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Comment: Re:Why stop at NYC? (Score 1) 223

by Chandon Seldon (#49343779) Attached to: Russian Official Proposes Road That Could Connect London To NYC

Russia -> Alaska is two 30 mile bridges through Diomede Island. That's like crossing the English channel, which has been done.

The Atlantic is harder. You'd want to go north of Baffin Bay to get to Greenland, and then you'd be stuck with a ~300 mile jump to Iceland, another 300 mile jump to the Faroe Islands, and a third 300 mile jump to get down to Scottland. Building a 300 mile bridge is probably possible, but...

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 2) 247

If it is, then we have to take drastic measures to avoid it, and that includes shutting down most fossil fuel power plants.

And this widely held belief is the reason why many people who *know that man-made climate change is real* deny it anyway.

Drastic action may or may not be a good idea, and the advantages need to be carefully weighed against the disadvantages. Modern industry *runs* on fossil fuels, and we can't just shut that off. Remember - food production at a scale that can actually feed everyone is only possible today through fossil-fuel based industrial methods.

If your plan is to develop and promote cleaner technologies, awesome. If it's to ban tractors, then you're on the wrong team.

Comment: Re:Please, DIAF (Score 1) 215

And who, exactly, would have been hurt by learning to use a slide rule to solve problems 40 years ago?

Sure, the slide rule skills themselves aren't terribly valuable - although it's not a bad tool to reach for occasionally if you have one on your desk - but the problems and solution methods haven't really changed. Math is still a pretty damn useful thing to know.

Programming has been pretty similar over the same timescale. Specific tools come and go, but the general problems and solutions have only evolved. Hell, if you had learned to program back when slide rules were still common you probably would have learned FORTRAN. FORTRAN is still valuable to this day, because the problems haven't changed and the solutions still work. At most, you'd move to something like C++ or OpenCL for those problems, which is a smaller change than moving from a slide rule to a graphing calculator or computer math package would be.

Comment: Re:Yes, I agree (Score 1) 564

by Chandon Seldon (#49173083) Attached to: Why We Should Stop Hiding File-Name Extensions

Systems people just need to do their goddam jobs. Workers have enough crap to worry about.

Nonsense. If you spend 6+ hours a day working at a computer, you have some responsibility to know how to use that computer.

What next? Is every company going to have an "office chair support" department so people don't have to figure out how to raise and lower their own chair? A typist pool so that nobody has to learn how to type?

Comment: Re:Unsettling science (Score 5, Interesting) 180

by Chandon Seldon (#49028903) Attached to: US Gov't To Withdraw Food Warnings About Dietary Cholesterol

It's not clear that saturated fat is bad for you either. That leaves trans fats as bad, and Omega-6's as questionable.

The trick is that "the level of cholesterol in the blood" is not a meaningful health indicator. The ratio of LDL to HDL is much more useful. And saturated fat actually makes that ratio slightly better (while raising the values of both). Thus, the best evidence indicates that saturated fat is *good* for you.

Comment: There's not much that's "as important" as GPG (Score 2) 51

by Chandon Seldon (#49002805) Attached to: GnuPG Gets Back On Track With Funding

The problem remains: it's very likely that other projects just as important as this one are probably facing the same kind of issues, but it would be nice to hear about them before they get in trouble, and not after.

Not really, because there aren't that many projects as important as GNUPG but without a foundation or something backing them up. OpenSSL is probably the next good example, but that's run by a consulting company.

Without GNUPG, no major GNU/Linux distros could security download updates. It's *the tool* that does digital signatures. It's at least as important as OpenSSL, but in that case there are viable alternatives (e.g. GNUTLS, NSS).

Really, the GNU project needs to spend some more money on maintaining the infrastructure that they sponsor. They'd get quite a bit more money if the had fundraisers directly for core GNU software (e.g. GNUPG / GCC / Bash / libc) development rather than generic funds that might get spent sending their mascott to protest at an Apple store or some nonsense. Activism is great and all, but it's a waste of time if the concrete infrastructure that the movement has built is allowed to rot.

Comment: Re:jessh (Score 2) 397

by Chandon Seldon (#48916299) Attached to: "Mammoth Snow Storm" Underwhelms

Absoutely not.

Shutting a city down for a day *guarantees* huge damages. Let's look at Boston. There are 240,000 households, each with a median income of $70,000/yr. Let's use a really simplfied model, and say that there are 365 days in a year - so each day is about $200 per household in wages. That means that shutting down the city for a guarantees a loss of $48 millon.

For salaried workers, that's a loss for their employer. For hourly workers, that's a loss for the to the household.

Without a government intervention, people would have gotten to make their own judgement calls. And they could have made that judgement call based on the weather information this morning, not what we had yesterday afternoon. Based on the actual weather, lots of people would have said "lol, no - I'm not going into work today". And others would have made the completely reasonable decision that they could make it to work fine.

Comment: Re:Nope (Score 1) 332

It's physically impossible for the human eye to discern the difference between 720p and 1080p on an average-sized television, much less the difference between 1080p and 4k.

And in the 1970's, it would have been physically impossible for the human eye to distinguish between NTSC and 720p on an "average size television" at a "normal viewing distance", because people had 14" TVs that they watched at 20 ft.

Personally, I'm a fan of the 70" TV at 6 ft, or the 30" display at 18in. And for that, I can see the difference between 1080p and 4k clearly even without my glasses.

Comment: Re:Households without a PC (Score 1) 648

by Chandon Seldon (#48861271) Attached to: Justified: Visual Basic Over Python For an Intro To Programming

I'm teaching a university level intro to programming course right now, and we have absolutely no problem supporting users with any reasonable operating system on their computer. We're using the HTDP curriculum with DrRacket. We start having the students write interactive GUI programs week two.

There are dozens of other platforms that handle cross-platform development equally easily. You can go whole-hog IDE with Java and Eclipse. You can teach Python with Idle. You can teach programming with C or C++ and the GNU toolchain (Cygwin is pretty easy to install). You could even teach C# with MonoDevelop. There's really no need to use single-platform stuff to teach basic programming.

Comment: Will be a better idea with USB-C (Score 1) 165

by Chandon Seldon (#48861203) Attached to: Your Entire PC In a Mouse

There's really only space on a mouse for one wire coming out, so if that wire is HDMI it'll be annoying to hook this thing up to a keyboard.

On the other hand, if they built this thing with a USB-C port then it could be pretty neat. You could sit down at a desk with a USB 3.1 Hub, a keyboard, and a monitor and just plug in your mouse and be ready to go. The USB 3.1 cable would happily handle power, video, and the USB keyboard.

On the other hand, it'd probably make more sense to just have a regular mouse at the desk and hook up your cellphone or something to be the computer.

Comment: Re:Bad idea (Score 5, Insightful) 385

by Chandon Seldon (#48857637) Attached to: FBI Seeks To Legally Hack You If You're Connected To TOR Or a VPN

You can't really separate those things. The simple fact of securing information is that once it's out you have zero control over where it goes.

As a company, the only outside people who should get access to your information are your lawyers and entities that have signed an NDA. Unless GCHQ is going to sign an NDA, a competent Airbus managment can not tolerate snooping.

Comment: Re:Lobby = Corruption (Score 3, Insightful) 190

by Chandon Seldon (#48790053) Attached to: Tesla vs. Car Dealers: the Lobbyist Went Down To Georgia

How else would regulators and lawmakers get input on policy?

If you're going to pass a law that effects, say, orange juice production then it's important to consult with Dole Food Company to find out what the impact of the proposed law will actually be. Nobody else knows, and you can't just guess.

Now, you know they're going to give you biased testimony. If you're trying to decide what drinks to subsidize for low-income school lunches, the (completely legitimate) scientist from Dole is going to tell you that sugar isn't the greatest for kids, but that the sugar in orange juice isn't as bad as that in Coca Cola because it's from oranges not corn. And the other nutrients in orange juice totally make up for the disadvantages of fruit sugar - you wouldn't want those disadvantaged kids getting scurvy.

The guy from Coke is going to tell you that all sugar is the same. It's just a carbohydrate, and in fact it raises blood sugar less by weight than the hot dog rolls the kids are drinking it with.

And there's no real way to get an unbiased voice. You could use government funds to fly a scientist out to the hearing, but then you have to pick who to fly out. You're a lawmaker, and you're not going to be able to pick a sugar metabolism scientist. That's not your field. All you can do is try to find a stakeholder to suggest someone. Who are you going to call? The American Medical Association now finally might send someone who says "kids shouldn't be drinking sugar", but how do you balance that against the orange juice guys and chocolate milk guys saying that the sugar isn't a big deal compared to the other nutrients in the drinks?

If you create a government science board, it'll have to hire established scientists. They got funding somewhere for their previous research. Unless you want to fund someone to find out why sugar is bad, you won't find someone who will say it. And then all you've got is the thing you asked for - it's obviously not worth anything.

Comment: Re:I'm shocked, SHOCKED! (Score 2) 190

by Chandon Seldon (#48789977) Attached to: Tesla vs. Car Dealers: the Lobbyist Went Down To Georgia

Commercial regulations are an interesting beast.

Ostensibly, they exist to improve the functioning of the market. For example, in the US packaged food is required to have nutrition information labels so that customers can distinguish different products nutritionally. And this can be very valuable. If you're on a low salt diet, it's important to be able to find the canned green beans that actually have less salt in them.

Unfortunately, they have a bunch of other effects as well. They create barriers to market entry. If you want to sell packaged food, you have to make sure every package has identical contents and then have those contents lab tested to determine the exact nutritional ratios. This means very tight manufacturing tolerances, and mean that any packaged food that says "homemade" on it is lying - unless someone has a food production factory in their house. Packaged food that isn't manufactured on a very precise assembly line is illegal. This may not be a bad thing - we expect packaged food to be consistent - but it's a thing.

And, as we see in the Tesla situation, it locks in established business models. There's no specific benefit to the consumer from the exact model of car sales we have compared to any of the other possibilities. But everyone used that model, so it became mandated by regulation in some places.

The problem comes when you take into account the way regulations get made. Regulations (and laws) are proposed by people who want some new policy enforced. Then they're evaluated based on the input of experts and stakeholders. In practice, "experts and stakeholders" means paid lobbyists, because nobody else has the time to show up for a hearing on how cars are sold, how food is packaged, or whether there should be a tariff on sugar.

The study of how this works is a branch of economics called public choice theory. Spoiler: The public interest is not the primary driver of regulation. Regulations where the benefit to existing producers from locked in business models or barriers to entry are greater than the costs are what gets enacted. Any benefit to the public is frequently a side effect, and is very carefully tuned to optimize cost vs. market advantage for the regulated industry.

Comment: Re:Free? (Score 1) 703

by Chandon Seldon (#48775431) Attached to: Obama Proposes 2 Years of Free Community College

The community college I went to had transfer programs and transfer agreements with several local 4-year schools. Every credit I took transferred (although a couple courses transferred as "generic electives" rather than to similar courses, since the 4-year school wasn't convinced by their course descriptions).

I had no trouble doing a 5-year masters in CS at a reasonable state school starting from community college.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll