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Comment Re:weakly disguised hit-piece (Score 1) 294

If she voluntarily brought that parallel up, she's either desperate or stupid. Jobs got booted and went on to outdo Apple sufficently that they ended up buying him back and more or less gutting their own products to rebuild them around his. Fiorina? I, um, must have missed that part of her career.

Comment Re:weakly disguised hit-piece (Score 1) 294

The grim bit isn't so much having a given deal work out less well than hoped; but the downright absurd category error that made the idea seem even remotely sensible.

When you are peddling a bunch of expensive, reasonably tightly interconnected, enterprise datacenter widgetry and 'solutions'; it's not terribly uncommon to have re-badge versions of competitor's products, in areas you are weak in, so that you can satisfy the customer who wants everything wrapped up in a single vendor relationship, single point of contact, warranty and support agreement across the entire package, and so on. To this day, for instance, HP will sell you HP-colored Cisco switch gear that slots into their blade server chassis. They would obviously prefer that you buy their own, which they also have; but they'd rather sell you a big pile of HP blades and some Cisco switches than sell you nothing because you can't get the switches you want. Other vendors do the same sort of thing, as customer demand and the strengths and weaknesses of their offerings dictate. I'm sure it works out better some times than others; but it's broadly sensible.

The mindblowingly incompetent bit is, for some reason, applying the same logic to a consumer electronics widget; and then sealing the defeat by failing to secure important basics like "will our rebadged model get updated when the ipod does, or will we be left peddling last year's toy for as long as Apple feels like it?". That's what is just grim about this little tale. You don't come out ahead in every deal, yeah, so it goes; but running a company that sells, and has for years, to both enterprise customers and individuals; and not understanding the difference clearly enough to see that ipod buyers have different priorities than people buying blades or SANs? Seriously?

Comment Re:In other words: tradecraft (Score 1) 41

Unless we have enough spooks to covertly inject a ricin pellet into the leg of every script kiddie and bot-herder on the internet; we'll probably still need technological solutions to monitoring IT stuff.

If DARPA thinks that they can play offense if they just throw enough computers at the problem they are dreaming; but a cloak and dagger will only get you so far when dealing with people exploiting your software.

Comment Might actually work. (Score 4, Interesting) 41

Given neat tricks like recovering the RSA key GnuPG is using with nothing but a relatively unexceptional microphone recording of the noise emitted by the computer's power circuitry actually work; it seems quite plausible that you could detect abnormalities in operation based on measurements of the device's sound, heat, and so on.

What seems markedly trickier is dealing with devices whose behavior is variable enough that defining 'abnormality' is hard and generating a baseline 'fingerprint' isn't obvious. If the device's behavior is nice and predictable, you could theoretically force the attacker's malware to be extraordinarily similar to the legitimate software in order to evade detection. If not, though, the really nasty challenge would seem to be less in the measurement and more in knowing what signals to freak out about.

Comment Re:Hmmm (Score 1) 42

Exactly how good or bad this is seems like it will depend on how MS and Google treat 3rd parties, especially much weaker ones. If the prior case was "MS and Google sue one another pointlessly, also sue others" and now it's "also sue others", that's probably not such a bad thing, just a slight decrease in pointless litigation.

If it is now "the MS and Google LA own all patents that Apple doesn't covering things that are rectangular, portable, turing-complete, or any combination of these; go on the warpath"; that would be very bad indeed.

Comment Re:That'e exactly the wrong outcome! (Score 4, Insightful) 42

It's the wrong outcome if you want goofy things like 'some punk startup turning into the next Microsoft or Google, rather than being a no-risk-to-us R&D venture to be purchased if they do come up with something cool'; but if you are Microsoft and Google; such an agreement is pretty sensible. Patent fights between 'superpowers' are expensive and largely no-win(yeah, individual cases do get won; but the settlements are tit-for-tat and nobody wants an import ban or something screwing up a product launch; and it's been largely settled that nobody has enough patents to stop the other from building 'a smartphone' of some reasonable usability); but being a superpower is good fun; and patents are still useful when encouraging people with neat stuff to sell to you rather than try to go it alone.

(In an ideal world, hopefully we'd see both parties lobbying for changes that make this agreement obsolete; and if they do I'll revise my opinion; but that's still theoretical at this point.)

Comment Re:Question for the chemists (Score 2) 88

I suspect that the problem is dealing with mixed/contaminated waste streams. Outside of the lucky folks doing nuclear remediation, a lot of waste materials aren't actually too unpleasant to deal with if they would have the decency to show up clean and sorted. If you had a bunch of polystyrene foam you could indeed attack it with solvents, melt it, crush it, if you wanted to reduce its volume; or incinerate it according to the correct parameters if you wanted to get rid of it; and it'd probably actually be worth money to somebody, plastics don't get better with each melt cycle but they can definitely be good for a few.

The trouble is that, unless there is some elegant trick available, or the material is pretty valuable, sorting is a giant pain in the ass. Even if you try to make the end users do it, compliance isn't great and mixing of plastic types is almost inevitable(which is hard to blame people for, given that plenty of products and packages contain multiple plastic types and often aren't coded). That is where biological solutions get much more attractive: mealworms could easily enough survive, probably thrive, on a ground and moistened mixture of styrofoam, bits of food, household paper; etc. and eat around what they can't digest as long as it isn't overtly toxic. Attempting to devise a chemical attack that would work against such a mixture would be less fun.

Aside from any practical waste-management considerations; this story is pretty cool because, while polystyrene was discovered in the mid 1800s, it wasn't really used in any quantity until the 1930s. That's pretty quick work for the evolution of a new metabolic mechanism to attack a previously nonexistent food source.

Comment This is like the whole "learning styles" thing. (Score 1) 307

"Learning styles" takes an undeniable truth, that different people find it easiest to learn in different ways, exaggerates it to a falsehood (i.e., that people can only learn the way that's easiest for them), and then converts it to BS (e.g., "I'm a visual thinker, that's why I'm no good at math.")

The underlying mistaken assumption is that education should never require you to try something you find difficult or unnatural. If you are indeed a visual learner, that's something that you and your teachers can and should exploit, but you need to learn how to learn in modes that don't come easily to you. Life doesn't always give you a choice of forms for lessons you need to learn. Sometimes you ought to read the manual; other times there is no manual. You need to be adaptable to either case.

It's important to be sensitive to the fact that some students are introverts -- although that doesn't necessarily mean "shy" or "socially awkward"; that's just a stereotype, it's not what "introverted" means. But it is undeniably true that group work comes less naturally to introverts than extroverts. Nonetheless they still need to learn to work that way, just as extroverts need to learn how to work independently. If you just taught students to be able to do what comes naturally to them, what's the point of education?

Comment Re:Smoking or not, that's the question. (Score 1) 174

I'm not sure why anyone who wanted to use nicotine would choose the method that smells awful, severely limits your options in public, and will probably trash your lungs when you can get the same active ingredient in other delivery mechanisms; but nicotine actually has all sorts of interesting properties. The most intriguing, but poorly understood(surprise surprise, given the level of understanding in the area generally), are probably the ones that show up in people with schizophrenia. Effects are less dramatic in the general population; but plants evolved nicotine to interact with pests' nervous systems, so it does tickle the brain in various ways.

That said, even if we stopped being idiots about delivery method; nicotine is [i]crazy[/i] addictive, so it's a bit harder to recommend picking it up on the basis of some intriguing but unverified talk.It isn't terribly harmful if you aren't huffing burning cigarettes like an idiot; but it still punches well above its weight on habit formation.

Comment Re:Smoking or not, that's the question. (Score 2) 174

A genetic test that defines who can smoke an who can't, great.

Oh, much, much, more interesting: a genetic variation that allows certain people to maintain the function of a huge and delicate sponge of gas-exchange membrane despite heavy dosing with a grab bag of carcinogens, incomplete organic combustion products, and all sorts of unpleasantness.

The ability to smoke without consequence is peanuts compared to some of the possible applications of working out how that effect is created.

Comment Re:Cooling (Score 1) 62

Even if you ignore the sexy disaster scenarios, it seems like they've still got a giant consumer of power and cooling stuck brilliantly in the part of the desert that is relatively poorly positioned for sunlight, gets fairly hot, and is going to be a bystander for the west's ever-exciting fights over water use for its entire operational life.

It seems like a bit of a weird choice. Is Reno will positioned in terms of latency to various clusters of expected users? Did they get some sort of 'development incentive' that adds up to 250% of the cost of the project? What's the upside of this location?

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