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Comment Re: A brief history of Slashdot tr0lling (Score 1) 366

Oh, thanks, I totally forgot about the Slashdot bitchslap.

And I'm not claiming the tr0lls weren't clever and occasionally hysterical. I'm just saying that the continual repost of "BSD is dying, Netcraft confirms it" on every single story had long degenerated from trolling to nothing more than protoplasmic copypasta spam, right down there in the sewage with the casino links. (And yes, there were many funny on-topic variants of the BSD meme that brightened up lots of different comment threads.)

Comment A brief history of Slashdot tr0lling (Score 4, Informative) 366

[Apologies for the l33t sp33k, but the lameness filter is actually pretty effective at blocking even the discussion of the older common tr0lls.]

Tr0lling originally started out as posting something on-topic but factually wrong in order to get reactions from people. Tr0lling was elevated by some to become its own art form; the best tr0lls could get pedants to crawl out of the woodwork like termites fleeing a flood. And the resulting posts and reactions were genuinely funny -- anyone who understood what was going on got a good laugh. But that kind of tr0lling peaked over a decade ago.

Other garbage has since cycled through Slashdot like ugly fashions on a New York runway. First came the memes: sites confirming the passing of various operating systems, etc., which at least often tried to stay on topic. They were inoffensive, but showed little real effort; they quickly stopped being amusing. Then came the nonsensical randomness, such as a certain movie starlet known for Star Wars and a lap full of hot breakfast food (I never quite understood that one). They were perhaps attempting to be absurd but mostly came off as stupid; again, they were reasonably inoffensive. But the current rash of copy-paste has become the new nadir, where cud-chewing morons too stupid to create their own original racism have figured out enough of the clipboard to re-vomit someone else's puke in the comments.

( In a huge burst of irony, some of the tr0lls themselves got pedantic, claiming the garbage posts did not qualify as "tr0lling" under their definition. Thus ended the reign of the major tr0lls, whose posts were quickly modded down into the -1 muck along with the rest of the bile. )

Throughout all of this, anonymous cowards and other low-lifes have always posted hate speech, political screeds, and offensive, racist crap. Browsing at -1, however briefly, will expose you to the words of horrible, useless human beings. Don't do it -- just click "no".

Slashdot has fought back, of course. The lameness filter has long kept out garbage like ASCII art, and certain phrases that I couldn't quote in this post. The remarkable bottom line is that Slashdot's moderation system, flawed as it may be, has kept the comments mostly readable for a very long time. Sites that failed to emulate it have come and gone, mostly forgotten by all but the Wayback Machine. Sites that still allow comments have almost nothing usable in them (youtube is a prime example of a site with unusable comments.) Meanwhile, Slashdot's community has managed to keep some semblance of order together. That's quite an achievement, especially over the nearly two decades of its existence.

Comment Re: yay more emojis (Score 3, Interesting) 200

I honestly have yet to figure out what the fuck the point in most of these emojis is. In the past everybody just used a combination of existing ascii symbols to show the mood of your message, and I am still trying to figure out what the new emojis solve that that system didn't solve.

You need to understand a bit about where and why emoji's started showing up in the first place. And to do that, we go back to pre-millennium Japan.

Japanese is, to put it bluntly, an insanely crazy written language. Modern Japanese uses no less than four different scripts/alphabets, and in any given sentence different types of words may need to be in different alphabets!. They are:

  • - Kanji: logographic elements taken from Chinese. These are symbols that stand for a word, phrase, or idea on their own. There are several thousand in modern use in Japan
  • - Hiragana: a set of 46 symbols indicating syllables. These are typically used for native Japanese words that don't have a Kanji equivalent.
  • - Katakana: a set of 48 symbols also indicating syllables. Indeed, many of these syllables are identical to those available in Hiragana, but with completely different symbols. These are used for loan-words, scientific terms, names of plants and animals, and for emphasis.
  • - Romaji: as if all that isn't bad enough, some words (loanwords and trademarks) are written in the standard Latin script we use in English ([A-Za-z]).

And if all that wasn't bad enough, there is also hentaigana, which are obsolete kana sometimes used to give things like restaurants and such an old-timey feel (something akin to 'Ye Olde...' in English). And because the different scripts in Japanese are used for different types of words, you frequently have to switch between one and the others in a single sentence. In short, written Japanese is f'd up.

This is where Emoji came from. Imagine a late 1990's cell phone with the 12 standard buttons, and having to send text messages to someone in Japanese. How do you use those 12 buttons to select from thousands of Kanji symbols? How do you switch between Katakana and Hiragana and Romanji? I'll admit I'm not a Japanese speaker (I've studied the symbology, but not the language itself), but I'd think even typing "Hey, let's meet up with Akira at the McDonalds" would take a week on a standard flip-phone keypad. Thus emoji was invented to provide visual shortcuts for writing things that would otherwise be a major PITA to type in Japanese.

