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Comment: Only Apple can't make sapphire work. (Score 1) 133

by Animats (#47903731) Attached to: Sapphire Glass Didn't Pass iPhone Drop Test According to Reports

Everybody who gets an iPhone immediately puts it into a rugged, generally rubberized, case.

That's pathetic. All that effort to make a super-thin device, and you have to put it another case to protect it. Nokia would laugh.

Get a non-toy phone.

It's amusing that Apple can't get sapphire-coated glass to work. Sapphire glass for checkout scanners is a standard product. Every Home Depot checkout scanner has sapphire-coated glass. People slide metal tools across those for years without damage.

Comment: Voice operation of smartphones sucks (Score 1) 280

by Animats (#47900405) Attached to: Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

The smartphone crowd assumes they own the user's eyeballs. They don't. What's needed is better voice integration. You should be able to call, receive calls, text, and receive texts via a Bluetooth headset with the phone in your pocket.

Android sucks at this. My Samsung flip-phone had better voice dialing than my Android phone. Wildfire, which is from 1997, did this quite well. But it was really expensive to do back then, and was priced as high as $250/month. Then Microsoft bought Wildfire and abandoned the product.

Comment: A secular morality that once was popular in the US (Score 4, Interesting) 682

by Animats (#47900281) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Business used to have a completely secular moral compass. Rotary International has their The Four-Way Test, a "nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships." Rotarians recite it at club meetings.

Of the things we think, say or do

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

This is a morality for business. That's a concept that sounds archaic today. It was mainstream from about 1940 to 1975. Many small business owners used to belong to Rotary, especially in small towns. What went wrong? That's a long story, and has to do with the decline in the political power of small business.

Anyway, that's a completely non-religious moral system which is still around and once was mainstream.

Comment: High-power industrial civilization may not last. (Score 5, Insightful) 168

by Animats (#47898477) Attached to: The Future According To Stanislaw Lem

Records of human civilization go back over 3000 years. Industrial civilization goes back less than 200. A good starting point is the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, the first non-demo steam passenger railway. There were earlier locomotives, but this is the moment the industrial revolution got out of beta and started changing people's lives.

Only in the last 80 years or so has human exploitation of natural resources been able to significantly deplete them. Prior to WWII, human efforts just couldn't make a big dent in the planet. Things have picked up since then.

There are lots of arguments over when we start running out of key resource. But the arguments are over decades, not centuries or millenia. The USGS issues mineral commodity summaries. There are decades of resources left for most minerals, but a lot of things run out within 200 years. Mining lower and lower grade ores requires more and more effort and energy. For many minerals, that's already happened. People once found gold nuggets on the surface of the earth. The deepest gold mine is now 4 miles deep.

For many minerals, the easy to extract ores were used up long ago. Industrial civilization got going based on copper, lead, iron, and coal found in high concentrations on or near the surface. All those resources were mined first, and are gone. You only get one chance at industrial civilization per planet.

Civilization can go on, but it will have to be more bio-based than mining-based. Energy isn't the problem; there are renewable sources of energy. Metals can be recycled, but you lose some every round. It's not clear what this planet will look like in a thousand years. It's clear that a lot of things will be scarcer.

(And no, asteroid mining probably won't help much.)

Comment: Re:Combined (Score 3, Insightful) 118

by Animats (#47897955) Attached to: The Challenges and Threats of Automated Lip Reading

The most obvious approach is to combine the 2 methods - much like humans do, especially in noisy environments.

Right. Especially since, when you're looking at your smartphone, it's looking back at you.

This would be valuable for vehicle driver speech input, which has to reject a lot of noise.

Comment: Re:'terminal in a library' (Score 1) 100

by Animats (#47883241) Attached to: Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

Define 'in'.

"In" means at an "dedicated electronic reading point" in a publicly accessable library. Not necessarily the library that contains the paper copy. The main restriction is that libraries may not use this to reduce the need to buy multiple copies to satisfy demand.

