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Comment: Re:Dobsonian (Score 1) 187

by OldSoldier (#47744083) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

The poster should visit a local astronomy club and try an Alt-Az mount and an equatorial mount and see what he likes. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong in this thread. Equatorial mounts are more expensive, but easier for a beginner to use under high magnification and somewhat educational (see the discussion on polar aligning). So (my $0.02) if you REALLY want to see PLANETS under high mag, then equatorial mount is the way to go, especially if you're going to be having several kids looking at the scope in turn. (Under high mag a planet can rotate out of the field of view in the time it takes one kid to leave and another to step up to the eyepiece.)

HOWEVER, the money you save with an Alt-Az mount could be spent on other things like a larger mirror more eyepieces or "digital setting circles". But the main diff is in what your target observation is. Most amateurs prefer "deep sky objects", Hercules cluster, Andromeda galaxy, Orion Nebula, low power (~50x) high light gathering (at least 6" mirror) is key here. The key to "tracking" is to think about how the earth rotates. Sun sets in the west so if you know where west is when you're looking in the eyepiece, you know which way to move the scope when the object moves out of the field of view. Not that complicated, but a bit like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time. But to use a AltAz mount to its fullest potential, you should know how to read star charts and navigate to the various deep sky objects (or get digital setting circles).

Comment: Merely making you vocalize it (Score 1) 234

by OldSoldier (#45858691) Attached to: The UK's Internet Porn Filter and Fighting Censorship Creep

Search engines can figure out most of this stuff anyway, right? Isn't our privacy on these issues already gone? What's the difference between UK asking you for it and Google just paying attention to your browsing history? Now a-days I'm just going to assume the NSA and my ISP (I'm in the US) can see this stuff anyway.

This is in part a rhetorical question meant to focus on the general lack of privacy these days. We shouldn't get up in arms about being asked, we should be up in arms about not having privacy in these matters be a fundamental right. (Eg a law requiring ISPs to destroy all such records after 90 days.)

Comment: Re: Your Mom's House (Score 1) 88

They say it's a "gravitational map" but is it with or without the effects of the earth's rotation? How much less do you weigh because the earth's rotation is trying to fling you off it on a mountain top (longer radius arm) near the equator (faster rotational speed)?

Comment: Re:Don't Do The Dig ... (Score 3, Informative) 601

by OldSoldier (#44034261) Attached to: Canadian Couple Charged $5k For Finding 400-Year-Old Skeleton

if "the law" wants to require people to do something that costs money, then "the law" needs to pay for it. otherwise "the law" can go bugger itself.

Stupid building codes, driver's permits, garbage collection, always making ME pay for them.

Usually codes like the one the OP cited only apply to new construction, retroactively requiring a tornado shelter on an existing building is hardly ever done in the US. However, stupid shit still is done... we remodeled our house and even though we didn't change the number of plumbing fixtures we had to bring our septic system up to current code. To make matters worse, the county did not certify the old drain field because "the soils were disturbed" ... no duh, there's a SEPTIC field there. So at great expense we had to completely install a new septic field.

Comment: Re:No shit (Score 1) 286

by OldSoldier (#43991735) Attached to: Another Study Confirms Hands-Free Texting While Driving Is Unsafe

THE PROBLEM WITH THESE TESTS is they FORCE the driver to do the distracting task.

I would love to see a more real world example of this sort of thing... LET the driver pause as he would if a traffic emergency came up. Let the driver do whatever they naturally would be trying to do in a driving situation. I would NEVER text-to-speech a text message while driving. I would never count backwards from 100 by sevens over a cell phone while driving (and try to get a perfect and rapid score) ... I would pause and stop as traffic got bad or situation warranted. Face it, we talk in the car to our passengers so there is SOME level of interaction here that's safe. These tests are a waste of time, they merely prove at the highest level of distraction we're ... distracted. Again... "No Shit".

Show the world at the lowest level of distraction we're still distracted and THEN run that story!

Comment: Encrypted Iris Information (Score 1) 342

by OldSoldier (#43875679) Attached to: Schools Scanned Students' Irises Without Permission

That concern about your iris scan being compromised has me wondering if these systems encrypt the iris information in a manner similar to password encryption. If so it strikes me that the decryption problem **might** be harder because AFAIK the unencrypted iris data is just a string of numbers. So... if compromised it won't fall to a rainbow/dictionary attack. What I don't know is... does this make it any more secure?

Can someone knowledgeable in both cryptography and whatever parameters are stored about irises in systems like these comment?

Regarding RFID being replaceable following a compromise... from the other side they're also subject to being stolen and used nefariously that way, a feature that iris's supposedly don't have. (click through to the explanatory video where they make a point about a **live iris**)

Comment: maybe yes maybe no (Score 4, Insightful) 656

by OldSoldier (#43874999) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree?

First, I agree 100% with everyone who says "yes" I agree 'even more' (math joke there) with those who suggest a different computer degree where math is emphasized less. However, let me paint an oddly two-sided picture with 2 different stories.

I have a masters in math. In class one day our professor mentioned that he consulted for the forestry (or some such) department at the school. They were trying to calculate the area of an arbitrary region so as to estimate the number of trees within that area. Problem is the area may be convex or concave. The CS department at this school was trying to solve the problem by triangling the polygon, but ran into difficulties if the area was concave. My professor suggested using Green's theorem. Moral??? On the one hand advanced math gave a much more elegant solution to this problem, on the other hand **the CS department** at this school wasn't advanced enough to suggest it on their own... so if THEY can't do it... (fill in the blank).

