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Comment: Re:Infoworld... pass (Score 1) 729

C's bit fields are a really helpful feature in embedded programming. Unfortunately their implementation is strongly tied to the target CPU architecture. In particular, the endianness of the fields cannot be redefined in code, and bit fields are usually not allowed to cross word boundaries.

Comment: Re:Incredibally stupid argument (Score 1) 322

by AdamHaun (#47827981) Attached to: The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

1) Never trust a civilian that says "these weapons you want are not very effective or what you need". He is not trained or capable to make that argument.

Why not? Is it impossible for civilians to study military matters? Are you saying that all military historians are quacks? You realize that weapons development and production is done by civilians, right? And that our military and its funding are under civilian control, which is also the case in China and Russia? Are you aware that people (even in the military) always want things that make their own job easier, regardless of the overall cost? And that always giving them what they want is bad management?

You can boil down his argument to what I originally said -"these weapons are good at killing people"

No, you can't. His argument is that hypersonic missiles will not give us enough of an *advantage* in killing people (or destroying equipment, which is arguably a more important use) to justify the cost. Absolute destructive power is meaningless on its own. A weapon only gains value in the context of specific opponents, strategies, and doctrines. In the context of mutually assured destruction, a hypersonic missile is useless.

You're trying to paint Gubrud as some sort of naive hippie who doesn't believe in war, and that's simply not supported by the article at all.

Comment: Re:Incredibally stupid argument (Score 1) 322

by AdamHaun (#47823021) Attached to: The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

I've not RTFM'd because I try not to let bulletinshit touch my eyeballs, but hypersonic technology certainly has civilian uses.

If you had RTFM'd, you would have noticed that the author specifically mentions civilian uses (including space launches) and proposes limits that would exempt them.

Comment: Re:Incredibally stupid argument (Score 1) 322

by AdamHaun (#47822995) Attached to: The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

The argument is at heart "Don't develop these weapons because they will be good at killing people and I personally am not smart enough to come up with a civilan use that doesn't kill people".

No, that is not at all a good summary of the article. In particular, Gubrud (the author) addresses civilian hypersonic technology and makes a specific proposal that would allow for it:

It’s not often that one can say an entire technology should be banned because it has no conceivable good use. Hypersonic missiles, however, may present just such a case. Hypersonic air travel seems economically unjustifiable in an era of climate change, high-cost energy, and low-cost video telepresence. But if civilian hypersonic air travel ever did become a reality, it would take the form of a large airplane, not a small missile. Low-cost satellite launches? Hypersonic space planes such as DARPA’s planned XS-1, which would lift rockets to high altitude, might make some sense. But again, to achieve economies of scale, such hypersonic boosters would need to be large, which the hypersonic missiles under military development are not.

To speed its approval, any such moratorium would have to define hypersonic missiles in a way that does not require elimination of already existing cruise missile systems. I would propose a ban on flights of any aerodynamic vehicle of less than, say, 15 meters length or 2 meters diameter, traveling in powered or unpowered flight at speeds in excess of 1 kilometer per second, over a horizontal distance greater than 100 kilometers. Space and ballistic missile launches and reentries could be specifically excepted. The numbers are somewhat arbitrary and could be fine-tuned or adjusted substantially while preserving the intent of the agreement.

Saying that Gubrud wants to ban hypersonic weapons because they're "good at killing people" is a gross mischaracterization. His actual arguments are:

1. The main application of hypersonic missiles is supposedly to attack short-term high-value terrorist targets. But we can already do this successfully by attacking from nearby bases.
2. Another claimed application is to attack key strategic targets within the borders of major military powers.
a. It could be hard to distinguish between a conventional and a nuclear strike. Advocates say this won't be a problem because hypersonic missiles have a distinct attack profile versus, say, conventionally-armed ICBMs. But in practice, there's nothing that prevents a nuclear warhead from going on a hypersonic missile, and nothing that prevents a conventional missile from attacking nuclear targets as part of a nuclear first strike.
b. The idea that a conventional attack on the homeland of a nuclear power won't result in a nuclear counter-attack is questionable to begin with.
c. The existence of very fast attacks makes for hair-trigger standoffs that require rapid (and thus error-prone) decision making. Naval standoffs in particular are mentioned as a risk.
3. Developing hypersonic missiles will force other nations to do so as well.
a. Arms races are extremely expensive.
b. Any military advantage will erode very quickly -- in a few years at best.

