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Comment: Re:Non-comprehensive list (Score 2) 555

by DrVomact (#45497317) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: MMORPG Recommendations?

EVE Online: Pros: player-driven game, space!, huge selection of ships, skills, development paths. Cons: subscription-driven, scammers galore, some RMT, mandating long gaming sessions, a destroyed ship is a lost ship, steep learning curve.

Some of us don't regard those last two as "Cons".

I don't regard the first one as a "con". What's wrong with paying for goods or services, with giving value for value in an honest transaction? If you want free stuff, you will either get something that is worth what you paid for it, or you will pay in some other way you weren't expecting, and probably won't like.

Comment: Re:Eve Online (Score 1) 555

by DrVomact (#45497149) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: MMORPG Recommendations?

You're doing it wrong. It's an MMO. If you aren't making it on your own, *JOIN* one of those corporations (or get a bunch of people together and create your own).

Or go solo. It's entirely possible. It's risky and requires a lot of skill, and you'll get blown up a lot at first... but if you're actually good (and combat is Eve is much more skill-based than a casual observer might think) you can easily find, and win, small fights all day long. Yeah, you'll need a good ship (which means money and training time), but the risks are also lower when you're starting out. Be a pirate. Be a mercenary. Take over a wormhole.

You make the rules, man. That's the essence of the game. It's like libertarian paradise. Would I want to live there for real? Hell no! But it's a fun thing, to go out and fight, solo or with a small gang or with a massive battle fleet.

The problem with any kind of grouping or joining a corp in EVE is that it would require you to trust another EVE player, and that is just plain dumb. The first time around, I had people ask me to join them in a mission, then ambush me with their friends to kill my ship and take my stuff. I've heard lots of stories about corporate execs running off with the member's money (how much more real life can you get?). No, these days I play strictly alone, I talk to no one, and I trust no one. It stands for "Everyone Versus Everyone, you know!

Libertarian paradise? I don't think there's anything in the libertarian credo that says you should rip off everyone who's weaker than you are, but that's the rule in EVE. The EVE universe is one of untrammeled barbarism; it's a sort of anti-society because there is no basis for trust or lasting cooperation.

Comment: Re:Eve Online (Score 4, Interesting) 555

by DrVomact (#45496989) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: MMORPG Recommendations?

The best review I ever heard of EvE Online was from a guy who said that he wasn't going to pay $15 a month to be chased down and killed by some teenager with daddy issues in the Battlestar Galactica. Pretty much summed it up for me.

When I tried it out, it seemed like their were basically two modes to the game: either incredible boredom in safe space or getting constantly jumped and butt-raped in unsafe space. I guess there was some appeal in trading (kind of a much less satisfying version of the old trading routes in Elite), but it seemed like all the good routes were owned by the corporations and all that was left for the little guys were the scraps. In the end, it's even less rewarding than mining.

In short, EvE Online reminds me way too much of real life. And that's what I play videogames to avoid.

I may have been the guy who wrote that review—I certainly have passed up no opportunities to damn the game whenever the subject was brought up. Yet now I'm playing the thing again. Why?

Well, the number one reason is probably lack of something better to do. Also, I'm retired and now have a surplus of hostility that I can no longer vent on my boss. I had been playing the original Everquest from the day it started until about 9 months ago, except for the 3 or 4 year break I took to play Eve, World of Warcraft, and Aion. None of them held my interest, so I went back to EQ. Then one day, I just had my fill of EQ again. There's no attempt to keep the game improving or growing; Sony just wants to keep hold of the same few thousand players they have who stick around for the sake of nostalgia. I doubt whether Sony has more than one developer assigned to EQ, and his job is to create cut-and-paste "expansions" where the only differences are armor with higher stats that you have to do the same crap missions to get as every other expansions. Oh, and new spell levels that do basically the same thing as the old spells. Nostalgia is a powerful force, but it can only take you so far. Maybe some day I will feel nostalgic for EQ again.

