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Comment Re:he should know better (Score 1) 256

That way both rights can be upheld and everyone should be happy. That's exactly what has happened in this case so I'm shedding no tears for anyone. The system is working, I see no reason for anyone to be complaining.

Except the ones who are "complaining" (in your terms) are ALSO exercising their free speech rights. Sure, a company should not be compelled to broadcast speech, but on the other hand they presumably want to attract customers. If they refuse to broadcast speech in a way that customers find unfair, the customers may not come. If enough people complain about such policies in public forums, the companies might be convinced that broadcasting the speech is in their interest. THAT is ALSO the "system working," by allowing complainers to exercise THEIR free speech rights, even if you don't agree with their perspective.

Comment Re:I might be getting old (Score 1) 234

Should I walk to the east and board an Elven ship to Valinor, for my time has passed?

Uh, the undying lands lie to the WEST. Cirdan waits for the elves on the Western shore so they can sail west! Unless you want to go hang out with the blue wizards, I don't know why you're heading east.

Comment Re:As a techie (Score 1) 110

As a techie I find it absolutely amazing that there is a taxi company that didn't accept credit cards.

First off, many (most?) black cabs in London DO accept credit cards. TFS and TFA are unclear -- but the difference is NOT that you couldn't get a black cab that accepted credit cards before. It's just now ALL black cabs will be required to accept them.

Second, do you travel much?

Even in the past year, I've been asked in at least two major cities (in the U.S. and in Europe, not London) whether I needed a cab that accepts credit cards when I ordered one. Five years ago, it was still very common to be asked that question when you ordered a cab. While many cabs accepted them, you simply couldn't depend on it -- and (if my experience is indicative) you still can't depend on it in some places, even major cities.

I agree the Uber angle doesn't warrant being mentioned here, but the article has merrit even without that.

Credit cards have been accepted in cabs for many years, but it hasn't been consistent. Now London is forcing all drivers to accept them. While this is of very mild interest to tech people I suppose, it's hardly major news. It's kinda like if a city required all licensed restaurants to accept credit cards instead of being a "cash only" business or location. Would that be of significant tech interest??

(Actually, if any city tried to do THAT, I'd imagine the discussion here would be the opposite and it'd end up in "Your Rights Online" -- "How DARE they force us into a cashless economy! Today it's forcing businesses to accept credit, tomorrow it's no cash allowed! My right to anonymous transactions must be upheld!!!")

Comment Re:The dark matter between their ears (Score 1) 160

unless we change the law of gravity [to something enormously more complex - c.f. epicycles]... No dark matter is the epicyclic solution.

I completely agree with your post. However, I really wish people would stop using the "epicycle" as something to denote ridiculous complexity.

The reduction of epicycles is NOT what drove the Scientific Revolution. Some facts:

- Medieval astronomers did NOT add "epicycles on epicycles." Owen Gingerich, one of the foremost historians of science and perhaps the world's greatest expert on Copernicus has spent nearly 50 years trying to stamp out this myth, which seems (according to him) to have originated with some ignorant writings in the early 1800s which had no clue how the earlier astronomical systems worked. If people actually understand how the system works and how the tables medieval astronomers used were constructed, everyone would easily comprehend why it wouldn't have been basically impossible (in a practical computational sense) for medieval astronomers to add "epicycles on epicycles," even if they wanted to.

- Even if medieval astronomers wanted to do this, they simply didn't make the required number of observations necessary to construct such a system. And even if they did the observations, their models of the sky weren't accurate enough to do the sorts of measurements necessary to see planetary position error. (The only way they could tell planetary position was in reference to the fixed stars, but those experienced precession over the centuries and Ptolemy's model of precession was screwed up and had inaccurate medieval corrections thrown in... that didn't exactly work well.) Bottom line: even if they wanted to measure planets with greater accuracy to construct such a system, they couldn't.

- The main reason why anyone got interested in these problems in the 1500s is because there were a few observations where Mars was REALLY out of whack (like 5-6 degrees) with the original Ptolemaic predictions. which happened at conjunctions. Copernicus was driven toward his system after one of these "Martian disasters." Tycho Brahe did observations of the same periodic problem in 1593, which probably led him to tell Kepler to work on the Mars problem.

- Copernicus did NOT eliminate epicycles. In fact, as he tried to make his system more accurate, he actually ended up introducing MORE epicycles than the standard Ptolemaic model.

- Kepler's greatest move toward greater accuracy was achieved by use of old Ptolemaic idea of equants to offset the earth's position around the sun correctly, which produced a MAJOR improvement in predictions, even still using the old epicycle model. The need for epicycles was finally abolished with Kepler's adoption of elliptical orbits, but this correction was much smaller, perhaps only about 1/10th of the improvement in accuracy compared to Kepler's previous advances still assuming the equant/deferent/epicycle models.

TL;DR: Epicycles were good "science" that more than adequately fit the data for ancient and medieval astronomers. Nobody was putting MORE epicycles in to make corrections to the old model, except arguably Copernicus himself. Nobody thought of replacing the old Ptolemaic model until people started doing enough observations to notice a real problem, and after that solutions were proposed almost immediately. And the improvement Kepler made by finally getting rid of epicycles was REALLY small (comparatively), especially seen in contrast to the corrections introduced by adopting heliocentrism and displacing the earth's orbit (both of which were still done in the old geometric system which required epicycles).

So, the modern practice of using "epicycles" as derogatory parlance for a bad, overly complex model doesn't make much sense.

But don't listen to me. You can listen to Owen Gingerich himself describe what he calls "The Greatest Myth in the History of Astronomy", with an available lecture here

Comment Re:Common keyboard for Windows and OS X (Score 1) 491

Given that things like cut and paste are totally different key strokes between Windows and Mac, worrying about key placement seems kinda pointless.

Huh? In most Mac apps, the shortcuts are Command-X and Command-V. On most Windows apps, the shortcuts are CTRL-X and CTRL-V.

Your pinky just needs to move one key over. It's annoying as heck. I use a Mac at work (because that's what they give me), but I need a Linux virtual machine to get certain work done. It's a pain in the neck because on the same freakin' keyboard, I need to put my pinky in two difference places depending on what workspace I'm on. About 50% of the time I get it wrong and have some random other thing pop up that I didn't want. (And yes, I could go and try to change default keyboard shortcuts, but some of those are application-specific, and it's a pain.)

Comment Re:Laptop stuff (Score 1) 491

Back in the mid 90's I really appreciated the external analogue volume control on my Thinkpad. One quick swipe before booting up to turn the sound off ensured no embarrassingly loud chime when Windows XP started.

I agree with you that analog volume control is a good thing.

But I'm very confused:

(1) If you were "embarrassed" by the Windows XP chime, why not disable it (or disable system sounds completely)?? That's one of the first 3 things I do when installing an operating system -- I don't need my computer to beep at me just to say, "Hello, I've booted your OS!" Obviously you disliked it enough to find it "embarrassing"; why have it at all?

(2) Even so, I also still can't figure out how you were even booting Windows XP "back in the mid 90s." It didn't exist yet.

Comment Re:Though spoiled is a likely side effect... (Score 2) 162

You did not look very hard - that article is talking about something very different, kids 3 to 11. Babies and toddlers need a lot more attention than older kids.

Not only that. The article implies that extra time with kids is mostly detrimental when parents are stressed during that time. Extrapolating to infants, where Moms of newborns tend to be really stressed, it seems like having an extra hand (like a father) around would significantly reduce maternal stress, which the quoted study implies would be a good thing.

Comment Re:it was just too long (Score 4, Insightful) 174

3 movies for such a short story was what killed it. I mean did it have to take 1 whole movie just reach the damn mountain?

Agreed. Before I even saw the first movie, I said, "I'd rather have a 9-movie series doing The Lord of the Rings rather than 3 long movies about The Hobbit." There just wasn't enough material and enough stories to fill the time.

Anthony Lane, after alluding to Wagner's seemingly never-ending "Ring Cycle" of operas, in his review of the first Hobbit movie in The New Yorker probably summed it up best, concluding:

As Bilbo says, nearing the end of the book, "Roads go ever ever on." Tell me about it.

