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Comment No question. The shipping container. (Score 1) 330

For my money, the most disruptive technology of the last century - the one that has genuinely done THE most to change the society we live in and the lives of everyone in it - is the humble standardized shipping container. Containers and the infrastructure to handle them mean that we can now ship immense quantities of goods of all shapes, sizes and types from one side of the planet to the other, at a cost per mile per item that's so small it's barely measurable. They mean that it is, literally, cheaper now to move many manufactured goods from one side of the planet to the other, than it used to be to ship them 10 miles down the road. As a manufacturer, it means that, in principle, you can source your materials and parts from anywhere on the globe. Want to manufacture part of your product in Europe, but assemble it in Asia? Do it. Ban shipping containers tomorrow, and the global economy would grind to a shuddering halt in days. And it doesn't matter what other technology you care to point to as a candidate - it's shipping containers that make it globally available. Head and shoulders the winner.

Comment Re:Don't overthink it (Score 1) 174

Back them up.

I have slides that my parents took. Sadly, the colour decayed in many of them, and my mother threw far too many of the "worst" ones out (including ones of several episodes in my life that I'd love to have the record of now). A real shame, as when they came into my possession on her death, and I scanned such as were left so that various branches of the family could have copies, the scanner software was perfectly capable of restoring the colour balance. But the message is still there - slides decay, and they're irreplaceable. Take a backup.

I keep my important files under single directories on a hard drive on each of my two desktop machines. I back them up regularly with an incremental backup, excluding deletes, to (a) a second hard drive internal to the machine, and (b) an external hard drive. I don't delete images from my cameras until I'm happy that I've backed them up successfully, both internally and externally. I also swap to new directories on the backup drives from time to time and do a new, complete backup, and to new drives every couple of years or so. I check-sample the content of the originals and backups every once in a while. I can't guarantee that I won't lose something important eventually, but in practice I have quite a few copies of just about anything you care to name, and it's going to take something pretty extreme to do it.

Comment Yes, but. (Score 3, Interesting) 139

Presuming they were able to detect the CMB - which would NOT look the same in all directions - and "correctly" identify it (i.e., presuming that that's what we've done), they would then also be able to calculate their own relative movement, and correct for it. So they'd reach pretty much the same answer that we do.

Comment Re:Where are the old men in limos? (Score 1) 258

It's an utterly traditional British usage - deliberately OTT stereotyping to make a point. We have: "White Van Man". "Mondeo Man". "'Disgusted' of Tumbridge Wells". "The Man on the Clapham Omnibus" (a term met in the courts here, no less). "NIMBYs" ('Not In My Back Yard'). Even, going back a bit further, "Colonel Blimp". Probably half a dozen more that don't spring to mind right now. They all use exaggerated characterisation to draw an impression of a certain type of person. You'd need to be either foreign or pretty new to the UK not to understand that the speaker isn't using the description literally.

Comment Only going to get worse (Score 4, Interesting) 262

OK, so there's a security patch available. So what? "We regret that you crashed at 85mph yesterday - please download our latest patch?" The problem is not the software per se, but the mere fact that there's external access at all. Because there's simply no such thing as "flawless" code. And the internet's been around long enough to show us that, if there's any legitimate way in, people who want to abuse the system will get in as well, and find a way to subvert it. And right now all we're seeing are "white hat" attacks; just wait until the black hat guys start getting creative.

Comment A CIO who doesn't know his company, clearly (Score 1) 208

1) How does a CIO NOT know that IBM has been using Agile for years, and

2) Why does he think that it's suddenly going to make a difference NOW?