So I popped back into EVE again just to remember how awful it was. And indeed, the awfulness is still there. To judge by the language people use, by the stuff they put in their character bios, etc. the players are still a bunch of 12 year old sociopaths with a fixation on anal rape. About half of them pretend to be girls, but you know they're not. Girls are too smart to play a game like this. (Besides, most females I've met have had a fairly limited interest in anal rape.) But I've been playing the game since early this year. Why in the world would I do that?

There are some very good things that have to be said about the game design of EVE and about the way it's run. First of all, the game is continually being improved, and the expansions are free. To get a new expansion, you just have to pay your monthly fee to pay, and that's it. There's no "free to play" BS where you get nickle and dimed to death for better sword models or whatever; you just pay your fee and you get the service you pay for. Some of the improvements have made the game more playable for me than it was before.

Eve has got a complex and fairly realistic economic simulation going (if you ignore the fact that the economy is propped up by the nightly re-seeding of minerals and NPC drops), so if you are one of those obsessive people with no other life who draw up complicated spreadsheets and calculate how to make money off manufacturing, and spend many, many hours buying and selling at the best prices, then you can be an EVE tycoon. I'm not one of those: I never did spreadsheets for work, and I'm certainly not doing them for a game. Still, it's a role some people like to play. The spaceship tech is well-thought out and complex enough to keep you working at coming up with a perfect "fit" for that cruiser or battleship you're flying. There's a lot of different kinds of things you can do in EVE, and the game doesn't force you to play one role over another, with one exception: the game is set up to make you either a victim or a predator. If you want to mine asteroids for minerals and then sell those minerals for ISK (in-game money), you can do that. However, to get at the really good minerals, you have to go to "low sec" (low security) space, where other players can "gank" (kill) you and your mining ship with impunity. If you want to do the missions handed out by NPCs, the best missions are in low sec...and guess what happens. You wind up fighting NPC pirates while players pop into your mission space and kill you. I think a lot of people who play these non-aggressive roles are new players who don't understand the true dog-eat-dog nature of EVE. They're basically fish food dropped into the piranha tank. After a while, they get frustrated and quit, just like I did. Or they go over to the dark side.

It's important to understand that EVE gankers don't kill you for economic gain, or any sort of tangible in-game advancement. They kill you because they like doing it. It gives them an adrenaline rush, and most importantly, they like making you feel bad. They live for "kill mails" (I'm not sure what those are...some sort of notification that you've killed another player? I only killed another player once, and it was an accident, so I'm not sure what it's like.) Many players talk about inducing "tears" in others by destroying their expensive ships; it's all about the joy of inflicting pain and destruction. (With lots of anal rape references.) If you ever built a sand castle in the playground when you were a kid, and some bigger kid came and deliberately stomped it and then laughed in your face, then you have met the mentality of the average EVE player.

So why am I playing this sick game again? Well, I decided to take it as a challenge. What if I could play the game and not get victimized? Am I not smarter than most of these bullies? Could I learn the game well enough to get rich (for my definition of rich, 1 Billion ISK was my initial goal), and get killed very infrequently, if at all? The way I see the game, the challenge is formidable: I am fighting not only the appalling barbarians who populate the EVE universe, but also, in a sense, the developers who have set up the game so that I must become a barbarian to win. I want to beat the game itself; not only the mechanics but the very spirit of the game.

At first, it did not go well. I lost about a dozen ships (heck, I'd forgotten how to fire the guns), but I had evidently left myself a stash of ISK from the last time I played, so I was able to recover by buying a battleship (Dominix, of course), and running level 4 missions. I found a mission-giving NPC in security level .5 space, with no lower security level space in the vicinity. That means I got the relatively lucrative level .5 missions, but did not run a high risk of being ganked, as in level .5 space you are still protected by the in-game police who respond if you are attacked. (Level .5 is the lowest security level at which this response occurs; don't be fooled into thinking that .4 space is more safe than 0.0 !) OK, but just running missions gets boring after a while, and the income you can make from missions isn't that great.

So I took up a new profession: exploration. This EVE profession had existed previously, but was revamped this summer to make it much more rational and doable. Basically, you launch "scan probes" from your ship in a solar system, and find certain sites that you can then exploit for what is sometimes very valuable loot. Naturally, the lower the security level of the space these sites are in, the more valuable the loot. Naturally. But that's not so much of a problem if you have an invisible ship, right? Especially if it's a very fast invisible ship, like my covert ops Helios. The way I have my Helios fitted, it has a probe launcher and a cloaking device that makes it undetectable to other players. Unfortunately, this leaves no room for guns...but I wasn't going to fight, I was going to make money.

One of the more pleasant surprises I encountered upon my return to Eve is that null-sec space is much more accessible than it used to be. In my ~2 years of playing EVE before, I never even made it into null sec. There would be massive blockades at the bottleneck entrances to 0.0 space, and I failed even in a Helios to get through them. Now it seems like there are more routes to null-sec, and with careful flying you can get into it every time. (Well, in a cloaked ship, anyway. And you have to know what to do if you come out of a gate and it's surrounded by a huge warp-inhibiting bubble.) There are also "wormholes" throughout EVE space now, and some of them lead to random locations in null sec space. Basically, the game is much more open now; it's not like the low-sec areas are fenced off private property, like they used to be. There are still "owners" of every null-sec system I've been in...but you know what...space is mostly empty! That's right, often the owners simply aren't home, and you can screw around their systems to your heart's content. I've gone dozens of jumps at a time in null sec and never seen another player. And whenever I come to an empty system, I do my scanning thing, and look for sites to exploit. Because you can't be cloaked while you're "hacking" the sites, I immediately stop and cloak my ship when somebody else enters the system. (That's the First Rule of survival: if you fly a ship without guns, you had best be invisible.)

I have since hit and surpassed my billion ISK goal. (I know this is not "real money" to Eve tycoons, but I set my own goals, that's part of the secret of winning.) I now fly a "Tech 3" cruiser that has actual guns and combat drones, plus it can make itself invisible and do all sorts of neat stuff. This, however, has brought with it a bit of a moral dilemma. Um...I guess I should have know that having guns kind of gives rise to the temptation to use them, eh? Several times now, I'm in this null sec system, and I've discovered a nice site to exploit. In pops a newby with maybe 2 months of EVE experience in a frigate without guns. He wants the site too. (I think a lot of veteran EVE players have made alts to take advantage of the new exploration mechanics.) He sees I'm in the system, but he's too stupid to run away. I twiddle my thumbs as I watch him earnestly try to scan down the site I'm already sitting at with his miserably low skills. So what do I do? Give him the site, and a kiss on the cheek? Share? Hah! I'm not that nice, it appears. I mean, this guy is threatening not only my immediate economic interests, but he's causing prices on the artifacts I recover to drop! He's bad for the economy! So a couple of times now, I've warped in on top of these young pups and started shooting at them until they warp away. But they just go on to another system to work their mischief, of course. So last night, I fit a warp scrambler on my cruiser so I can stop them from running away.

I have to ask myself: have I gone bad? Have I allowed Eve to seduce me; am I becoming a barbarian?

Comment: Re:That's awesome (Score 3, Insightful) 372

by DrVomact (#44861715) Attached to: NSA Chief Built Star Trek Like Command Center

... No matter the "percentage" why is the USA backing any group supporting the aims of "rebel forces"?

That's a very good question, one that I've been asking myself. I'd say that the pressure to intervene probably originates with special interest groups that are pressuring the western governments to "do something". Such interest groups operate as "nonpartisan" or "neutral" NGOs that want to do nothing but help "civilians" who are being killed, maimed, starved, and driven from their homes into refugee camps. I'm thinking of groups like Doctors Without Borders, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, etc. Are these groups evil? Well, how can saving children, providing medical aid to wounded "civilians", and feeding refugees be wrong?

