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Comment Re:You are still wrong (Score 1) 180 180

Strictly speaking, there's no reason for user binary other than that it makes some things a lot easier, while it makes other things a bit more difficult.

For example, during the early time of electronic engineering, the Russians/Soviets experimented with ternary computers, the "SETUN" while the USA had the "Ternac". Both had more complicated hardware than a binary computer, but were a lot more efficient at processing arithmetic instructions.


And who knows, in a few decades, people might thing binary to be quaint and outdated, given that Qubits are so much, much more efficient.

Comment Re:I have seen the factory line (Score 2) 265 265

Why, oh why do I always click, "Post Anonymously"? Seems I get far more +5s as an AC than as meself. The mods stop at +3 when I'm posting under me own name!


Interesting fact: It depends on where you look at your posting and whether or not you have "Excellent" Karma.

There are two ways to look at your posting: From the article's comment section and from your own comment history on your profile.

If you're an AC, your comment gets a nifty 0 moderation. People need to upmod you 5 times until it's at +5.
If you're logged in, you get an immediate +1 that is visible to you and everyone. People only need to upmod you 4 times until it's a +5.
If you have "Excellent" Karma, you get another +1 putting your posting at +2.
... ... but that one is only visible on the article's comment section. In your own history, it will appear as a normal, regular +1 posting.

Since people stop moderating when a comment reaches +5, your own history will never show them as more than +4.
If then someone downmods it only once shortly before the thread is archived (and moderation gets closed), your posting will sit at +3 in your history forever ... even if the article lists it at +4.

You see, you don't even need Slashdot Beta for the posting system not to make any sense. :-D

Comment Re:Oh great (Score 1) 549 549

As others have pointed out above and before: Passphrases are neat and easy to remember --- but a nightmare to type.

There is no functional difference between typing X letters of a word, or X letters of random garbage once memorized. Indeed, I would rather argue that the (almost) random garbage is probably faster, since you could choose it for maximum typing comfort/speed, like more strongly alternating hands for typing and avoiding "distant" key combos, without greatly compromising entropy.

Now, add to this that words in almost all languages follow a nice pattern: Consonants-Vocal-Consonants-Vocal. Usually with a 1.5:1 ratio of consonants to vocals. So your actual entropy for pure word-length compresses down by a similar factor.

So, in difficulty of brute forcing (if the attacker knows you chose either garbage or words) 10 letters of random garbage equal about 15 letters of regular words; give or take a few characters.Add to that the speed argument above, once you've memorized them

This means that a passphrase gets more secure only after it has already become far more time consuming to type.

Finally, at some point (currently at about 10-16 chars, depending on the algorith), it becomes easier to break the password hashes by finding collisions that to brute-force the password.

So congrats for your passphrase having 2000 bits of entropy, when it still only takes 15 minutes to find a SHA1 collision against your password.

Comment Re:Oh great (Score 1) 549 549

I have to type my password 100+ times a day. I can touch-type, but one typo usually means I have to delete it all and start over.

It's really hard to get Ctl+Alt+A wrong.

Try doing that in an SSH login shell. Or in a textual DBMS management console. Or in a general CLI tool that expects a password. Try it in a computer game that uses its own home-brewn dialog boxes.Or, do it in a text box that does not echo out characters, hiding the length of the password. Or password boxes that disable highlighting entirely.

Now do it, while knowing that you get locked out for 15 minutes when you enter the password wrong once or twice.

There are many situations in which the only way to recover safely from a typo in a password entry field is to hit backspace a few times.

Comment Re:~/.cshrc (Score 1) 208 208

> And some foolish folks decided to go ahead and replace /bin/sh with bash.

Have you ever taken a look at the original Bourne Shell code? All the way up to V7, this header file was applied to each and every line of source code of the original Bourne Shell:

Essentially, this header turned C into a really crummy version of ALGOL -- and the source code was written with that in mind. It took them until 1984 to de-ALGOLize the source code, and it was still a horrible mess after that.

So the Bourne-Again Shell (Bash) was created in 1989 as a response to the shoddy code (and other limitations). Then, when that one bloated out of control, people started going back to the "minimal Bourne Shell" approach in the modern incarnations of Ash and Dash; but by then, Bash had already become the de-facto replacement for Bourne Shells.

In the end though, for any nasty bug you find in Bash, you'll probably find two in the original Bourne Shell --- only hidden behind virtually unreadable source code.

And it is very likely, that nasty things lurk in tcsh, ksh and others. After all, as someone sage once said: "Any non-trivial program that consists of more than three lines of code has at least one bug."

Comment Re:Over the next days, we will be flooded! (Score 1) 116 116

Just a (sort-of-quick) reply, to what you raised.