IBM has (supposedly) been using Agile for at least 7 years - I spent a couple of decades inside an IBM software lab until I was purged in the infamous "Project Waltz" in 2011. Agile was management "golden-bullet-of-the-month" for at least the last 3 years of that - and just as ineffective as all the others that I'd seen come and go. My perception was that it was largely inappropriate to the scale of code (millions of lines) that we were producing and managing. Much of what was good about it was the stuff paid lip-service to but otherwise ignored; most of what was bad about it was almost anything that management could see and enforce (scrums in particular were mostly a pointless and expensive waste of time - a day or more of cumulative development effort spent daily so that everyone could report on stuff that affected no-one else, and management could put a tick in the box). Frankly, it was a mechanism by which development was obliged to churn out code with less thought in design and less opportunity for customer-scale testing, on a release schedule that no customer would want to follow, in a way that middle management could spin to the higher echelons as positive accomplishment. I'd really love to see the APAR (customer problem report) rates now that that code's had time to get out there and fester; I strongly suspect that they're - to choose a word at random - "interesting". But, naturally, I'm long in the tooth and jaundiced about new-fangled stuff (mostly because I've seen all the hype 20+ times before, and seen the vast difference between that and reality - but experience and cynicism doesn't count when management is clutching at straws).

Comment Re:Thanks Sir Terry (Score 3, Informative) 299

I'd realised of late that Sir Terry's light would probably go out soon, and that there couldn't be all that many more Discworld books to come; It's still sad to know it's happened. Thanks for the many, many hours of pleasure, Terry; I shall miss keeping an eye on the bookshop window your latest book.

Comment Not all money is equal (Score 1) 480

First and foremost, the main point of the original post notes that playing the lottery (like many other frivolous actions) has entertainment value that has to be factored in. Unless you never, ever, spend money on frivolities - a movie night simply because, "Why not?"; a "better" bottle of wine; a new handbag to go with the 50 you already have; that scroll-saw with all the features you'll never actually use - you frankly have no right to ignore that side of things. And on the weeks where the jackpot is huge, that entertainment value is high; well worth the meagre cost.

Secondly, though. Straight financial analyses of ROI assume that all money is equal. It isn't. If you're penniless and starving, £10 could save your life. Whereas, if the courts have given you until tomorrow to find another £20,000 or go to jail, £10,000 isn't going to be much use.

Similarly. If your finances are such that you can expect to earn lottery-win figures across your life, or to at least consistently have enough finance (whatever "enough means") to go do the things you want to, then, sure, playing the lottery for financial reasons alone is stupid (playing it for others, which is what the OP is about, is another matter entirely). Or at the other end, if you have so little money that the cost of a ticket will make a noticeable dent in your finances, then, again, it's something you should clearly think twice about.

If you are in the middle ground between those two extremes, though - and a LOT of people are - then simple maths isn't what it's about. Ticket costs are negligible - to the extent that buying or not will affect your life, they might as well be zero. Whereas a big win is extremely unlikely but potentially life-changing - out of all proportion to the straight numbers. Sure, the overwhelming probability is that most every tickets bought will be money you'll never see again. So what? You can afford it, and nothing less risky that you can do with that ticket money is going to give you any chance at all of such a life-changing win (as so many lotteries like to point out, "you have to be in it to win it"). Why on earth wouldn't you play?

Comment Re:Perfect? Really? (Score 1) 340

No. That's how PEOPLE play, because it's a complex game and their opponents are imperfect (both in their playing abilities and their ability to conceal their intent), so it's a productive strategy for someone skilled. But it's not optimal (not least because someone with more skill can turn it against you).

The fact is, it's sometimes possible to mathematically analyse a game and find THE optimal strategy - one that will give the best return over time whatever happens, whatever the opponents do, and even if the opponents know exactly what that strategy is. That's what these guys say they've found. Such strategies not only routinely, by the way, include such things as "When you have (this) combination of cards, you should bluff 30% of the time" - such weighted, unpredictable decisions are absolutely crucial in stopping opponents working out a counter to the strategy. Such a robot not only WOULD bluff, but it would do so entirely randomly, and at just the frequency calculated to get the best results WHATEVER you choose to try to do to outsmart it. And the best you'd be able to figure out or know would be that, say, it bluffs on a certain type of weak hand 3 times in 10 - but that you have absolutely NO way of knowing whether or not it's currently doing that beyond that 3 in 10 probability. And in fact, your truly optimal response - the one likely to give you the best return over time - is almost certainly also going to be along the lines of, say, "raise x% of the time, fold y%".

