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Comment: Senate bill will get watered down like House bill (Score 1) 113

by billstewart (#47560267) Attached to: Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance

The House bill started out as a strong pro-privacy bill that made a few concessions to NSA spying. By the time it was done with amendments, all that was left were the concessions to NSA spying and a bunch of nice but useless speechmaking. Obama may be talking positively now, but the pro-surveillance folks in the Senate will try to gut the bill, and anything that makes it past them will get trashed in the House-Senate joint resolution process.

Comment: Re:When going into business with Friends (Score 1) 146

by plover (#47556467) Attached to: How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

Going into business with friends or relatives is not a problem.

Just treat it like a business. When your cousin comes to work for you, you're under no different obligations as an employer than you would be if they weren't you cousin.

Actually, that's a real problem for most of us. A familial bond is one of care and protection. Family means that you defend other members of the family, even when they're stretching boundaries. And we have different levels of permission based on context, where the boundaries outside of the family are different than the boundaries inside the family. For example, if a kid gets into a schoolyard fight, the father might defend the kid's behavior; but if the same fight occurred between siblings, he might punish both equally.

A sociopath has no problem flipping the switch, to decide that they can ignore the family ties. For the rest of us, it's not that easy. (Please note that I'm not saying people who successfully hire and manage family members are sociopaths! I'm just saying it's hard.)

Looking at it another way, if it were "not a problem", if it was easy to treat family members equally, the phenomenon known as the 'Son of the Boss' wouldn't exist. But it exists everywhere.

Comment: Are there any flip-cover cases? (Score 1) 501

A slide-out keyboard case, like the ones sold for iPhones and a couple of non-Apple phones, has to be just the right size to snap on the back of the phone. But you should be able to make a flip-cover case where, when it's closed, the keyboard is facing the touchscreen, and either it's made to open in portrait mode (if you're doing a 12-button keyboard for T9), or it's made for landscape mode, if you want better keyboard shape but not as good Android UI coordination, and that would let you have something that doesn't have to be the exact size of the phone in all three dimensions, just close enough to clamp on.

Comment: Re:smaller screens - YAY! (Score 1) 95

by billstewart (#47555509) Attached to: Samsung Delays Tizen Phone Launch

I used an HTC Aria for about 4 years, one of the smallest smartphones on the market. Unfortunately, it was running a heavily HTC-customized version of Android 2.1, and I hadn't successfully gotten it to upgrade to 2.2 before HTC Sync stopped working for me for a year or two, and sometime during that period Android Market got replaced by Google Play, which my phone didn't think was the same thing at all so stopped letting me install apps. And I couldn't find any other smartphone that small since then; they were all bigger, even the

I finally gave in and replaced it a month ago with a Samsung S4 Mini. It's longer and a bit wider, but thinner, which helps. The other phone I'd considered was the iPhone 4, but I preferred to stay in the Android side of the world rather than go over to the shiny side. (Samsung's Kies sync-over-USB program also seems hopelessly clunky, takes forever to detect a phone being connected, grub my calendar out of Outlook, and download, but it does eventually work.)

Comment: Facebook evil, OKC less bad experiments (Score 3, Interesting) 143

by billstewart (#47555479) Attached to: OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

Facebook's experiments bother me more than OKCupid's. They're deliberately manipulating which news stories their readers see in order to affect their mood, and seeing how that affects the readers' behavior. That seems mean and dishonest. (Of course, I didn't know Facebook had news, so I'm not in their target market anyway, but it still seems mean.)

OKCupid's a dating site, which means that all their "compatibility" scores are pretty much guesswork anyway, assisted by a lot of measurement, so an occasional suggestion of "maybe you two should see if you want to date" to people they normally wouldn't match up isn't that much perturbation of their approach anyway, and "whoops, pictures are broken, why don't you try talking first instead of just looking at pictures" is just fine, and both of them give them a bit of data outside the ranges they'd normally be collecting from - perhaps there are people that would get along well who they haven't been matching up. (I'm not in their market either, fortunately.)

