Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Was Your First Home Computer? 857

We've recently seen stories about old computers and sys-ops resurrecting 1980s BBS's, but now an anonymous reader has a question for all Slashdot readers: Whenever I meet geeks, there's one question that always gets a reaction: Do you remember your first home computer? This usually provokes a flood of fond memories about primitive specs -- limited RAM, bad graphics, and early versions of long-since-abandoned operating systems. Now I'd like to pose the same question to Slashdot's readers.

Use the comments to share details about your own first home computer. Was it a back-to-school present from your parents? Did it come with a modem? Did you lovingly upgrade its hardware for years to come? Was it a Commodore 64 or a BeBox?

It seems like there should be some good stories, so leave your best answers in the comments. What was your first home computer?
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Should You Launch A Software Startup? (theguardian.com) 140

Slashdot reader ben-hnb is a developer who loves the idea of running a startup, or being one of the ones who got in early. But how exactly does he get there? I've got no "business" experience. Everyone seems to want to get on the startup incubator train -- the latest U.K. model I've seen, Launchpad, would even train (MA!) and support me financially for a year while developing the initial product. This just one in a long list of different models, from the famous Y-Combinator three-month model to the 500 Startups four-month seed program and simple co-working spaces with a bit of help, like Launch 22.

If you wanted to get a startup going, where would you go to first and why? Or would you just strike out in your bedroom/garage?

Leave your best answers in the comments. How would you launch a software startup?
Java

Ask Slashdot: Should I Move From Java To Scala? 245

"Scala is one of the JVM languages that manages to maintain a hip and professional vibe at the same time," writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino -- building up to a big question: One reason for this probably being that Scala was built by people who knew what they were doing. It has been around for a few years now in a mature form and I got curious about it a few years back. My question to the Slashdot community: Is getting into Scala worthwhile from a practical/industry standpoint or is it better to just stick with Java? Have you done larger, continuous multi-year, multi-man and mission-critical applications in Scala and what are your experiences?
The original submission asks two related questions. First, "Do you have to be a CS/math genius to make sense of Scala and use it correctly?" But more importantly, "Is Scala there to stay wherever it is deployed and used in real-world scenarios, or are there pitfalls and cracks showing up that would deter you from using Scala once again?" So share your experiences and answers in the comments. Would you recommend moving from Java to Scala?
Books

Slashdot Asks: What Books Are You Reading This Month? 259

An anonymous reader writes: Hey fellow Slashdot readers, what are some books you're reading right now, and intend to pick up later this month? Also if you would be so kind, what are some good new-ish novels (fiction / non-fiction) you recommend? Thanks!
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With a Terrible Tech Manager? 140

snydeq writes: From the Know It All to the Overwhelmer, succeeding beneath a bad manager takes strategy and finesse, writes Paul Heltzel in his round-up of bad IT bosses and how to keep them from derailing your career. "While there are truly great leaders in IT, not all inspire confidence. Worse, you can't always choose who will lead your team. But you can always map out new paths in your career. With that in mind, here is a look at some prototypically bad managers you may have already encountered in your engineering departments, with tips on how to deal with each of them." The six "terrible tech managers" mentioned by Heltzel include: "The Know It All," "The Pushover," "The Micromanager," "The Unexpected Boss," "The Fearful Manager," and "The Overwhelmer." Have you ever worked for any of these managers? If so, how did you deal with them?
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Can Linux Run a GPU-Computing Application Written For Windows? 117

dryriver writes: I have been told that Linux can run Windows software using Wine or perhaps a VM. What happens if that Windows software is a GPU-computing application -- accessing the GPU through HLSL/GLSL/CUDA/OpenCL or similar interfaces? Can Wine or other solutions run that software at a decent speed under Linux? Or is GPU-computing software written for the Windows platform unsuitable for use -- emulated or otherwise -- under Linux? This sounds like one of those cases where there's a theoretical answer and then your own real-world experiences. So leave your best answers in the comments. Can Linux run a GPU-computing application that's written for Windows?
It's funny.  Laugh.

Ask Slashdot: Seen Any Good April Fool's Pranks Today? 106

An anonymous reader writes: It's that special time of year where sites around the net celebrate April Fool's Day with parodies of their own product offerings. Google Home announces a new companion service for smart yards called Google Gnome. Stack Overflow announces Dance Dance Authentication. The Russian foreign ministry changed their voicemail to include new menu options like "Press 2 to use the services of Russian hackers," and "press 3 to request election interference." And in what's either a really good prank or a horrific piece of bad timing, Phrack.org announces that they've been seized by the FBI.

