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Comment Re:Apple Music (Score 1) 460

Except voice controls don't always work.

It might not recognize your voice correctly (in my case, Siri only understands about 20% of my questions). Apple's voice recognition requires Internet access for many of its functions (limiting functionality for people with no or small data-plans, or using Wi-Fi devices where there is no open accesspoint). Some songs have difficult to pronounce names. Sometimes it may not be appropriate to talk (for instance, in a library). Or perhaps I just don't know the name (but I would recognize it if I saw it in a list).

Worst is that - even if the voice control does work - Siri is awful about actually FINDING the song. Too often I've asked iOS to find a song - giving it the exact name - and it tells me there's no such song on my device (although it helpfully suggests that I can buy it on iTunes) which means I have to manually find it in my playlist. Older versions of the app had no such issue.

Adding voice-recognition is a nice feature, but it's no replacement for a well-designed graphic interface, all the more so when the voice-recognition has such serious limitations.

Comment Re:Speaking of a different RPG (Score 1) 321

Your Shadowrun campaign sounds a lot like my D&D campaign. I think it has more to do with the DM and the players than the system.

Then again, we tend to avoid superhero-style characters so swording first, asking questions later in a dungeon is as likely to get you killed as storming the headquarters of a megacorp. Unfortunately, later editions of D&D make PCs so overpowered even at lower levels that it's hard for DMs to prevent PCs from becoming death incarnate. It's one of the reasons my group sticks to the older rules...

Comment Re:It's a business opportunity! (Score 1) 320

You're moving the goalposts.

Your initial argument was that other products (automobiles, in this case) don't need to be "patched". I gave evidence that they do. Now you've changed the argument that they do not need to be patched as often or as soon.

I could probably find recalls for brand new cars if I really cared to. And doubtlessly a lot of minor issues - largely cosmetic - don't warrant a recall, leaving the customer to deal with it on their own (I remember a car where the pleather started peeling off the seats because of shitty glue; no recall for that one). These would still count as defects, except they never get patched. Does this make the products somehow superior to software? In this, software has it easier since a quick patch for cosmetic issues costs no more to distribute than one for a kernel-level security hole.

We accept a lot of products with defects. Software is no different. Software's faults are perhaps more visible BECAUSE they can be - and sometimes are - fixed.

This isn't to excuse shoddy software but let's be honest about it: we get what we pay for, and generally we as a society don't care to pay enough for quality, be it a secure OS or a car that doesn't burst into flames if you tap it gently on the rear bumper ;-)

Comment Re:It's a business opportunity! (Score 1) 320

I do not have to "update" my car (made in 1982), tape deck or radio, unless some component wears out or just fails. Why does software come so unfinished and so full of defects?

Actually, you probably did did...

Ford E350
Product Recalls for Chevrolet S10 in 1982
Product Recalls for Ford Granada in 1982

(there were probably more, but those were three I found in just a quick Google search)

Oh sure, they're called "recalls" instead of updates but they are essentially the same thing: you get your product "patched" to fix a manufacturing flaw. Your tape-deck and radio probably had similar issues, except - unless they are life threatening - manufacturers aren't required to recall (replace or fix for free) the item; you just go out and buy a new one.

We've been accepting shoddy products into our lives for decades (centuries!). Price has beaten out quality, whether it is computer software, kitchen appliances or automobiles, and rarely do we hold the manufacturer responsible. Caveat emptor indeed!

Comment Re:Locked out of tenders (Score 2) 120

A tender is an offer to provide a requested service for a government. Governments put out a request for a service (say, "we need somebody to help us ensure our computer systems are secure") and companies and individuals can tender an offer saying, "these are my qualifications, this is my price range". Government will then select one of those tenders to get the job.

Presumably, people who speak out against governmental practices are having their offers tossed.

At least, that's how I read it.

