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Comment: Re:Hyperbole in a headline? (Score 2) 297

Given that your idiosyncratic definition of "ownership" can, by definition, only ever apply to a sovereign government, it's not a term that is likely to come up for conversation very often. In the meantime, we would need some other term, which could apply to the state we currently call "ownership", an everyday situation which frequently comes up in conversation, as it involves billions of people.

Gee, I have an idea! Why don't we use the common, everyday word to describe the common, everyday situation, and invent some complex, specialized, technical term to describe this rarefied form of national-sovereignty "ownership" you have in mind?

Comment: Re:Not really.... (Score 1) 116

by Mars Saxman (#42111177) Attached to: Dual Interface Mobile Devices To Address BYOD Issue

Hear, hear. The people who use their personal phones or laptops to do official work confuse me. I've never been asked to do such a thing and have no idea why I would want to. I had a business cell phone once but that was just because it was a small company with no PBX; I just left the phone on my desk like any other office phone. Never had any problems, and I never had any risk that my employer might have any knowledge of my personal email or phone conversation.

Comment: Re:Saddened :( (Score 1) 701

by Mars Saxman (#40249843) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Teaching Chemistry To Home-Schooled Kids?

Hi. I was home schooled all the way up through high school, before the word "homeschooling" came along to describe what my parents were doing. Neither of my parents was "specifically trained" in the manner you suggest. Huge disservice? I don't think so. They bought ordinary textbooks and set me to work studying them, taught me how to write papers and made me write up what I learned, got me a library card and let me check out as many books as the library would let me take, bought a computer and a modem and generally left me free to explore with them. I got a better education than most, and I never had to deal with bullying or all the social crap that comes with a herd of barely-supervised children who have not yet learned how to behave socially. I learned how to interact competently with adults and wasted very little time on other children. Sure, I always felt a bit awkward around other kids, but by the time they grew up into adults I basically knew how to handle them. It's worked out pretty well so far.

Comment: Re:I NEVER said replace (Score 1) 185

by Mars Saxman (#39372115) Attached to: VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin On the Tablet Revolution

You might well be right; I just hope things don't go the way you expect them to, because it doesn't sound like much fun. I have been disappointed by the steady disappearance of physical keyboards from phones; my current phone has a touchscreen, and while I can get along with it, typing more than a sentence or two just sucks. It's slower and far less accurate - it is only the presence of an extremely aggressive autocorrect system that makes the touchscreen keyboard usable at all.

In a world where your average home PC is actually an iPad, I'd rarely, if ever, write a comment as long as this one, because it'd be so much irritating work.

if you take a tablet and attach a keyboard, how is that different from having a laptop?

None, but you just agreed with me.

Not so much. A computer is a computer is a computer, so all we're talking about is the form factor. "Tablet" is a form factor which works for situations where you are lounging around: sitting on the couch or the easy chair, in bed, something like that. But what are you going to do when you need to write a bunch of text? You can stick your tablet into a tablet holder, pull out a keyboard, and start working - um - wait, except you've just re-invented the laptop, badly. So now you have an awkward laptop for doing desk type things. This is in fact a very significant amount of the work people do with computers today, and I believe that we will continue to have many devices available which are designed for that type of usage.

Obviously tablets are going to grow much more quickly than PCs, because they are a form factor which is suited to a range of computing activities that previously went unserved. That means the hot development money is going to move to the tablet world, all the aggressive young startups will go work on tablet apps, etc. It's just the same cycle that we saw with phones. But that doesn't mean PCs become any less important than they are now: it just means there's a huge new market which is drawing all the new attention.

Comment: Re:I NEVER said replace (Score 1) 185

by Mars Saxman (#39371003) Attached to: VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin On the Tablet Revolution

If I am not thinking ahead, it's because I don't see anything appealing about the scenario you apparently expect. Keyboards are great for entering text. We have been refining them for decades. If there were a better way of building a keyboard someone would already have tried it. I do not believe that keyboards are going away, because people will continue to need to enter text, and will continue to need to enter large amounts of text. Anyone whose job involves a lot of text entry is not going to be happy about the idea of using a tablet instead of a normal computer.

As far as attaching an external keyboard, well, if you take a tablet and attach a keyboard, how is that different from having a laptop? If you are regularly using a home-assembled laptop, why wouldn't you just use.... a laptop? Or are you simply suggesting that laptops of the future will have touch-sensitive screens in addition to their keyboards? I can't see the form factor working particularly well, but I suppose it's possible.

Comment: Re:You are fundamentally clueless (Score 1) 185

by Mars Saxman (#39368505) Attached to: VisiCalc's Dan Bricklin On the Tablet Revolution

The ipad (because that's what we really mean by "tablets" here) is a new kind of computer, but it doesn't replace the existing kind of computer, because it doesn't have a keyboard. Touch is great for certain kinds of things, and keyboards are great for other kinds of things, and it simply doesn't make sense to do anything text-heavy on a touch interface.

Smartphones didn't replace computers. Tablets won't replace smartphones. "Post-PC" doesn't mean the PC is going away; it means the PC is no longer the sole center of the computing universe.

Comment: Re:How to disable these cameras for cheap (Score 1) 342

by Mars Saxman (#39358937) Attached to: Astroturfing For Speed Cameras

My friend "admitted" his actions to the person in the store because he was hoping to spread the idea and encourage others to participate.

Red light cameras are a racket. Private companies install and operate them in exchange for a per-ticket fee. The city government gets money, the private company gets money, and we the citizens get screwed. The "public safety" angle is nothing more than a cover story - as we have seen many cities end up adjusting the length of the yellow light downward in order to increase revenue generated by the camera. This practice actually makes those intersections less safe. Furthermore, people are more likely to panic-stop at intersections with red-light cameras, making rear-end collisions more likely.

My friend believes that this situation is illegitimate and unfair. He further believes that the democratic process will accomplish nothing, because it's too small an issue to get people excited about, but too profitable an issue for the city government to yield without a great deal of pressure.

My friend chose his "vandalism" strategy carefully: he is not trying to destroy or even damage someone else's property, but merely to force the private company running the camera to spend more money maintaining their equipment, thereby making their operation less profitable. The glue is water-soluble and does no permanent damage to the camera. A worker can clean the glue off in a minute with nothing more than a wet rag, and the camera works just as well as it did before. But as often as my friend goes by and glues up the camera, the company has to send someone out to clean it, and that costs them money. If enough people keep costing the red-light company money, the venture will stop being profitable, and then we can use the normal political process to get rid of the cameras.

Comment: How to disable these cameras for cheap (Score 5, Interesting) 342

by Mars Saxman (#39341233) Attached to: Astroturfing For Speed Cameras

A friend of mine discovered that it is trivially easy to blind one of these cameras.

From his local grocery store, he bought an empty sprayer bottle and some white glue (like Elmer's); this cost like three bucks. He mixed up a 1:1 solution of glue and water, then screwed his sprayer bottle's nozzle to the "stream" mode.

My friend started carrying one of those reusable grocery bags to the store. He'd just leave the sprayer bottle in it. Every time he went to the store, he'd walk up behind the red-light camera, stand just underneath it but still outside its field of vision, and then spray glue all over the lens.

Note that the red light camera systems usually have two cameras: one is a video camera, mounted higher up, which does detection; the lower camera is a high-res still camera, designed to capture the image of the license plate. You don't need to bother with the video camera; just blind the still camera. The system will still keep running, but the photos will be all blurred out and unusable.

My friend said that he'd walk by the camera two or three times a week, and the lens was usually cleaned off by the time he came back. That means that the red-light camera company was sending someone out to clean it, over and over, every week, costing the company lots of money.

My friend told me that someone once approached him in the grocery store and asked what he had been doing; they'd seen him spraying the camera and were curious what he was up to. When he explained how easy it was to disable a red-light camera, the person was delighted and decided to go start doing it herself, too.

Comment: Re:Not really a virus, or at least not effective. (Score 2) 86

by Mars Saxman (#34934290) Attached to: PC Virus Turns 25

This is a somewhat different definition of "virus" than I remember from the '80s. I haven't actually encountered a virus since then, so perhaps usage has changed, but back in the day a "virus" was a self-replicating program that worked by attaching itself to or embedding itself within an existing program, while a "worm" was a stand-alone program that worked by exploiting security holes in remote computers and copying itself over independently.

Evading detection is a secondary effect of the fact that the virus works by embedding itself within an existing program; it takes advantage of some existing process to replicate itself. Of course evading detection is a good thing if you want your virus to succeed, but a self-replicating program does not fail to earn the label "virus" simply because its author took no special care to disguise it.

Comment: Re:Losing Appeal (Score 1) 310

by Mars Saxman (#31091158) Attached to: Google Buzz — First Reactions

Google's ecosystem is very strongly tied together. You might not notice this if you are already using GMail, but all their other tools depend on it. It is difficult to use any of Google's stuff without somehow getting roped into GMail.

Googletalk, for example, used to be, or at least look like, a stand-alone chat service; I signed up for a googletalk account and used it to chat for a while. Then I noticed that quite a few of my friends were having trouble getting email through to me - they kept referring to things they'd sent me which I'd never received. Huh?

It turned out that there is no such thing as a "googletalk account" - it's just a gmail account. Since I have never used gmail, I had no idea there was an email address associated with this thing. But any gmail user who chatted with me would find my googletalk address added to their address book - and would try sending email to it!

The same thing seems to happen with google groups, google wave, all these things. I have not been able to find any coherent explanation of which login systems will automatically create a google mail account and which ones won't. I get the impression that Google engineers tend to think of their new services as extensions to gmail, and don't really consider that people might not want to use gmail.

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