Maybe it can't be evil to do these things, but it can sure skew your perspective. What's happening in Syria is a civil war. The whole notion of "civilians" has become ephemeral in these days of irregular warfare, but this is especially true in a civil war: in a civil war, nobody is a civilian. Someone can be a fighter one day, and an "injured civilian" on the next. So when such charitable NGOs provide humanitarian aid to one side in the war, they are taking sides. Even medical treatment and food are weapons in a war; in addition, anyone who is involved in such work is going to see the people they are dealing with as the good guys, and the other side as evil oppressors. So they start churning out press releases and videos of mutilated children; these media carry the implicit or explicit message that the "other side" —and only the other side—is doing evil. And of course we must stop evil.

That's how we arrived at the moral logic that was driving the Obama administration until the Secretary of State accidentally short-circuited the official policy with his off-hand remark that the Syrian government has the option of giving up its chemical weapons. That moral logic, as far as I can tell, was as follows: "The Bad People have killed innocent civilians with cruel weapons of which we disapprove. We must now kill an indefinite number of Bad People with approved weapons so that the moral ledger will once again be balanced." This is, of course, nuts.

It is often hard to accept—especially for Americans—that there is evil in the world that cannot be stopped without doing more evil. That sometimes, the right thing to do is nothing.

Comment: Re:Just one question? (Score 1) 397

What stupid terrorist is using the Internet to coordinate these days?

I mean the NSA and most governments are trying to monitor all internet traffic, and this is widely known, so I mean are their ANY terrorists out their dumb enough to be using the internet still to coordinate their attacks?

Why arrange actual attacks when you can just call your buddy and tell him "the attack on the American nest of spies in Yemen is a go"? You know that the NSA will suck up this "chatter", and evacuate every embassy in the region amid much hyperventilation, thus making the U.S. look like cowards and fools, without costing you more than the price of a throwaway cell phone. Such "surveillance" is completely worthless—in fact, it is a cheap weapon in the hands of our enemies.

This ain't exactly a secret. ... So all the NSA is doing is wasting billions of dollars monitoring the benign traffic of innocents using FUD to continue to fund program.

Right. The organs of the State are self-perpetrating. Their main purpose is to justify their existence and to expand their size and power. One could hope that Congress would institute radical budget cuts on such agencies, but that's a bit like hoping that the Mississippi will start flowing toward Canada. My own hope is that the entire apparatus will become so complex that it collapses of its own weight, but maybe that's just another form of self-deception.

Comment: Re:.com is still king (Score 1) 132

by DrVomact (#44730737) Attached to: Dotless Domain Names Prohibited, ICANN Tells Google

I can't remember the last time I entered a URL manually. What is this, 1994? I often type in a single letter and the browser autocompletes it for me. If I don't know the exact URL, I type something in anyway and Google will look it up for me, at which point it will be saved in my browser history.

I guess you don't log in to your router or your WAPs to change the parameters, huh? Oh yeah, you probably set your wifi security using the button on the WAP. In fact, you're probably the guy with WEP and the default router password from which I'm leeching bandwith right now!

Comment: Selling old iPhone: How do I wipe my data? (Score 1) 116

by DrVomact (#44730691) Attached to: Apple Launches iPhone Trade-In Program

I've got an old iPhone 3GS that won't start up all the way. I dunno why—can't really be bothered with trying to fix it. I've been thinking of selling it (I probably won't trade it in to Apple), but I worry about private data from back when my wife was using the phone still being on it. Is this something I should worry about, or should I just sell the phone? Is there some way to wipe the phone just to make sure, given it's inoperable?

Comment: Re:maps or images? (Score 1) 67

by DrVomact (#44661725) Attached to: Search For Evi Nemeth Continues

Did you manage to log in? I tried, but couldn't get an account. I gave it an email address (one of my throwaways, natch) and password, and it did nothing but ask me to log in again. No email seems to have been sent. The login I had created didn't work, and trying to create one again produced the same non-result. I gave permissions for that web site to run scripts, but there was a lot of other crap that wanted permissions, so for now I'm not bothering.