Comment Re:Dear Editors (Score 1) 460

So which one of those goes to the article that the summary is about? It's the second! That's so counter-intuitive! Seriously! Why do I have to click through your links to figure out what you're linking to?

Use a browser on a real computer. Hover over link. Discover that second link is the one with a URL which matches the opening of the first sentence. Click second link.

It's only the people trying to use phones/tablets/etc. who are screwed... both by their non-discoverable OS and by Slashdot and its clickbaiting.

Comment Re:I've watched as the iTunes UI deteriorated.. (Score 2) 460

Okay, but iOS i still easier to use compared to Android, which is why I steer my parents and any other people who are likely to want computer support toward iOS devices whenever it makes sense.

My mom was more productive on her iPad after a week of using it than she was with her Galaxy S2 after 3 years.

And I can tell you stories about how my parents have continuously screwed up everything they have done with their iPad for the past 5 years. So what? -- older people are going to have trouble with lots of these interfaces, because there's nothing there to explain anything. What's wrong with having TEXT buttons or menus (even as an OPTION) on a large iPad screen? You don't have the excuse of "It's a phone; there's no room." There is room. And then I could tell them to go to menu X, select clearly labeled word Y and then choose option Z. Instead, I have to spend 5 minutes every time saying, "Swipe up from the bottom... no, you accidentally swiped the wrong way... no, you must have hit the wrong thing, go back... ah, you finally swiped up, now hit that blue button with the funny trapezoid on the front of the rounded rectangle... it disappeared? Oh you took too long, swipe up again... [repeat actions of the past 2 minutes]... what? you don't know what a trapezoid is? We had this discussion the last five times you did this... what airplane? why are you talking about an airplane -- you're in airplane mode again, how did you do that?... let's turn that off and start from the beginning..."

Comment Re:I've watched as the iTunes UI deteriorated.. (Score 5, Insightful) 460

It is good to see others who have also noticed that Apple may have lost its way regarding user-centric design.

TFA misses the point. Apple hasn't "lost its way" -- most of the design changes are clearly on purpose. It follows the classic cult paradigm of keeping esoteric knowledge for the "in-crowd."

I admire Apple, and I use many of its products, so don't dismiss me as a "hater." Hear me out. First, Apple made inroads into certain cultural groups and convinced them that "Mac" was superior to clunky Windows. Then those cultural trendsetters came to be "believers" in all things Apple. A few really good products (e.g., the early iPod designs) helped cement this.

Next step: make your interfaces LESS discoverable, and more dependent on "in-crowd knowledge." This reinforces the cult mindset, creating even more of a feeling that Mac/Apple product users are "in the know" -- knowledge about how to use things is passed between people directly by demonstration, rather than discoverable on your own or with a manual. (No manuals shipped with products anymore either, so unless you specifically go online and try to download one, you're forced to network with other Mac/iPod/iPhone/iPad/etc. users to figure out how to do anything.)

This is the creation of a sort of what cultural historians and sociologists sometimes call an "Imaginary Community" of like-minded folks. You divide up the world into "Mac users" and everyone else.

But non-discoverable interfaces also have the side effect of creating patentable UI structures (like icon sets, or special gesture interfaces), which other non-Apple companies will have to license, if they hope to be compatible with Mac users' expectations. That's the logic likely behind all of the big companies pushing obscure graphical icons ("What the heck does that weird trapezoid with a swirly do?") -- the MS Office Ribbon, Gmail getting rid of text on buttons, and Apple are all trying to win at the same game: they want users to get "locked in" and used to their particular interface, which is only understandable with practice, deliberately NOT discoverable. Discoverable interfaces allow people to switch companies/software/products -- the big tech companies want you to be so stuck with their product that you won't even know how to use another's product.

That's the reason behind TFA's main complaint -- UI design is no longer about ease of use. It is only about that when a company wants to become established. After that, these companies want to force customers to stay, which means creating custom "parts" which are not interchangeable with anyone else's. In the old days, those parts were literal physical things; now they are stuff like icon sets and specific learned (and hopefully patentable!) non-discoverable gestures and UI tricks.

IBM lost the war back in the 80s when it tried to be an open standard for everyone, which just led other companies to pull ahead after all of IBM's hard work in setting the standard. All tech companies learned that lesson.

So, TFA completely misses the point. As TFA notes, Apple products strive to be beautiful -- that's part of the "wow" factor that makes you want to join the cult. Then you join and learn all the esoteric gestures (used to be secret handshakes, now it's how you swipe with three fingers and click or whatever), which you pass along to your fellow cult members. You also learn to decode the secret symbols of the cult by clicking on weird ambiguous pictures rather than self-explanatory words.

Apple knows exactly what it's doing. Too bad the author of TFA hasn't figured it out.

Comment Re:Robotic Plant Overlords (Score 1) 39

I, for one, wholeheartedly welcome our Robotic Plant Overlords.

I don't. At least there will be warning. Just watch out for these plants demanding blood. They are known to prey on unsuspecting awkward antisocial guys and make them extravagant promises, so this is particularly relevant to the Slashdot crowd.

I quote an ancient warning song of the bards passed down for generations:

They may offer you fortune and fame,
Love and money and instant acclaim,
But whatever they offer you:
Don't feed the plants!

They may offer you lots of cheap thrills,
Fancy condos in Beverly Hills,
But whatever they offer you:
Don't feed the plants!

I have even heard tell of an old-fashioned morality play which shows the consequences of ignoring this advice.

Comment Re:Run A Shady Business, Meet Shady People (Score 1) 18

Academics themselves are not blameless for allowing this situation to arise.

True, and some academics have taken it upon themselves to found new independent open-access journals and such. We just had a story here about it a couple weeks ago.

The problem is for junior academics, or those still looking to obtain a better job, you don't really have much choice in the matter assuming you want to keep your grants and labs and get tenure. In most fields, there are "high impact" journals, and grant review boards and tenure review committees look for those journals. Publishing in some new-fangled journal with no history or reputation will just lead those doing job reviews to scratch their heads... not to mention that your work is less likely to be cited if it's read by nobody because people in your field don't even know about this new journal.

I agree with you that academics should take a more active role in dismantling this system. But the reality is that the academics who depend on journals aren't really in a place to break out of the system without potentially jeopardizing their careers, while those academics who are already senior enough and/or famous enough to not have to worry about that also have better things to do with their time... like actually doing important research.

Publishing nowadays is sort of a "necessary evil" in science. The reality is that academics mostly know others in their subdisciplines and can share work directly and instantly via email or whatever, making journals less important than they were years ago for actual progress of science.

If anything, I'd also blame the gradual shift in higher education toward scoring job performance based on publication numbers and "impact" scores, which is partly coming through administration (demanding a sort of standard metric to evaluate whom to hire and to tenure). I've seen many situations where beloved professors who are great teachers, great assets to the university community (in terms of service, collegiality, etc.), great mentors who have probably mentored more students to publish reams of stuff, etc. be kicked out the door because they didn't publish enough or in high-enough profile publications. Three of the smartest people I know in one field were denied tenure, sometimes at multiple universities, for this reason.

So until there's a systematic change, it's hard for individual academics to stand up and refuse to participate in this publication game or to radically alter it on their own.

Comment Re:**appy 30th Birthday, Windows! (Score 1) 248

What's your fondest memory of Bill Gates Blue Screen-of-death that could?

The Olympic one is excellent, though I'd also have to go for the classic demo of Windows 98 which actually had Bill Gates standing right there when it happened.

Bill: "... That must be why we're not shipping Windows 98 yet..."

Absolutely, Bill. Absolutely.

Unfortunately... you did ship that (though 98 wasn't that bad). But then Windows ME. And then Vista. And then Windows 8. You keep doing it.

Comment Re:How about fixing the systems? (Score 1) 143

Sorry to self-reply, but I should clarify that I believe most if not all Western countries have officially adopted the Gregorian calendar. But a number of countries with strong presence of Orthodox Christians have official churches which have instead adopted the Revised Julian. There have been some politicians in these countries which have claimed the official calendar is not Gregorian...

Obviously it's probably unlikely that anyone is going to care about this stuff 800 years from now. It's still an amusing bit of weird calendar discrepancies.

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles