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Comment: Random 16-character password strength (Score 1) 223

by Alan Kennington (#48228689) Attached to: Passwords: Too Much and Not Enough
Just for the record, the strength of a random 16-character password with random combinations of upper and lower case letters and decimal digits is:

62^16 = 47,672,401,706,823,533,450,263,330,816

Well, that's the number of combinations, and one would need to check half of them to have a 50% chance of cracking such a password. (Well, that's not precisely the strict probability theory language for it, but it's something like that.) In other words, anyone who uses a simple password manager should be fine.

Comment: An insult from a dork is a compliment (Score 4, Interesting) 283

by Alan Kennington (#48228645) Attached to: Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business"
If Steve Ballmer said something complimentary about me, I would take that as a slanderous insult. Amazon should feel happy to be insulted by Ballmer. Amazon is the only big internet-based business that I like.

It should be kept in mind that the theory of perfect markets says that competition drives all profits to zero. So making an extremely slim margin is a sign of a healthily functioning market, whereas the absurdly high profits that MS have made in the last 20 years are proof that free markets did not do their job in the case of MS software. So I would say that MicroSoft was not a "real business". It was, as we all know, a de-facto monopoly. And a monopoly is not a "real business". Real businesses compete against other businesses.

Comment: Trade-off between mind-share and commoditization (Score 2) 159

by Alan Kennington (#47914429) Attached to: Court Rules the "Google" Trademark Isn't Generic
That's really interesting how companies expend such huge efforts to make their brand a household name, and then they say they still want to own it for themselves exclusively. For example, so many people talk now about iphones, ipads and ipods as generic terms. That's sort of good for the vendor, but then when it really does become a generic term, they bring a ton of legal bricks down on anyone who does use their name generically. In other words, heads we win, tails you lose.

Another really evil example is "windows", which used to be a generic term, e.g. for the X window system. Microsoft continually tries to use words out of the dictionary to get "mind-share", and then they sue people who use their chosen dictionary words as they had existed for centuries. (The word "windows" comes from old English meaning "wind-holes". Maybe that's not what they really want you to think about though.) In my opinion, it is truly pernicious that so many companies are trying to steal words from the dictionary and pretending they own them. They should be obliged to invent their own words.

In this case, Google did at least get a nonsense word and slightly change it. I still have a children's book published in 1961 by Wonder Books: "The how and why wonder book of mathematics" by Esther Harris Highland and Harold Joseph Highland, where on page 4 it says: "What is a googol? It is 1 followed by 100 zeros. It is a number so large that it exceeds the number of raindrops that would fall on New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in more than a century. Yet, it is smaller than infinity." In the Introduction on page 2, they say: "If you wanted to find a googol, where would you look? In a zoo? Through a telescope? In a deep well? No, you would look in a mathematics book." Well, at least Google does seem to have changed the spelling a bit, which is to their credit.

Comment: Doesn't sound right to me (Score 5, Insightful) 53

There's too much that sounds wrong to me in this story.

1,000 copies of one particular class of retroviruses, known as the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-H, is still in our genome, and while the HERV-H retrovirus DNA is dead and cannot replicate itself, it continues to send out messages telling the embryonic stem cell how to become other cells in the body, and this is what makes the cells pluripotent.

Maybe the 1000 copies could be correct, but that sounds a bit too high. But the last phrase and this is what makes the cells pluripotent sounds quite wrong. Does this mean that pluripotency didn't happen before this virus got into the genome? This would have to be at least 600 million years ago then. I note that the date in Australia is now 1 April 2014 already.

Comment: Re:Probably not a troll (Score 1) 287

Josh,

This is the real name behind the Swordfish.
Alan Kennington is user 33546.
Swordfish is user 86310.

I made up the name Swordfish for my second slashdot account in the late 1990s (approximately) because of the Marx Brothers movie Animal Feathers or something, where the password for the speak-easy was "SwordFish". One of the best Marx brothers sketches ever! A couple of years later, someone made a nerd movie called Swordfish, which really really annoyed me. They stole my name!!!!
AUK.

Comment: Re:Cave art was a method of teaching hunting (Score 3, Interesting) 502

by Alan Kennington (#27991493) Attached to: Were Neanderthals Devoured By Humans?

Whoops, I accidentally posted the parent item as "Anonymous Coward". Silly mistake!

I should also perhaps have mentioned that while H. sapiens was evolving in Africa, with rapidly changing environment between scarcity and plenty, it would have made sense during the droughts and famines for the strongest groups to annihilate the weaker groups. Otherwise overpopulation meant that everyone died. It was better to reduce population rapildly so that the survivors would have enough to eat.

Well, how would you know who to kill during a drought or famine? Here's where language becomes really invaluable. Language developed in Africa about 250,000 years ago probably. And language clearly distinguishes one group from another. Language is extremely useful for group hunting. But it's also makes foreign language speakers seem like animals, who are therefore "fair game" to kill and maybe eat. This process of breaking a species up into tribes according to languages was only possible in humans. The reason we only see tribalism and wars and genocide in humans is because only humans have language. Language is the prerequisite for tribalism, and tribalism is the prerequisite for genocide.

Therefore it was inevitable that the sophisticated language users from Africa with tribal programming would wipe out the Neanderthals.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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