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Comment: Re:No way. (Score 1) 708

by Appolonius of Perge (#37826838) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: GNU/Linux Laptops?

I had a similar experience. My laptop wouldn't suspend or hibernate, and their response was just "huh, that's odd." Then they stopped replying to email.

I've had better luck with their desktops. I needed a new desktop for my grandmother *now* and didn't want to get her a windows one, and she loves the one we got from them.

Comment: Re:That cannot logically be true (Score 3, Interesting) 160

by Appolonius of Perge (#37424108) Attached to: Modern Humans Bred With Evolutionary Predecessors In Africa
The definition of species isn't very good. It's a convenient abstraction, and works in a lot of cases, but it doesn't entirely reflect reality. There are, for example, ring species that break it, and lots of fertile hybrids between species, and even hybrids between genera, especially in plants. Often, hybrids are not fertile, but sometimes they are. But it's important to remember that fertility isn't the only barrier to inter-species mating; behavioral, temporal and geographic barriers also play a very important part.

Comment: Re:Yawn (Score 2) 291

by Appolonius of Perge (#36863966) Attached to: Internet-Based Political Party Opens Doors
This absolutely is a problem with the US voting system. In first-past-the-post voting like we have, you have to make all these horrible strategic voting choices, and third parties can damage the people they would otherwise partially support.

There are lots of other voting systems that would reduce this problem. My favorite is approval voting for its simplicity and good qualities, but lots of other methods would be leagues ahead of what we use today, from Instant Runoff, to the suite of Condorcet methods to range voting.

There was a bill in NH in January to introduce approval voting (the motivation was probably to strengthen tea party candidates without hurting republicans), but it was voted "inexpedient to legislate," which a brief investigation tells me means "not going to be brought to the floor."

Comment: Re:Not sure I understand this argument at all (Score 4, Insightful) 323

by Appolonius of Perge (#35992474) Attached to: Patent 5,893,120 Reduced To Pure Math

Nobody is arguing against protecting a specific implementation of an algorithm (although copyright already provides this protection).

The problem is that when you patent an algorithm, you don't just patent that expression of that idea, like you do with a book or a power drill. You patent all the expressions of that idea. It would be like writing a book on some topic, and then owning the rights to all books on that topic until the patent runs out. You own a whole chunk of the language, every possible expression of you idea, not just the particular one you came up with.

Likewise, when you patent an algorithm, you have patented an entire (admittedly fairly confined) branch of mathematics, having to do with expressions of that algorithm. This is distasteful, and, as the current software patent climate has shown, has terrible chilling effects on the software industry as a whole.

Comment: Re:First Post (Score 1) 154

by Appolonius of Perge (#35814806) Attached to: Chinese Censors Crack Down on Time Travel
(Mandarin) Chinese actually has a pretty restricted set of sounds, IMO (I speak it), but the raw consonants cover a lot of what English has, although it lacks a "th" or a "v" sound. Most of the awkwardness comes from the fact that it has a very restricted set of valid syllables, with no final consonants other than "ng," which makes it really hard for native Chinese speakers to pronounce western words with final consonants, and particularly consonant clusters. "Stockholm" is rendered as si-de-ge-er-mo in an attempt to cover all the consonants (and mapping er to ol because there's no final l).

Comment: Re:Please start from the beginning (Score 1) 691

by Appolonius of Perge (#35483086) Attached to: Third Blast At Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Perhaps, but remember that the first reactors at this site came online over 40 years ago, so it's possible they just didn't have the foresight. Everything costs something, and, frankly, this is a pretty reasonable failure mode for what amounts to a nearly direct hit by both one of the strongest earthquakes ever _and_ a tsunami.

Comment: Re:Please start from the beginning (Score 1) 691

by Appolonius of Perge (#35481874) Attached to: Third Blast At Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant
The way I understand it, they did immediately lower all of the control rods, but there is still enough energy released internal to the fuel rods to produce power at about 6% of capacity, which then drops off over the course of a few days, even when the control rods are lowered, which stops rod to rod reactions. Ordinarily, it is simple to cool away this much heat, but with the coolant pumps dead, they have these problems.

What sin has not been committed in the name of efficiency?