Pumping water reservoirs is done all over Europe, without flooding vast areas, as it simply uses already existing glacial areas that were created by similar processes to begin with. It's not meant to be done in flat areas, certainly, but no-one every said one solution fits everything. There are no silver bullets.

I briefly considered splitting natural gas production and the simpler hydrogen/oxygen production, but then found it just belabouring the point. The idea of turning electrical energy into bond energy is chiefly the same in both cases, they just arrive at it with different means.

Yes, flywheels are for short duration load balancing, of seconds to some dozen minutes. Newer designs actually promise a lot more, given the ever advancing march if science. Plus, see again the point about the "no-silver-bullet" thingy.

As for the shuttle, to split hairs, I never specified it stored the flywheel energy for electrical purposes. Reaction mass is energy, too. But I yield to your point, that I should have been more specific. The main point was, that it can store energy for weeks without significant losses, anyway.

The grid-storage idea currently only falls flat because of the design of the network in most parts of the world, which is geared towards putting energy production facilities smack next to energy utilizing facilities (like coal plants next to aluminium smelters), and isolating these nets from each other, with long switchover times. It's never going to store energy for hours -- but then again, many parts of the net actually have the lowest demand during the night. Which is why power is cheaper at night to begin with (for large consumers, at least).

Even Liquid salt reservoirs with just 6h of time are already enough to cover a night during the shorter nights of the year. Certainly not a factor of 10 difference --- or barely even 2, if you used binary magnitudes.

As for your point about rich/poor people: You forget that companies use most of the power in industrialized countries; it's what makes them industrialized. No-one can tell me, that Google can't afford a few million less net income -- and mid-level companies usually do not need multiple mega watts. Sure, the cost may be large ... but then again, how much did the nations of this world offer as trust coverage for the bad banks from 2008 to today?

Point being: It's our short-sighted greed, that causes us to avoid these expenditures. No-one is going to starve because of a 5% price hike on energy -- which, by the way, is a hike that'll come anyway once fossil fuel gets more expensive. I mean, how much has the oil barrel price risen since 1970? Several thousand percent? Sounds about right.

Also, for a more cynical point, the jobs lost are offset by the jobs gained building this improved infrastructure. Just ask the weavers, spinners and loom operators of the 18th century, what they thought about the automated loom; and look how many jobs were created precisely because of the raised productivity this brought.

Comment Re:Over the next days, we will be flooded! (Score 1) 116 116

Additionally, you forget, that we don't actually have to store all the energy in chemical batteries. There are quite a lot of storage possibilities:

- Pumping water to higher locations
- Splitting hydrogen and oxygen from water
- Spinning up large-mass, high-velocity, low-drag flywheels (it's how the venerable Shuttle stored energy for its week long missions)
- Storing the energy in the electrical network itself (the capacity of several million kilometers of copper cable can be astounding)
- Heating liquid salt reservoirs (which can give back energy via the good old steam turbine)

The list continues for quite some time. Additionally, this is not even considering that you can just get your power from other parts of the world that are not currently cloudy or shrouded in nighttime. It also disregards, that we have other means of generating electricity, like water power, which runs continuously.

The question is not, IF we can produce renewable energy in sufficient and even excessive amounts (after all, remember that all power except for nuclear fission comes directly from converted sunlight. And nuclear fission simply uses up the results of old supernova explosions, instead of regular solar fusion).

The question is: WHEN do we get off our collectives asses, are ready to pay a bit more for power for 10-20 years and then get rid of the problem entirely. And that's assuming power prices wouldn't rise in 20 years to begin with, due to oil, gas, coal and uranium price hikes.

Comment Re:Moo (Score 2) 469 469

Your comparisons are ridiculous for anyone who has ever played a violin.

There are so many things that are wrong with this study. There are so many things that differentiate violins BESIDES how they sound to an audience.

But the question is, given that any musician's ultimate target is to eventually have an audience, shouldn't how an instrument sounds to them be the quintessential point of evaluating the quality of an instrument?

Remember: Price and rarity are another set of entities altogether. A solid gold violin couldn't be played, but would be worth a ludicrous amount of money. The very first violin ever created in the world would be a rare find (as it probably does not exist anymore), but would probably be in a condition in which you simply could not play it at all.

You are right that there are many qualities a musical instrument can have, but you are wrong in assuming that they have any relevance on the most important quality of an instrument: If it can create music people want to hear, in the quality they want.

Comment I always wondered (Score 1) 392 392

The article highlights that 150 people is too low a number to preserve all the genetic diversity over multiple generations. This is in line with other estimates, that say that below 250 and 500 individuals, genetic diversity collapses rapidly.

But I always wondered: All these statements assume normal sexual selection, where some gene lines die out in the long run.

But what if one would remove the element of chance? What if you know the genetic pool of your colonists and could ensure over dozens of generations, that no genetic diversity is lost. Additionally, what if you could preserve the original genetic pool via cloning or DNA storage & synthesis?

