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Comment: Re:Because I'm lazy (Score 1) 279

by PhloppyPhallus (#47318523) Attached to: Why Software Builds Fail

Aaaaaaah! How hard is it to include "stdio.h" from the get go? "Trivial" warnings are usually trivial to fix--and they should be fixed so that the serious warnings stand out. If you let your code develop with all warnings suppressed, than I can see how you can end up in the position where turning them on leads to hundreds of "insignificant" warnings appearing. Don't let that happen. The compiler writers and designers of the language thought long and hard about what should and should not be a warning--and most warnings are indicative of a problem that had ought to be fixed, even if it doesn't happen to cause a "significant" problem on this platform, on this data, and in this context. If you start out with warnings enabled, you learn pretty quickly how to write warning free code and it never becomes a problem. If you don't; well, then you end up with the completely avoidable and entirely self-made problem you describe!

Comment: Re:The dog has eaten the Constitution (Score 1) 269

Or you could actually look up the meanings of those words and discover that:

A democracy is simply a government where power is ultimately wielded by the people who are governed, whether directly or indirectly.
A republic is merely a government without a king or other hereditary ruler.
A dictatorship is a government ruled by a dictator, who singularly holds absolute power over the government.

These definitions are clearly not mutually exclusive--a democracy is often a republic (the US) but sometimes not (the UK). A dictatorship is often a republic (the Syrian Arab Republic), but is sometimes not (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). However, a dictatorship is never a democracy, except, I suppose, in the unlikely case of a country populated by a single person!

Comment: Re:Not GPS anyway. (Score 1) 298

by PhloppyPhallus (#47072095) Attached to: Is It Really GPS If It Doesn't Use Satellites?

Most modern smartphones do contain GPS, as it is required for E-911 on some networks (namely AT&T) and is useful in many cases even on other networks. Most cell towers do contain actual GPS receivers, as well--not for their own positioning, since that obviously doesn't change much, but for accurate time and to bootstrap GPS equipped phones with the local almanac and ephemeris information so they don't have to take a few minutes to get a location fix. It's true that many phones will prefer radio-location, because it's faster and works better inside, but actual GPS, especially bootstrapped by nearby towers, is extremely common these days and virtually every smart phone has it. iPhones, for instance, have had actual GPS receivers since the 3G. The newer ones even support GLONASS. I was just in a really remote mountain with absolutely no cell reception and had no issue getting an accurate fix on my phone--it just took the phone a couple minutes to figure out where it was.

Comment: Re:Business class is a misnomer (Score 1) 146

by PhloppyPhallus (#46764273) Attached to: How Amazon Keeps Cutting AWS Prices: Cheapskate Culture

Conversely, US Government travel is always economy, and government contract fare seats are often the least desirable seats available (rear-rows, bulkheads, and middle). Although, rental cars are usually intermediate, not economy, and hotel per diem usually lets you stay somewhere pretty decent, though never luxurious. Altogether it's actually pretty reasonable for the tax payer and the traveler--however, the paperwork is still a nightmare!

Comment: My life in the auto industry (Score 3, Interesting) 357

by PhloppyPhallus (#46621931) Attached to: An Engineer's Eureka Moment With a GM Flaw

I worked for a major automotive component supplier who designs and builds parts for most of the major automakers. I wanted to make a few of relevant observations from my experience.

First, all parts were extensively tested for function and safety. Designing a good test that is representative of years of field use is very difficult, but none of the automakers seemed lax in their testing requirements. Some were pretty quick to dump performance for a cost savings, but I don't know any who were, these days, willing to sacrifice on reliability. There weren't many arguments with customers about the cost of testing, and it was generally thought that some tests demanded by OEMs were needless, but we'd gladly take their money anyway.