Playing such a bot would conceivably be quite boring, because the bot itself almost certainly wouldn't be playing the people - because once you start to do that, you're opening yourself up to be outplayed by someone smarter than yourself, i.e. your strategy may well be very effective under some circumstances, but it's no longer optimal. And from your side of the table, you'd be getting no tells at all (so, whilst this is supposedly an optimal strategy for a robot, there may not actually be a human out there who could implement play it, even if they could get their head around it). You'd be getting nothing exploitable in the way of play style - because everything you might choose to do has already been implicitly figured into the calculation of "optimum" play, and any attempt to beat the optimal strategy typically results in you losing more.

One weakness in such analyses can be things like limits. How much money did everyone bring to the table, for instance? The caveat on this claim is "given enough hands" - in other words, the strategy merely guarantees that, ON AVERAGE, it won't lose more than it wins. That certainly can't stop it being wiped out in any particular game by a run of sensible but random decisions that nevertheless go against it and produce a sequence of losses.

Comment Re:Board Game design (Score 1) 155

An interesting observation. Scrabble, again, is way down the BGG list (#1045 today). I suspect, and entirely without evidence other than personal experience, that it's perhaps limited (beyond the "known it since forever" phenomenon that doubtless down-rates ALL "familiar" games**) by the need for a very specific set of word-related skills (a rich vocabulary, good spelling, a knack for anagrams and the lie) to stand any chance of doing well against a half-decent player. Without those - or if your regular opponent is just too good - you're not really likely to form the sort of "I enjoyed doing that, I want to do it again!" attachment that brings you back for more (or gets you to rate it highly, when you're considering what you think of it as a game).

For my money, it's still an excellent game - but it's also somewhat niche, and I haven't actually played it in years. In practice, with any particular group of players there's almost almost something else I'd rather play that is likely to be more "fun" on the day.

(**Even quite mediocre games can do quite well in the BGG ratings for a short while, if they're sufficiently novel. The real test is their staying power, as people become used to them and votes pile up.)

Comment Re:Advance to Go (Score 1) 155

I'm sure it's easy to write off the fact that so many people dislike a game you're keen on as "snobbery", but in truth you have things backwards. There may be the occasional elitist idiot out there who is genuinely "smug" about their preferences - every hobby has them - but if so, they're few and far between. We often play downright "silly" games; we have nothing to be smug about. No, It's not a case of the hobby looking down on games played by "the masses"; it's "the masses" still buying lousy games like Monopoly simply because games are "for kids", Monopoly and Risk are pretty much all they know, and they're almost entirely unaware of how much other, far better stuff there is out there. "Want to play a game after Christmas lunch?" "Sure. How about that 'Settlers of Catan?' thing we bought and never played?" "We can't play that, we're all far too tired for something new, and Granny won't want to learn new rules. Get the Monopoly out, everyone already knows that." Well yes, everyone already knows that. And most of them kind of hate it, too, and remember the rows after last year's game - but they play anyway, to be sociable, and miss out yet again on trying one of the better games of recent years. And another long, boring Christmas afternoon wends its weary way to the almost inevitable arguments, rows, tears and recriminations.

And yes, I'll grant that it's quite possible that Monopoly and Risk suffer in the BGG ratings from the fact that everyone has known them for so long and isn't greatly keen to replay, ad nauseam, games from their childhood. But they're also unpopular because, by today's standards, they simply aren't very good games - and Monopoly, in particular, is downright lousy. (Hardly unexpected; the game was designed a century ago, and the last 40 years in particular have seen a LOT of experiment into what sort of mechanisms work in a game and what don't. I've seen it first hand; I was a big games player back in the 70s, and truth to tell many of the games I thought were excellent back when I started playing still play OK today, but ALSO look pretty lousy by today's standards.)

If Monopoly and Risk were launched today as fresh new commercial offerings, I can see Risk charting quite well initially, before dropping down the charts - but frankly it's hard to see Monopoly getting any traction at all, because there's simply not enough to it, too many things wrong with it, and FAR too many other games out there at any one time that are much, much more fun to play, if you only give them a try.

If you want an example of an older commercial stocks and shares game that knocks Monopoly into a cocked hat, get hold of a copy of Acquire (BGG #131) - published 1964, rules on one side of paper, and still a VERY good game.

Neutrinos have bad breadth.