To these I would add that 2c) implies that you have to maintain a counterstrike capability, which is a large ongoing defensive cost. We saw this in the nuclear arms race, which led to us having to keep bombers in the air 24/7, ICBM silos on standby, and missile submarines constantly hidden near their targets. Other commenters have also suggested that hypersonic missiles would make great anti-aircraft carrier weapons. Giving other countries more incentive to develop such weapons is not in our interest.

Finally, unlike your ridiculous straw man, Gubrud is quite practical about geopolitical realities:

Hypersonic missiles are a new class of weapon that no country actually needs. Their military advantages are ill-defined, and their capacity to destabilize relations among major powers and contribute to a costly and dangerous strategic arms race is enormous. Even so, the United States can’t expect that just because it proposes a test ban, other nations will line up to renounce hypersonic missiles. What America can reasonably hope is that other nations will see their shared interest in avoiding or slowing a dangerous escalation of the arms race. I am therefore proposing that the United States suspend testing for a while, to show good faith as it seeks agreement on an international ban on hypersonic testing.

If the suspension does not draw a positive response from other countries, the United States can always resume its programs, while still advocating a general moratorium, thereby seizing the moral high ground. That others might not join America there immediately is a poor excuse for not proposing a hypersonic testing ban and calling the others to join. Indeed, if the United States is unwilling to forgo hypersonic testing for a time, others have every reason to be cynical about its real motives and intentions. I’m not sure that I understand those motivations. But I am reasonably certain that hypersonic missiles will not help to make America stronger or more secure, because it is clear, from their programs already in progress, that other nations will not allow the United States to claim a monopoly on hypersonic weaponry.

Comment: Re:Ban on testing would give tech only to cheaters (Score 1) 322

by AdamHaun (#47822813) Attached to: The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

And then we resume development. Meanwhile, China loses credibility, which makes it harder for them to create treaties and agreements that they actually care about. Nations can't simply flaunt every treaty they sign without consequences. At the very least, they have to be selective.

Comment: Re:Where are those chips baked? (Score 1) 47

by AdamHaun (#47685143) Attached to: Project Aims To Build a Fully Open SoC and Dev Board

But then I wondered -- what actually was the motivation for this all out Open Source SoC?

There have been a few projects like this posted to Slashdot over the years. For some people, it's like climbing Mount Everest -- "because it's there". Some people want to extend the open hardware community down into chip design, possibly encouraging new start-up companies. (lowRISC seems to be in this category.) And some people think the semiconductor industry is a stagnant patent-choked wasteland in need of a Linux-style revolution. (These people are idiots, and do not know anything about hardware manufacturing or the semiconductor industry.)

The big thing I don't understand is why they all want to make chips with high-performance CPUs with tons of modern peripherals. Okay, I do understand -- they want to run Linux on their product. But what's wrong with making an AVR clone? Surely it would be much easier and much cheaper to make an 8- or 16-bit CPU with a few low-end comm peripherals on an older process? Is making a fully open hardware Arduino somehow less of an accomplishment?

Regardless, none of these projects have succeeded yet, because making an SoC is much harder than making software. From easiest to hardest, the main obstacles to making an open IC product are: development skills, design tools, prototyping and manufacturing costs, testing, and logistics. I'm not an expert on the full process, but I can try to give an overview:

* Development skills: Designing high-quality digital integrated circuits, even with an HDL, is not trivial. You need people with EE or CE training, not just basic programming skills. Hardware has non-ideal behavior that must be accounted for in the design. It's also not cheap, so the design needs to (mostly) work the first time. This means you need real expertise, not just random volunteers. lowRISC has some experienced people (although not in IC design?) running it, and they're hiring a couple of EE Ph.Ds right now.