Comment: Re: Update the constitution (Score 1) 426

by DrVomact (#44604359) Attached to: Partner of Guardian's Snowden Reporter Detained Under Terrorism Act

No it wasn't. Orwell wrote 1984 after beeing delusional on how the communists behaved during the Spanish civil war, where he inititially fought for the communists.

Partly correct,

If I ignore the "beeing delusional" part of the quote, there's nothing right about it. (Was Orwell deluded? Disillusioned, perhaps? Who knows.) In any case, the assertion that Orwell "fought for the Communists" is an outright falsehood that cries out for correction. As we know, Orwell fought with POUM, which called itself "Marxist" and socialist. However, POUM was in no way part of the Communist International (that is, the Moscow-controlled Stalinist Communist Party), and was in fact screwed over by the Communists—along with every other Spanish Republican force that was not Communist-controlled. In Homage to Catalonia, Orwell made clear just what he thought of the Stalinist rat-bastards.

In his essay Why I Write, Orwell clearly explains that all the "serious work" he had written since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was "written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism". [1] Therefore, one can look at Nineteen Eighty-Four as a cautionary tale against totalitarianism and in particular the betrayal of a revolution by those claiming to defend or support it. However, as many reviewers and critics have stated, it should not be read as an attack on socialism as a whole, but on totalitarianism and potential totalitarianism.

Also partly incorrect

Really? The guy seems to be making sense here.

His work for the overseas service of the BBC, which at the time was under the control of the Ministry of Information, also played a significant role as the basis for his Ministry of Truth (as he later admitted to Malcolm Muggeridge). The Ministry of Information building, Senate House (University of London), was the Ministry of Truth's architectural inspiration.

Sure, in Nineteen EIghty Four, Minitrue is the official propaganda organ of the Oceanian state. Any official propaganda...er news organization could serve as a model for Orwell's fictional "truth" factory. Are you saying that Minitrue is the BBC, or that the BBC is no better than Minitrue? What an odd thought.

The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four also reflects various aspects of the social and political life of both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Orwell is reported to have said that the book described what he viewed as the situation in the United Kingdom in 1948, when the British economy was poor, the British Empire was dissolving at the same time as newspapers were reporting its triumphs, and wartime allies such as the USSR were rapidly becoming peacetime foes ('Eurasia is the enemy. Eurasia has always been the enemy').

I'm not following you here. You want me to think that Nineteen Eighty Four is in some way like the Britain of 1948? Well yes...in some ways it is, and it some ways it isn't. What's your point? Are you saying that the book is nothing more than some sort of social critique of 1948 Britain? If so, then you're quite wrong, and I'm sure Orwell never meant to say anything of the sort. The society of Nineteen EIghty Four is indeed impoverished, but material impoverishment is the least of it. Orwell addresses the impoverishment and enslavement of the spirit.

In many ways, Oceania is indeed a future metamorphosis of the British Empire (although Orwell is careful to state that, geographically, it also includes the United States, and that the currency is the dollar). It is, as its name suggests, an essentially naval power. Much of its militarism is focused on veneration for sailors and seafarers, serving on board "floating fortresses" which Orwell evidently conceived of as the next stage in the growth of ever-bigger warships, after the Dreadnoughts of WWI and the aircraft carriers of WWII; and much of the fighting conducted by Oceania's troops takes place in defense of India (the "Jewel in the Crown" of the British Empire).

The pomposity of your writing suggests that you are a literature professor. Indeed, you do manage to focus on all the irrelevant details, and get them mostly wrong. Oceania isn't a "metamorphosis of the British Empire"; Britain has been reduced to "Airstrip One", as you may recall. There's nothing British left in Oceania. Of course Oceania is primarily a naval power...that's why it's called Oceania. It has lots of water in it; you need ships to get around. Eastasia and Eurasia are probably not naval powers. Are they less evil for that? Less militaristic?