Comment: Re:Gateway Drug Bogosity (Score 1) 462

There's also the argument that MJ's a gateway drug because of correlation - "you don't see many heroin users who didn't start with marijuana". My general reaction is "Look at all those heroin users who avoided marijuana because it's illegal and dangerous! (Oh there aren't any?)" (Actually there probably are some, people who got addicted to prescription opiates they started using for medical reasons, and switched to heroin because it's cheaper and because they can't get enough legally and weren't getting good medical support for getting out of the addiction.)

I did know one guy for whom marijuana actually was a gateway drug - first time he got high, in high school, he decided that it was good stuff and they'd been lying to him about all the reefer madness stuff, and figured he should see what else they'd been lying to him about.

Comment: Re:Gateway Personalities (Score 2) 462

Definitely. Depression and bipolar depression are widespread, and self-medication with alcohol and other drugs is fairly common. Some people are drunks or stoners or opiate abusers because they like it, but for a lot of people it's because they want to dull the pain or stress. For many of them, there are pharmaceuticals that could do a better job of managing depression or mania, but either they haven't gone to a psychiatrist because of stigmas about mental illness, or because their insurance doesn't cover it, or because they think they've got things sufficiently under control themselves, or because AA is keeping them sober, so they stick to the booze as their go-to self-medication. (Opiate abusers get other problems, because those are physically addictive; alcohol can be but it takes a lot more abuse to get there.)

There are other people who are tuned toward thrill-seeking, and like to hit the coke or whatever, but I've got less experience with them. And then there are other traditional reasons for drug use (mainly alcohol), such as boring jobs - farmers, video store clerks, etc. who can do their work just fine stoned.

Comment: Prozac vs. Ethanol, MJ, etc. (Score 1) 462

It's actually a great comparison. Depression, both unipolar and bipolar, is quite common, and self-medication with alcohol and/or marijuana are quite common. One of my coworkers was bipolar and spent some time in the local hospital mental ward after a crisis, and said that most of the people there for alcohol detox were bipolar folks who'd gone off their meds (because meds are boring) and switched back to drinking until it caused them problems. Another coworker who's hypomanic said she used to need a couple of martinis or a joint to unwind in the evenings, but eventually went to a psychiatrist to get some better-tuned meds.

So yeah, some people are alcoholics or stoners because they like being drunk or stoned all the time, but for a lot of them it's really dealing with underlying mood problems that could also be addressed with prozac and its relatives. Cocaine's a bit different, but if you want to be manic-depressive and aren't that way naturally, it's a good substitute.


How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium 39

Posted by timothy
from the beats-speed-of-sound dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A flock of starlings flies as one, a spectacular display in which each bird flits about as if in a well-choreographed dance. Everyone seems to know exactly when and where to turn. Now, for the first time, researchers have measured how that knowledge moves through the flock—a behavior that mirrors certain quantum phenomena of liquid helium. Some of the more interesting findings: Tracking data showed that the message for a flock to turn started from a handful of birds and swept through the flock at a constant speed between 20 and 40 meters per second. That means that for a group of 400 birds, it takes just a little more than a half-second for the whole flock to turn."

Comment: Most alt.coins are designed to be ASIC-hostile (Score 1) 206

For Bitcoin, ASIC is the only way to go, but most of the interesting alternative coins are designed to be hard or impossible to build ASIC miners for. (They're also designed to be GPU-miner-hostile, but some of those have been worked around.) One of the tradeoffs with that is that CPU-only mining is botnet-friendly; it's harder to abuse botnet machines' GPUs (especially in cloud servers or routers that don't have GPUs.)

I avoid the whole problem by mining Dogecoin; it's close enough to no value that it's seldom worth stealing (though there was a botnet in the news recently that actually got $200K from mining it.)

Comment: Re: Yeah, 2 ports + WiFi - so? (Score 2) 53

by billstewart (#47547717) Attached to: A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

No, generally a router has an inside and an outside, and sometimes a third port as a DMZ; you're thinking of a router with an ethernet hub attached, like many home routers. There are routers with more routed ports, and there are one-armed routers also, though that's less likely to be useful.

Comment: Price is reasonable - $35, not $90 (Score 1) 53

by billstewart (#47547711) Attached to: A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

It's $35 plus shipping for the development board with the module soldered on it, so it's about the same as an Arduino; the $89 price was for two of them plus accessories like cables and power supplies. They're asking for not very much money to finish their software development, and the real question is whether their software is any good.

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