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Comment Re: You must be new here (Score 1) 1833

I'd like to see a "newbie" flag. Rather than give newbies a -1 they can lose by positive moderation, just a flag that expires on the 3 month/6 month/1 year anniversary (exact interval to be debated). Then I can browse at +1/newbies +3. I can always add extra bias towards a newbie whose comments I like. It might aid sock puppet ID as well.

It's also not just a penalty. A visual indication that someone is new might cause responses to be more gentle/forgiving. (I must be new here. Maybe I'm just an optimist)

I'd also like a "welcome back" flag for comments more than 6 months since the last time (or maybe a smarter algorithm that determines a hiatus based on previous activity). A little more personal, but also a point of information which can act as useful guidance to the reader.

Comment Re:Bad in any case (Score 5, Insightful) 150

Why didn't they at least recess the switch? You really don't want to accidentally press a reset switch. Poor design.

Not that Cisco hasn't made faux pas before. The 25xx as I recall had socket for a PCMCIA card, but no slot in the front panel to access it! You had to take the case off to do that.

Comment Re:Poorly described (Score 2) 120

Agreed. it's been around a long time.

Note that the sending array is huge. 1 sq km in the linked article. That means that the energy density of the beam is low, so you don't cook passing birds, but more importantly, don't waste energy heating up the water vapour in the air either. The receiving antenna also needs to be big. The bigger the better, so you can keep the efficient coupling over a long distance. In this case, long enough to get it to orbit.

The interesting thing about this idea is getting the high specific impulse, so you can single stage to orbit.

The coupled microwave idea has been mooted before for a couple of things.

1. Beam solar power back down to earth (1 km array in space, 10 km x 10 km array on earth. Quite efficient.)

2. Ion drive. With a 10km x 10km or even 100km x 100km and 1x1km or 10 x 10km you can power an ion drive over huge distances, enough to send something to nearby stars. With no power source on board, the rocket gets to be extremely efficient. There is of course the inconvenience of the earth both rotating and orbiting, so you really want the transmitter in space.

This latest idea looks quite interesting.

Comment Re:Nitrogen asphyxiation? (Score 4, Insightful) 1081

That is very much the heart of it.

Consider at one extreme, public decapitation. However, only 'barbaric' cultures do this. So, the quest in the USA in particular was for a more 'humane' method, one that, incidentally, does not traumatise the executioner or the witnesses too much. (And that's a thing to consider. You probably don't want the sort of person who really, really enjoys their job to be an executioner in the first place [the normal solution to this is to appoint a condemned prisoner, but that has other problems]); and you probably don't want to send your humane executioner insane simply from doing their job either).

And so, the quest for 'humane' methods that don't traumatise anyone, which historically got side-tracked by the shiny of technology (poison gas, electricity).

Lethal injection goes to extreme lengths to pretend that all is sweetness and unicorns: victim is put gently to sleep, then paralyzed (so on-lookers don't freak out---of course if prisoner is not unconscious, this is the stuff of nightmares), then heart is stopped (apparently agonising if not unconscious). So. Many. Ways. To. Go. Wrong.

And it's all down to the pretence that the state can kill someone 'humanely'. Without upsetting anyone, not even the condemned.

Comment Re:Objective C (Score 2, Interesting) 407

I agree.

I was surprised to find how clean Obj-C was. Eventually, I figured out that it's because of two things:

[1] The weird at first [receiver message] syntax makes it explicit that it is a message passing object model. I find that a natural and helpful model, rather than the procedural-like syntax of C++ and Java. The syntax helps me think in objects, with a clean visual and mental distinction between the Obj bits and the procedural bits.

[2] NextStep is a thing of beauty.

Against that, modern C++ has more modern and advanced syntax (lambda, templates). I'm not sure they make up for it. But rather than C++ I'd go for some other modern language (insert large list here).

Comment Re: Perl is more expressive (Score 1) 192

Well, they are both tending towards line noise in my opinion, but doesn't the c++ version have a typo :) ? (auto &l should be auto &l1).

Personally, I find the Perl version a little clearer, but to a c++ geek, the familiarity probably makes the construct obvious and the Perl version ugly; a Perl geek draws the opposite conclusion.

Comment The Guillotine (Score 1) 790

Given that the guillotine was last used in France in 1977, and last used there publicly in 1939, it's not a sound that should be at all familiar, yet I suspect most of you can bring the sound to mind—courtesy of innumerable historical dramas and the dedicated efforts of Foley artists.

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