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Comment: What do you get the agency that has everything? (Score 1) 23

by Dr. Spork (#48672337) Attached to: DARPA Wants Help Building a Drone That Flies Like a Hawk
Maybe it's the season, but doesn't this sound like like a bunch of overindulged, adult children in uniforms, sitting around a table trying to figure out what toys they don't yet have, which might be fun to play with? Like, they're so bored with quadcopters now, they want a fucking hawk. Because fuck yeah, hawk. Taxpayers should buy them a mechanical hawk.

Comment: What about that stupid book is worth US$244? (Score 4, Insightful) 170

by Dr. Spork (#48639385) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

I really fucking hate this about academia. It's absolutely shameless to charge college students $244 for a single dumb textbook. It's not even that good. It's just that when a department chooses to standardize on a textbook, the move has inertia and is basically impossible to reverse. Then, the publisher can charge something absurd, and everybody pays it, because it is a required text. It's so dirty, because it's profiteering from people who are often barely making ends meet, and typically buying the book with debt.

What really bothers me is that nobody seems willing to do anything about it. If a big, publicly funded university system set aside some money to create and regularly update their core STEM curriculum textbooks - let's start with Calculus, Physics, GenChem, GenBio - it would certainly cost less than the almost $1000 per student that the textbook purchases cost. These universities have Nobel Prize winners among their faculty, surely they have the in-house resources to create excellent textbooks and distribute them on some sort of open license like CC. Arranging sabbaticals for the authors might cost at most a million dollars, or roughly 4000 Stewart Calculus books. That might be about the number of Calc 1, Phys 1, GenChem and GenBio books that are sold on a single campus in a single year.

But this move would help everybody, not just within the entire UC system that funded the effort, but across the globe. And the costs of updating and embellishing future editions would be far less. I'm so mad that a large university system doesn't just make this happen. And yes, raise fucking tuition by $200 to pay for it, if you absolutely have to. In exchange for textbooks you can have for free (or for printing cost if you don't like digital), everybody will recognize that's a great deal. The courses can explicitly invite students to devise problems for future editions, or to suggest changes and clarifications. And it will bring prestige to the colleges and to the authors, which is worth something too.

Comment: Gee, how innovative! (Score 1) 156

by Dr. Spork (#48601445) Attached to: Small Bank In Kansas Creates the Bank Account of the Future

Requests for ACH transfers are collected by banks and submitted in batches, once a day, and the banks receiving the transfers also process the payments once a day, leading to long waits. ACH technology was created in the 1970s and has not changed significantly since.

Jesus Christ. How much do we pay these people?

Comment: Re:Imagine that! (Score 2) 191

by Dr. Spork (#48597233) Attached to: Spanish Media Group Wants Gov't Help To Keep Google News In Spain

Yeah, except the Spanish media is not at all in a good negotiating position. It's not like the only Spanish-language press is in Spain. Spaniards who like Google's service can just switch their link to news.google.ar, .mx, or whatever. Or Google can even keep news.google.es but focus on stories about Spain as they appear in the Spanish-speaking press outside of Spain.

If Spaniards come to see domestic newspapers as dispensable, those newspapers are the only party that loses. In fact, I would bet that before long, some of the minor Spanish news outlets will break and announce that they have arranged an fee exemption for Google news. Without domestic competition, these sources will suddenly have top billing and a surge in traffic. And suddenly, everyone else will announce their own fee exemption, and this whole thing will end how it started.

Comment: Re:Surely *someone* has kept 720p copies! (Score 1) 416

by Dr. Spork (#48577171) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin
I hope that these videolectures.net versions are not the only ones that will be saved. They look like re-encodes of the already ugly 240p version. I know all the artifacts don't make it unintelligible, but they are very distracting, especially if you watch at full screen. At some point, MIT re-capped the videotape with much better capture hardware and in 720p. That's what you got to watch if you did the MIT-X course.

Comment: Re:Creating more victims (Score 1) 416

by Dr. Spork (#48576993) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin
MIT's video was 720p - granted, their source material was VHS, but it looks far better than the re-encoded thing on videolectures.net. I found I have a local copy of the first seven lectures of 8.0.1 in 720p, and I'm sure that others have the rest. Especially because it's CC, I'd hate for these to just be lost.

Comment: Surely *someone* has kept 720p copies! (Score 1) 416

by Dr. Spork (#48575165) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin
I have about the first half of the 801 course (Newtonian mechanics) in 720p. I downloaded the videos so I could watch them during my commute when I was offline. The other videos must be on someone's hard drive somewhere, right? I think it's time for some sneaky guerrilla distributed archiving!

Comment: Um, can't life just evolve under water? (Score 2) 307

by Dr. Spork (#48452271) Attached to: Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

...the gamma rays would set off a chain of chemical reactions that would destroy the ozone layer in a planet's atmosphere. With that protective gas gone, deadly ultraviolet radiation from a planet’s sun would rain down for months or years

Yeah, because it's impossible that complex life could be protected by a different (better!) kind of UV shield like... water. From my understanding, it's not exactly rare in the universe.

Comment: Re:Yahoo! is cool again? (Score 1) 400

Yeah, it was my impression that Google wanted Mozilla to be healthy, but instead of just giving them money directly, they basically "bought" top billing in the searchbox for the money they just wanted to give them. Yahoo is not paying for the good of the Mozilla project - they just can't afford to splash the cash like that. They want to buy traffic. But you know, I think it's a good thing, because the fact that this happened means that top billing in the searchbox is actually worth real money, and that Firefox is more than a charity case being kept alive by the good will of Google. That bodes well for Firefox's long-term prospects. The only thing that scares me is that Google might now look at Firefox and see an enemy - a Chrome competitor who is keeping users off Google's search engine. If Google goes to war against Firefox, Firefox will lose. Yahoo is not a true ally to anyone.

Comment: Waa! Without 4K video, I can't get an education! (Score 1) 291

by Dr. Spork (#48209675) Attached to: Will Fiber-To-the-Home Create a New Digital Divide?
Sorry, there are many legitimate worries about digital divide stuff, and there are even more about ISP business practices. But this red herring about your education being compromised because your video link is only 1080p, that's just stupid. Why not worry that rich people's cars accelerate faster than poor people's cars? Is that causing a "kinetic divide" that we now have to worry about? The difference between the "poor" 171/122 Mbit/s connection and the gigabit connections will basically turn out to be just as unimportant to society. Let's focus on solving the real social problems, which are still many.

Comment: So on OSX you can't choose the system font? (Score 4, Interesting) 370

by Dr. Spork (#48180243) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday
I don't often use OSX, but I'm a little mortified that the system font is dictated by the whims of Apple, instead of being selectable by the user. When I install Windows, one of the first things I do is to change the system fonts. In KDE I used to, but now I'm happy with the defaults. But it never occurred to me that there might be a modern OS that doesn't give you this option!

Comment: Re:Here are your odds (Score 2) 350

by Dr. Spork (#48173975) Attached to: The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real
Make it 2050 and I'll offer you $10 instead of $1. Nothing gets commercialized in 10 years, not even the soundest of science. It took more than 50 years to commercialize the laser after Einstein figured out stimulated emission. Cold fusion isn't even theoretically sketched out. Of course it won't be commercial in 10 years, but neither will anything else that is not in the prototype stage today.

The Universe is populated by stable things. -- Richard Dawkins

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