So basically, because written Japanese is so incredibly f'd up with four simultaneous scripts in modern usage...the Japanese decided to get around it by adding another script system.

Early iOS releases implemented Emoji to satisfy the Japanese market, but in can you don't recall that far back, it was originally only available if you set your system language to Japanese. In those early days, someone figured out how to write an app to enable the emoji keyboard in other languages, and eventually due to demand (which I'm assuming was mostly 12 to 14 year-olds) Apple eventually opened it up to everyone. At which point, hundreds of millions of people with sane written languages that use compact alphabets decided they were cute, and that they had to use them as much as possible.

Like yourself, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about the whole Emoji thing. I can understand why the Japanese needed to invent it, as their writing system is horrendous. I don't tend to directly use it myself, preferring to use old-style emoticons in personal correspondence; however, at this point most e-mail and chat systems will "upgrade" typed emoticons to emoji.

So there you go. A brief history of emoji.


Comment Depends. (Score 2) 331

I've been a developer on some pretty damn big projects. The kind of projects used by Fortune 500 companies -- everything from end-user facing applications all the down to low-level infrastructure projects.

If there's one thing I've noticed about all of these large projects over the years, it's that there is rarely ever only one programming language in use. Web apps will use Javascript on the front end and one or more language son the back-end. Large scale C/C++ apps will have a variety of scripts surrounding them. Every project needs an installer, some form of scripting for the build processes, deployment, automated QA, and (frequently) database management. There may even be a mobile app attached to the project. I've had to switch between C/C++, Bash scripting, Java (with JNI), SQL, and REXX, all in the same project.

The point being, if you work on a large enough project, and aren't a junior developer, you're probably switching between a bunch of different languages already. Those languages are probably fairly stable (i.e: you probably won't see too often where you change a massive project from Java to C#), although I've certainly introduced new languages and processes to big projects to make "dumb" processes smarter. The ability to do that, however, often comes when you get to a point in your career where you can specify and/or contribute to significant architectural changes.

I've also been fortunate enough to work at a few places where you can spend 10% of your time working on personal interest projects. If you're fortunate enough to be in such an organization, this is a great time to try out new languages that interest you. If not, find (or start) a project in the interesting language of your choice, and work on it in your own time. If you make it Open Source, and put it on GitHub or the like, you can include it as experience on a resume.


Comment Re:Science is still vague and unsettled (Score 1) 609

What I love about this is that a sociologist, of all people, a practitioner of a "science" almost as soft (read: inaccurate and trend-driven) as psychology, feels compelled to weigh in on the unreasonable nature of trying for actual correctness.

I think he's very well-positioned to refute this idea. He knows better than most that human nature is not rational, and won't fit neatly into a rational-based society. He likely has the data to back up those assertions.

Comment Re:Walmart (Score 1) 118

Anyway, this story is about a better way to mobile-pay, IMO. QR scanning rates higher than the "touch your phone to the pad" customer experience. At least it seems more reliable, in my experience. And scanners are always present at checkouts today... the specialized pads for proximity readers are not.

Smartphone based barcodes are often difficult for scanners to read. Scanners are primarily designed to pick up reflected light - the scanner transmits light, it bounces off the barcode, and the scanner receives the image. But a phone's screen is backlit with a pulse-width modulated array of flickering LEDs; flickering that is not in sync with the scanner's imaging sensor. They are not all engineered to read light transmissive screens. Some scanners have the option to turn off the light when reading a phone screen, which can help

The "touching a phone to a pad" experience depends largely on the technology of the phone. Samsung's MST is a pure hack, and whether or not it works depends entirely on the geometry of the heads concealed in the reader -- a reader that wasn't designed to read anything but a mag stripe on a card.

An NFC phone is very reliable because NFC readers are specifically engineered to read contactless devices. They are much more reliable than either Samsung's MFT or smartphone QR codes. Right now NFC is more secure than mag stripes, but less secure than EMV. They're much faster and more convenient than EMV or QR codes. The QR codes are probably more secure than NFC cards (for right now) and are probably on par with Apple Pay, but there's no way of knowing how secure any of the back end systems are.

Comment Re:Likely won't eventuate (Score 1) 298

Atmospheric life support systems would easily be externalized, provided by whatever carrier is currently responsible for them. They already hook planes up to external A/C units while they're parked at the gate so the passengers don't freeze or roast while the APU engines are off, conserving jet fuel. Similarly, when they plug the pods in, they'd establish the ventilation connections.