O'Brien, who represents the oppressive Party, is in many ways depicted as a member of the old British ruling class (in one case, Winston Smith thinks of him as a person who in the past would have been holding a snuffbox, i.e. an old-fashioned English gentleman).

How clever of Orwell to disguise O'brien by giving him an Irish name! No one would ever suspect him of being a member of the British ruling class! How could I have missed it? Do the leaders of the other two super-states carry around metaphorical snuff-boxes also?

As read through your ideological spectacles, you see Nineteen Eighty Four as a sort of cyphered critique of British society and the British empire. Why in the world would Orwell bother to write such a thing? Orwell never troubled to be subtle in his critique of the Empire and British society before; why would he go to such lengths to do so in Nineteen Eighty Four? By 1948, it was clear that the British Empire was finished—probably even to Churchill. No, what worried Orwell was that Western Civilization was finished.

Comment: Re:Update the constitution (Score 1) 426

by DrVomact (#44603909) Attached to: Partner of Guardian's Snowden Reporter Detained Under Terrorism Act

...On the subject of 1984 people often don't realise that the book wasn't George Orwells vision of the future, it was his view of Britain at that time i.e 1948, he just reversed the last two numbers of the year.

How enlightening; I'm afraid I was among the ignorant before reading your insightful contribution. I didn't realize that Britain has really been "Airstrip One", a forward base of Oceania, since 1948. Presumably the United States hasn't existed since then either, because it's part of Oceania, and we've been engaged in perpetual warfare with two mega-states called Eastasia and Eurasia all along. Damn, how could my attention have slipped so much. Or maybe your post is just thoughtless twaddle.

Comment: Metadata should hurt (Was: Re:fuck tags) (Score 1) 142

by DrVomact (#44430427) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Tags and Tagging, What Is the Best Way Forward?

If you are: A. In a technical field B. At all competent at your job Understanding basic kinds of metadata like tags, links, and keys is an incredibly basic part of your job.

Sure, and if you have such an understanding—and any real-world experience at all—you will also comprehend that the chances of a useful result being achieved by random people "tagging" an unspecified universe of data objects with a nonstandard meta-data vocabulary are nil.

A tremendous amount of organized effort has been put into creating meta-data structures that can be used to make documents more useful (in one sense or another) over the last 60 years or so. These efforts have certainly not all resulted in failure, but insofar as they have been useful, they have also caused a great amount of pain . I can't prove it any more than I can prove the sun will rise tomorrow, but I'm certain that metadata will always be hard, and that it will involve pain on the part of its creators and users. Based on my knowledge and experience, I say that it's not bloody likely that somebody is going to invent a metadata scheme that is as easy as "tagging" and is also more than marginally useful. I don't say "impossible". I never say that word. But "not bloody likely" is pretty damn close.

Not technical enough for you? Not feeling the pain yet? Let us depart for a short historic stroll down meta-data lane; if you are so inclined, you may follow along, dear reader.

In the days of yore just after the invention of fire, someone came up with the idea that we could make documents more useful by marking them up with standardized generic tags that would help authors structure what they write, and help readers search documents and maybe even do some automated processing. (This involved rapidly riffling stacks of cards with holes punched in them until you could see moving images.) And behold! SGML actually worked fine within certain niches in highly structured environments (read IBM and The Government). If you were ever so unfortunate as to have to work with SGML, you know that these benefits were purchased by the infliction of acute pain—but these organizations have a very high agonic tolerance, so long as the pain is inflicted only on those who do the actual work. But SGML was a standard generalized markup language sort of like the way the Holy Roman Empire was holy, Roman, and an empire. It wasn't just SGML's extreme lawyerly complexity that prevented a rush to public adoption, but that the vocabularies used by it (as specified in the various Document Type Definitions) were arcane, narrow, and specific to a given set of documents, purposes, and institutions. In short, making it useful involved too much bloody pain to tolerate unless you were someone like Caligula, possessing unlimited freedom to impose suffering on others.

