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Comment: Re:Our they could use Planes (Score 1) 140

by Martin Blank (#47652753) Attached to: Google's Satellites Could Soon See Your Face From Space

They have (or had) a mostly exclusive contract with GeoEye for one of their satellites, though the US government held priority over that in case they needed access to the imagery.

Google recently purchased SkyBox, and so may soon be launching its own constellation of smaller satellites. These will reportedly have high-res video capabilities, so it may be possible to watch traffic (or other things) moving in real- or near-real time.

Comment: Re: This was the best... (Score 1) 252

by Martin Blank (#47645033) Attached to: <em>Babylon 5</em> May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

They used the opportunity afforded by him leaving to kill MacLean Stevenson's character, but it wasn't out of spite. They did it to remind the audience that the show took place during a war. The studios were livid with the decision, as they had not been consulted and didn't like that they couldn't bring him back later.

You may be right that B5 was the first to plan it this way, though that wasn't the way it was originally phrased.

Comment: Re:This was the best... (Score 2) 252

by Martin Blank (#47642803) Attached to: <em>Babylon 5</em> May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

"And best of all, this was the first series to kill off 'major' characters"

That's not true. Off the top of my head, MASH killed Henry Blake, and that was probably the first time a major character was killed off in a major series (other than a cast member dying). It was much more sporadic before the 90s, but it did happen.

Comment: Re:What about Verizon FIOS? (Score 1) 146

by Martin Blank (#47528633) Attached to: Comcast Carrying 1Tbit/s of IPv6 Internet Traffic

Their status page promised roll-outs starting in late 2012, but it also has horrifically bad information, even for an ISP ("Verizon will use a IPv6/56 address format, which means this will support 56 LANs.") I've asked about it several times, but no one at any level seems to know what's going on. The routers have been IPv6-enabled since spring of 2013, which got a lot of people excited. There's a rumor that the hold-up has to do with newer set-top boxes and broken IPv6 stacks, but no one knows how believable that is. (I don't buy it. I just think Verizon is refusing to spend the money necessary to implement it.)

Comment: Re:Ye Gods, an Ad (Score 2) 107

by Martin Blank (#47151889) Attached to: Crucial Launches MX100 SSD At Well Under 50 Cents Per GiB

I know a number of people who make use of virtualization on notebooks, and SSDs help dramatically there. I switched to an SSD on my home system and since then, it's become painful being on any system with an HDD because of the latency caused by the drive. I'm trying to talk my boss into letting me get an SSD for my work notebook as I usually have at least one VM running and often two, and the competition for the hard drive is killing me.

It's not a necessary thing for every person who has a notebook, but it's a much larger fraction than car owners who have a Ferrari in the garage.

Comment: Re:Of course (Score 2) 107

by Martin Blank (#47090063) Attached to: NASA Money Crunch Means Trouble For Spitzer Space Telescope

There's a probe called New Horizons on the way to Pluto right now, largely because we can't get decent pictures from here. Even with Hubble, the best we get is a fuzzy blob a few pixels in size.

Then there's the Cassini mission that provided information about Titan that could not have been obtained without dropping a probe into its atmosphere.

There was Galileo, which provided a wealth of knowledge about the Jovian moons that we could not have gotten by taking pictures from here.

Magellan provided radar mapping of the surface of Venus that is completely obscured from view in visible light due to permanent clouds.

And, of course, there is the science being done on Mars that requires a physical presence.

Comment: Re:Budget Perspective (Score 1) 107

by Martin Blank (#47086725) Attached to: NASA Money Crunch Means Trouble For Spitzer Space Telescope

The pro-Moscow government in Georgia came about after Russia invaded it while Bush was in office. There's not really much we can do for non-NATO nations in Russia's backyard. There's a reason that Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia joined NATO, and why Ukraine has considered it so often.

Comment: Re:Endorse James Webb. Do NOT even mention Sptizer (Score 3, Interesting) 107

by Martin Blank (#47086701) Attached to: NASA Money Crunch Means Trouble For Spitzer Space Telescope

Are you aware that federal income taxes were collected long before the case (Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust) that basically triggered the adoption of the 16th Amendment? They go back to 1861. The issue in Pollock was not that the income tax was unconstitutional (the income tax on wages was decided unanimously to be constitutional in 1880 and held to be an excise tax in Pollock), but that taxes on income derived from property (rental income, stock dividends, etc.) were direct taxes (as opposed to indirect taxes on wages) and so had to be apportioned by state populations. It then spent the next decade doing contortions trying to fit various taxes challenged after the Pollock ruling as excise taxes so as to not deprive the federal government of revenue from many other sources.

The 16th Amendment merely allows taxes collected on all income, whatever the source, to not be apportioned by state populations, taking the issue out of the courts' hands completely. Repealing the amendment wouldn't end the income tax or the IRS, but instead justify a larger bureaucracy to ensure that income from direct taxes was apportioned properly, or else a rush to the courts to challenge pretty much every tax and a resumption of the judicial contortions to keep them in place.

And you really should get up to date on your recent history. While I'm not sad to see Saddam Hussein gone, there were no unconventional weapons found, save for a few old artillery shells buried more than a decade before. He really had dismantled his programs, but tried to make it look like maybe he didn't in case Iran got the bright idea of starting a new fight.

Comment: Re:Budget Perspective (Score 2) 107

by Martin Blank (#47086631) Attached to: NASA Money Crunch Means Trouble For Spitzer Space Telescope

The B-1 was used in Iraq first during Operation Desert Fox and later during the 2003 invasion, and was also used in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The B-52, while still a very good bomber, is showing its age. While the Air Force still has it in the plans for another 30 years or so, it's not what you want to use should you have to go up against any serious air defenses, as they have to be neutralized first. Boeing has proposed several modernization ideas including new engines that would improve fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance requirements, but the cost of that is more than the Air Force wants to pay. They're planning for a new bomber to replace all three existing bombers starting around 2030-2035.

And the B-1 never really scared the Soviets. Before the final one was delivered, the Air Force realized that it couldn't compete with Soviet air defenses.

Comment: Re:This, I am unsurprised about (Score 1) 241

by Martin Blank (#47081911) Attached to: WikiLeaks: NSA Recording All Telephone Calls In Afghanistan

It's strung out to keep it in the news, lest it be forgotten about in a few months. There is a strategy to it that goes well beyond awards.

Assange, on the other hand, does it for his own benefit, primarily to his ego. A recent post on Twitter mentioned delaying "the identity of NSA 'SOMALGET' country X to another date for media cycle reasons." Less than two hours later, after several replies had said it was Afghanistan, Assange made another post announcing that Afghanistan was the other country. (I follow the Wikileaks feed in part because there's occasionally something interesting but mostly because the slow burn of Assange and his declining support base kind of intrigue me.)

Comment: Re:This, I am unsurprised about (Score 1) 241

by Martin Blank (#47081895) Attached to: WikiLeaks: NSA Recording All Telephone Calls In Afghanistan

You're right that there was little (not no) pretense of protecting the Afghan peoples. However, the government in Kabul (such as it was) refused to hand over bin Laden, claiming that bin Laden was their guest, and they could neither kick him out nor turn him over to others who would do him harm. After airstrikes began, they offered to discuss turning him over to a neutral country that would not extradite him to the US, but only if proof of bin Laden's complicity in the 9/11 attacks was presented and they accepted it. The US, of course, refused the deal.

As to the others, the vote in Crimea that was allegedly 97% in favor of annexation with an 85% turnout rate was a sham: the Russian Council on Civil Society and Human Rights (accidentally?) posted the true results briefly: 30% turnout and only half voted in favor of annexation. The deposing of Morsi was condemned by the United States several times, though it admittedly didn't do much more. And Thailand has had 18 attempted coups, 11 of which were successful. It is, for better or for worse, an almost natural state of affairs there.

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 310

There's nothing illegal about it. Most states have alternate regulations for certain jobs. For example, if you're the one and only person working a shift, and someone must be there all the time, an exception can be made requiring you to remain at your work location even through your meal breaks, though both you and the employer must agree to this and you have to be paid for the time. They also generally allow for alternate schedules for union members provided a majority of the union members vote in favor of that schedule.

"I may be synthetic, but I'm not stupid" -- the artificial person, from _Aliens_