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Comment: Re:Oh boy! (Score 1) 104 104

Yeah, I've gotta say I'm within a hair of dumping Firefox. I'm not a Chrome fan, and IE is just not on. I've tried some other open source browsers and they have the usability of a jello hammer.

At this point I'd be willing to pay money for a browser that just didn't flatline my CPU every time I loaded a page, that didn't stall for tens of seconds at random intervals (this is after I turned off hardware acceleration, which make things tens times worse on Windows in 38) and is simply, utterly and completely unusable on Amazon.

Why these basic usability metrics aren't the first priority for Firefox developers is beyond me. The changelog seems full of completely irrelevant stuff that's just going to bloat things more.

Dunno... maybe it's time to hold my nose and move to Chrome, but Firefox has so many features I like and know well that I'm loathe to do so. It feels churlish complaining about software I don't pay for, but I'm not sure why Firefox is being shipped any more. It certainly isn't to satisfy user needs, because it doesn't.

Comment: Re:The Apollo Engine (Score 4, Interesting) 42 42

Not to mention that each piece of hardware is built with the assumption of there being extant suppliers for its component parts. For Apollo hardware, this is rarely true, so you'd have to retool and test for each part. The sad thing is it'd actually be cheaper to build a brand new Saturn-V equivalent than to make an exact duplicate.

This is actually one of the sorts of cases where 3d printing (no, generally not things like plastic filament extruders... meaningful printing, like laser sintering, laser spraying, etc, as well as CNC milling, hybrid manufacture techniques and lost wax casting on a 3d-printed moulds) has the potential to really come into its own: all of these sort of parts that you only ever need half a dozen of them made but might some day suddenly want some more a couple decades down the road. Another interesting advantage on this front is also that of incremental testing - I know of one small rocketry startup that has set themselves up to sinter out aerospikes in an evolutionary fashion - they print one out, connect it straight to test, measure its performance, scrap it and feed that performance data back into the generation of the next printout, in a constant model-refining process. Combustion simulations can be tricky to get right, but real-world testing data doesn't lie ;)

Comment: Re:Americans setting off fireworks... snicker (Score 1) 34 34

Whoops, I was wrong - it's nearly 2 kilograms per person here, not 1. But you've still got us beat :) (Also, it looks like America is up to 207 million pounds of fireworks per year, a big increase... so 285 grams per capita per year).

I just think it's really weird how Americans see themselves as a major-fireworks nation when they set off so few.

Comment: Re:Americans setting off fireworks... snicker (Score 2) 34 34

Oh come on, what's New Years without an ER visit? ;) But yeah, I know some of your places have fireworks bans due to drought and the like.

In case you're curious, here's what New Years looks like here. It goes on at that intensity for at least half an hour, half intensity for maybe an additional hour or so, quarter intensity for another hour, etc. All this comes after the "brennur", which is about a dozen house-sized bonfires scattered all over town.

Basically, if one can make it burn or explode and there's nobody who objects, we'll set it on fire. Often while drinking heavily ;)

Comment: Americans setting off fireworks... snicker (Score 2) 34 34

New York City for example usually sets off 20-25 tonnes of fireworks on the 4th of July. Meanwhile, little Reykjavík sets off about 300 tonnes on New Years' Eve. Americans average shooting off about 200 grams of Fireworks each over the course of the entire year, combining fireworks shows, personal usage, etc. Icelanders average about a kilogram per person just on New Years'.

And I know it's not just Iceland. I had a friend from Peru who moved to America and was terribly disappointed by what passed for a fireworks display there versus in her home country. Seriously, aren't you guys supposed to be the ones who enjoy blowing everything up? ;) Or do you get it out of your systems in the Middle East? ;)

(Note: not meant as an insult :) )

Comment: I don't see the logic here (Score 3, Insightful) 49 49

A launch site at latitude L can launch into an orbit of inclination L *or higher*. You can launch into a polar orbit from anywhere on the planet. You can only launch into an equatorial orbit from the equator. Equatorial sites have the advantage, not high latitude sites. (Also, the hemisphere doesn't matter. Something launched into low Earth orbit from 45 degrees south will be at 45 degrees north in about 45 minutes time.)

Some technicalities:
Yes, you can launch into one orbit then change plane to a lower inclination later - but doing so in LEO is very expensive. (I think the cheapest way to do it is to put yourself into a high eccentricity orbit, do the plane change at max distance from Earth, then recircularize your orbit into LEO.) ('expense' = delta-v.)
Launching from latitude L also can't launch into retrograde orbits closer than L to 180 degrees. E.g. from latitude +/- 30 degrees, you can launch directly into orbits with inclination between 30 and 150 degrees.
If you specifically want a 45 degree inclination orbit, I don't know whether launching due east from a 45 degree latitude is cheaper or more expensive than launching either NE or SE from an equatorial site. I suspect there is no difference.

Comment: Re:You know it's not going to work (Score 1) 246 246

Take SSL/TLS. Are they going to demand both parties stash the session key, or do their handshaking through a proxy logging each packet?

Probably not. You're thinking like a geek instead of a politician. Politicians don't get their way by understanding technology. They get their way by finding people who do and forcing them to obey their will.

In this case, what Cameron means by banning encryption is passing laws that say something like, "If your website is used by people in the UK, you must always be able to comply with a warrant demanding data and you must provide all data, even if it is encrypted". The exact details of how that works is neither here nor there to them.

Now of course the interesting thing is how this interacts with jurisdictions, and whether it would be enough to make GCHQ shut up (probably not). The UK may or may not be able to force the hands of Facebook/Google/etc because the UK is such a huge market and they all have offices there, but China was a huge market too and Google walked away from that anyway. So it's hard to know how things would play out. For companies that have no UK exposure it's not clear what they'd do - probably use ad-hoc blocking of any website they suspect might be used by The Evil Terrorists if it doesn't comply. Could be a mess depending on how heavily they enforce it.

Comment: Re:Nevermind the bollocks, here's David Cameron (Score 1) 246 246

All those figures say is that birds of a feather flock together. Tory voters tend to live near each other and because the UK has a political system designed a long time ago for resolving local issues, not surprisingly it doesn't translate votes to seats directly at the national level. As local politics becomes less and less relevant, of course, people feel this system no longer works well for them.

However, as you note, it would not have mattered if Labour had won, or any other party. There are NO parties in the UK that believe people should be able to keep secrets from the government. It's just not something that fits into the political worldview. And because the voting system collapses thousands of decisions down to just one every so many years, surveillance and encryption is simply not democratically decided at all. Basically the wheel of power is decided by the economy, and that's about it.

Unfortunately this is not specific to the UK and is true nearly everywhere, France is even worse for example, and the USA pretends to care but realistically lots of Congressmen would very much like total surveillance of Americans .... and only feel they can't demand it openly because of that darned constitution. That won't stop them doing it in secret though!

Comment: Re:At least he included warrants (Score 1) 246 246

Ha ha, did you think he meant warrants?

He meant warrant. Unfortunately as is often the case with the Tories, they use words differently to how ordinary people do. By warrant he means a ministerial rubber-stamp. For instance Theresa May last year alone "signed" nearly 2,800 warrants, a number that clearly shows zero attempt to investigate their legitimacy and indeed almost certainly means some anonymous flunky is signing them on her behalf.

Comment: Re:Kids don't understand sparse arrays (Score 1) 128 128

Not necessarily. It doesn't take much math to be able to do probably 99% of the programming the world demands today. System design should probably be (and probably is) left to systems architects who have a better understanding of it than the rank and file code monkeys.

If you want to be a system designer/architect/whatever, you maybe should have a degree in software engineering. If you want to be a code monkey a diploma where they ensure that you can write Java, C, add, subtract and multiply is handy. Computer science is a different thing (I realize that "computer science" in the US actually isn't a different thing).

My computer science degree consisted of a lot of math classes and things like experimental OS design, formal proofs and complexity analysis. I was too early for all the quantum stuff they do now.

Comment: Re: 200 cycles? (Score 1) 131 131

I mean, that's why you don't "purchase" a phone on a two year contract. The company gives you a "free" phone when you sign a two year contract, or a discount on a phone if you sign the contract (but the phone purchase is independent).

Maybe it's different with your company, but no cell company I've ever heard of warrants their phones for the entire contract period (unless it happens to be 1 year and the manufacturer's warranty is also 1 year).

I usually replace my phone batteries around 2 years, or a bit earlier if they need a screen replacement (as mine does now). New batteries for iPhones usually cost about $20 and take about 10 minutes to install. Five if you've got some practice.

Comment: Re:Trained vs Untrained... (Score 1) 195 195

You seem to have described the general shape of a bell curve, but you go off the rails a bit with things like "There are more people who are, statistically, absolutely average."

The mean, sometimes also called the expected value, is defined as SUM(values) / N where N is the number of values. Using that definition and the definition of a Gaussian (which is what a bell curve is) you can prove that the mean falls precisely in the middle of the distribution: there are equal numbers above and below the mean. Since results of an IQ test are distributed pretty normally, the OP is correct: half of people have an IQ that is below average (and half have an IQ that is above average). There may in fact be no individual people who are exactly average. If the measurement is continuous then this is almost certain.

That result is extensible to any symmetric distribution (of which the Gaussian is one). In fact, the reason they're called symmetric distributions is because they're symmetric about the mean.

I teach statistics, by the way.

Machines have less problems. I'd like to be a machine. -- Andy Warhol