* Design tools: You can edit an HDL with a text editor, but physical design and simulation require nasty, expensive, proprietary software packages from companies like Cadence or Mentor Graphics. These are not cheap, so you won't be running a copy at home. Your work will happen at an organization with money, like a university or corporation. lowRISC is a nonprofit associated with the University of Cambridge, so they can probably negotiate lower rates.

* Prototyping and manufacturing costs: You can prototype an IC design on an FPGA, but large FPGAs are pretty expensive. Again, you'll need money for this, thousands of dollars per FPGA board at least. At some point, you'll want to make real hardware. You might be able to get a few prototype units for tens of thousands of dollars, but for real manufacturing in a modern process you'll need a proper mask set. This will probably be on the order of $500k. Small revisions (metal-only) will cost perhaps a tenth as much. If you need to move transistors around, you'll have to go through the physical design process and pay the full ~$500k again. An important side effect of this is that most design bugs will be fixed in the physical layout, not the HDL. This requires expertise, and you'll need to design for the possibility in advance. After all that, you'll have to spend thousands of dollars per wafer for manufacturing, plus more for testing (see below). lowRISC's nonprofit/academic status will help reduce these costs, and obviously they're getting funding from Cambridge and maybe their founders.

* Testing: Even if your design is perfect (and it never is), you will need to test and qualify the hardware before you can sell it. This is where open IC projects fall flat, because nobody even talks about testing. You'll need to include test features like ATPG in your design, probably using even more expensive design tools. You'll also need to write test cases for functional verification, and generate test patterns for your automated test equipment (ATE). Once you've made the tests, you'll need equipment and personnel to run them. This costs more money. For qualification (making sure the hardware doesn't break the moment it gets out the door), you'll need to make and test (at least) thousands of units, preferably from multiple wafers with process variations. You'll also need to work on test time reduction and yield improvement once you reach production. lowRISC does not mention testing at all. They do say they plan to go from test chip to production silicon in one year, and that they're expecting to "yield around 100-200k good chips per batch [of ~25 wafers]". So maybe they have a plan, or maybe they're paying someone else to handle all the DFT design and testing aspects. (I'm not sure I'd call that "open hardware", though.) Since this is a nonprofit/academic project, their early customers may not expect any real quality assurance.

* Logistics: Once you're shipping units in production, you need to do all the boring (yet vital) business stuff like managing your cash flow, making sure orders ship on time, handling customer complaints, adjusting your price over time, making sure you don't break any laws, etc. This requires a full-time staff, at which point you're not really a community project anymore. lowRISC is already an organization with a staff, so this shouldn't be a huge problem for them.

They have very little information posted so far (not even a feature list), but lowRISC seems to have a few things going for them. They're not begging for money. They can get academic discounts. They're aware that they need serious expertise. And they're only aiming for the moon instead of the Andromeda Galaxy. I'm not holding my breath, but they might have a real chance. I wish them the best of luck.

Comment: Re:Don't allow jpg or gif or ... (Score 3, Insightful) 299

by AdamHaun (#47668271) Attached to: Writer: Internet Comments Belong On Personal Blogs, Not News Sites

Whether you agree with the politics of a particular site or not, the easiest solution is just to not enable posting graphics. If someone wants to make an offensive graphic and host it somewhere, fine. But why would anyone running a controversial site allow posting such?

People like posting funny animated GIFs in the comments. Losing that capability hurts the users. But image-posting isn't the problem.

The real problem on Jezebel (as described in its article but strangely ignored in the NY Mag article and the Slashdot summary) is that Gawker/Kinja allows anyone to create a burner account and post comments, but there's no IP logging or blocking. There is literally no way to block an abusive user from commenting short of manually banning each new burner account after it posts. This is supposedly to allow anonymous "tipsters" to provide information. As a practical matter, it means the Jezebel editors are having to wade through 4chan-style images on a daily basis to keep a clean comment section. Would you like it if your job forced you to look at 4chan? No, you would not. Hence their complaint.

Comment: Re:One of the most frustrating first-world problem (Score 2) 191

by AdamHaun (#47660297) Attached to: Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production

Look on the bright side - with Type-D they'll figure out how to go reversible and genderless and then we'll be done for good.

Along those lines: the "gendering" (sort of) of USB was deliberate. USB is a master/slave protocol with a host that supplies power and a device that (optionally) consumes it. The cables were designed to prevent people from connecting two hosts together and shorting out their power supplies. The newer USB On-The-Go (OTG) standard allows two hosts to connect using special connectors (micro-AB) to control power switching and a connection protocol for deciding which end is the master, but it's pretty complicated and requires analog voltage measurement. Fun to have on a smart phone, but massive overkill for most devices.

Comment: Re:Some people are jerks (Score 1) 362

by AdamHaun (#47472739) Attached to: Sexual Harassment Is Common In Scientific Fieldwork

First, let me say that I was talking about workplace harassment. I failed to specify that in my comment.

When I say that the organization is the first responder, I don't mean they're the first, last, and only. People can always call the police (or file a lawsuit), and obviously if your organization covers for harassers then that's the next step. But escalating to the courts is expensive, time-consuming, embarrassing, often bad for your career, and nowhere near certain. Even in severe cases, the police often don't take rape seriously. It seems like the best we can do is have a multi-tiered system of shared responsibility.

Comment: Re:Some people are jerks (Score 4, Insightful) 362

by AdamHaun (#47472211) Attached to: Sexual Harassment Is Common In Scientific Fieldwork

Because I don't see how, if something is already illegal, it also needs to be against "policy". Do all company/university policies have to comb through the entire legal code and duplicate it in policy?

I can think of four reasons:

1. The organization's management is usually the first responder for harassment issues. They're responsible for bringing the people together, they have the authority to set limits on their behavior, they have the ability to monitor and follow up, and they probably know the situation better than law enforcement does. If the harasser needs to be separated from their victim, the easiest way to do that is to fire/expel or relocate them.

2. Not every illegal act can affect your job (or university enrollment). You wouldn't expect to get fired or expelled for speeding, would you? Having a harassment policy makes it clear that harassing your fellow employees/students can get you disciplined or fired.

3. Harassment policies don't just forbid harassment, they also provides rules and procedures for responding to harassment. Illegal or not, wrong or not, the most common response to harassment complaints is to sweep them under the rug to avoid disturbing the status quo. Even well-intentioned managers don't necessarily know how to handle a complaint without training.

4. Having a strong and effective harassment policy with backing from management affects workplace culture. The default attitude in a lot of places is that making other people uncomfortable for fun is no big deal, even if they repeatedly ask you to stop. A harassment policy says otherwise, encouraging victims to report instead of keeping quiet or leaving.

Comment: Re:Good lord (Score 1) 302

by AdamHaun (#47429273) Attached to: Wireless Contraception

The same ignorance you claimed was responsible for high birth rates in impoverished areas. How does a chip give them more knowledge? That was a rhetorical question, the answer is that it does not.

Of course it doesn't. Where are you getting this? Contraceptives are what people get educated *about*. Nowhere in the article or my comments did anything say otherwise.

The "evil that are already happening" gains more power with this type of technology.

You... don't actually know anything about the problems women face in the world, do you? You might want to do some reading, or better yet, talk to some actual women.

Straw man, it has nothing to do with the points, which is that this technology puts the option for birth control in the hands of a person other than the recipient of the birth control.

You haven't made any points because you haven't given any way in which subdermal chips are different from other contraceptive methods, or what revolutionary new methods of force they allow. I don't think you understand how hormonal contraceptives work at all, otherwise you would recognize that this technology is an incremental change from what is currently possible. Let me spell it out for you.

Hormonal contraceptives work by regulating the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. The hormones vary naturally over the length of the cycle, but you can boost them to a consistent level by providing more externally. This basically tricks a women's body into thinking it's pregnant, which prevents ovulation. (There are some variations; this is the simple version.) For our purposes, we're interested in how the hormones are delivered. There are many options, each with their own mix of benefits, challenges, and side effects. Below, I've listed the ones I see in the 19th edition of Contraceptive Technology by Hatcher et al. There are probably more.

