else up to the public; I reckon it would take about a week to write MOD_PSKLOGIN

-Want to blog anonymously? Get an email forwarding company to sign you a log-on you can use at your blog site.
-Want to buy something from a company you trust with your real name/address/credit card? Bung it into some xml and send it off
-Want to buy something but don't trust them with a credit card? Get your bank to sign a one-off payment approval.
-Want to buy something anonymously? Give a forwarding company (like your forwarding address and some money, and get them to sign you a log on with their address and payment details
-Need to prove who you actually are to someone? Get someone who already knows you and that the other party trusts (your bank? your employer?) to sign you a log-in with whatever subset of your information you want to pass on.
-Worried about identity theft? Sign revocation authorities with some company that has a 24 hour hot line, and keep your keys on an encrypted usb stick. Really worried? Get a hardened stick that takes 48 hours to crack and needs a thumb print.
-Worried about catching pedophiles and terrorists? The government can use ordinary court orders to get details from intermediaries.
-Worried about surveillance and privacy? With thousands of unregulated intermediaries it would be a nightmare to keep standing databases to enable automatic data matching. Really worried? Spread your intermediaries around different countries with sane privacy laws.

Like an earlier poster said, we already have the technical side of this standard in things like PGP and X509. All we need is an official, mandated data format for the information exchange so that web sites aren't wasting their time implementing them. Governments may or may not be good at running things, but they rock at standard setting: time zones anyone?

Comment I call bullshit (Score 4, Insightful) 1078

This is A-Grade bullshit. I have been a chain smoker for five years. You could probably tarmac a small freeway from all the crap that has fallen into my keyboard. But there is no tar whatsoever on my heatsinks or fans. I just cleaned them last week ( after five years ) and there is dust, yes, but no tar.

The most disgusting computer I ever saw was one kept in a screen-printing factory with a concrete floor. Grey dust 2mm thick over the whole motherboard. Can people refuse warranty service on computers because they don't like your carpet?

Take your anti-smoking FUD and stick it somewhere else.

Comment Setted by convicts (Score 1) 183

Foreigners, especially Americans, make this joke a lot, but they don't really think through what it means. Actually it provides some really good insights into the Australian character. IANACSP ( I am not a cultural studies professor ) but I was born and raised here, have lived here for the best part of forty years, and have travelled a fair bit overseas for comparison purposes :)

Firstly, stop thinking about criminals and start thinking about inmates.

caveat americanus When yankees think about prison, they probably think about race and drugs. Don't. There are serious issues with racism in Australia, but they have an entirely different character to in America. Instead, imagine a prison full of loyal Mafia dudes who have taken a fall for their Capos and are serving their time, and have no real grief with each other or how they got there.

What do these inmates do? They look out for each other, and try and get through a shitty situation with as much humour and enjoyment as they can. They don't think the guards or the wardens are any better than they are, and largely they just try to stay on their good side and otherwise ignore them. They break the rules (which they don't take very seriously) - smuggle stuff, pinch stuff, do what they aren't supposed to - as much as they can get away with, but if someone gets caught, that's just the breaks. They love their sport, and grow a little weed and brew some beer in a shed out the back while a 'decent bloke' guard looks the other way.

They don't try and rock the boat. If someone stands up and starts yelling about prisoner's rights, or the unfairness of the guards, they are more likely to make fun of them and give them a swift kick in the backside than to start a riot.

And they have an amazingly high tolerance for invasive government. That's just part of the deal. You expect the warden to make stupid rules (this week everyone must piss sitting down!) : you ignore them if you can, and make jokes about them if you can't. You cheer the guy who breaks them and gets away with it, and laugh at the guy who gets caught.

This is the real nature of the Australian laid-back approach to politics : fundamentally, Australians with this character (which is about half) don't see the rules governing their situation as subject to fundamental change. You can get better and worse wardens and guards, but you're still going to be in the nick. An inmate may feel real affection for his particular prison - and get very patriotic when there is inter-prison football games! - but they don't see it as something that belongs to them, something under their control.

Democracy didn't change this very much : it just means we get to elect the guards and the warden! But we will pick the guy who promises to be a good natured guard, not the guy who wants to tear the walls down. And when the warden asks us if we want to change something ( constitutional referendums in Australia are only initiated by the government ) we virtually always so NO, largely just to stick it to him.

But thats only half the story.

Secondly : whenever you have inmates, you have guards and plantation owners (we call them the 'squatocracy') whose wealth depends on the labour of the prisoners. And largely those are the ones who set the character of our government and our institutions.

This is the other half of the Australian character. These people think that all the rest are lazy, and stupid, and venal, and need to be controlled and governed as much as possible. Pick up any Australian newspaper, or listen to any talk radio, and you will see and hear dozens of articles and letters and callers ranting about the need to punish people more, and pass more laws. I don't think Australian parliaments even know how to revoke laws - they just ratchet them up with more and more details, more and more control, more and more punishment.

Law and order sells even better in Australia then in America, but it's not about race, and its not the American thing about property rights, independence, and the right to get and be wealthy. It's a real belief that most people are just bad, and the role of government is to keep them in line.

So there you have it

Half the population thinks that laws are just to be put up with, and the other half think that the first half need to be kept in line. The two halves of the Australian character exist in a symbiotic relationship that gives us daft laws like Conroy's internet nonsense (and speed cameras, red light cameras, rental property inspections, beach inspectors, prohibitions on public drinking, insane restrictions on liquor shops, bans on visiting rock stars, 'Northern Territory Interventions', the list is endless ).

There are other things you need to be aware of, like our profound dislike for intellectuals (the first half think that anyone who is educated reckons they are better then the rest, and the second half can't stand the way educated people keep telling them their laws and punishment aren't working and won't work), and 'tall poppy syndrome' - anyone who succeeds needs to be cut down a peg, except sportsmen, although there is nothing we like better than a disgraced sportsman! - but they pretty much follow from the basic idea.

I love my sunburnt country and its people, but we have one of the most dysfunctional democracies in the world. If we weren't so rich - twenty million people sitting on a fair slab of the world's minerals and arable land - this would be a really crappy place to live.

Comment Dennet is good on this subject, in Freedom Evolves (Score 1) 438

He discusses exactly this intersection of our growing understanding of how brain function determines the choices we make, with a legal system that works of notions of 'responsibility' and 'choice'.

But to put his position in a nutshell - don't worry about it so much! There is nothing wrong with having a vague and fuzzy line - even one that constantly moves - dividing 'responsible choice' from 'pre-determined outcome'. As our understanding shifts, so does the line. As we understand more, it becomes possible in more cases to say 'actually this person is not responsible for their actions, any more than if they had been forcibly drugged'.

Of course the price someone pays for claiming they weren't responsible in a particular situation is that we become sceptical of their ability to take responsibility for other situations, which means we may decide to jail them, medicate them, forcibly educate them, or otherwise treat them as second class citizens. Nothing wrong with that, we do it all the time. If you say you can't help speeding because of biology and experience, don't be upset when we take away your licence.

The fact is, people want to take responsibility, even if only because of the privileges that come from doing so. So you don't need to worry about where the line 'really' should be drawn, or whether it should be got rid of all together. People aren't going to get rid of it just because it moves!

Your basic error is overextended reductionism. Just because something ( 'responsibility' ) doesn't exist at one level of description ( 'neural behaviour' ) doesn't mean it doesn't exist at a higher level ( 'social interaction' ). If you think otherwise, just remember that while in quantum mechanics there is no such thing as a solid object, you can't walk through walls.

Comment Which part of "Rich and Powerfull" didn't you get? (Score 1) 1016

I think there is this American fantasy that because you can all vote and own property, there is no such thing as privilege and power. Feudal kings didn't have the sort of relative wealth that these people do - whatever made you think that your legal system wasn't going to be just as rigged to make their behaviour legal and yours not?

Take the money away from them, or get used to being a serf. But please stop complaining that their wealth makes them powerful, as if the world was some sort of game where they have to play fair.

Comment FFS Why not just fund insurance with a petrol tax? (Score 1) 411

No privacy concerns, far cheaper to administer, and within a couple of percent it will give you exactly the same outcome.

It's such an obvious and simple solution that I find myself siding with the tin-foil-hat brigade in thinking this is just another excuse for more control.

Comment S-H-O-W M-E O-N-E T-H-A-T W-O-R-K-S (Score 1) 464

Name me a commercially successful reprocessing fast breeder reactor. One. Anywhere. Something that would provide good grounds for going "Oh look, those guys over there seem to have nailed it, let's base our energy future on what they are doing!"

Nope, all you got are tiny test systems, colossal government-backed failures, sodium explosions and leaking reprocessing pools, and - hope springs eternal! - product brochures from GE. Well thanks, but no thanks.

"But these new planned systems solve all the problems of the old systems! And they won't run into any unforeseen difficulties, we don't have those any more! Every new technology now runs perfectly, just as planned!"


Renewables, energy efficiency. and conservation on the other hand, those we can pretty much pop down to WallMart and buy off the shelf. And yes, they can do everything we actually need, and are easily as dependable as coal or nuclear. Double glazing is about as 'base-load' as you can get.

So, since you brought him up, ask yourself ... which energy source would Jesus use?


Google's Floating Datahaven 450

PDG writes "Google has pending plans to take its data centers off-shore, literally. By moving their data centers to floating barges in international waters, they are able to save money on taxes and electricity (using wave based power) as well as reside their operations outside the jurisdiction of governments. There is mention of hurricane and other caveats, but I wonder how they plan to get a bandwidth pipe large enough and still be reliable. Seems like a chapter out of a Neal Stephenson novel." You might recall earlier discussions on the same subject.

3M Launches First Pocket Projector 187

An anonymous reader writes " has a writeup on 3M's new pocket projector, the 3M MPro 110, set to launch on September 30. 'In a dark room, it could project a big enough image to be the ultimate cheap-o home theater. The projector will sell for a mere $359. It doesn't have a speaker, so you'll have to get that separately. But really, how good could a microscopic speaker jammed into this thing sound, anyway?'"

Mozilla Demanding Firefox Display EULA In Ubuntu 785

TRS-80 writes "Users of the upcoming Ubuntu release, Intrepid Ibex, are being confronted with an EULA the first time they launch Firefox. Mark Shuttleworth says 'Mozilla Corp asked that this be added in order for us to continue to call the browser Firefox... I would not consider an EULA as a best practice. It's unfortunate that Mozilla feels this is absolutely necessary' and notes there's an unbranded 'abrowser' package available. Many of the comments say Ubuntu should ditch Firefox as this makes it clear it's not Free Software, hence unsuitable for Ubuntu main, and just ship Iceweasel or Epiphany, the GNOME browser." A few comments take Canonical to task for agreeing to Mozilla's demand to display an EULA without consulting the community.
PC Games (Games)

Spore DRM Protest Makes EA Ease Red Alert 3 Restrictions 486

Crazy Taco writes "The heavy protest of Spore's DRM appears to have caught the attention of executives at EA. IGN reports that DRM for the upcoming C&C: Red Alert 3 will be scaled back. Unlike previous Command and Conquer games, the CD will not be required in the drive to play. The online authentication will be done just once (rather than periodic phone calls home), and up to five installations will be allowed, as opposed to three for Spore. While I still think five installations is too few (I've probably re-installed Command and Conquer: Generals 20 times over the years for various reasons), EA says they will have staff standing by to grant more installations as necessary on a case by case basis. So, while this still isn't optimal, at least we are getting a compromise. Hopefully, if the piracy rate for the game is low, perhaps EA will get comfortable enough to ship with even less DRM in the future."

Slashdot Top Deals

To communicate is the beginning of understanding. -- AT&T