Thus matters stood until something came along that intruded into the cozy conferences of the Document Standards Community and caused its members to feel a cold wind up their shorts: HTML. Hypertext Markup Language was simple, and everyone was starting to use it as the new thing called the World Wide Web came out of nowhere and took over. Maybe I'm making this up, but I saw a genuine fear on the part of the advocates of document metadata standards that everyone would just settle on HTML as the universal markup language. That would, of course, have been an Abomination and a Dreadful Mistake, for HTML wasn't invented by a committee. The galloping of the Four Horsemen could be heard in the distance.

To be fair, there were better reasons for alarm. While HTML sort of looked like a document markup language, it wasn't terribly meaningful as far as document metadata goes. (For some reason, I feel a shudder of revulsion whenever I am tempted to use the word "semantic", so I don't, but it's probably not out of place around about here.) HTML was meta-data on which document display could be keyed pretty well (and it was less likely to make you go blind than TROFF), but it didn't really constrain the structure of documents very much, nor did it give information about its content. In other words, it didn't make documents "smart".

So the Document Standards Community went into a surprisingly short emergency meeting (no toilet breaks!) and came up with a new idea: XML. It would be so much simpler than the dreaded SGML, and it would not hurt much at all. Heck, you didn't even have to define your tag set with a DTD if you didn't want to. It was completely free-form and eXtensible! (Yes, yes, it had to be "well formed" and have one root element, but almost free form.) You could even claim that HTML was a "subset" of XML, thus pulling the rug out from under the heretical upstart as neatly as any Jesuit ever slipped the grasp of diabolical tentacled syllogisms.

XML caught on immediately of course, though there seemed to be something of a variety of opinions about just what it was and what it was for. Also, the idea that you didn't have to specify the vocabulary of your meta-data language in something like a Document Type Definition didn't really work out so well. Not if you ever wanted other people to use your documents. In fact, this works well only for programmers who use XML to make code look prettier...OK, I'm being mean: easier to parse and process. But programmers are usually shocked to find out that XML can be used for documents, of all things. (I once attended the wrong sort of XML class. It was apparently aimed at Java programmers; the instructor actually told me that he didn't think it was possible to use XML to structure complex documents. Also, he was deeply suspicious of the use of attributes; why not just come up with a new element, eh?)

Well, to make this already economical discourse even more minimal, let me just point out that if you have ever had the misfortune to work with XML, then you have earned the right to sing the Blues. Because you've suffered. Yes, XML can be very useful, dammit. Despite the fact that all the tools suck and start with the letter "X". (Note to the Committee: Deprecate the letter X, already! .)

So you just want to get on with the business of "tagging" stuff, eh? Oh, go ahead. What do I care? I'm retired. Just so you hit your thumb with a hammer every time you assign a tag to something.

Comment: Missed the meeting, got the slides (Score 1) 193

by DrVomact (#44139041) Attached to: Scientists Work To Produce 'Star Trek' Deflector Shields

I'm glad that this submission amuses all you trekkies. Of course it's nothing but total crap, but who cares as long as it gets eyeballs on the ads, right? The article consists of a statement of the problem (radiation is bad for people in space), some spastic hand-waving informing us that a solution to the problem will require us to "utilise many cutting edge technologies, such as superconductors and the magnetic confinement techniques used in nuclear fusion", and then employs a thought-terminating cliché: look, Star Trek!

My favorite part is the series of Powerpoint slides under the heading "How it works". This is the kind of crap people email you when you missed a meeting. You can't tell squat from the slides, they don't even mention radiation or high velocity particles, they talk about "plasma" and show colored stuff that is (I must suppose) bumping into other colored stuff. The resolution of the slides is too poor to read a lot of the writing, though I can make out a tiny Enterprise on one of them. (Is the whole thing a joke? Am I the victim of a whoosh?) But hell, you've seen the slides, they must have made sense to everyone at the meeting, so who's going to admit that they appear to be gibberish. Besides, now you can tell everyone you meet that "we have a Star Trek shield and our competitors don't!". You could even post it to Slashdot.

