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Comment What IED? (Score 1) 87

I'm constantly dismayed when terms get misused to the point that they lose their original meaning, but the culprits are usually people wanting to use words they don't quite understand to look smarter than they are. Your sentence "Hayabusa 2 is carrying [...] an IED meant to blow a hole [...]" is an example - do you actually know what the "I" in "IED" stands for? Hint: if it's carefully designed, it's not improvised.

Sadly, most things called IEDs aren't particularly improvised either, they're just "ED"s - or as they used to call them, "bombs".

Comment More than 90% (Score 2) 417

The Permian-Triassic extinction event didn't just kill of 90% of all life. It killed of 90% of all species - that is, it killed off 100% of 90% of species. Of the remaining 10%, it killed off 99% of some species, 98% of others, and so on. It was frighteningly close to sterilizing the planet.

Humans do have the capability to actually do that - sterilize the planet. It's highly unlikely, but possible if the entire world economy were dedicated to that - and it could be, as a side effect, because of two important effects:

  • The result of all technological progress is to allow people to do things they couldn't before, either by making something new possible, or making something existing available to more people.
  • There will always be some fraction of those people who are sceptical of the consequences, ignorant of them, or think they can get away with it just for themselves.

This means there will be a steadily growing number of people who are willing and able to do an increasing amount of damage in pursuit of their own goals, and if those goals result in hugely profitable corporations that can influence (or ignore) government policy throughout the world, extinction of all life could then become the main product of nearly all human activity. And humans are pretty good at accomplishing their goals.

To be fair, at some point the consequences will be obvious and the number of people willing to continue will fall. But that's as likely to be too late as not - see Rapa Nui (Easter Island) for what tends to happen then. And see Venus for how bad it could get.

Comment Ashton-Tate Framework (Score 1) 79

This actually happened at an important point in software history. Under founder George Tate, Ashton-Tate ("Ashton" was marketing fiction) was one of the few software companies competitive with Microsoft, although they had a different initial focus (desktop databases). They finally went head to head when Ashton-Tate bought Forefront, which was developing an integrated office suite, before Microsoft had fully committed to the concept.

There had been office suites of a sort before, generally bundles of software that didn't actually interact (the Osborn computer included bundled software worth more than the actual computer, a big selling point), but Framework was fully integrated, including its own development environment and desktop. It was essentially Windows before Windows, built on much better technology (similar to the "Lisp environment machines", but on normal hardware).

Unfortunately Tate died of a heart attack shortly after its introduction (around 1984, the Macintosh year). He had a vision for the product and was basing the company's future on it, but unfortunately everyone else had the mindset of running a database application company, and had no idea what to do with this thing. Rather than treating and promoting it as the new platform for a whole ecosystem of new software (basically an OS), they treated it as just another application, and while it had the potential to be the dominant OS before Windows was even finished, it eventually became just another forgotten Windows application.

Comment Large Tesla battery quite useful (Score 1) 334

Having a large house battery has other uses, such as for power outages. But consider this: an electric car has a huge battery capacity, but can charge from mains at only a trickle. That's okay for a commuter where you charge overnight, but if you have heavy use (say, a moving weekend) you need to charge it faster. Having a battery that has a rapid charging connection to the car (like the stand-alone chargers) fixes that problem - park for half an hour, and you're ready to go with almost a full charge.

Comment Microkernel OS/2 and more (Score 1) 229

The early hype around microkernels was that they could emulate other OSes, and that's what led to IBM's attempt. It turns out what killed that and all the other attempts was primarily the fact that to emulate an OS, you essentially had to re-implement the target OS on top of the microkernel - that is, the microkernel did not end up replacing much if anything in your emulated OS. So it was just an added abstraction layer that you would need as part of the OS anyway, and you saved nothing.

That in itself wouldn't have been bad - a waste of time, but not otherwise bad. But microkernels do have inherent performance problems. Specifically any time you have tightly coupled components that have to share data, in a monolithic kernel you share the data and use locks to protect it, in a microkernel it's passed by messages. Even when optimized to just buffer copying, that can add up to a lot when the data is huge, like a video display.