Many years later I was managing a small group of contractors on a project (I was also designer for this project) and I casually mentioned during a design meeting that we could calculate the score we needed by doing a weighted average of the various datapoints we already had. One developer mentioned outright that he would need me to write up the weighted average routine in psuedocode and I suspect the other developer felt the same way but was less forthcoming about his ignorance. Floored but already stuck with these guys, but then again... they're contractors and I believe they've been able to keep themselves employed since.

At the end of the day, I'm one of those who thinks math and computer science is like solving puzzles... I would rather hire someone who likes solving all kinds of puzzles than one who has an admitted weakness in some (but perhaps not all) puzzles. If you indeed hate math that much I think you need to do some soul searching and figure out what sub-field of CS would be best suited to you. If you go into a field that requires math and you suck at it you'll probably be eclipsed by others more adept at it. On the other hand a lot of people who like math and CS are quite content to end their careers there... so if you have a growth plan that gets you out of CS work within a few years of graduating...

Comment: Re:What does this have to do with time? (Score 1) 231

by OldSoldier (#43603565) Attached to: Physicists Attempting To Test 'Time Crystals'

If you think of regular crystals as "space crystals" instead and that they have a regular structure that repeats in space then "time crystals" doesn't sound so awkward a term. Indeed that's what the principle investigator suggested was his inspiration... eg if Einstein said space and time are really "space-time" then could we have the "space-time" equivalent of crystals but repeating in time instead? At least that's how I'm reading the article.

Where I'm losing it... is that I never thought "space crystals" broke the symmetry of uniform space but instead that quantization seemed to me to be a function of the crystal (or atoms), not space itself.

However, taking the physicists enthusiasm at face value, this clearly appears (to me at least) to be another research avenue into unifying the space-time concept of general relativity with the incompatible space-time concept of quantum mechanics, and as far as I know the only one do-able in a laboratory. (Gravity wave experiments are detectors for events that happened "outside of a laboratory".) So... it's easy for me to share the enthusiasm even though I don't quite get it.

Comment: Two Thoughts (Score 1) 759

by OldSoldier (#43257809) Attached to: Will Donglegate Affect Your Decision To Attend PyCon?

Minor one first
WHAT WERE THE ACTUAL COMMENTS??? Can anyone tell me? I've taken comments out of context before and been offended only to be embarrassed when I finally understood the context. In this case, I'm not given the chance to come to my own conclusions as no one is posting the actual comments, only how others perceived them.

I have to wonder if this may be a watershed event for the public shaming response. Part of the utility of a justice system is enforcing proportional response/punishment for various crimes. Manslaughter warrants less of a penalty than murder, yet in both cases the victim is dead. What offense would warrant the the punishment of a public shaming as widespread as this one is? And if your answer is that it's OK here as it will also serve as a deterrent to others then what was your opinion of the RIAA suing a woman for $222,000?

Comment: Re:I've been waiting for this... (Score 1) 335

by OldSoldier (#43253453) Attached to: Twitter Sued For $50M For Refusing To Identify Anti-Semitic Users

Why is this even an "internet company" question... If I live in France and subscribe to a US magazine that I get in the mail could France sue that magazine for similar reasons? Would that US magazine be held accountable to French courts? Would/Could France prohibit that magazine from entering the country?

Comment: Re:Storing plaintext passwords should be illegal (Score 1) 84

by OldSoldier (#43040581) Attached to: Australian Tax Office Stores Passwords In Clear Text

Agreed about making it illegal... but many US companies store passwords in clear text too. Most notably many cell phone companies store your PINs in cleartext... any agent at the carrier can see what yours is.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for years... when companies have (are required?) privacy policies about what they do with your personal information yet there's no discussion at all as to what they do with your passwords, it's like putting a bandaid on a severed artery.

Comment: Re:First impressions on Surface (Score 1) 403

My first exposure to the MS "Surface" term was a few years back when they used it to describe their TABLE offering.The coolest thing about this (IMHO) was the build-in "picture scanning" technology. (Scroll down to the "computer vision"/"object recognition" section.) I kinda hoped the new tablet would employ some of the same technology (I'd love to be able to lay a business card down on the face of the tablet and have it scan in automatically).

If MS did that... that would really rock the world!

Comment: They'll do that when they fix... (Score 1) 299

by OldSoldier (#39102381) Attached to: Avoiding Red Lights By Booking Ahead

Highway on-ramp lights.

Ok, this is a pet peeve of mine, but we're all programmers here. The situation is an on-ramp for a highway has 2 lanes each with traffic metering lights. One line has 2+ cars lined up, the other has none. New car rolls up to the neighboring lane and immediately the light turns green for him. WTF? Seems this is lazy programming. Two clock chips timing the green for each light, when the fairer method would be one timer that either gives all the traffic to the only light with cars queued up or evenly alternates between the 2 occupied lanes. Would that have been so hard for the original designers of the system to implement? To me this is the most visible sign of lazy programming I've even run across as an ordinary user.


+ - Password Storage and Privacy Policies

Submitted by OldSoldier
OldSoldier writes: Privacy policies talk about what companies will do with your personal data. Some policies you may like some you may not like, but disclosure of the policies is the key thing. My problem is these policies neglect to mention the single most important data item sites collect about you, your password. It seems most companies do one of three things with your password. a) store it in the clear, b) store it encrypted or c) store it encrypted but you need to share it with an operator to use it. Examples of this last variation include any pin-like code you need to verbally share with a phone operator to (say) adjust your billing record.

The thing is I care deeply which policy is in place at whatever company wants me to give a password. I will give different passwords depending on the type of system they use. Yet trying to determine which system they use is very difficult.

Government requires privacy policies yet appear to be mute on this very important issue. What can we as slashdot readers do (or should we do) to fix this situation?

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson