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Comment: Free rides now? (Score 1) 120

by Theovon (#49334625) Attached to: Uber To Turn Into a Big Data Company By Selling Location Data

So how that Uber is going to make all this money from location data, are they going to give free rides? It seems unlikely, but it's possible that the revenue stream from subscribers to their database could exceed the operating costs for fuel, paying drivers, and other overheads. If they give free rides, they may be able to side-step some of the taxi laws, because they're not profiting directly from the riders.

Comment: Flexible silicon curls up (Score 2) 56

by Theovon (#49334601) Attached to: Stanford Breakthrough Could Make Better Chips Cheaper

I recall an AMD engineer presenting at MICRO in 2012 telling us that one of the problems with making wafers too thin is that they tend to curl up. I'm not sure whether the warping is inherent in the silicon or doesn't occur until after all the circuit layers are put on top. Regarding the article, the wafer doesn't start out thin. The circuits are formed, and then chips are (in a manner of speaking) shaved off the surface, exposing fresh GaAs to make another set of chips.

Comment: Why are only women offended by potty talk? (Score 3, Insightful) 764

by Theovon (#49316799) Attached to: A Software Project Full of "Male Anatomy" Jokes Causes Controversy

When it comes to unprofessional language in commercial, scientific, and engineering endeavours, there seems to be two assumptions people make:

1. All women are offended by the sorts of words and phrases used by 9th graders in their daily speech.
2. No men are offended by the same sort of language.

Both assumptions are incorrect.

Now, in most situations, I think that people should be able to say what they want. You can talk about body parts in naughty ways, and you can say all manner of insulting things (right or wrong) about anybody's religion. Basically, anything short of threatening to kill people. And if people get offended, they can shove it. I think that the proper and polite thing to do is to make sure that someone who doesn't want to hear what you say isn't forced to listen -- that to read what you wrote or hear what you said requires some positive action on their part, so if they don't like it, it's their fault for seeking it out.

However, in a professional setting, it's time to act like an adult. Discussions of sex and insults about religions are out of place, not because they're *fundamentally* inappropriate, but because they're accepted as inappropriate for professional and public settings. I'm sorry. I don't care how much you and your pals get a kick out of jokes about Jews and dead babies, people shouldn't have to listen to it at the office.

So, then there's this ambiguous situation with FOSS projects. Is this play time or work time? It's kinda both. People do it for fun, but if you don't want to make it a public thing, then you don't put it up on github. If your objective is to get public participation in a technically-oriented project, unprofessional language is out of place. If you want people to take FOSS in general serious, then unprofessional language is out of place. Linus Torvalds didn't publish the source code to Linux because he thought it would be hillarious or an asshole thing to do. The purpose was to attract people into a development community around the project.

In general, I object to certain subject being out in public where it's shoved up everyone's noses. Nude beach? No problem, because you have to travel there to see it. Nude parade down my street? That depends on the purpose, but there are many ways in which human nudity can be a good thing, for artistic, educational, or scientific purposes. (In general, I wouldn't be offended unless it was just really tasteless.) What about people in the nude parade having sex while they travel on floats down my street? No fucking way. I'm not a huge fan of Islam, and I think that its adherents deserve a great deal of criticism, constructive and otherwise. On the other hand, I would find it unacceptable to have to a parade whose purpose was to shout anti-Islamic hate language for everyone to hear. Speaking of screwing in the streets, that's one of the things that bothers me about gay pride parades. Standing up against oppression from bigots who hate you for a perfectly natural thing is good (homosexuality is ubiquitous in the animal kingdom). However, this does not require that your presentation be so hypersexualized that I can't take my kids to see it. (Honestly, we just dont need sex in the streets. Gay people are as normal and weird as any other subset of the population, living their lives, working jobs, etc. Connecting "gay" with "hypersexual" in a public event gives people the wrong idea.)

The bottom line is that people need to learn to be considerate and have some professional decorum. If you're going to do or say something that might insult someone, do it in a principled way as a means to be constructive. Do it because you DO give a shit, not because you don't. This applies to FOSS projects as much as to any other situation.

Although I wouldn't necessarily say you have the "right" to be an asshole, it's vital that you have that freedom. Consider obscenity laws that restrict porn to certain venues. Those may or may not have some value, but laws that try to curtail it entirely are undoubtedly bad. Why? They would be part of the slippery slope of eroding out freedoms in other areas. Indeed, it is critically important to the health of our society that some people act in assholish ways, because it helps us to not get stuck with one defintion or another of what is acceptable. 60 years ago, it was unacceptable for a "negro" to sit at the front of a bus. However, we should all be grateful that Rosa Parks took the risk she did, because it played a role in a much needed overhaul of America's concepts of civil rights and fundamental human equality. In other words, you never know what "asshole move" might lead to a change for the better in society, rather than just being some random crap out of someone who never left junior high school. But at the same time, keep in mind that what Rosa Parks did wasn't meant to insult people, per se -- it was a deliberate and principled act against oppression. There's a stark contrast between that versus random potty talk on github that may play an insignificant role in some day allowing the word "fuck" to be said on broadcast TV.

Comment: Why does everyone forget about pollution? (Score 2) 573

by Theovon (#49310457) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

I'm still of the opinion that we're dumping too much CO2 in to the air. Although I know that scientists make mistakes, scientific knowledge is never 100% perfect, and that science is a system of incrementally improving our knowledge, I'm not a science skeptic. Climate scientsts are better experts on this topic than I am, science is highly competitive (remember, they all compete for a very limited supply of grant money, so one scientists's failure is another's success, so they want to overturn each other's ideas), and peer-review is effective much more than it is ineffective.

That all being said, a perhaps a more accessible issue people should be talking about is all the other crap we're dumping into the air *besides* the CO2. We're poisoning ourselves. And besides the air, what about junk we're putting into our bodies from other sources, like pesticides, BPA, and all manner of other harmful chemicals?

Ok, so maybe global warming is something that will only kill our great-great-great-grandkids, and we don't care about them. What about the stuff that's killing us right now?

Comment: Mouse and bug filter (Score 1) 252

Critters love to go in crawl spaces. Some fine chicken wire would keep the mice out, but I'm not sure what you're going to do about the bugs. Raising it up on a platform on some slippery thin metal legs might help a bit, but anything that flies will go straight into the intake vent. Or how about hanging it from the floor boards at the ceiling of the crawl space?

Are you really that cramped for storage space that you have to put a computer into the crawl space? Can't you put something else in there in sealed up containers, like all those out-of-style clothes you're afraid to donate to the poor?

I'm just thinking that anything you do here is going to make this machine a pain to maintain. You will occasionally have to reboot it, even repair it. If it were a Linux machine, maybe you could go headless, but since it's a Windows machine, you pretty much have to have a monitor and keyboard or else get a server machine with IPMI. And if I were going to spend that much money, I wouldn't be caught dead putting it in a place where it's going to be subject to all manner of environmental hazards.

Comment: What if we use them all? (Score 5, Insightful) 127

by Theovon (#49274367) Attached to: Analysis: People Who Use Firefox Or Chrome Make Better Employees

I actually use all four of those browsers. I use Chrome for Google Docs, Firefox for high performance JavaScript applications and Safari for most everything else. Occasionally, I'm forced to boot Windows in a VM and use IE because of some idiots who tailored their legacy web app specifically for IE.

I've tried using just one, but each browser has or has had too many deal-breaker bugs. Actually, I used to use Firefox for everything, but there were too many problems with it, so I switched to Safari. It's improved a lot since then, but it doesn't integrate that well with Mac OS X or Google Docs, so I can't use it for everything. One reason I tend to avoid Chrome is that the developers are assholes. When I report bugs, they just argue with me and tell me I'm wrong. I actually formally studied HCI and cognitive engineering, so unlike those assholes, I know what I'm talking about.

Comment: Give a talk at my university? (Score 1) 90

by Theovon (#49269007) Attached to: Interviews: Ask SMBC's Creator Zach Weiner a Question

I'm a professor at a university in upstate New York. Would you be interested in giving a talk here? How could I arrange that? What kinds of talks do you have that would be of interest to engineering students and faculty? (Or would Kelly's work be more interesting to such an audience?)

Comment: There sure is "Professional English" (Score 1) 667

by Theovon (#49268069) Attached to: Why There Is No Such Thing as 'Proper English'

When you're hanging out with your friends, in person or online, you can use the English language any way you want. Seriously, I don't care.

But if you want to write something that is meant to be professional, where you expect some respect, then English has a set of rules for you to follow. The rules are an arbitrary consequence of history, but exactly what the rules are doesn't matter. What matters is having SOME kind of standard for common communication. There's no reason red should mean "stop." We just accept that as a convention, and if you don't follow it, you're going to crash. By having these common language conventions, it aids in clear communication that reduces ambiguity, and clear commuication has self-evident value in in science, journalism, politics, diplomacy, and countless other areas.

Comment: Re:Strategy (Score 1) 135

by Theovon (#49255763) Attached to: Wikipedia Entries On NYPD Violence Get Some Edits From Headquarters

I get what you're saying. And you're right. "Docile" is exactly what they're after, in the negative sense of having people calm because they think everything's just okay.

That being said, maintaining a CALM population is generally a good thing. We'd prefer to minimize violence.

Of course, disinformation is a bad thing, and it's important that remain in a condition of philosophical debate over what's good and bad, and what the NYPD is doing is interfereing with honest philosophical debate.

Comment: It's the media that's increasingly sensationist (Score 1) 320

In the information age, reasonably well trained scientsts are probably better than they have ever been. However, a lot of anti-science politics and an increasing list for sensationalism in the media shed more light on scientific failure than in the past.

Science is built on failure. And incrementally correcting it. It's how we learn. If you have enough brains to accept that all of science is to some lesser or greater degree "probably approximately correct" based on what we know, and what we know will change, then you won't go insane thinking that science is in any way like those religions people chase after because they want TRUTH RIGHT NOW. Neither religion nor science will give you perfect truth right now -- just only one of them is honest about it.

A lot of people have fundamental intellectual problems accepting uncertainty or non-binary reasoning.

Comment: Homeopathy that works contains actual medicine (Score 5, Interesting) 447

by Theovon (#49246387) Attached to: Homeopathy Turns Out To Be Useless For Treating Medical Conditions

The reason that so many people believe that homeopathic medicines is that most of them actually WORK, because they are "contaminated" with actual medicine. For instance, there's this zinc-based nasal spray that is advertized as homeopathic, but in fact it contains a non-trivial amount of the active ingredient. It's advertized as homeopathic (a) as a marketing gimmick for those who buy into this stuff (note: people who believe in homeopathy don't read labels or even understand what's on those labels) and (b) probably some way to get around FDA regulations.

Ever heard of grapefruit seed extract? Supposedly it's this powerful antimicrobial agent. Except it's not. Often the product also contains an actual antimicrobial compound as an "inactive ingredient."

I have no idea how companies get away with this. I mean, if it works, that's fine, but to lie through their teeth about what does what in the product?

Money will say more in one moment than the most eloquent lover can in years.