The overhead normally is not really big, so in itself a microkernel can be competitive with a monolithic kernel. There are also technical advantages to compensate. I'm sure you know QNX (used in Blackberry 10, the more reliable automobile entertainment systems, etc.) is an example of that. The problem is the overhead just makes your emulated OS worse, any microkernel advantages are not part of your monolithic kernel code above it, and that makes it pointless. It's just as much work to implement, there's little to no saving, and it's measurably slower.

So in summary, the hype around the stupid idea of emulated OSes tainted the idea of microkernels, but there's nothing wrong with microkernels themselves.

Comment Fair trial wanted (Score 4, Insightful) 200

A fair trial is what he asked for since the beginning. But under current U.S law, almost all evidence would be hidden under the claim of "national security" - essentially a secret trial, apart from knowing that it took place. That is, if it was even a trial as opposed to a "tribunal" as happened to Manning - no discovery of evidence, no jury, no impartial judge, just a panel of officers, all hidden from view.

The government wouldn't even have to charge him with anything related to the issues involved. Chances are he hasn't filed a U.S income tax return as required by all U.S citizens, even outside the country. For that matter, an obscure and rarely enforced law requires government papers to emigrate legally. He could be charged with any number of laws which don't allow any "public interest" defence to bring up the issues he wants to raise.

Comment America's subjugated population (Score 1) 462

An armed populace practically can't be subjugated by any outright oppressor, be it foreign of domestic. If you have to have a gunfight with, and kill most of the populace, then you didn't really 'win' as an oppressor. You can't kill them all.

First, subjugation has many forms. Can you buy a non-low flush toilet in the U.S (federally mandated by George Bush (first) since 1997) no matter how many guns you own? Can you deposit over $10,000 without being reported to the federal government? Can your land be forcably purchased to build a shopping centre?

Second, "force" can be coersive, not just physical. So you have guns. Do you have money? Not any more you don't. Do you have electricity, water, internet, phone service? Nice while they lasted. Can you leave home and go anywhere to get food, gas, or other supplies? Those were the days. No matter how many guns you might have, a seige will eventually end - and not worth it for most people.

Third, both George W Bush's war in Iraq, and Putin's actions against Ukraine shows that even in a modern internet-connected world, the vast majority of a country's population can be completely convinced of something that is demonstrably not true (Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, Ukrain wasn't overthrown by Nazis putting Russians into concentration camps). When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S testified to Congress that she was actually a nurse in Kuwait who watched Iraqi soldiers dump babies out of incubators to die on the floor (no such event was ever confirmed) - nobody asked even the very first question that would have exposed this lie. Opponents of the U.S government can be adequately demonized, then taken down with overwhelming public support.

Fourth, acting against the entire population might be impractical, but it's much easier to target specific groups one at a time. A large percentage of the U.S population already has nearly no rights already, as a result of nickle-and-diming laws that build up. For example, some states charge court fees to the accused, even when they are found innocent (i.e you used the court to prove your innocense, you must pay for that service), even for a minor crime like tresspassing. The poor often cannot pay, and can be imprisoned for that. There are prison fees, and failing to pay those can extend the term or result in reincarceration on release. There has built up a population of "un-people" who are otherwise law-abiding, but must avoid arrest, relying on a growing underground society of family, friends, and criminals to get illegal work, handle finances, find places to live, and so on. When sick they can't go to the hostpial or be turned in (they have back room "clinics"), when a victim of crime they can't go to the police. They can't use banks (so need cash, which the police can take as mentioned in the posted story). For other people, many are denied voting rights due to technicalities like lack of a drivers license or permanent residence. People caught urinating in public are put on a sex offenders list, which has such impossible restrictions on where to live and limits to work these days that many need to go into hiding just to survive. Minorities are stopped and searched on New York streets for no reason other than being black or hispanic.

Those are things that are already done. Those laws and actions are supported because the victims are "criminals" and in a black-and-white viewpoint, a "technical criminal" is as much a criminal as a murderer, and deserves no rights (and to be accused is to be a criminal).

All put together, this means even if the entire free population of the U.S were armed and trained, they could still be subjugated completely by a government that wanted to. Keep in mind that the repressed population of Iraq (pre-2003 overthrow) was also heavily armed (rifles mostly), but that didn't help them against Saddam Hussein's well organized repression.

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -Ronald Reagan