This is great for scholars who really need to see some obscure published paper from 1982, and are not near a huge academic library. It's great for people who like to read out of print novels. It won't do anything for people who want to read the latest best-seller when all the library copies are checked out.

Comment: Trolley buses. (Score 1) 482

by Animats (#47869027) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars

San Francisco still has trolley buses. They're powered from a pair of overhead wires. The current generation of buses also has some battery backup, so if they lose their trolley connection while turning, the bus can get back under the wires on battery power and reconnect.

They're a pain. Too much overhead wire, and limited routes. NYC got rid of overhead wire a century ago, which was a really good move. SF has these mostly because, at the beginning of the bus era when other cities were converting from trolleys to buses, Diesel buses lacked enough engine power to climb the hills.

Comment: Re:No, PayPal will not accept Bitcoin (Score 2) 130

by Animats (#47865095) Attached to: Paypal Jumps Into Bitcoin With Both Feet

It's even worse than that. Apparently Braintree is not accepting Bitcoin themselves. They're passing the buck to Coinbase. Merchants who want to accept Bitcoin have to get their own Coinbase account. Coinbase is a broker; they exchange Bitcoins for dollars and pay dollars to the merchant. The merchant never sees Bitcoins.

Coinbase is flaky. Their business address is a mailbox company in SF. Their address registered with the SEC and FinCen is somebody's apartment. They have a "slow pay" reputation on bitcointalk. They have terms and conditions that make PayPal look good.

Comment: COBOL - it's all about the data (Score 1) 380

by Animats (#47864813) Attached to: Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative

Nothing ever came along to replace COBOL which took data storage as seriously as COBOL did. COBOL has DATA DIVISION syntax for talking about file formats and databases. No other language has syntax for talking about the external representation of data. This is a lack.

Look at how much code goes into taking data out of an SQL database and into an object in Java or Python. And what a pain it is to change the code when the table format changes. It really is a lack that modern languages don't deal with external data well.

This is a special case of the marshalling problem. Programs are always packing data into some specified form for transport or storage. It's an operation which often needs to go fast, and is a clear win if done in hard-compiled code. Yet there's little language support for this. There are precompilers which compile Google protocol buffer definitions into C++ or Go. There are interpreters for Python which understand a SOAP protocol spec and decode, slowly, the XML accordingly. Those are add-ons. Language support for marshalling is very rare, if not nonexistent.

Comment: No, PayPal will not accept Bitcoin (Score 2) 130

by Animats (#47864075) Attached to: Paypal Jumps Into Bitcoin With Both Feet

Read the article. PayPal is not accepting Bitcoin. Braintree, which is owned by PayPal, sells a shopping cart checkout system which accepts various forms of payment. They're adding Bitcoin for merchants that want it. PayPal is not itself accepting Bitcoin, nor is eBay.

A number of shopping cart systems already offer Bitcoin as a payment method. Braintree is just catching up.

Comment: "Work camp" for appslaves is more like it (Score 1) 62

by Animats (#47839693) Attached to: Willow Garage Founder Scott Hassan Aims To Build a Startup Village

Whatever happened to that "startup house" in Kansas City? Much the same idea. Google PR made a big deal about how a 1GB network connection made it possible for a house in KC to do big-time development.

There are already a few places like this in the SF Bay Area. They're mostly sweatshops for producing appcrap. Now if the Willow Garage guy was doing robotics again, it might be interesting. But Willow Garage robotics tanked, and the people involved mostly went off to a "telepresence" startup which sells a Segway-like teleoperator with a camera and screen. It's controlled from an app, of course.

Comment: Re:Wait, what? (Score 2) 81

by Animats (#47832889) Attached to: Twitpic Shutting Down Over Trademark Dispute

It's a pretty clear infringement.

No, it's not, according to the USPTO. It passed their examination for similarity within classification. A key point is that Twitter did not have an image service at the time the Twitpic application was filed. So, under trademark rules, Twitter was in a different business. Twitter has filed an opposition, and the schedule for a trial before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was set.

Twitter was afraid that Twitpic might win.

Only God can make random selections.