* Pills taken once a day
* Patches worn on the body and replaced weekly
* A plastic ring inserted into the vagina and replaced monthly
* Shots given once every three months
* A thin plastic rod inserted under the skin and replaced every three years

Another major option is a T-shaped piece of plastic inserted into the uterus, known as an intra-uterine device (IUD). There are two types -- one that releases copper ions to prevent fertilization (replaced every ten years), and one that releases levonogestral to do several different things (replaced every five years). IUDs are the most popular contraceptive method worldwide, but are less popular in the U.S. for historical reasons.

All of these methods are reversible, though they take some time to wear off. Subdermal implants and IUDs need to be removed by a doctor.

Now, let's look at the article to see what's different about the contraceptive chip. The article tells us a few things:

* Releases levonorgestrel daily
* Lasts 16 years
* Size: 20mm x 20mm x 7mm (vs. 40mm long x 2mm diameter for Implanon, the subdermal implant I mentioned above)
* Can be activated and deactivated through the skin with a wireless signal.

We can also guess that no user intervention is required once the device is implanted. Medically speaking this is a good thing, because one of the big problems with many contraceptive methods is compliance. It's easy to forget to take a pill, buy more condoms, or schedule an appointment for your next shot. An IUD or subdermal implant works automatically.

Clearly, the biggest difference is the wireless control. However, in order to have that control the chip still has to be implanted, just like Implanon or an IUD. The key point here is that if you want to prevent pregnancy, the chip is *functionally identical* to those other options. Later, if you want to become pregnant again, the chip is *easier to turn off* since it doesn't require a doctor to remove it. So if it's no harder to disable pregnancy and much easier to re-enable it, then it becomes easier for an individual woman to make the decision for herself, not harder.

Even if all of the available doctors are controlled by an oppressive government, the chip is still no worse. At best, it will be easier for black market services to switch it on or off for you. At worst, it probably won't have any more side effects than the IUD you'd be forced into using anyway.

Comment: Re:My sound card is an A/V amplifier (Score 1) 502

My sound card is hooked up to an AV receiver that I used to drive my 5.1 home theater speaker setup (Energy CB-20s and CB-10s, if you're curious). It works pretty well, but there a is a downside, which is that the digital processing in receivers creates audio lag. If you're really sensitive to lip sync, you might want to consider other options. I haven't found a modern receiver without lag yet, but I haven't looked very hard.

Comment: Re:Good lord (Score 1) 302

by AdamHaun (#47421623) Attached to: Wireless Contraception

Claiming that ignorance can be fixed by continued ignorance from a different party is a fools prospect.

I'm not sure what ignorance you're talking about here. How are people going to be unaware that they've had a chip implanted under their skin that stops them from getting pregnant?

There are simply too many nefarious purposes for this type of technology.

But again, functionally, the birth control application isn't much different from a Depo-Provera shot or an IUD. The differences are A) it lasts somewhat longer, and B) you can turn it off without removing it.

If some dystopia decides that fertility is a reward, this technology allows that very easily.

We don't need to fantasize about what hypothetical dystopias might do -- we have an existing one to look at. In China, there are existing technologies that already do what you're talking about. They are backed up by fines and other punishments. Outside of China, trying to force surgery on an entire population is a risky move that could easily provoke a popular uprising. China spent decades under a Stalinist dictatorship before enacting the One Child Policy, and as such they are a pretty extreme case.

If another dystopia decides that soldiers should rape women but don't want pregnancy as a result, well, this allows that as well.

Do you know how hormonal contraception normally works? It doesn't take effect right away. You'd something high-dosage like a morning after pill or shot. Subcutaneous chips are designed to release low dosages over long periods of time.

Also, why would someone who's okay with institutionalized rape be worried about their victims getting pregnant?

I don't understand why you're more worried weird hypothetical dystopias than the kinds of evil that are already happening.

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