Second, parts were regularly improved based on analysis of returned parts. The best source of these were fleet vehicles, which provided lots of high mileage parts back to the OEM--each and every one of these returns was examined, graded (often by some poor intern), then archived for future reference should a problem develop. I remember one incident where some tiny steel spring clip broke--this had never been seen before, so the entire engineering department was re-directed to determine the cause. Thousands of old parts were pulled out of storage and re-examined. I don't think we found another broken clip, but it was a big deal.

Lastly, parts were frequently revised for better performance, lower cost, or better reliability. Little bits and bobs, like switches, valves, fasteners, connectors, etc., were often used on numerous vehicles by a number of manufacturers. Each part had at least two sets of drawings and part numbers. One set was for our use, as the supplier, and had every detail labeled. Another drawing was prepared for the automaker, with only the details relevant to them called out explicitly. It was, in a sense, an engineering contract--we'd agreed to provide everything as described on that drawing as the same part number, but were free to change things not called out. Once I pulled up about thirty drawings produced for the same part, a tiny thing used in many of our products, to see whether we could change the part to an improved steel that was cheaper and tougher for this application. In all of the automaker drawings, the material spec was loose enough for us to change without asking for a change in the drawing. Our internal part number did change, but as far as they automakers were concerned, they were still using the same part.

Anyway, it's quite possible that someone might make a fix to the ignition switch without GM even knowing, and certainly without requiring a change in part number. In my experience, all of the majors are actually pretty good about testing everything and they all really do want to sell people reliable cars, as even the US big three have come to realize that each lemon they put out there can sour a family of customers on their cars for life. Management can be boneheaded about a lot of things, but I really don't think this is one of them. 100% safety isn't possible, no matter how much is spent--but they all get pretty close. Just look at how the fatality rate has plummeted over the last few decades, despite more traffic and more collisions.

Comment: Re:When you have a bad driver ... (Score 1) 961

by PhloppyPhallus (#45586601) Attached to: Is the Porsche Carrera GT Too Dangerous?

Except, obviously, not everyone survived. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death and injury in the developed world. These features (e.g. ABS, ESC) have been studied many times, and almost universally demonstrated to significantly improve driver safety. As safety features like these have been adopted by automakers, by choice or by regulation, overall automotive fatalities rates have indeed decreased. There is virtually no actual evidence to the contrary--just anecdotes from drivers who believe, in the face of the evidence, that they are too good for driver aids.

I'm all for giving the driver the choice to turn these features off for some fun at the track, but I'm fine with them being universally installed in new roadgoing vehicles.

Comment: Re:Government Involvement (Score 1) 499

by PhloppyPhallus (#45403131) Attached to: How 3 Young Coders Built a Better Portal To HealthCare.gov

Many people make this mistake. The "morning after pill," e.g. Plan-B, is simply an extra-large dose of hormonal birth-control, and is indeed emergency contraception and not an abortifacient. RU-486 is an "abortion pill," but it's typically taken after several weeks to induce an abortion after the fertilized egg has been implanted and begins to develop, not within 24 hours (before implantation). According to wikipedia, RU-486 could be used in a much smaller dose as emergency contraception, but in practice is only used for such in China and Russia. Confusion between the two pills is often used in the US to rally opposition to OTC availability of Plan B, which is safer than OTC painkillers.

Comment: Re:Translated for our international readers (Score 1) 195

by PhloppyPhallus (#45346963) Attached to: The Feathered Threat To US Air Superiority

While bird strikes can happen at 10,000ft+, they occur with much much higher frequency near takeoff and landing where airspeeds are lower. Plus bird strikes can lead to disastrous consequences when the occur on other parts of the aircraft, such as engines or control surfaces, not just the canopy. Is there any evidence to suggest the track record of the T-38 is significantly worse than the rest of the Air Force fleet? There are finite resources to marshal and a great many things that could be improved in across the range of USAF aircraft--without any context, it's impossible to know whether fixing this one vulnerability is worthwhile.

Comment: Re:Why all the whining in the first place? (Score 1) 566

by PhloppyPhallus (#44809829) Attached to: Linus Responds To RdRand Petition With Scorn

RDRAND may or may not be compromised--without seeing the implementation, it's completely impossible to know. It's very much possible to create a stream that looks like perfect random "noise," but is actually deterministic; that's the whole idea behind encryption, after all. That said, Linus is also right that even if it is compromised, it doesn't hurt the entropy of the random number pool to include it. It would still strengthen the apparent entropy of the pool against anyone who did not possess the "secret" behind RDRAND, and would not weaken the entropy pool against those who did. People are right to be paranoid these days, but there's nothing to be gained by keeping the hardware random number generator out of the entropy pool.

Comment: Re:Makes many less violent, and some more violent (Score 1) 120

by PhloppyPhallus (#44709065) Attached to: Study Suggests Violent Video Games May Make Teens Less Violent

Dead is dead. Who care about "gun" deaths? The question should be whether or not increased firearms ownership causes more deaths in general.

After having done a fair bit of academic reading on the subject, my overall impression of the research is that gun ownership is not correlated with homicide to a statistically significant degree, positive or negative. Other factors strongly correlate with homicide rate, like income inequality, and entirely explain why the US has crime rates closer to countries like Brazil than to countries like Finland. However, gun ownership does have a significant positive correlation to suicide. I'll leave the policy implications to another time, except to say that it's clear that in our history with gun control policy we have consistently attempted to address the wrong problem.

Comment: Re:hipocrites (Score 2) 918

by PhloppyPhallus (#44685839) Attached to: US Forces Ready To Strike Syria If Ordered

A) The action of WP is much different than that of napalm, even though both are components of incendiary weapons. Both are designed to ignite fires, but napalm is intended to "stick" and provide a persistent fuel source over a wide area. Regardless, in modern practice WP is used primarily for smokescreening and target marking.

B) In any case, neither napalm nor WP are considered "chemical weapons" by any treaties--there are treaties that regular incendiary weapons (e.g. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Geneva Conventions), and these may or may not cover WP weapons, but WP is not used for toxic effect (like sarin or VX) and is not covered by the same restrictions (e.g. the Chemical Weapons Convention). Consequently, no state considers WP to be WMD but most would consider sarin as such. This seems reasonable given the effects and use of these weapons. All modern weapons contain "chemicals," like TNT, but that doesn't make them "chemical weapons."

Comment: Re:Why not? (Score 4, Insightful) 92

by PhloppyPhallus (#44677115) Attached to: The Next US Moonshot Will Launch From Virginia

Orbital Sciences is running the mission--for whatever reason, they've set up shop just outside Wallops and have been spending quite a bit of time and money getting one of the pads at Wallops set up for Minotaur and Antares launches. It could be because it's closer to their manufacturing facilities, because they've been launch at WFF with smaller rockets many years, because the costs of using the pad and facilities at WFF are cheaper than the big pads at KSC, or whatever; but the point is that Orbital is running the mission and almost certainly chose to use WFF themselves. While it's true they might get better performance launching from KSC, it would shock me if WFF wasn't much cheaper to run out of. But even if it weren't, Orbital has invested in their operations at Wallops and is very unlikely move everything down to Florida now. I don't know what the deal is here, but in this case I suspect it's just a business decision by Orbital and nothing more sinister.

Comment: Re:I went the other way, OS X - Linux (Score 1) 815

by PhloppyPhallus (#43092691) Attached to: Gnome Founder Miguel de Icaza Moves To Mac

You can add binary repos to Macports, if you wish. Macports is trying to provide something like BSD ports on OSX, though, so compiling from source is the default behavior. I will say that for my purposes, Macports has been less hassle than either Fink or Brew. It has the the best variety in software and works fairly reliably. All three, unfortunately, suffer from the fact that they don't control the system so OS and Xcode updates can and do break packages.

% A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back the when it begins to rain. -- Robert Frost

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