Has anybody else noticed anything funny today?

The internet has a long history of April Fool's Day pranks, and it looks like 2017 is no exception. So use the comments to share what you're seeing around the web today. Seen any good April Fool's Day pranks today?
Microsoft

Slashdot Asks: Windows 10 Creators Update Goes Live On April 11, Will You Upgrade? 239

Microsoft said today it will start rolling out Windows 10 Creators Update, the latest major update to its current desktop operating system, starting April 11. The company says Windows 10 Creators Update brings with it a range of new features. Some of the chief ones are:

1. Visual previews of tabs in Microsoft Edge.
2. Edge now has built-in support for ebooks.
3. Microsoft Paint now lets people create models in 3D.
4. Picture-in-Picture mode for videos. Essentially you can now have a small window with video playing on it placed on top of any other application.
5. Night Light: A baked in feature in Windows that will allow you to change the color and tone of display so that it doesn't pain your eyes to look at the screen at night.
6. Dynamic Lock: The feature first requires you to pair your phone or tablet with the computer. Once done, it will automatically log you out everytime you're away from desk (or technically speaking, the device is out of the computer's proximity).
7. Native support for surround sound.
8. Ability to scribble and make notes on Microsoft's Maps app.
9. Game mode: It "ensures" your computer is always maximizing its resources for an optimal gaming experience.
10. Built-in support for mixed reality handsets.

Over the past two years, we have seen numerous instances where Microsoft has been pushing Windows 10 update to customers who have Windows 7 or 8 running on their machines. There are still hundreds of millions of customers who're yet to upgrade from Windows 7, arguing that they either prefer how Windows 7 looks and functions, or (in some cases, and) why fix something when nothing is broken. That said, would you consider upgrading your system to Windows 10 Creators Update?
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Lies Programmers Tell Themselves? 548

snydeq writes: "Confidence in our power over machines also makes us guilty of hoping to bend reality to our code," writes Peter Wayner, in a discussion of nine lies programmers tell themselves about their code. "Of course, many problems stem from assumptions we programmers make that simply aren't correct. They're usually sort of true some of the time, but that's not the same as being true all of the time. As Mark Twain supposedly said, 'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.'" The nine lies Wayner mentions in his discussion include: "Questions have one answer," "Null is acceptable," "Human relationships can be codified," "'Unicode' stands for universal communication," "Numbers are accurate," "Human language is consistent," "Time is consistent," "Files are consistent," and "We're in control." Can you think of any other lies programmers tell themselves?
Software

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Working Environment For a Developer? 360

New submitter Dorgendubal writes: I work for a company with more than a thousand developers and I'm participating in activities aimed at improving the work experience of developers. Our developers receive an ultrabook that is rather powerful but not really adapted for development (no admin rights, small storage capacity, restrictive security rules, etc.). They also have access to VDIs (more flexibility) but often complain of performance issues during certain hours of the day. Overall, developers want to have maximum autonomy, free choice of their tools (OS, IDE, etc.) and access to internal development environments (PaaS, GIT repositories, continuous delivery tools, etc.) . We recently had a presentation of VMWare on desktop and application virtualization (Workstation & Horizon), which is supposedly the future of the desktops. It sounds interesting on paper but I remain skeptical.

What is the best working environment for a developer, offering flexibility, performance and some level of free choice, without compromising security, compliance, licensing (etc.) requirements? I would like you to share your experiences on BYOD, desktop virtualization, etc. and the level of satisfaction of the developers.
Operating Systems

Ask Slashdot: What's The Easiest Linux Distro For A Newbie? 510

joseph Kramer -- a long-time user of both Windows and MacOS -- comes to Slashdot with the ultimate question: I've been lurking here for years and seen many recommendations for a Linux flavor that works. What I'm really looking for is Linux that works without constant under-the-hood tweaking (ala early Windows flavors, 3.1, 95/98). Does such an OS exist? For the record, I am not an IT tech. I just need something to work with the mechanical equipment it controls. Any recommendations?
When it comes to Windows and MacOs, he describes himself as "fed up with their shenanigans." So leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best way for a newbie to get started with Linux?
Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Freely Use Bitcoin In the Land of the Free? 270

New submitter devrtm writes: It appears that Bitcoin, a currency designed with anonymity in mind, can be effectively used almost anywhere in the world, except in a few countries where it is regulated, and in one country where you can only use it if you give up your privacy. That country is the United States. I have accumulated quite a few BTC from the currency's early days where block rewards were still at $50. There was a period of time where one could get a nearly anonymous debit card, or use BTC online with merchants. Nowadays, non-U.S. payment providers no longer issue debit cards to the U.S. residents and the U.S.-based merchants accepting BTC are nearly extinct. The only way to use BTC in the U.S. is to convert it to USD. Unfortunately, that conversion requires giving up your personal information to a U.S.-based BTC payment processor, and there are rumors that signing up for those services raises red flags with certain three letter acronym organizations. I have nothing to hide, but I do value my privacy. Can one freely and anonymously live off of their Bitcoin wallet in the U.S.? I am afraid the answer is no. Does anyone have an experience that proves me wrong? Please share.
Encryption

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Implement Site-Wide File Encryption? 151

Recently-leaked CIA documents prove that encryption works, according to the Associated Press. But how should sys-admins implement site-wide file encryption? Very-long-time Slashdot reader Pig Hogger writes: If you decide to implement server-level encryption across all your servers, how do you manage the necessary keys/passwords/passphrases to insure that you have both maximum uptime (you can access your data if you need to reboot your servers), yet that the keys cannot be compromised... What are established practices to address this issue?
Keep in mind that you can't change your password once the server's been seized, bringing up the issue of how many people know that password. Or is there a better solution? Share you suggestions and experiences in the comments. How would you implement site-wide file encryption?
PlayStation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Best Virtual Reality Headsets? 141

Quantus347 writes: Straightforward question: I held off for a year to let the various manufacturers shake out the bugs, but now it's down to either a virtual-reality system or a new generation console. So I ask you, the Slashdot community, what are your personal experiences with any of the various VR systems out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What little things annoy you the most? What features make a given product the best (or worst) option? "Sprinkle us with wisdom from your mighty brain!" For reference, the HTC Vive costs $799.00, while the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch motion controllers costs $598 (which is the price after the recent markdown from $799). These prices do not include the necessary hardware required to power each headset. The PlayStation VR ($399.99), Samsung Gear VR ($99.99), and Google Daydream View ($79.00) are also available for less moolah.
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Is the Internet Killing Old and New Art Forms or Helping Them Grow? (nytimes.com) 110

The thing about the internet is that as it gained traction and started to become part of our lives, it caused a lot of pain -- bloodbath, many say -- to several major industries. The music industry was nearly decimated, for instance, and pennies on the dollar doesn't begin to describe what has happened to the newspapers. But things are starting to change, many observers note. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings noted at the New Yorker Tech Festival last year, the internet is increasingly changing the way people consume content and that has forced the industries to innovate and find new ways to cater to their audiences. But some of these industries are still struggling to figure out new models for their survival. Farhad Manjoo, a technology columnist at The New York Times, argues that for people of the future, our time may be remembered as a period not of death, but of rejuvenation and rebirth. He writes: Part of the story is in the art itself. In just about every cultural medium, whether movies or music or books or the visual arts, digital technology is letting in new voices, creating new formats for exploration, and allowing fans and other creators to participate in a glorious remixing of the work. [...] In the last few years, and with greater intensity in the last 12 months, people started paying for online content. They are doing so at an accelerating pace, and on a dependable, recurring schedule, often through subscriptions. And they're paying for everything. [...] It's difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. If subscriptions keep taking off, it won't just mean that some of your favorite creators will survive the internet. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent. It could lead to a wider variety of artists and art, and forge closer connections between the people who make art and those who enjoy it.
Education

Ask Slashdot: How To Teach Generic Engineers Coding, Networking, and Computing? 197

davegravy writes: I work at a small but quickly growing acoustic consulting engineering firm, consisting of a mix of mechanical, electrical, civil, and other engineering backgrounds. When I joined almost 10 years ago I was in good company with peers who were very computer literate -- able to develop their own complex excel macros, be their own IT tech support, diagnose issues communicating with or operating instrumentation, and generally dive into any technology-related problem to help themselves. In 2017, these skills and tendencies are more essential than they were 10 years ago; our instruments run on modern OS's and are network/internet-capable, the heavy data processing and analysis we need to do is python-based (SciPy, NumPy) and runs on AWS EC2 instances, and some projects require engineers to interface various data-acquisition hardware and software together in unique ways. The younger generation, while bright in their respective engineering disciplines, seems to rely on senior staff to a concerning degree when it comes to tech challenges, and we're stuck in a situation where we've provided procedures to get results but inevitably the procedures don't cover the vast array of scenarios faced day-to-day. Being a small company we don't have dedicated IT specialists. I believe I gathered my skills and knowledge through insatiable curiosity of all things technology as a child, self-teaching things like Pascal, building and experimenting with my own home LAN, and assembling computers from discrete components. Technology was a fringe thing back then, which I think drew me in. I doubt I'd be nearly as curious about it growing up today given its ubiquity, so I sort of understand why interest might be less common in today's youth.

How do we instill a desire to learn the fundamentals of networking, computing, and coding, so that the younger generation can be self-sufficient and confident working with the modern technology and tools they need to perform -- and be innovative in -- their jobs? I believe that the most effective learning occurs when there's a clearly useful purpose or application, so I'm hesitant to build a training program that consists solely of throwing some online courses at staff. That said, online courses may be a good place to get some background that can be built upon, however most that I've come across are intended for people pursuing careers in computer science, web development, software engineering, etc. Are there any good resources that approach these topics from a more general purpose angle?
Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Solve the Instant Messaging Problem? 456

Artem Tashkinov writes: The XKCD comics has posted a wonderful and exceptionally relevant post in regard to the today's situation with various instant messaging solutions. E-mail has served us well in the past, however, it's not suitable for any real-time communications involving video and audio. XMPP was a nice idea, however, it has largely failed except for a low number of geeks who stick to it. Nowadays, some people install up to seven instant messengers to be able to keep up with various circles of people. How do you see this situation being resolved?

People desperately need a universal solution which is secure, decentralized, fault tolerant, not attached to your phone number, protects your privacy, supports video and audio chats and sending of files, works behind NATs and other firewalls and has the ability to send offline messages. I believe we need a modern version of SMTP. [How would you solve the instant messaging problem?]
Education

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Make Novice Programmers More Professional? 347

Slashdot reader peetm describes himself as a software engineer, programmer, lecturer, and old man. But how can he teach the next generation how to code more professionally? I have to put together a three-hour (maximum) workshop for novice programmers -- people with mostly no formal training and who are probably flying by the seat of their pants (and quite possibly dangerous in doing so). I want to encourage them to think more as a professional developer would. Ideally, I want to give them some sort of practicals to do to articulate and demonstrate this, rather than just "present" stuff on best practices... If you were putting this together, what would you say and include?
This raises the question of not only what you'd teach -- whether it's variable naming, modular programming, test-driven development, or the importance of commenting -- but also how you'd teach it. So leave your best answers in the comments. How do you make novice programmers more professional?
IT

Slashdot Asks: Are Password Rules Bullshit? (codinghorror.com) 498

Here's what Jeff Atwood, a founder of Stack Overflow thinks: Password rules are bullshit. They don't work.
They heavily penalize your ideal audience, people that use real random password generators. Hey, guess what, that password randomly didn't have a number or symbol in it. I just double checked my math textbook, and yep, it's possible. I'm pretty sure.
They frustrate average users, who then become uncooperative and use "creative" workarounds that make their passwords less secure.
Are often wrong, in the sense that they are grossly incomplete and/or insane.
Seriously, for the love of God, stop with this arbitrary password rule nonsense already. If you won't take my word for it, read this 2016 NIST password rules recommendation. It's right there, "no composition rules". However, I do see one error, it should have said "no bullshit composition rules".
What do you think?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Should You Use Password Managers? 415

New submitter informaticsDude writes: What do Slashdot users recommend regarding the use of password managers? The recent election underscored the hackability of many personal accounts. One solution is to use different passwords for every digital experience. But, of course, humans are lousy at remembering large numbers of large random strings. Another solution is to use a password manager. However, password managers have been hacked in the past, in which case you lose everything. How do Slashdot users balance the competing risks? What is a person to do?

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