Since the initial stock of colonists are presumably genetically healthy, it follows that their offspring should be healthy, too, if you eliminate loss of gene lines. And even if some issues appear, you still have the originals "on backup".

Of course, like others pointed out, such a strict procreation scheme might lead to adverse psychological effects in the population. :)

Comment Re:Merkel's virgin soil (Score 1) 197 197

But all the US actors and Pop stars use American social media now. So good luck getting rid of the huge swaths of followers using US services.

Europe is the second most profitable market of such media worldwide; often accounting for between 25-40% of the gross. Do you really think that those people, for whom money always comes first, would ignore that market just because it means opening up a second account you need to flood with sock-puppeted postings?

The additional cost wouldn't even show up in their budget (apart from witholding money from those poor souls who went for a share in the profit- instead of gross-margin).

Worse yet, this whole thing is not about routing moronic teenager BS emails through US services, its about keeping the NSA out of everyone else's data....and that won't happen.

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. To use a car analogy, it's the difference between leaving your car unlocked in the streets of a Mexico City slum, and keeping it in your own garage in Beverly Hills.

Sure, it might still be stolen by someone, but one needs a concentrated, deliberate, directed effort of the right kind of person with investment of resources, whereas the other only needs a random person of questionable repute that happens to pass by.

Comment Re:Merkel's virgin soil (Score 4, Interesting) 197 197

At the same time, these guys complain that they can't run their offices with Linux: "It's too complicated for our staff. Give us back our Windows XP, our MS Office, our Internet Explorer."

May I remind you of projects like LiMux, which involved bringing the entire Infrastructure of the city of Munich over from Microsoft products to open source products based on and around Linux?

Projects that instead of failing, succeeded quite well. Where the users -- after an initial grumbling -- not only accepted it, but gave it quite better usability marks than the MS products. Users that are governmental offices, who are not exactly known for quickly embracing new ideas. In a federal state that's Germany's equivalent of Texas in terms of conservativeness.

So given that this project quite nicely showed that going away from the US Software companies, over to truly international Open Source software is very much feasible, even when you're just using the money you'd have spent on licensing costs anyway year-over-year, what's exactly the holdup?

Also, before you raise the flag of "lowered productivity", the entire switch-over happened progressively, without impacting users beyond them having to learn a few new clicks and buttons.

Now, avoiding US-based internet services is also not that hard.

  • There are plenty of European online mail providers.
  • Facebook is for most users also easily replaceable, given that their circle of friends (that they contact more than once a year) is usually entirely local; often less than a few hundred kilometers apart.
  • For video-on-demand, most people don't even know Netflix exists; but can probably name one or two local competitors -- simply because they want their films in their own languages.
  • There are more European online radio stations than you could ever want.
  • Even Slashdot, Digg, Reddit and others have perfectly fine local equivalents.

This list goes on and one; at least for Europe. Therefore, ignoring US services is only a matter of overcoming complacency, not one of sheer impossibility.

Comment Re:NIMBY (Score 1) 176 176

A lot of the wildlife around Chernobyl had dramatically recovered despite high levels of radiation.

Actually, all that Chernobyl's wildlife proves is this:

It is beneficial to wildlife populations to not exist in proximity to humans.

Given that fact, the recovery and increas in Chernobyl's wildlife becomes suddenly very, very uninteresting. Add to that the fact that the average life expectancy of somewhere around 90% of species living in the wild is below 20 years, and you get while doing longterm exposure studies on them is also kinda moot.

Comment Re:What interested me (Score 3, Interesting) 205 205

The Kinsey studies were flawed and debunked a while ago. Get with the times.

Just like Newton's ideas about gravity and the mechanistic universe were shown as flawed and debunked by the advent of relativity and quantum theory.

Being incomplete, yes, even being flawed, is not to be unexpected for scientific theories and studies. Indeed, almost all such endeavors in the history of mankind turned out to be flawed and incomplete. That does not diminish their importance though, as attempts to reduce the blurriness of our understanding of the world.

This is why I led my post with the deliberate statement of "[...] if the Kinsey studies have shown one thing [...]"; implying directly that I know that they were somewhat flawed and in many ways also a product of their times.
Still, their importance (along with similar studies done in Europe around the same time) helped western society grasp that a binary model of sexuality is even more deeply flawed and incomplete.

That is not to say the binary model does not approximately correspond to nature -- after all most species need heterosexual sex to procreate. It merely needed pointing out that it was missing a lot of the nuances of reality. Nuances that, when ignored, can lead to to wrong conclusions and predictions. And since these are applied to humans (instead of falling apples, to stay with Newton), the results of such errors can be quite ugly.

The last person that quit or was fired will be held responsible for everything that goes wrong -- until the next person quits or is fired.