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Comment: They didn't model (predictable) human behavior (Score 1) 244

Their model basically assumes that you - the person who read the study - would be the only one who would flee to some location where you expect to be safe, and everyone else would stay where they were. If humans really were like that then by all means, follow the advice. But of course, many other humans would react to a zombie apocalypse by fleeing to the country. Quite probably, some would bring infected (still asymptomatic) victims along, which would infect others in the "isolated" sanctuary. How many residents from LA would drive to Death Valley because it seems like a place where zombies wouldn't be? Well guess what: That immigration wave is exactly how zombies get there. A better model would account for this predictable human flight behavior before arriving at a final recommendation.

Comment: Re:This is creepy! (Score 4, Interesting) 100

by Dr. Spork (#49118631) Attached to: Police Use DNA To Generate a Suspect's Face
I think we'd feel much better about it if we used this tool to remove suspicion from people, rather than to add suspicion. For example, this tool could probably rule out that the suspect is black or asian, that it's not a woman, it's not someone over 5'9, etc. Using the tool to generate a crappy portrait is the real bad move, because if you look like that, people will think that's evidence for your guilt. If this tool were only used to exonerate people and to remove them from the suspect list, who could object?

Comment: Re:The Universe is a simulation (Score 1) 183

by wytcld (#49082221) Attached to: Theory of Information Could Resolve One of the Great Paradoxes of Cosmology

The concept of "simulation" still requires a reality in which simulation occurs. If nothing exists outside the simulation it's not, in any meaningful sense, a simulation. It's just reality. Also, those who experience a simulation exist outside of it. There is no experiencing of the weather going on within your computer simulation of the weather - although you could do some sort of immersive VR and experience it. But that's because you're in the world it's being simulated from, and do not owe your own existence to the simulation.

Comment: Bio data for interstellar colonization ship (Score 1) 36

by Dr. Spork (#49081725) Attached to: Storing Data In Synthetic Fossils

This might be useful if we ever build very slow, small and cheap interstellar colonization ships. Basically, I'm picturing something like a seed from which an entire civilization could hatch. In practice, it would be a tiny fabrication plant, plus lots of data. Once it arrives, the thing would use material from an asteroid or a comet to build larger and more specialized 3D printers, which would turn asteroids into a habitable space station, bioreplicators, etc. The bioreplicators would produce living germ cells from DNA data, artificial wombs would gestate them, and very fancy AI would parent the kids that come out. It's fun to think about how tiny the initial payload could be so that it's still big enough to eventually get the job done. Probably, the best way to do it would be to start with a single crude and tiny 3D printer, which is able to make a larger, better 3D printer, and so on.

Obviously, a big proportion of the mass of this thing would be the storage medium that carries all the data, because you won't just need software, videos, libraries, etc. You'll also need genetic info for an adequately diverse population of humans, plus an adequately diverse population of all the other living things those humans will need and want to have around, like gut bacteria, broccoli, earthworms, butterflies, kitties, etc. That's a lot of data, so you obviously want a robust and low-mass storage medium for it. The trip might take thousands of years, and space can be nasty. But if this DNA-in-glass medium can reliably last millions of years - more at 3 degrees K, I presume - maybe it would do the job. It would be really cool if it turned out to be possible to reconstitute our civilization in another solar system from a seed no larger than a trashcan. I don't see any reason to think it's impossible to go even smaller, maybe to the size of a beer can. The smaller it is, the easier it is to accelerate and decelerate. If it rides a laser beam on the way out, and decelerates with solar sail (like a parachute), it might be practical to make thousands of these rather cheaply. Any seeds that germinate could then make thousands more. (I think Freeman Dyson once discussed an idea like this.)

Comment: Overstatement (Score 5, Insightful) 286

by rgmoore (#49075555) Attached to: 1950s Toy That Included Actual Uranium Ore Goes On Display At Museum

Calling it the most dangerous toy seems like a gross overstatement. Yeah, Uranium ore is scary, but it's a fairly low-level radiation source and as an alpha emitter it's only dangerous internally. Chemical and physical hazards are a lot more serious. Toys with lead paint that kids were likely to chew on were probably more dangerous, not to mention ones that could catch kids on fire (ordinary chemical sets) or get them run over in traffic (like bicycles).

Comment: Can't prisoners mail out letters? (Score 3, Interesting) 176

I know this sounds terribly traditional, but what could be wrong with sending a friend a letter in which you give instructions to post an update to social media on your behalf? I'm sure that all letters from prison would be read to make sure they're not carrying out something illegal, but it's not illegal for the friend to post an online update, right?

Or how about this: The friend starts a blog called "Letters From Sam in Jail" and just posts a scan of each letter received. That's a clear case where the prisoner is (indirectly) blogging, but nobody is doing something wrong. Right?

