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Comment: Every single transaction is broadcast to the world (Score 1, Informative) 63

by Michael Woodhams (#48470685) Attached to: Bitcoin Is Not Anonymous After All

And you can absolutely guarantee that the three letter agencies remember every one of them. They can look at who you've made transactions with and usually get a very good idea just from that who you are. I imagine they get more from fronts and hacked/infiltrated organizations. If they need more and you've ever transacted with a commercial entity within their jurisdiction, you are a National Security Letter or local equivalent away from being identified.

This IP address thing is like discovering that the back door is unlocked and open when the front door is secured by a piece of string.

Comment: The minus 10 billion dollar woman (Score 1) 366

by Michael Woodhams (#48470461) Attached to: Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina Considering US Presidential Run

The market capitalization of Hewlett Packard leapt something like 10 billion dollars on the news that she had been fired. That is to say, the stock market values her at negative 10 billion dollars. If she enters the race, how long can it be until someone labels her 'the minus ten billion dollar woman', and how long can she stay in the race with that label?

Comment: Re:In Finland (Score 3, Informative) 460

by Michael Woodhams (#48465837) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

Wooden houses as opposed to what? I don't think a well built wooden house is at all a problem in an earthquake zone. It is better than brick, probably worse than reinforced concrete or steel, but who builds single dwellings from reinforced concrete or steel?

I'm from New Zealand, where we have quite high earthquake hazard, and an overwhelming majority of our houses are wooden. Fatalities in the Christchurch earthquake were (mostly? entirely?) not due to wooden buildings but to poor quality 1980s high-rise and ~100 year old brick low-rise commercial buildings. People did die in wooden houses, but in the cases I am aware of this was due to boulders or cliffs falling on them, which no reasonable house would withstand, or heavy furniture falling on them, again independent of house construction.

Comment: Re:I'd love to have a self driving car, but... (Score 1) 453

by Michael Woodhams (#48446243) Attached to: In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

Planes are essentially self-driving now, at least runway-to-runway.

No, they are not. That is like saying a company is self-running just because it has an automated production line. Much of the flight is under auto-pilot, but the human pilots are frequently changing the auto-pilot's instructions. There is a lot of training and skill maintaining in being a pilot. They aren't just there to keepen das hander in das pockets und watschen der blinkenlichten.

All take-offs are manual. Nearly all landings are manual. Mostly 'auto land' just takes the plane to just short of the runway, at which point a pilot takes over for the actual touchdown. Full auto land is possible, but with good visibility it is simply less work to manually land than to set up the auto land.

Comment: Re:Ignorant Article (Score 2) 519

by Michael Woodhams (#48423757) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

It doesn't work like that, it isn't a chemical fuel you can burn or save. The amount of Pu-238 you need is dictated by your peak power demand. How long it lasts is dictated by nuclear physics (the half life of Pu-238.) You have no control over how fast the plutonium is used up.

Comment: Heat pollution (Score 3, Insightful) 519

by Michael Woodhams (#48423603) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

You're trying to study a temperature-sensitive environment in its natural state. An RTG produces lots of heat. (They are only about 5% efficient, so they produce twenty times as much heat as electrical power.) The presence of the RTG might perturb or destroy the environment you're there to study. I don't have the detailed knowledge to say if this is the case.

Plus the issues others have raised: mass, scarcity of suitable isotopes, and launching highly radioactive material on top of hundreds of tonnes of potentially explosive fuel is something you'd rather avoid if possible.

Comment: Re:Would this kind of system have saved Challenger (Score 1) 44

by Michael Woodhams (#48192875) Attached to: A Look At Orion's Launch Abort System

OK, lets rephrase a little, and concentrate on the Challenger failure mode, rather than the actual shuttle.

Imagine a rocket that was compatible with an LES, and also compatible with the Challenger failure mode. (Remove the shuttle, put the liquid fuel engines on the bottom of the external tank, throw a capsule on the top, keep the solid rockets.) Now have the boosters fail in the same way they did with Challenger. Would the LES have sufficient notice to get the capsule to safety?

Comment: The Giver (Score 1) 410

by Michael Woodhams (#47979439) Attached to: It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

I find it fascinating that "The Giver" rates #11 (1990-1999) and #23 (2000-2009) on the ALAs 'Most Frequently Challenged' lists (for (very mildly) discussing sexual arousal in adolescents) and yet, when it gets made into a movie, it gets championed by some as advancing conservative values. (I've read the book but not seen the movie, so I can't comment on how reasonable this view is.)

I'm thinking they wouldn't like my take on the story.


I interpret it as an allegory for the Garden of Eden story. The Community (with its absence of pain and want) can only maintain itself by evil means (e.g. infanticide and involuntary euthanasia) but to have citizens performing evil acts would also destroy its 'idealness'. The way they reconcile these contradictory requirements is by denying their citizens knowledge of good and evil. Jonas attempts to give them this knowledge, which, if he succeeded, would effectively expel The Community from their Eden, hence he is playing the role of the serpent.

Comment: A really impressive demonstration of VR... (Score 3, Interesting) 65

by Michael Woodhams (#47956165) Attached to: New "Crescent Bay" VR Headset Revealed and Demo'd At Oculus Connect

... would be if you walked into the company's hospitality suite at a conference, put on the VR headset, looked around you ... and couldn't tell the difference.

An alien landscape is very cool and photogenic, but might be hiding flaws because we don't know what it is supposed to look like. It is a fair demonstration of immersive game worlds, which will be one of the big initial uses of VR, so the demonstration is not invalidated by this.

Comment: Re:Down the Drain (Score 1) 368

by Michael Woodhams (#47869307) Attached to: Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

Scenario A:
Notch sells Mojang to a respected community friendly company for a reasonable price of a few hundred million. Mojang's employees and customers are reasonably happy.
Scenario B:
Notch sells Mojang to Microsoft for $2B. Mojang's employees are very unhappy. The customers are fairly unhappy but if they get too unhappy there are clones out there to migrate to, or they can just play the current version without further updates.
Scenario C:
Notch sells Mojang to Microsoft for $2B and gives each of his employees $1M as a present. Notch is still way richer than in scenario A, employees are happier, customers still have the migrate or no updates options.

If I had a cheap effective cure for malaria and a company I didn't trust offered me 10 times what I thought it was worth, I'd likely not sell. But for a smallish computer game company, I can do more good with $2B than any plausible evil that could come of the sale.

However, I am going to download the latest Minecraft development snapshot tonight so as to not miss out on slime blocks should I need to abandon updates.

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.