But it doesn't solve the related problems of food or restrooms. You'd have to externalize the facilities, because plumbing sewer and water would not only add lots of weight to each pod, but would take up too much room that could be occupied by paying passengers.

I doubt jettisoning pods in-flight would be a design consideration. A life threatening problem could possibly be solved by deploying the pod's fire suppression system. It risks the humans inside that pod, but that might be a needed outcome depending on the situation.

Comment Re:Likely won't eventuate (Score 1) 298

The cost of hauling an extra couple of kilograms today works out to about a million dollars in extra fuel over the service life of the airframe. Unless those pods and parachutes weigh less than the current seat and overhead bins, they're going to be rejected by the airlines. Either that or the price for riding in a pod will be based on total pod weight, resulting in fares substantially higher than today's ticket prices.

Some things would be different, of course. Pods could be routed to an off-airport TSA checkpoint for pre-flight bomb sniffing, and post-flight they would be diverted to customs, immigration, and agricultural inspection centers, letting the airlines off the hook for paying for on-airport facilities. On-airport parking would be dramatically reduced. Private party pods would be all the rage for wealthy people. Brokers would spring up with matchmaking services where they cram multiple strangers into a single pod, trying to lower the ticket prices. But affordable tickets would probably come to an end.

Comment Re:Sometimes... (Score 1, Troll) 159

Yeah, I miss the old days when cars used to break down completely before they reached 80,000 miles, and when they poured out lead-contaminated exhaust and enough sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to create acid rain, and when they got 8 miles per gallon, and when they would fly off the corners in improperly banked turns, and fly into a spin when braking on a wet road, and would impale drivers on steering wheel shafts in head-on collisions. Not only could you fix them with a screwdriver, but you could steal them with a screwdriver, too, just by hammering it into the key slot and twisting it with a wrench.

Or were you implying that "over"-engineering was a bad thing?

Comment Re:Math (Score 2) 109

BTW: solar panels, as in photovoltaics, exist since over 50 years. We have a pretty good idea how long they last and degrade.

Do you honestly think that a photovoltaic cell produced today is similar enough in construction to one produce 50 years ago, such that you can make a meaningful comparison? That no improvements have been made in the technology, the coatings, the contacts, the fact that a thin-film cell is almost completely different construction than a wafer cell (the only type available 50 years ago?)

Each product has to be evaluated independently in order to make claims of longevity. Such testing requires exposing samples to various artificial environments in an attempt to accelerate the natural processes of weather and sunlight. They need to see how durable the AR coating is; typically done by exposing samples to massive amounts of UV, in extremely high and low temperatures, and checking for signs of degradation. They need to see if the structural components, such as adhesives, sealants, and supporting materials, can withstand the environment when combined together in this new way. Even the glass may be of a unique formulation that may age differently than expected. From there, they make their predictions of lifetime and warranty promises.

50 years of data on the PN junction helps understand one tiny bit of the problem space, but not nearly as much as an actual test of the product.

You americans are really quite dumb. Or your school system ... or what ever.

Really? You slag an entire nation because you failed to understand one guy who didn't feel the need to fully explain his remarks? Next time you post, please apply some neurons to the problem before reaching for your keyboard.

Comment Re:Simple under linux (Score 1) 207

Simple, but wrong.

Consider that your drive might have detected some anomaly while updating the sector containing your secret, and migrated some of your super-secret data away from the suspect sector to another, then marking the original sector as bad. No amount of overwriting will ever overwrite the bad sector, as the drive electronics will not allow it. That data is there permanently.

If you need to really secure your data, the time to do it is before you write it to a device that was designed to not lose it. Use disk encryption. When you need to wipe the drive, erase the key. As a bonus, it takes much less time than a full overwrite of the drive, so you can be assured your data is completely gone in just a few milliseconds.

Comment Re: 78% of Crapdot stories are worse now (Score 2) 207

Regardless of whether Gutman's claims in 1996 were valid back then, they fundamentally relied on loose manufacturing tolerances of certain mechanical attributes of the drives of that era. Drive tech has completely changed in the last 20 years in the race for increased data density, and those old faults are no longer relevant.

That said, if you want to keep your data safe today, there are a few things to consider:

1. Drives are made for reliability as a primary goal, not secure erasure. A drive that detects a fault will silently place a new copy of the data on a sector reserved for migrating away from bad sectors, leaving the original data in place, never to be overwritten again. No "secure delete" operation will be effective on it.

2. NIST recommends that when security is your main concern, you should be encrypting the data on the drive. When it comes time to wipe the drive, simply erase all copies of the key.

3. If you have any doubt about your ability to wipe a drive, physically destroy it. The risk is rarely worth the $20 you might get for it on the resale market.

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