Comment: Re:Been there, done that (Score 1) 214

by wytcld (#49006159) Attached to: Verizon Sells Off Wireline Operations, Blames Net Neutrality Plans

Verizon sold their New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine landlines to FairPoint in a way that had huge tax advantages for Verizon. FairPoint took on so much debt that it went into bankruptcy within a year, as Verizon and FairPoint knew was likely. It's come out of that, but there's currently a strike against it going on several months now which it has been refusing to even negotiate on, preferring to bring in scabs from outside the region. The cause of the strike is that FairPoint wants to lower wages and drastically cut benefits. The union has said it will accept some cuts, but no so much. FairPoint was severly short staffed and months behind in basic line maintenance even before the strike.

There was nothing said about net neutrality when Verizon set up this scam.

Comment: How (Score 4, Informative) 178

by rgmoore (#49001087) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: With Whom Do You Entrust Your Long Term Data?

How should I make sure that I retain access to today's data 20 years from now?

If you really want to be able to keep your data that long, you need a serious plan. You need to back up everything to at least two separate devices other than your main storage, and you need to keep at least one of those devices off-site so your data can't be destroyed in a local disaster. You need to test your backups regularly to know if/when your medium is failing.

When a medium fails- or if you think it might be about to fail- get a replacement that uses more modern technology, and make a fresh copy. If you are ever about to replace your computer with a new one that can't read your old backup medium, buy newer media that does work with the new computer and make copies while you can still read the old ones. If you keep doing that regularly, you can always have a good copy that will work with your computer. It's more effort than copying to the cloud and trusting, but it means you're in control of your own data.

The real key is to keep making regular backups and regular tests. If you expect to be able to put something into a box and still use it 20 years later, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. You have to keep copying, testing, and updating your technology in order to have a serious hope of keeping up. If you do that, though, you have a very good chance of keeping access to your data at least as long as you have software that will still read it. I have 20+ year old data at work that I can still access because we've been careful about moving it to new media, and because the company that wrote the software is good about backward compatibility.

Comment: Monkeys could do it too (Score 2) 187

by Dr. Spork (#48993329) Attached to: The Poem That Passed the Turing Test
The point is that a computer probably generated a whole lot of poetry, and some poor human had to sift through it and pick the least awful poem. So, really, it's a human who did all the hard work anyway. You give enough monkeys enough typewriters, and hire some humans to sort through their "work" and you will eventually get something interesting too.

Comment: Re:Fraud is ok as long as you are honest about it (Score 1) 412

by rgmoore (#48972171) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

Only if your claims are too vague to test. If you make a claim that's specific enough to be tested scientifically, you need to have an actual scientific study to back it up. For example, POM just lost on appeal because they made specific medical claims about pomegranate juice that they couldn't back up with results from randomized clinical trials. So if you want to sell expensive placebos, you need to limit your claims to something vague enough that it can't be tested definitively.

Comment: Would it still be ridesharing without a driver? (Score 2) 98

by Dr. Spork (#48968113) Attached to: Google To Compete With Uber, Uber To Explore Autonomous Transportation

If Google cabs come pick you up and you pay them to drive you somewhere, Google is running a straight up taxi service. It's not ridesharing in any sense. Maybe Google would allow private car owners to put their driverless cars into the system, and keep a portion of the fares, but I don't see this as being very motivated. Google will have the driverless cars first, private competitors in their system would only drive down prices, and then there's the legwork of making sure that all the privateer taxis are safe and insured.

I love the idea of driverless taxis, and I'd love to live in a city where they were the only passenger cars allowed on roads. Unfortunately, I think that idiots will ruin the idea - for example, by using these things as convenient "date rape cabins".

Comment: Re:Alright, time to pirate it! (Score 4, Insightful) 134

by Bonker (#48949165) Attached to: Inkscape Version 0.91 Released

The GIMP *wishes*.

Inkscape is one of those 'Best of Breed' open source apps where it's pretty much all you need to do the task you're downloading it for. It beats the ever-living SNOT out of Illustrator on simplicity, ease-of-use, and, of course, price. You're not locked into Adobe's new SasS model or a huge license fee, yet can create great looking vector art with fantastic compatibility.

Compare to, say, PuTTY, or VLC Media Player. They do a single job, and they do it REALLY freakin' well.

GIMP does not. GIMP's UI is STILL a cluster@#$@ after years and years of development and user feedback, and the last time I checked, it still lacked the support for color matching that would make it viable for creating images that were print-ready.

Frankly, if you're working on Windows, you are far more behooved to use Paint.Net than you are The GIMP.

Comment: Re:not the point (Score 2) 375

by rgmoore (#48925519) Attached to: Why Screen Lockers On X11 Cannot Be Secure

Even if the switch to Wayland happens, most people will still be stuck with using XWayland constantly for a decade.

They may be stuck with XWayland for a handful of apps that aren't being updated, but the work to let modern desktop environments run on Wayland instead of X11 is quite far along. Once the basic KDE and GNOME libraries are ported to Wayland, anything that uses those higher level libraries rather than talking directly to X will run under Wayland without needing any intermediary like XWayland. It's possible to log in and run under Wayland rather than X11 today; I have done it on my Fedora box.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.