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Comment: The premise is idiotic. (Score 3, Informative) 241

by jcr (#48178313) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

Microsoft's "Surface" is just the latest round of their "tablet PC" debacle, which had been a continuous failure for over a decade before the iPad was introduced. iPad succeeded because Apple didn't try to shoehorn a desktop OS into a device where it clearly didn't fit.

To suggest that Apple should abandon a successful approach for a failed approach demonstrates that the author should find a different line of work, he's obviously out of his depth writing about the computer industry.


Comment: Re:ancient news (Score 1) 87

by jc42 (#48161417) Attached to: Early Childhood Neglect Associated With Altered Brain Structure, ADHD

Decades ago there was an experiment with monkeys deprived of maternal support to varying degrees. Some not allowed to touch or see the mother. Autopsies showed that the deprived monkeys had massive (and obvious to any observer) brain deficiencies. These monkeys were never able to adjust to social settings with others of their kind. Their behavior was obviously abnormal. My impression was that every moment of their life was stressful for them. Sorry I can't recall the source of the video I saw.

This result would be the same for dogs, cats and humans. I can't comprehend why it would be news in the year 2014.

Hmmm ... You seem to have missed the even more "interesting" followup studies. I was a grad student working with some of those reasearchers, so I heard a bit about it. They took their adult solo-raised monkeys, who were highly asocial, and caged them for a while with infant monkeys. After a few months, they took those individuals and put them in the "social" cages with established groups of their own species -- and they behaved like normal, socialized monkeys.

So maybe we could try this with our "deprived" human children. Put them into a social setting (perhaps schools) with younger children, and watch their interactions. They aren't monkeys, of course, but we are all close relatives, so maybe it would work with them, and they'd become at least somewhat better-socialized humans after a while.

Or maybe humans are hopeless. We don't really know until we do such experiments on ourselves. But we do seem to have a population of good test subjects, and the results couldn't be much worse than what we've been doing. Imprisoning such young adults in response to minor mischief would seem to be exactly the wrong thing to do, if those monkey experiments apply to our species, too.

Comment: Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (Score 1) 235

by Idarubicin (#48149739) Attached to: Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

Agreed. That means for the foreseeable future (twenty years or more as any substantial breakthrough in efficiency would be apparent now for something that would be productized in the next ten years) rooftops are not enough. Ignore the space required for storage and you still have huge amounts of land being chewed up for energy production that are not available for anything else: agriculture, residential, commercial, manufacturing, ...

To give the devil his due, the best locations for solar installs tend to be sites that aren't very valuable for agriculture, residential, commercial, or manufacturing use. They're out in the desert. This isn't to say that desert land is valueless (economically or environmentally) but generally it is a type of land that - until now - we have had very little incentive to exploit, and there is an awful lot of it.

Comment: Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (Score 1) 235

by Idarubicin (#48149543) Attached to: Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

current numbers. things are only going to get more efficient both on the server side and the solar panel side.

There's a limit to how good things can get on the solar panel side. The best multi-junction photovoltaic cells, at the cost of great complexity, are able to reach about 45% efficiency in the laboratory. The absolute maximum theoretical efficiency is about 85% (requiring materials and manufacturing processes that haven't been discovered and probably don't exist). One server per square meter is still pitifully low density. On the bright side, the cooling problems get to be much easier to deal with, I guess.

As for the per-server power draw decreasing--that's true, though it's happening slowly. And the trend has certainly been to increase the number of servers in a data center (or the number of blades in a rack) much, much faster than the per-server energy consumption has gone down.

This isn't to say that I'm opposed to rooftop solar. The balance between rooftop area and demand is much more favorable if you look at, for instance, suburban homes (which are admittedly otherwise environmentally disastrous). And rooftops are 'dead' space otherwise, that might as well be doing something useful like producing electricity. My point was only that the suggestion that all would be solved if the data centers put solar panels on their rooftops (or even their parking lots and windows) was nonsense. And, incidentally, that the most efficient places to put solar generating facilities are actually a long way from where the majority of people are living.

Comment: Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (Score 3, Insightful) 235

by Idarubicin (#48146975) Attached to: Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

data centers generally aren't lacking for available roof space so no taking up any more land.

Above the atmosphere, at the equator, the average insolation (that is, the amount of incoming solar energy, averaged over the course of a day) is about 400 watts per square meter. At the bottom of the atmosphere in an ideal location (like the Sahara) it's closer to 300 W/sq. m. In most places where people want to have data centers, the number is closer to 200 W/sq. m...or worse. And the efficiency of commercial solar panels runs about 20%, so you're down to 40 watts per square meter.

200 watts is (optimistically) about the draw of a single server, so you're looking at powering one server for every five square meters of rooftop. If you want to run on rooftop solar, then you're going to have to design a data center with very short racks and very wide aisles.

Comment: Re:No Carriers (Score 4, Insightful) 149

by jc42 (#48143443) Attached to: ISPs Violating Net Neutrality To Block Encryption

They block encryption they are violating the telecommunication laws. And so they are not a carrier anymore.

If you mean "common carrier" then the truth is that they never where one.

Maybe we should be looking at the origins of the "common carrier" concept, and learn how they apply to the current situation. A number of historians have written on this topic, and the history definitely applies to our modern network.

Part of the explanation of how "common carrier" arose is in the well-known phrase "kill the messenger". Centuries ago, this was a very real problem. It wasn't unusual for a prince (or other powerful personage) to respond to the receipt of a message he didn't like by punishing the poor fellow who delivered it. The carrier services replied to this in about the only way they could: They opened and read the messages, and if they thought the recipient would react by harming their carrier, they would "edit" the message. And when dealing with a recipient who had a bad history, they'd often sell the message's content to the enemies of the sender or receiver.

Eventually the smarter princes figured out that a reliable message service was worth more than the temporary enjoyment they got from torturing or killing the messenger. So some of them got together with the message services, and worked out an agreement: If a sender and receiver had both signed on with a message company, they could send "sealed" messages, which the message carriers would promise to deliver unopened. But this would only apply if the sender and receiver had both promised not to damage the carriers employees or equipment, etc., etc.

This worked out to the advantage of the princes who joined in such agreements, so the practice spread, and became known (in English) by the phrase "common carrier".

It's easy to see how this all might apply to our current topic. The ISPs are "carriers", but not "common carriers". They have a record of opening and reading our communications, and selling the contents to "enemies" like marketers and government agencies. We're now engaged in collecting evidence about this behavior, and publishing it openly. We should make it clear that, as long as the ISPs continue acting in such perfidious ways, we will continue to work to expose their behavior to the general public, including people they views as their enemies (or "competitors";-).

The parallels to the original situation aren't exact, but we might benefit by knowing the history and trying to find a similar solution that can work today.

Comment: Re:What about the environment? (Score 1) 367

by jc42 (#48132717) Attached to: PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

Yeah exactly! I feel PETA is saying, blah blah blah - use petrol and kill off the animals.

Wait - the "slow food" movement would say "go local."

I'm so confused. Is global warming coming or not?!

Nah; it's not coming at all. It's here. And we're not gonna do a thing about it, so we'll just have to adapt. And migrate inland as our coastal areas slowly flood out.

Here in New England, one of the running jokes for the past decade or so has been for one person to ask what time the robins arrived this year, and another person says "They didn't return; they never left."

Actually, it is a bit more complicated than that. They're one of the many semi-migratory birds now. Part of the population heads south when it gets too cold. But we've seen robins in our yard (in a western suburb of Boston) every month of the year for about 10 years now, while before that, they were almost never seen in December, January or February. This was never exact, though, since their normal winter range did extend to around New York (and southern Nova Scotia ;-), and they were reported around Boston occasionally during warm winters. If you look in older bird books, you can see the robins' winter range ending somewhere south of us, depending on the book, while the current books show it extending to around the New Hampshire border.

