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Comment Re:3000BC called... (Score 4, Interesting) 195

I've been saying for a while now that the last few decades have seen the devolution of language. I'm not a linguist, as I'm probably about to demonstrate, but the development of written language went (very) roughly like: pictograms -> consonants -> vowels -> punctuation

Each level adding a bit more subtlety and complexity while reducing ambiguity.

Computer based communication has followed this path backwards almost exactly. Punctuation was the first to suffer, followed by an increase in consonant only abbreviations, and smilies started the trend towards the final step. It looks like we've just hit rock-bottom.

The trouble is, all the previous developments in written communication happened for good reasons, which are generally not explained, taught or understood any more.

Comment Re:What's so bad about swearing, anyway? (Score 1) 698

What people don't want to hear, basically.

Medical journals on female anatomy a few centuries ago would happily use cunt as the official term, whereas, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" has almost none of the punch it originally had.

It's just one of those things that has to be learnt, unfortunately.

Comment Re:What's so bad about swearing, anyway? (Score 1) 698

The association of words with meanings is such a practiced process by most people's minds that it is automatic. Hearing or seeing a word will immediately conjure up the associated mental semantic object, without any choice for the beholder (behearer?).

Normally, that's fine. However, words designated as profanity by consensus tend to be
a) associated with substances or actions that are generally "personal" - masturbation, copulation et al are /generally/ not performed in public, and doing so often generates a similar reaction to the profanity,
b) carry connotations of the worst aspects of the aforementioned topics. Sam and Bob make love suggests an activity that is mutually enjoyed and respectful. Sam fucks Bob imagines a somewhat more one-sided arrangement, with possible violent overtones (depending on the reader).

In other words, profanity as a class will induce an automatic mental imagining of the more unpleasant aspects of activities not usually encountered in a social situation. The visual or aural equivalent of an unpleasant smell being shoved under your nose.

Admittedly, the degree of discomfort varies between individuals, much as it does with smells, but it's still impolite to be so inconsiderate of others' potential feelings.

Comment Re:Social networks (Score 1) 295

[quote]Unfortunately Facebook's power is in that everyone uses it, and that is what they use to get new users too. Alternative projects are a humble goal, but especially with social networks you are quite much locked in to a single existing network just because everyone else you know uses it, and they in turn use it because you use it too.[/quote]

Doesn't Facebook have an API? I'm fairly sure you could get a massive head start by allowing you to import contacts from, and cross-communicate with, Facebook via their own API.

The only reason I use facebook is because my friends use facebook. If I could keep the access without ever actually having to use fb itself, I'd be there like a shot.

Comment Re:Assign responsibility to those who can do.... (Score 2, Insightful) 389

It seems reasonable to assume that most if not all of those IP addresses represent infected machines. Were there some way to get them shut down, imagine how much cleaner the Internet would be. However, there IS no way to do so: the ISPs hosting those machines don't provide any meaningful or automated way to report them, there is no way to contact the owner of those machines, so they just keep on spewing and infecting the rest of the system.

Nor will ISPs ever provide an automated way of reporting such machines as things stand now: a reporting mechanism is an internalized cost, and there is no reason for an ISP to internalize that cost when they can externalize it to the rest of the Internet.

On the contrary. Claim to be a representative of the movie or recording industry, and claim list those addresses as infringing your copyright. Tada. Instant automated disconnect (well, after the third time at least..) :P

Comment Re:Don't worry! (Score 1) 389

That's okay, in another decade "The Year of Linux on the Router" will be just around the corner :P

In all seriousness, however, while there's nothing that can be done about the user making bad decisions, the OS can do a fair bit to mitigate the effect of those decisions.

Not running as a privileged user, having space, cpu and network caps in place, etc. are a start.

There always will be a trade-off between letting the user do something easily and not letting a program do something too easily. With decent UI design, education and OS support, however, that ratio can be improved.

Comment Re:News for nerds. (Score 1) 763

I used the same system for several years after losing my keys at a cinema. I could drive, open doors, etc. without the keys ever being physically seperated from my person.

I'm still absent-minded enough to have locked myself out of home a few times (forgetting to move keys when switching trousers, not forgetting trousers), but that's a much easier problem than being seperated from keys in the big wide world.

Comment Re:Try these (Score 1) 1419

You've just recommended everything I was going to :P

"The Dark is Rising" series is excellent fantasy for younger readers, and while I've not read as many of Alex Garner's stuff, what I did read I enjoyed.

I credit John Wyndham with getting me hooked on sci-fi. I've loved every book of his I've ever got my hands on.

Earthsea is also a good choice because of the style used - it feels very gentle and friendly.

I wouldn't recommend Neuromancer - I found it depressing and bleak, and the actions of the protaganist are not the sort of behaviour I'd want recommended to any child of mine.

To add something original, can I recommend "The Spiral Series" by Michael Scott Rohan? Followed, naturally, by his "Winter of the World" series (the original trilogy at least). Possibly a little darker and mature than the other recommendations, but anybody whose age is in double-digits should be able to cope with the content with no problem.

You will lose an important tape file.