Comment Never trust a survey (Score 4, Insightful) 223

Never trust a survey where they do not disclose the exact questions being asked of the participants, whether it supports your belief or discredits it. What is asked is often as important as who is being asked (the demographics of the questioner is important too). All of these factors can and have been manipulated by the survey-takers in order to reach a desired conclusion (and sometimes it is not even being done purposefully).

In this case, it sounds like the questions of the survey (there is no full list but a few hints scattered throughout the PDF) were intentionally difficult for people to understand unless they had a grounding in the topic - computers, encryption, networking and security - being discussed. People tend to turn off their brain when confronted with this level of complexity and assume that the authorities who do understand this sort of thing have our best interests at heart (it seems built into the human psyche). Likely had the questions been more grounded - e.g., "do you think the government should be able to read any and all of your private mails, be it electronic or paper?" the results would have been different.

Comment Changing sleep patterns (Score 1) 315

The article talks about the customary "8 hours of sleep at night" not being required based on paleolithic evidence, and I'll accept the results of their study on face value. However, that does not necessarily mean that we don't need 6-9 hours (varies by person) of sleep per day. Our current sleeping patterns are very much based upon the demands of the modern industrial world where you wake up, go to work, put in your 8-10 hours of labor, go home, and go to bed. Prior to that, sleeping patterns were much more flexible; medieval sleep, for instance, was broken up into two parts with people waking up ~2am and doing minor chores, meals and familial interactions before tucking in again until dawn. Cultures from equatorial regions were infamous for their mid-afternoon "siesta" periods when little work would get done and many would rest or even nap out the hottest parts of the day. Edison was reputed to sleep 8 hours a day, albeit broken up into numerous half-hour catnaps (his employees were expected to remain awake throughout their shift, of course). Great apes are known to be partially active through the night, but they also rest and nap throughout the day.

I'm sure people can get by quite well on 5 hours of sleep at night... if you change the rest of your life to make up for the lack. But if you are otherwise maintaining an modern, industrial lifestyle then you are going to have a hard time at it.

(Besides, what's wrong with 8 hours sleep at night? Is it because we are allowing our employers to push us so hard that our paid-for 8-hours labor is stretching out to 10 or 12 hours per day that we need to make up the deficit by cutting it out of our sleep period? Maybe instead of risking our health with a "paleo sleep schedule" we ought to be pushing back at over-zealous bosses who seem to have a problem letting go the leash at 5PM)

Comment Re:Turn key back on? (Score 3, Interesting) 350

Mind you, there's a significant difference between hitting a satellite orbiting at slightly more than 300 miles up, and hitting one that's 11,000 miles up.

A lot of the low-earth orbit satellites - which includes some reconnaissance satellites - are vulnerable to common fighter-launched ASATs, but hitting something in geosynchronous orbit is a bit more difficult. It would take large ground-based rockets to reach that altitude, and you would have to launch at least six to disrupt the GPS system over a particular area (and even then, the results would be only temporary as the network can compensate for some losses). Even ICBMs aren't powerful enough to reach them; you would need liquid-fueled rockets that need to be fueled up prior to launch (you don't just keep that stuff sitting around in the rocket's gas tank indefinitely) prior to launch, so your preparations would be very visible and very vulnerable. GPS satellites are also traveling at more than 10,000mph, which makes them a tricky target to hit, so you'll likely need to launch more than one rocket per satellite to ensure a successful interception.

It's not impossible but it is difficult and probably more costly in resources than it is worth.

Comment Re:Lol (Score 2) 85

While it isn't quite at the "800GB of random web page requests", there is a Firefox Add-On that can help with that sort of thing: TrackMeNot. At a user-configurable interval, it sends out semi-random search queries to a number of number of search engines (it pulls the search terms from a variety of RSS feeds of trending topics). It's aimed more at "poisoning the well" of search-engines databases than intelligence-agencies, but it helps ;-)

Comment Re:ITT (Score 1) 278

3. The unhelpful belief that your guy has to WIN in order to get your voice heard is an equally serious problem. It is a mindset that makes people avoid third parties.

Yes, it is true; if you vote for a candidate and he doesn't get into office, it is less likely that your issues are going to be immediately dealt with. It is equally possible that the major-party candidate who is politically closest to your choice may also lose the election.

But here's the thing: the major political parties are aware of this danger too. Third-party candidates can cost them votes, or even an election. That's why they will do anything to shut them out of the process. Currently, the main way they do this is by convincing everyone that voting third-party is "throwing your vote away". But they will also COMPROMISE their policies if it will get them back the voters who would otherwise vote third-party. If enough people start voting for ultra left-wing candidates, you can bet the Democrats are going to swing further left (and vice versa for Republicans) in order to win back the support of their constituents. Voting third-party threatens the status quo; more than anything it sends a message to the old guard about the people's dissatisfaction with their performance.

Voting isn't about getting your guy to win; it is about making your voice heard. Shout loud enough (e.g., get enough people to vote for) for a particular policy and the politicians will listen. It might not happen in the current election but you can bet it will in the next. An election should not be a popularity contest; it is a referendum of the will of the people.

Shake things up; vote third party.

Comment And we STILL can't read it (Score 5, Insightful) 278

Its full 30-chapter text will not be available for perhaps a month

Doubtlessly to be released to public 24 hours before the Congressional vote...

If the reason for keeping it secret is that the negotiators didn't want to be swayed by day-to-day changing public opinion, what reason not to release the text immediately? It's not as if they have to print it all out; I'm sure there's many a web-designer who could whip up a site with the content of the treaty in less than a day.

Hell, stick it in a TXT file and dump it on an FTP site somewhere. Nominally this agreement is for the betterment of all involved countries; there is no reason not to make the information available immediately.

Unless... say, you don't think the negotiators weren't working in the best interests of the citizens they are supposed to represent, do you?

Comment Re:Poor Earth (Score 1) 94

Well, it is the largest satellite compared to the size of its planet. Sure, there are bigger moons (Titan, Ganymede and Callisto) but they are dinky in comparison to their planets. The Moon is almost a quarter of Earth's diameter; that makes it unique in our solar system.

It also makes it very useful, since it is an obvious first step for large-scale exploitation of space. It has a lot of resources, a useful - but not overly strong - gravity field and is relatively close. Venusians or Martians would probably have a far harder time conquering the solar system due to their lack.

So I don't think out Moon is that boring after all.

Comment Re:In the comments below the interview... (Score 4, Insightful) 90

It doesn't make sense to have an invented place speak a real language in lieu of an invented one. It just creates a confusing context.

Worse, it opens the studios open up to criticisms and accusations of bias. Imagine if they used an ancient dialect of Persian as the language of the Evil Wizard and his minions.; the uproar - both in the Middle East and the Western world - would be amazing (it works in reverse too; have the GOOD guys speak the language and they are accused of pandering or an anti-American bias). Either way, it's probably going to cost them some sales.

Made-up languages have the advantage of being neutral; nobody cares if the Orcs speak a butchered version of Sindarin except the geeks... and they'll just pay to see the movie three or four more times so they can gather evidence for their arguments ;-)


Google Launches Brotli, a New Open Source Compression Algorithm For the Web 215

Mark Wilson writes: As websites and online services become ever more demanding, the need for compression increases exponentially. Fans of Silicon Valley will be aware of the Pied Piper compression algorithm, and now Google has a more efficient one of its own. Brotli is open source and is an entirely new data format that offers 20-26 percent greater compression than Zopfli, another compression algorithm from Google. Just like Zopfli, Brotli has been designed with the internet in mind, with the simple aim of making web pages load faster. It is a "lossless compressed data format that compresses data using a combination of the LZ77 algorithm and Huffman coding, with efficiency comparable to the best currently available general-purpose compression methods". Compression is better than LZMA and bzip2, and Google says that Brotli is "roughly as fast" as zlib's Deflate implementation.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright