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Math

Journal: help with math 1

Journal by corbettw

Hopefully somehow out there is better with math than I.

Suppose a giant ball of ice, 130km in diameter (water volume significantly greater than the Great Lakes) were to strike the moon at a speed of 3km/s (just above the moon's escape velocity). If my math is right, most of the water will remain on the moon in the newly formed crater, though I'm sure a significant amount would sublimate away over time.

Any help would be appreciated.

Oh, and this is for a possible scifi story. I just want to make sure the basis for the drama is at least plausible, it doesn't have to be 100% exact.
The question, how much water would end up left behind? I'm not sure if it would rival Lake Superior, Lake Erie, some other lake, or essentially none at all.

User Journal

Journal: Tags? 3

Journal by corbettw

Am I the only one who can't see tags on stores in the new Slashdot 3.0? No matter which story I'm looking at, there are no tags showing up. Which is too bad, because there's usually a lot of meta-humor contained in those things.

If anyone else had this problem and fixed it, please let me know what to do. I'm using the latest Firefox on WinXP SP2.

Networking

Journal: Where is there decent Internet? 1

Journal by SanityInAnarchy

A few of you have often noticed my signature, in which I mentioned that my current ISP offers 100 mbit fiber-to-the-home for $65/mo, no installation fee. Recently, I've discovered that while they do not filter, they do have a 20 gig/mo cap, alongside a vague policy about "more than five hours of video per week".

Of course, they sell a TV service, also. I would bet that is where this limit is coming from -- to prevent YouTube, Netflix, etc, from competing with Lisco TV.

Being unemployed, and as this is a small town, I would not mind relocating to find a job. The question is, where to? Is there anywhere which has similarly priced Internet, unthrottled, and uncapped -- or at least, with a significantly higher cap? (Alright, there's Japan. Anywhere in the US?)

User Journal

Journal: Freedom is free 2

Journal by corbettw

I had a realization the other day, and thought I'd share it with my fellow Slashdotters.

I was watching one of the viral videos for McCain, by a former Army sergeant who lost his leg in Iraq. He was speaking to Obama, telling him why he wouldn't vote for him, and ended his message with the cliche that "freedom isn't free".

I beg to differ. Freedom is most certainly free. None of us are free because we are Americans; we aren't free because of the men and women who have risked their lives to safeguard our borders and national interests; and we certainly aren't free because of politicians who give rousing speeches before thousands.

We're free because we're human beings. We have an inherent freedom, built into the fabric of our beings and selves. It's not something that can be taken away or given by another. And it's something that all people, throughout the world and throughout time, have.

Yes, we are fortunate to live in a land where the laws recognize this freedom, at least for the most part. But don't ever think you owe your freedom to the actions of any person, or groups of people. They didn't make you free; you were free long before they made whatever sacrifices they may have made, and will remain free long after those sacrifices are forgotten.

The reason this is important to remember is, if we start thanking our servicemen and women "for their service", with the understanding that they somehow gave us our freedom, well, anyone who can give a thing, can take that thing away. We mustn't allow ourselves to fall into the trap of worshipping our military, or thinking that all we have in our lives comes from their beneficence. It's a very small step from that kind of thinking to giving up control of our lives and our liberties to men in uniform.

former IT1, USNR

PC Games (Games)

Journal: Open letter to EA (and other publishers)

Journal by SanityInAnarchy

Obligatory, pre-emptive MFD strip -- I know it's unlikely anyone from EA will read this. But I'm not the only one, I hope.

I live in a small town, with low cost of living. I'm single. I make a reasonable wage, so I have a ton of disposable income.

I'm a computer professional and enthusiast. I tend to spend a decent amount on hardware, and I do game. I also tend to download custom mods and such, even toy with level design from time to time -- in other words, I take full advantage of the fact that I'm on a PC, and not a console.

Now, I could tolerate most games being Windows only -- I don't have to like it, but I tolerate it. After all, I can always put it in a virtual machine, and even if I'm running it on the bare metal for performance, I don't game 100% of the time, and I generally don't do anything else when I'm gaming.

You have lost me as a customer because of DRM.

I'm not just talking about Spore.

I'm not fanatical about this. I happily buy Valve games over Steam, play them on Windows, and spend money to do so. I'll jump on anything decent coming through Penny Arcade's Greenhouse project. I play an MMO -- that means I pay a monthly fee, I have to use their software, and they can pretty much terminate my account whenever they want.

I want to give you money.

Here's what you did, in response to Spore -- and in your next game, apparently, not in Spore itself:

  - You upped the number of allowed installations from three to five. Some of us have more than five reinstalls per month.

  - You removed the need for the game to stay online -- that's only needed during activation. I'm sure some users are grateful -- but these users likely see it as exactly as small a gesture as increasing the number of installs. Why force them to be online in the first place?

  - You removed the CD copy protection. I haven't bought a game in years that used CD copy protection. What took you so long?

Here's what else is still a problem, for me:

  - Blacklisted programs. Daemon Tools, among other things -- it has legitimate uses other than piracy. I should be able to run whatever software I want on my machine -- it's mine, after all.

  - Reputation. SecuROM is widely known as the worst, and it isn't getting better. Many people report that it has trashed their system. Why should I trust it this time?

The freedom to do what I want, how I want, without having to solder things, is why I'm a PC gamer in the first place. DRM, by its very nature, limits that.

That's the damage. Here's the impact:

Your DRM, in the long run, does nothing to secure your product. Spore is one of the most widely pirated games ever, despite everything you did to inconvenience legitimate users. A skilled cracker can defeat all of these measures relatively quickly -- sometimes before the game is even released.

And that's the choice it has come to.

I want to play Mirror's Edge, badly. If there's ever a version of it for the PC, I've got money in hand to buy it, and a new computer, and a controller if needed -- I'm not sure how well the unique movement would map to a mouse, but maybe it will.

If Mirror's Edge comes, say, as a Steam game -- not like Bioshock, but actually just a Steam game, with no additional protection -- I'd buy it in a heartbeat. On opening day. Make it DRM-free, and I'll consider preordering.

If it comes with anywhere near the level of DRM you're currently requiring for Spore, even this "relaxed" version, I will head over to the nearest torrent site and download a copy. I have plenty of money to spend, yes, but not plenty of time to waste proving that I own something.

And I am not the only one who feels this way. Keep in mind: An unprecedented number of people gave Spore a low rating on Amazon because of its DRM. An unprecedented number of people have pirated Spore, mostly via torrent. Coincidence?

User Journal

Journal: Frustration with local Libertarian Party 7

Journal by corbettw

UPDATE: Problem solved, I've gotten in touch with other local officials, and apparently the whole thing was just a misunderstanding. Everyone's happy and working together again. Thanks for the input and words of encouragement I've received from everyone who sent them.

I don't think I've been this frustrated with a party official in my life. I so much want to start helping the Libertarian Party get candidates elected (just see my sig and about a hundred different comments from me in the last month to show that), and the first time I really reach out to a local party official, this is the response I got.

At least when I contacted the Republicans in Arizona eight years ago, they welcomed me with open arms. It's guys like this that will keep the Libertarians from ever holding elective office in this country. Considering the fact that I consider the Republican party broken and the Libertarian party the way of the future for social libs/economic conservatives, guys like this will have to be pushed aside to make room for others who are more willing to welcome change.

Who wants to help me do that?

Cory
(all phone numbers and email addresses left intact...please feel free to email or call Mr. Benedict and let him know what you think of him...or email me and flame me all you want, as the case may be)

I'd like to forward your emails to other people and post it on blogs. Let me know if you don't want me to do that.

--Wes Benedict
Executive Director
Libertarian Party of Texas
512-442-4910

Cory Waddingham wrote:
> Wes,
>
> Your arrogance is extremely infuriating. I may not have had the time in the past to help out, but what am I supposed to do when the person I reach out to shuts me down?
>
> You need to reach out to new people, and pull your head out of your ass.
>
> Cory
>
>
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Wes Benedict <wesliberty@aol.com>
> To: Cory Waddingham <cory@waddingham.org>
> Sent: Saturday, August 23, 2008 1:30:52 AM
> Subject: Re: work before November
>
> Cory,
>
> I suspect you are trying to sell something.
>
> Since you have no money to contribute, have never contributed to the LP Texas or the National LP according to my records, and no reputation as a volunteer in Texas, and I get solicited constantly, I'll let you know right now that I am getting irritated by your solicitations.
>
> After you have spent 20 hours or so putting up 1,000 door hangers in Texas, we can talk about your new ideas.
> --Wes Benedict
> Executive Director
> Libertarian Party of Texas
> 512-442-4910
>
>
>
> Cory Waddingham wrote:
>> Wes,
>>
>> Last time we corresponded over email, I mentioned that I'm working in Virginia. I've arranged to come back home and work from there for the next two months, starting Labor Day weekend. I'd like to schedule some time to present some ideas on how to get out the Libertarian vote in November in Collin County. I can't access the group websites from work, are there any planned events coming up in the near future? Have you already scheduled any phone banks, mailings, or anything like that?
>>
>> Cory

User Journal

Journal: Of Saphir and Whorf 2

Journal by SanityInAnarchy

I think I finally "get" Web 2.0.

It occurred to me when I started talking about The Cloud -- both loving the idea, and hating myself for using such an obvious buzzword. But I think I get it now.

It's about language.

Read 1984. And read about the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis. Maybe you'll see it, too -- our use of language has a profound impact on how we see the world.

There was a great story about how, when Europeans first came to America, some of the natives actually couldn't see the ships, because it was like nothing they'd ever seen before. They didn't have a word, or a frame of reference, for the huge cloud-like things they saw on the horizon -- so they just didn't see them.

I kind of doubt that story is true, but I do think it applies. How long did dynamic websites exist, with the ability for users to alter content, and no one "got it", until we started calling it "Web 2.0"? How long did virtualization exist -- how long did CPU-power-on-demand services exist -- and, while there was some buzz about virtualization, no one really got it until we started calling it The Cloud.

This isn't new -- it's existed, really, as long as abstract concepts have existed, because language is the medium through which we understand and communicate abstract concepts. For an obvious-example, take "Pro-Choice" vs "Abortionist" (or "Baby-Killer!"), and "Pro-Life" vs "Anti-Abortionist" (or "Woman-Hater!"). Quite often, people make the mistake of using the opposition's language in their argument, trying to show its flaws, but really, that only strengthens their argument. Who really wants to argue against choice, or life?

It's not always a good thing, and we should not always embrace new language. But neither should we be so quick to dismiss it as a "buzzword" -- after all, the Internet itself is perhaps the godfather of the modern buzzword. What we're really talking about is just another network -- which is really just a bunch of computers with wires running between them -- but now that we know it's something called "The Internet", our view changes, and it really becomes a world-changing phenomenon.

Understand: Not just appears to be, or appears to become. A random network of computers cannot change the world. The Internet can and has.

I now understand why RMS and friends insist on calling it "GNU/Linux", though I still don't agree with it. But you see... RMS understands the power of language.

(Edit: This could probably be applied to Memetic Engineering, if we ever implement that concept. The Anti-Meme would have to be very clearly defined in language for it to work.)

User Journal

Journal: hosting on the dark side

Journal by corbettw

First, let me state up front: I don't trust Google. I think they track entirely too much data about their users, and I don't trust them to use it wisely or fairly enough of the time.

That said, I've had to move the hosting for my Open Source project, Power Time, from SourceForge to Google Code. SourceForge was just too unresponsive, and it took forever to simply add a release file. Google Code makes it much easier to release updates; so much so, that I didn't think I had a choice but to use the service.

Besides which, a Google search for "time management", "power time", "consultant billing", or related keywords didn't find my project. I'm hoping that'll change now that they're the hosting provider, and maybe I'll get a few more downloads (which might lead to more consulting gigs, eg more money for me).

User Journal

Journal: Scientology

Journal by SanityInAnarchy

I occasionally read the Bible. Never all at once, just interesting pieces with which to frighten door-to-door evangelists. I love finding little pieces with which to end a conversation, and put the believer completely on the defensive -- "Seriously, you believe in stoning rape victims? For being raped? Jesus says you have to..."

I've got a brand new one, though, to end conversations about the importance of religion, or the definition of religion. I'm talking, of course, about Scientology.

Well, that or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn, but reductio ad absurdum works so much better when you can actually point to said absurdity in the real world. There is actually a large and vocal group out there which believes an evil emperor named Xenu sent aliens called Thetans to earth on DC-8s (which fly through space), and then nuked them in volcanoes.

Note to religious people: Yes, I do think it's stupid of you to believe in religion. Understand two things:

First, it doesn't mean I think you're stupid. Smart people do stupid things.

Second, I won't attack you for it. I'm a bit trigger-happy with my atheism, but still, if you don't bring it up, I won't. It's a bit like homosexuality -- I really don't care what you do in bed (or elsewhere), or who you do it with. It only becomes a problem if you start hitting on me -- or evangelizing to me.

PlayStation (Games)

Journal: God of War - Blades of Hades = WTF?!?

Journal by GoofyBoy

I just completed what must be the worst part of any highly rated game ever. Half-Life's Xen level was wonderful in comparison.

What is wrong with Blades of Hades
1. Requires skill you haven't used before - slowly maneuvering within a small path. Ok, there was those thin beams at the very beginning, but how about building up to it. Without the blades. Without the right-angle turns. Without the long paths so there is that much more chance to screw up.

2. Fail=start right back to the beginning. This is just painful; punishment for a tiny mistake.

3. Disorienting camera angles. While you are walking along, why does the camera angle have to change? It really screws up the analog joystick control during critical times.

4. Bad camera angles. I died a few times just before the jumping on the log to the ladder because the view from behind Kratos big head doesn't help trying to figure out what the hell is exactly up ahead.

5. Unforgiving blades. You get even a hair's breath close to it, its death and starting from the beginning. Very frustrating.

Who ever designed this level and who ever approved of it should have known better. You design games for fun and challenge; not for work (after starting the level for the tenth time it starts be coming work) and frustration.

How I did it
1. Learn to double-jump. You get more time in the air to let the blades pass. To do this press X to jump and when Kratos is at the top of the jump press X again. So its; X, wait, X.
2. Focus on the path and position of Kratos and block out the background. I found this helps with the bad camera angles.
3. At the beginning, step on to the first short segment of beam but don't turn left. Run forward and double-jump (off the short beam) and you should reach a platform. This allows you to skip the first rotating blade.
4. For the second rotating blade, double-jump over the blades as they come. Advance slowly.
5. To get on the rotating ladder you need to jump on the 1 moving arm that doesn't have blades (the other 3 have blades). To jump on the non-blade arm, get close to the end of the beam so that all the arms can pass without hitting you. After the blade arm passes and before the non-blade arm passes, move closer to the end (the beam is darker there). You need to jump straight up and land on the non-blade arm as it passes under you. It took me 3 times to do this because the bad camera angle doesn't allow you to see exactly what is going on with the beam and the moving blades.

Just a poorly designed level that brings down the entire game's experience.

User Journal

Journal: New site

Journal by corbettw

I'm working on something new, klatchr.com. I don't know what it is yet, but when I'll do I'll let you know if you're curious.

User Journal

Journal: My signature

Journal by SanityInAnarchy

For awhile, I've had this signature:

DRM? Trusted Computing? Fine, but not with my code.

I do start to feel like a hypocrite looking at that. After all, I'm now working as an HD-DVD developer, making quite a bit of money, enjoying what I do, and not at all close to wanting to quit in outrage about the DRM.

But while I don't have to deal with DRM every day, I do have to deal with it often enough. While I have not personally written any code that does DRM, all my code will eventually be DRM'd on-disc, and one of my co-workers has, in fact, written some utilities to manage AACS stuff.

And, in general, I still feel that DRM is useless and should not be done, but I also have seen it done in ways that aren't really that bad, and even seen some things which benefit the consumer. Steam, for example, allows me to download the same game (unless it's Bioshock) anywhere I want to, anytime, so long as I remember my password and only log in at one place at a time. (So that's one download and/or game being played at a time.)

Steam is actually an example of "not that bad", as everything they do which benefits the consumer, they could've done without DRM. No, an example of something which benefits the consumer are the "music rental" services. After you get to a certain amount of music, it just makes more sense, financially, to simply rent your music rather than buy it. If the service goes away, and the DRM isn't cracked, then yes, you lose a bunch of music -- so you join another service and download the same music again.

I prefer to own my music, but I'm a bit of a fanatic.

So, while most days I'd rather see DRM go away forever, this signature is starting to be a bit hypocritical. After all, DRM is being done with my code, and most of what I write is not GPL'd.

So why do I have it?

Simple: Since I started using this signature, I've seen almost none of the retarded arguments against GPLv3 -- the arguments which talk about the GPL being used to attack DRM, that it's overstepping its bounds as a software license and attacking hardware... Whatever.

Because this statement makes all of those arguments go away. Licensing software under the GPLv3 is not directly attacking DRM, it's not even saying that you hate DRM and want to abolish it. It's simply saying that you may not use it with this code.

People point to the TiVo as an example -- shouldn't I want to license my software such that people can make cool stuff like the TiVo? Well, why should I, unless I'm getting a cut? It's simple: TiVo can either have my code for free, on my terms, or they can go somewhere else. There's plenty of GPLv2 or even BSD-licensed stuff they could have for free, or they could buy some commercial software -- maybe even from me.

I don't see that as inconsistent with what I do for a living, but this whole essay doesn't exactly fit in a signature. So I am posting a consistent position here:

I don't like DRM, and I don't like closed software that I don't have access to. Therefore, software which I release for free will have no part in this. If you're willing to pay me a living wage to develop software, I will develop pretty much whatever you want, so long as it's not wholly unethical (I won't write Lotus Notes for your Killbot). But if I release something as free and open, it's probably because I intend for it to stay that way.

So, if you have a problem with me using the GPLv3, either hire me or use somebody else's code.

Networking

Journal: Good ISPs?

Journal by SanityInAnarchy

I live in a small town in Iowa. An ISP here is offering fiber to the home for $60/mo, free installation. That's 100 mbits, and they do support net neutrality -- meaning that if they can't build enough bandwidth to support everyone on YouTube (or BitTorrent), they'll simply move to a metered model, but apparently they don't have to yet.

We spend enough time talking about the ISPs we hate -- which ones do we love? Anywhere else with fast, cheap, neutral Internet?

User Journal

Journal: Meta: Is the new threading system messed up? 2

Journal by Kadin2048

So it seems like the new discussion-threading system (aka "D2", according to the preferences page) no longer works for me.

I had just gotten used to it -- in particular, being able to click on comments to expand or collapse them -- and suddenly at some point this afternoon I reloaded a page and the whole thing just went away. I'm back to the regular discussion style, where clicking on the title of another user's post will open that post in a separate page.

However, I still have the new style selected in my preferences. I'm just curious whether this is a global problem or something specific to my network or configuration. I've tried disabling AdBlock and some other relevant FF extensions but no dice.

Anyone else noticing anything amiss?

User Journal

Journal: Ruminations on Rememble 5

Journal by Kadin2048

So I recently ran across a new site, courtesy of the fine folks at MetaFilter: Rememble. In a nutshell, it's a sort of 'digital scrapbooking' site. It describes itself as "a 'washing line' for your digital bits and pieces. Thread together texts, photos, videos, sounds, scribbles, scans, notes, tweets... so they're not drifting in a digital wasteland."

As a compulsive digitizer, I'll go first and say that it sounds great. There are a lot of services that provide the ability to save little text snippets for later (Google's Google Notebook, when coupled with the appropriate Firefox Addon, comes to mind), and Flickr is the gold standard for digital photo organization and sharing, and there are similar single-media sites for other purposes. However, there's a distinct lack of a single site that allows you to collect, view, organize, scrapbook, and share various types of digital media in a cohesive format. And that's a darn shame: as more people get online and involved in modern interactive services, as they get more of their lives online, it's only natural that they'll want to be able to save parts of it for later, just like they do in the physical world. (And, of course, being virtual lets you do things in an online notebook that you can't easily do in a dead-tree one, like suddenly decide to view all your clippings by date instead of by subject.)

Unfortunately, Rememble's execution -- at least at the moment -- falls flat. For a site that treads on being almost postmodern, its approach seems driven by a desire to create a vast silo of exploitable content. First major gaffe: you can't see *anything* without registering for an account. That's right, nothing. So let's say you set up an account, dump a lot of stuff into it, and then want to share it with some friends? Nope, sorry, they all have to sign up for accounts. This is such a major, deal-breaking limitation, it's hard not to immediately think of one of those ubiquitous "FAILURE" image macros. I can only hope that this is some sort of limitation due to the service being new -- I mean, they can't really be that stupid, can they?

Similarly, you can't deep-link to content that you upload. That's right; you can't embed things you upload to Rememble on your blog. While this isn't as obvious a death-wish as the lack of sharing ability, it's potentially more damaging. Flickr succeeded in its early days mainly because it became popular with bloggers looking for an alternative to services like ImageShack that didn't suck quite so badly. Flickr offered one-click tools for resizing an image and embedding it into a blog post. It was slick, people loved it, and they got a community of users rather quickly.

Beyond that, there doesn't seem to easily be a way of getting content *out* of Rememble once you've gotten it in. This bothers me, personally, although it may not be the sort of thing that a casual, non-backup-obsessed user might think of. (Though, in my opinion, they should.) A service like Rememble could, over time, end up being a significant repository of information and digital relics; having your Rememble store disappear would be like having your family scrapbooks torched.

After taking a casual look at Rememble, and comparing it to a successful service like Flickr, a number of concrete steps come to mind for, if not actually ensuring the success of a community-oriented "Web 2.0" media-sharing site, at least making it slightly less prone to sucking:

1) Sign-ins should only be required for content creators, never viewers. Even a free, one-minute signup procedure is one minute too long to expect random people I might want to share content with to go through. It's unnecessary and borders on arrogant.

2) Prohibiting blogging and direct linking may seem like a good idea, but it's not. Really. The people who are going to want to blog and direct-link are also the ones who are going to make or break your service. Don't alienate them 30 seconds after they upload their first bit of media. Yes, it may burn you to spend money on bandwidth so your users can use you like ImageShack, the Internet's cheap village whore, but chin up: everybody has to start somewhere.

3) Expose your APIs, and encourage third-party development. (To be fair, I'm not sure what Rememble is doing with their APIs; maybe they expose them and just aren't obvious about it.) Use standard interchange formats whenever possible. Since exposed APIs are considered one of the keys to useful, modern web services, they really need to get this right. Luckily, Flickr has a good model. Follow it. Also: Let users *export* content, not just import it. Acting like the NSA, hoovering up stuff and never letting anything slip back out, makes people justifiably nervous.

4) Provide a way for backups. Also: nobody likes commitment. Don't expect users to trust you, your datacenter, your RAID array, or your backup strategy. For all we know, you're running this thing on a spare server that your boss could repossess at any time. Provide users an easy way to grab a snapshot of everything they've created (a big tarball of media files and XML metadata) for their own peace of mind. Also, people like knowing that they have a way out if things go sour.

If Rememble took those four steps, they would probably have a service that I'd use right now -- at least for trivial stuff. From there, the sky's the limit.

Of 'second tier' features, an ability to encrypt content using an open-source, client-side applet (so that it gets encrypted by me, not by the server on the far end) would be nice, particularly when you're talking about automatically archiving text messages and other communications that may be sensitive now but nice to have later -- perhaps this could be offered as a premium service? If you do it right, with full auditability, you might even get corporate interest.

What really would make a service like Rememble outstanding are the interfaces. Imagine plugging a service like this into your SMS/text-messaging service from your phone, your email reader, and your IM client (archiving both conversations and status messages): you'd have a single online archive of all your communications. Privacy nightmare? Quite possibly. But it would also be handy; no more trying to remember how somebody sent you a bit of information. Plug it into your address book, so that you could cross-reference other people's online identities, and you'd be able to see all communications with a particular person over time, regardless of medium. Or run a quick search and you could see all the people you discussed a particular topic with.

I find the possibilities for a Rememble-like service pretty exciting; for someone who really likes compiling and managing information, it's just oozing with potential. And more than anything else, that's why Rememble is painful: it takes something that should be mind-blowing and renders it in a form that's lame and unimaginative; without an obvious grasp of what web services are all about.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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