But still, they're a locally obvious sign that the climate has shifted north by a hundred miles or so. And a casual search of the topic will make it clear that the US government and most of the population have no intention of doing anything serious to change the trend. The scientists have clearly pinned the blame on human activity, and the engineers point out that this means we now know how to control the climate if we want to. But we (collectively) don't want to.

(Then there's the local joke about all the folks in New Hampshire and Maine who think global warming sounds like a fine idea. Myself, I intend to plant a palm tree in our yard as soon as they become available in the nurseries, which may happen soon. ;-)

Comment: Re:Let's get our priorities straight here! (Score 1) 367

by jc42 (#48132409) Attached to: PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

Heh. The example I like to use is to point out that killing one cow (or steer) means around 100 meals for a human, while eating a single slice of bread means you're responsible for the death of around 100 baby wheat plants (and probably a thousand living, breathing yeasts). Or: When you eat a hamburger, the meat part is entails less than .01 deaths, while the bread part caused the death of 100 to 1000 living creatures. So it's the vegetarians that are doing the real mass killing of prey.

Of course, this is a bit disingenuous, since the animal was probably fed on grains. But you can confuse this issue a bit by pointing out that cattle actually evolved as grazers mostly on the vegetative parts of their grassy "prey", not the seeds, and the plants can quickly regrow their leaves. Our feedlots are responsible for lots of deaths of little baby grains, true, but naturally-raised beef wouldn't do this. They do ingest at least a few of the seeds, so the issue isn't quite so clear, but it's basically accurate.

For some reason, people with ethical concerns about eating animals never seem to consider that plants are also living creatures. They seem to think that killing a single animal is something horrible, while there's nothing wrong with mass murder of baby grain plants. But you can confuse them a bit by talking about the plants as living creatures. Produce the image of an animal thousands of times our size, collecting our babies and tossing them alive into large hoppers, to be ground to a paste for the next meal. That's what we do to wheat plants. Hiding it in a grain mill doesn't change the fact.

Unfortunately, we're animals, and we can't get our food from the sun, air and dirt. To live, we must kill other living things and eat them. There are marginal cases, such as fruits that were evolved as animal food (to trick animals into transporting the seeds). But we humans can't live on fruit alone; we do have to kill other species for most of our food. This slightly complicates the moral and ethical issues.

Comment: Re:Hoax (Score 1) 972

Yeah, and they both stole geometry from Euclides, and numbers from India. Also, General Relativity, thousands of times more important (and difficult) that E=mc2, didn't happen. It was all a dream.

And they all stood on Newton's shoulders.

No, wait; Newton came after Euclides. So Newton must have stood on his shoulders.

The human pyramid is getting rather tall, and a bit top-heavy.

Comment: Re:Hoax (Score 1) 972

Also, General Relativity, thousands of times more important (and difficult) that E=mc2, didn't happen. It was all a dream.

Just to be sure, isn't E=mc2 is a special relativity postulate?

Is it really? I've always read of it being a conclusion, not a postulate. Maybe I should finally go dig up the original papers and see who's been getting it wrong all along.

(Not that doing so would likely effect much in the ongoing flame wars, uh, I mean serious scientific discussions about such things. ;-)

Comment: Re:Supreme Court (Score 1) 112

by jcr (#48111909) Attached to: National Security Letter Issuance Likely Headed To Supreme Court

Citizens United was not the correct ruling.

Actually, this is a rare example of something that the court got right. The government doesn't have any legal authority to infringe our freedom of speech, whether we act individually or collectively, and when acting collectively, whether that collective is a corporation, a partnership, or any other kind of organization. Opponents of the CU decision claim that the decision amounts to declaring that corporations are people, which entirely orthogonal to the question of whether the government can shut people up.

Bribes are not a protected form of speech,

Campaign contributions aren't bribes. Money given to a candidate off the books that they can use for hookers and blow are bribes.


Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.