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Comment: False positives are far too easy (Score 4, Interesting) 80

by Dr. Spork (#47738923) Attached to: Spot ET's Waste Heat For Chance To Find Alien Life
Basically, this method of searching for aliens returns a positive whenever there is something producing heat which we don't see/understand. I have a feeling that the universe is quite full of such things. But maybe explaining these will help us make scientific advances. When astronomers first discovered a pulsar, they labeled the signal LGM for "little green men". But since then, we learned a lot about astronomy. Explaining apparent anomalies is good for science, and if you want to make the process sexier by talking about possible alien civilizations, I don't see much harm.

Comment: My Windows Skype just booted me during a call! (Score 5, Interesting) 267

by Dr. Spork (#47618973) Attached to: Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier
I was using the last pre-MS version of the client, which had the "ring all speakers" option. I have several sound devices in my computer, and when my headphones are plugged in, they on their own don't ring loud enough to hear an incoming call. Luckily my HDMI monitor has speakers that don't get any use, except that Skype could make them ring with the "ring all speakers" option. They were loud enough to hear calls. That was until about an hour ago.

My client just stopped working, booted me off the network, and after messing with it for a while, I finally got the message that my Skype version is too old, and that I either get the new crippled client, or I can't Skype at all.

Many people have petitioned to have the "ring all speakers" re-implemented. It worked great. But Microsoft's answer has been: Fuck you, we will never do that. Stop pleading, we don't care. It didn't bother me too much until today. I just thought I'd stick with version 5.10.116 forever. Oh well. So thanks, Skype, for making my life shittier today. Boy am I happy I pre-paid a year of unlimited Skype Out!

Comment: Yeah, maybe considering it for the plebs online... (Score 1) 205

by Dr. Spork (#47612767) Attached to: MIT Considers Whether Courses Are Outdated

Listen, for the rest of MIT's history, the experience for the core students on campus will remain the same: Dorms, semesters, course sequences, grades/evaluations, professors in classrooms, papers, projects, parties, etc.. Why am I so sure? Because MIT is an elite school, and elites will want their kids to get the classical education which made them elite. It's just as much about soaking in the culture, encountering other people, putting together a study crew, a party crew, having a shared experience that includes a bit of hazing, etc.

Sure, MIT will also have a mass education system for the plebs, and they'll brand it with their elite name. But that stuff is not for the "real" MIT kids, except as a supplement. I'm confident that if they design the modular multimedia tutoring system well, many plebs will learn a lot from it. But the only effect of this will be to learn the material. They won't be transformed into MIT elites, even if the letters "MIT" appear somewhere on their diploma. For better or worse, rich parents will always want to send their kids to universities with dorms, semesters, course sequences, grades/evaluations, professors in classrooms, papers, projects, parties, etc. - in hopes that they will osmotically absorb something like culture. The more it reminds them of Hogwarts, the more money they'll be willing to pay. MIT would be stupid to get out of that business, and they're not stupid.

Comment: Re:And it's already closed (Score 1) 81

by Dr. Spork (#47579627) Attached to: Nevada Construction Project Could Be Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory
It's also a pretty tough negotiating strategy. If the governor A doesn't match the bid of governor B, Musk actually fires a lot of governor A's constituents, and the whole thing is egg on his face. Since governor A doesn't want that, he might decide to offer Musk some terms that are actually bad for the state, but will cause less personal blowback for the governor than the mass firing would have. But then there's governor B has the same incentives, and also doesn't want headlines about mass firings in his own state. He might actually decide to accept an even worse deal for the state, so as to avoid the bad headlines and instead look like a hero. So this sets up a race to the bottom which could easily save Musk more money than he spent on the cancelled construction project.

Comment: Re:And it's already closed (Score 1) 81

by Dr. Spork (#47579569) Attached to: Nevada Construction Project Could Be Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory
It is possible that this is just an interruption of work, while Musk brings in new contractors who can actually keep deadlines. According to the article, the fired construction crew missed all their construction milestones. That could be the reason for the layoffs, not a cancellation of the plans.

Comment: Re: Such a Waste (Score 1) 156

by Dr. Spork (#47566997) Attached to: The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

This is a good point. The book certainly didn't feel that way. The problem is that for the Hobbit movies, Jackson started with the original material and then decided to overdo everything about 5x beyond how Tolkien wrote it. So they can't just ride in barrels down a river - an incredibly perilous thing to begin with.

Here's how I picture Jackson deciding to "improve on" the original. They can't just ride in barrels, they have to ride in inexplicably stable barrels that don't take in water, down a river with some crazy fucking rapids, yeah!, while ... let see, why not make them be shot at by elves who otherwise never miss, but this time each shot will miss by like a milimeter, and then some other fuckers are gonna come attack them and come within a milimeter of killing them like a million times, and then good-guy elves will start shooting at those other fuckers, doing acrobatics and other bitchin elf shit, meanwhile the dwarves will be all "hoooo noooo! OOOooooo!" and we'll just keep doing that for like 20 minutes, and then more shooting and swiping and rapids, and by the end, each dwarf will almost-die like 200 times, because, you know. Tension.

You know that if Tolkien sees this he'd be like "Duh, I totally should have written it that way to begin with, it's waay more radical and gnarly!"

Comment: If slashdot had a TV channel... (Score 3, Insightful) 127

by Dr. Spork (#47490353) Attached to: Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy
They would be wise to get a celebrity D&D campaign. Just imagine an evening with Cory Doctorow, Stephen Colbert, George R. R. Martin, Matt Groening etc, all sitting around a table, trying to lawyer rules and hold off a raid of hobgoblins! That would be a "reality" show that I could watch!

Comment: But with a pilot it's still ok? (Score 1, Funny) 199

by Dr. Spork (#47437779) Attached to: FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage
I think it's time for Nibbles the Hamster to get a pilot's license and go to work for real estate. With him in the cockpit, it's no longer a drone, right? He will also get some mini pilot goggles, because it will look adorable and no judge would ever convict.

Comment: OMG, not my tooth brushing!!! (Score 3, Funny) 150

This is so scary! If somebody learns every detail of the motions I make when I brush my teeth, they will basically have all the info they need to turn me into a zombie servant of the NSA-corprotocracy! And now they also want to know the humidity in my house!? Goddamn it, didn't our founding fathers say that the moisture content of our residence shall not collected? I'm so outraged! Now excuse me while I upload all my photos, featuring everyone I've ever associated with, to Facebook.

Comment: Should be denser! (Score 1) 120

by Dr. Spork (#47387149) Attached to: In Düsseldorf, A Robot Valet Will Park Your Car
From the picture it looks like it takes just as much space as a regular parking garage, but I think the real potential in a system like this is in maximizing the density of parked cars. I'm picturing something like an Amazon warehouse, but with cars on each shelf. In places where space is at a premium, this sort of ultra-dense shelving system seems like the right way to store a lot of cars. What would also be awesome would be a smartphone app that gives the garage a heads up 5 minutes before you arrive to pick up your car, so that "Ray" can stick it into a pickup spot. For example, if it's in a city and on a subway line, you could choose "I'm on the northbound C train" and the dispatching system is wired into the subway system, figures out where that train is and can estimate accurately how long it will be before you arrive. Then you get a return message about which spot to go to, get in and drive off. Yes it's a bit more technology than self-parking, but the technology is mostly fixed costs, and in many dense cities, those costs are probably much lower than the equivalent number of traditional parking spaces. Also, these costs are likely to fall over time, unlike the cost of space in Gangnam or Manhattan. If it's coordinated right, it's also more convenient.

Comment: Good idea, bad marketing (Score 0) 131

by Dr. Spork (#47344359) Attached to: Facial Recognition Might Be Coming To Your Car
Think of it this way: this will be a trivially cheap device to install in a car, and it will be pretty much invisible in how it functions, until someone tries to steal your car. It will probably be bundled with other functions that count your blinks and warn you when you're too drowsy to drive safely. This is the kind of device that will pay for itself many times over in insurance savings. Also, if it records your car data in some hard-coded way, that data could be very useful in fighting wrongful traffic tickets. To market it as a spy-on-your-kids tool is not a good move. It sounds sinister and gross. Basically, it should be described as a password device for your car, which you can enter just by looking like yourself, or else typing something in on the owner's phone. If your computer requires a password to operate, why shouldn't you car, especially if entering it doesn't require any actions?

You know, the difference between this company and the Titanic is that the Titanic had paying customers.

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