Comment: Re:Isn't this done already? (Score 1) 247

by DrVomact (#44126927) Attached to: Android On the Desktop

I think "the end of the desktop" thing is over the top myself. There will be some who are happy just using tablets and phones, but there will still be plenty of people who need the capabilities of a desktop. This includes anyone with serious business or technical and creative needs (word processing, spreadsheets, graphics creation, sound processing, and dozens of other things I can't think of in 3 seconds). Probably, whoever thought of the "desktop is going away" slogan was a developer on the Windows 8 team at the time.

That being said, I think that Android on the desktop is a great idea. Right now, the number of Android apps I'd want to use on the desktop is pretty limited, but I see enormous promise here for simple computing. Simple computing that even normal grandpas and grandmas can use without having conniption fits. (I'm actually a triple grandpa, but nobody ever said I was normal.)

Now, consider the opportunity such an OS on the desktop presents to app developers. Please, please, somebody write a word composition program that's so simple normal people will want to use it, and be able to use it correctly. (MS Word fails on both counts.). Something that doesn't have its own programming language built into it so it's not a notorious virus vector. Something like an up-to-date MacWrite. And that's just the start. A simple drawing and painting program. A simple spreadsheet. And dozens of more things I can't think of in 3 seconds.

In other words, we have here a chance to start over and learn from the mistakes of the past. And also, a chance to return to the past, when people liked their computers.

I'd want it to be a dual-boot proposition: Android and Windows 7. (Hmm. Could Windows be run inside Android on a virtual machine? Somehow, this seems like a deliciously evil idea, though I have no idea if it's technically feasible.) I do expect that Android will be adapted so that it can be operated with a mouse. I spent a couple of weeks sick in bed recently with nothing but my Nexus tablet for company, and I got really really fed up with the touch interface. Every time I move my hands near the damn thing, it does something random. It was such a relief to get my mouse back. Desktop Android is an idea whose time has come. Though the desktop is not nearly dead, Windows is dead—in the sense that Windows 7 is the last Microsoft OS that matters. There's simply no reason to ever have another one. MS has demonstrated the truth of this by releasing Windows 8.

Comment: Re:Security through obscurity (Score 3, Insightful) 622

by DrVomact (#43990861) Attached to: Keeping Your Data Private From the NSA (And Everyone Else)

Of course, the NSA probably can figure out your SS#, birthdate, birthplace, and similar information without going to any trouble. But the point is that you can often be significantly profiled on a social network even if you never post anything and only accept friend requests from people you know.

The NSA can have anything it wants. First of all, they are not in the habit of asking permission, and they simply don't tell anyone what they are doing. Second, there have been perfectly legal ways for the government to buy your data for as long as marketing data has been kept and sold. It's perfectly legal for a private corp to buy your purchase history (via a credit card), the data that Google has mined out of your "free" email service, your transactions with any vendor who has a low integrity threshold (who doesn't?) So what keeps the government from buying it also? Nothing at all. If I were doing it, I'd set up a front corporation (like "Air America" of CIA fame) to buy the data so I don't get screaming headlines.

The reason for all the hyperventilation is that three things have happened: agencies who lack the subtlety of NSA have gotten into the market, and they've done it directly—that is, they've outright seized the data instead of using the kinder gentler approach of greasing corporate palms. Third, the amount of data they have sucked has gotten so huge that it is impossible to manage without an army of low-level clerks. This is why an Army private and a contracted data massager can give the whole show away. With this many people involved, you are going to have leaks. I am surprised that there have been only two.

I wonder. In order to fully capitalize on the amount of data they are collecting on us, will it be necessary for all of us to be employed by the US government as DB admins? Welcome to the new Greece.

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine

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