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Ask Slashdot: What's Your Media Setup? 236

An anonymous reader writes: There's no dearth of media technology today. Not only do modern console emulate set-top boxes, but there are dozens of tiny appliances that bring TV shows and movies to your screens with varying levels of convenience and cost. So, what setup do you use? I'm curious about the hardware you use to collect, transmit, and display the media, in addition to the software running it, and the services you use or subscribe to that provide the media. I imagine there are a lot of cord-cutters in this crowd — if that's the case, how do you acquire the shows you want to watch? What problems still need to be solved in this area?

Ask Slashdot: Good Subscription-Based Solution For PC Tech Support? 193

New submitter byrddtrader writes: My parents are getting close to the their 70s and neither one of them is particularly tech savvy. Since my teenage years I have been tech support for the family, but now that I am older I can not be at their beck and call every time they inadvertently download something they should not, or the printer stops working. Given the amount of time that I have worked with them I don't feel that it is realistic that I will be able to convey the information they need to become self-sufficient. What I am looking for is a service that will be able to assist with any software PC related issues, viruses, printers and the like. Currently they are using a tech firm out of India (iYogi) that does unlimited support for a few hundred per year per machine -- which is fine, though they are big on the up-sell. They tend to push their own virus protection software, and attempted to sell my Dad, who has 500Mb of documents, a 3Tb external hard drive because they said he needed it. Currently the computers they use are ones I have built. Maybe the best solution would be store-bought PCs that offer additional tech support at a price. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Ask Slashdot: Local Navigation Assistance For the Elderly? 161

An anonymous reader writes: I have an older (90+) relative who is experiencing mental decline. He's still fairly functional (you can have a decent conversation with him, and he's amazingly positive for someone in his condition), but his memory of anything recent is terrible. He's in an assisted living center, but he's having serious trouble for example finding his way to the dining hall and back to his room. He has visitors daily and the staff are supportive but 24/7 oversight is not an option. I am looking for a navigation system suitable for use indoors that will help him move around. The distances involved are short, and his schedule is pretty regular so it would be OK to have a schedule of where he usually is at a given time (lounge, dining hall, room) and a big green arrow that always points out which way he should go to get there (so it would need to accommodate doors and hallways etc, not just the straight line direction). Is anyone here aware of such a system? I've thought of trying to write an app for a smartphone but I'm not sure if GPS is really the way to go, seeing as it's indoors. Also, battery life would be an issue — he would have trouble remembering what to do if it stopped working and I'm not sure if he'd remember (or be able) to connect a charger. For the same reason it would need to be pretty bomb-proof — he's not in position to troubleshoot if it fails.

Ask Slashdot: Is it Practical To Replace C With Rust? 437

interval1066 writes: I've heard of rust from various sources around the net for a few years and never paid it much mind, there are so many new languages out now since my early days doing C programming, which what I've stuck to and made me my career. Now I'm heading a project that uses a RoR application to control a large series of sensors and controls in a manufacturing process. Naturally I want to talk to the hardware using a GEM extension written in C, as I've done before.

But another engineer who is not a fan of C (seems few younger engineers are) said he could write the extensions needed easily in Rust. Seems like this is a thing. I took a closer look at rust and it looks to me like another attempt at "C" without pointers, except rust does have a kind of pointer, it appears. I like its ranking on a list of fastest languages, and it seems pretty simple with an initial tool footprint that is quite small.

But what are the trade offs? Another language, and one that few engineers know (much like Vala, which I like very much but has the same small user base). What if I need another engineer to work on the code? I pretty much know what I can expect from C/C++, rust is a huge unknown, what if I run onto a roadblock? The engineer pushing for rust is emphatic, should I bulldoze him or take the plunge?
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Is There Space For Open Hardware In Networking? 121

New submitter beda writes: Open hardware has got much attention with the advent of Raspberry Pi, Arduino and their respective clones. But most of the devices are focused either on tinkerers (Arduino) or most notably multimedia (Raspberry Pi). However, there is not much happening in other areas such as home routers where openness might help improve security and drive progress. Our company (non-profit) is trying to change this with Turris Omnia but we still wander if there is in fact demand for such devices. Is the market large enough and the area cool enough? Are there enough people who would value open hardware running open software even with a higher price tag? Any feedback would be most valued.

Ask Slashdot: What Non-lethal Technology Has the Best Chance of Replacing the Gun? 712

Wycliffe writes: Most cops are not out to kill someone, but when someone reaches for a cellphone or their glovebox, the cop may assumes the worst and try to protect themselves from dying. Guns are used to immobilize the target, and aren't even that good at it when a person is charging. What other potential devices could be used to protect a cop so that guns are unnecessary? Foam? Lightweight body armor? Nets? Robots? 'M.A.N.T.I.S.' paralyzing gas? Force field? What non-lethal technology out there has the best potential to be more effective at immobilizing a target and/or protecting a cop than a gun?

Ask Slashdot: Selecting a Version Control System For an Inexperienced Team 325

An anonymous reader writes: I have been programming in Python for quite a while, but so far I have not used a version control system. For a new project, a lot more people (10-15) are expected to contribute to the code base, many of them have never written a single line of Python but C, LabVIEW or Java instead. This is a company decision that can be seen as a Python vs. LabVIEW comparison — if successful the company is willing to migrate all code to Python. The code will be mostly geared towards data acquisition and data analysis leading to reports. At the moment I have the feeling, that managing that data (=measurements + reports) might be done within the version control system since this would generate an audit trail on the fly. So far I have been trying to select a version control system, based on google I guess it should be git or mercurial. I get the feeling, that they are quite similar for basic things. I expect, that the differences will show up when more sophisticated topics/problems are addressed — so to pick one I would have to learn both — what are your suggestions? Read below for more specifics.

Ask Slashdot: Knowledge Management Systems? 134

Tom writes: Is there an enterprise level equivalent of Semantic MediaWiki, a Knowledge Management System that can store meaningful facts and allows queries on it? I'm involved in a pretty large IT project and would like to have the documentation in something better than Word. I'd like it to be in a structured format that can be queried, without knowing all the questions that will be asked in the future. I looked extensively, and while there are some graphing or network layout tools that understand predicates, they don't come with a query language. SMW has both semantic links and queries, but as a wiki is very free-form and it's not exactly an Enterprise product (I don't see many chances to convince a government to use it). Is there such a thing?

Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find "Nuts and Bolts" Info On Cookies & Tracking Mechanisms? 84

New submitter tanstaaf1 writes: I was thinking about the whole tracking and privacy train-wreck and I'm wondering why specific information on how it is done, and how it can be micromanaged or undone by a decent programmer (at least), isn't vastly more accessible? By searching, I can only find information on how to erase cookies using the browser. Browser level (black box) solutions aren't anywhere near good enough; if it were, the exploits would be few and far between instead everywhere everyday. Read below for the rest of tanstaaf1's question.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Most Awesome Hardware Hack? 251

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter once asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronics?

Ask Slashdot: Best Country For Secure Online Hosting? 113

An anonymous reader writes: I've recently discovered that my hosting company is sending all login credentials unencrypted, prompting me to change providers. Additionally, I'm finally being forced to put some of my personal media library (songs, photos, etc.) on-line for ready access (though for my personal consumption only) from multiple devices and locations... But I simply can't bring myself to trust any cloud-service provider. So while it's been partially asked before, it hasn't yet been answered: Which country has the best on-line personal privacy laws that would made it patently illegal for any actor, state, or otherwise, to access my information? And does anyone have a recommendation on which provider(s) are the best hosts for (legal) on-line storage there?

Ask Slashdot: Is the Gap Between Data Access Speeds Widening Or Narrowing? 92

New submitter DidgetMaster writes: Everyone knows that CPU registers are much faster than level1, level2, and level3 caches. Likewise, those caches are much faster than RAM; and RAM in turn is much faster than disk (even SSD). But the past 30 years have seen tremendous improvements in data access speeds at all these levels. RAM today is much, much faster than RAM 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Disk accesses are also tremendously faster than previously as steady improvements in hard drive technology and the even more impressive gains in flash memory have occurred. Is the 'gap' between the fastest RAM and the fastest disks bigger or smaller now than the gap was 10 or 20 years ago? Are the gaps between all the various levels getting bigger or smaller? Anyone know of a definitive source that tracks these gaps over time?

Ask Slashdot: Simple, Cross-Platform Video Messaging? 115

DeathToBill writes: I spend a lot of time away from my kids (think months at a time) who are aged 3-8. I keep in touch with them by Skype, but the young ones are not really old enough to concentrate on it and we're often in quite different timezones, so it's not often it can be very spontaneous. We'd like to have some way that we can record short video messages of things we're doing and send them to each other. It needs to have an iPad app that is simple enough for a three-year-old to use with help and for a five-year-old to use without help; it needs to have an Android or web client, preferably one that doesn't require an Apple ID; it needs to be able to record a short video and send it to someone. As far as I can tell, iMessage requires Apple kit (there is an Android app but it sends all your messages through a server in China...) and Whatsapp works on iPhone but not iPad. What can you suggest?

Ask Slashdot: Advanced KVM Switch? 128

jez9999 writes: I have a rather advanced use-case for my home work area that I need a KVM-type device for, and I was wondering whether such a thing even existed. I want a 3-PC setup; 2 desktops (PC1 and PC2) and 1 laptop going through a dock (DOCK1). I want to connect 2 monitors (SCREEN1 and SCREEN2), 1 mouse, and 1 keyboard (INPUTS). So far it's relatively straightforward, as I could just switch everything between the 3 devices.

But here's the kicker; I'd like at least 4 modes of operation: one mode to output PC1 video to both screens (dual-screen) and redirect INPUTS to it, one mode to output PC2 video to both screens (dual-screen) and redirect INPUTS to it, one mode to output PC1 video to SCREEN1, extend DOCK1 video to SCREEN2, and redirect INPUTS to DOCK1, and one mode to output PC1 video to SCREEN1, extend DOCK1 video to SCREEN2, and redirect INPUTS to PC1.

Basically with the latter two modes I'd like to be able to switch between inputting to PC1 & DOCK1, whilst continuing to be able to monitor each by outputting each one's video to one of the 2 monitors. However, I also want to be able to go dual-screen with and control PC1 & PC2.

In terms of ports I'd like to use HDMI (or possibly DVI-D) and USB for peripherals; not VGA or PS/2.

Is there any KVM switch out there able to do this kind of thing? I guess I'm probably looking for some kind of programmable KVM which allows me to specify, for each 'mode of operation', which inputs are routed to which outputs. Failing that, is there some other way I can get the setup I want (or something close)?

Ask Slashdot: Building a Software QA Framework? 58

New submitter DarkHorseman writes: I am looking into a new position with my employer and have the opportunity to work with the development and QA team to further the creation of a Quality Assurance Framework that will be used into the long-term future. This is software that has been in continuous development, in-house, for >10 years and is used company-wide (Fortune100, ~1000 locations, >10k users, different varieties based on discipline) as a repair toolset on a large variety of computers (high variability of SW/HW configuration). Now is the time to formalize the QA process. We have developed purpose-built tools and include vendor-specific applications based on business need. This framework will ideally provide a thorough and documentable means by which a team of testers could help to thoroughly ensure proper functionality before pushing the software to all locations. The information provided by along with other sources has been invaluable in understanding the software side of QA but I have seen very little in terms of actual creation of the framework of the process. What would you consider the best resources to prepare me to succeed? Even if your QA needs are for smaller projects, what advice do you have for formalizing the process?