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Comment: Second Guessing 13-year old market research (Score 2) 174

by ZahrGnosis (#46771773) Attached to: Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

Thirteen years ago the network infrastructure wasn't in place to let people do with a tablet what they do now, so the market research at the time may have been spot on. You can't really second-guess it now. I mean, sure, it may have become wildly popular, but Nokia actually entered the tablet space around 2005 with the 770 and even that was rather premature by today's tablet standards. Four years LESS of infrastructure, apps, and internet-addiction wasn't going to help any tablet succeed. And while the article hints that the early designers would have made different choices with the 770, there's no guarantee they would have made a difference. There were no killer apps -- no facebook, twitter, or instagram that people just HAD to have access to all the time. No reliable data network. Definitely no YouTube or Netflix. PDAs were slowly becoming popular, but they were very personal -- glorified address books and note taking devices.

It would be nice if the team were rewarded and kept on to make use of the technology somewhere and grow the market, but it's not like they were the first -- the Newton, and devices from HP and DEC were all in development much earlier than this -- and no matter how much of a "pioneer" you think someone may be, they do need a market; either you have to build it or wait for it if it doesn't exist, but just because a device can be created doesn't mean that the entire experience was ready-to-go.

Comment: Path of Light and Clarity (Score 1) 60

by ZahrGnosis (#46683851) Attached to: How To Build a Quantum Telescope

I remember reading somewhere (and I've spent nearly two minutes searching on Google, so you know it's somewhat obscure) that some people were concerned that our images of distant galaxies were TOO CLEAR. Their reasoning was that any given photon will take a (likely highly biased) random walk through quantum foam, or that the clarity actually helps disprove quantum foam theories (some information here:

I realize I'm light on details, and that's due to my memory and weak goggle-fu (I'm on a lot of [legal] drugs today) so go gently on ripping the science apart, but if anyone had actual references to the real theory, I'd be interested in its current efficacy, and how it relates to the /. article.

Comment: Re:Terrible summary (Score 1) 190

by ZahrGnosis (#46649367) Attached to: Scientists Solve the Mystery of Why Zebras Have Stripes

Well, "why" I believe it is because I feel like it. :-) Not to be TOO snarky -- that's just the sort of line I draw between "belief" and scientific-fact. This is the strongest correlation I've seen, and to me it's convincing enough until something stronger comes along. I wouldn't call it a strong belief (I mean I just posted paragraphs on how it could be wrong, and it's not really a topic that I have any stake in whatsoever), but if some undead omniscient egyptian deity threatens to kill me unless I answer the question "why does a zebra have stripes" in a scientifically accurate manner, then at the moment this whole fly idea is probably a better guess than anything else I'd come up with.

Comment: Re:Terrible summary (Score 2) 190

by ZahrGnosis (#46648753) Attached to: Scientists Solve the Mystery of Why Zebras Have Stripes

I half agree and half don't. Asking why the flies did not evolve to adjust is a good question; most animals do evolve to exploit readily available food sources, not to have seemingly random phobias of them, so there seems to be a large unanswered question. My problem with any evolutionary theory, though, that uses the word "why" is that it's implying causality from correlation, which is a science no-no.

It could be, for example, that flies have some other aversion to zebras -- for example they may have a more effective swatting tail -- and therefore the flies evolved an aversion to zebra stripes. Since we don't have any good tests of ancient fly behavior we can't truly know which came first. It could be that there was some third related causal element... for example if zebras stripes were an evolutionary advantage allowing them to hide from large predators in some particular foliage that appeared striped, and that foliage also housed animals that ate tsetse flies, the flies could have learned not to go near the striped surfaces for reasons unrelated to zebra. Or the two things (stripes and aversion to stripes) could have evolved as a coincidence.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good use of animal demographic data and a very interesting result. I also tend to believe that the result is correct: that the zebra evolved stripes because those with particularly dominant stripes were less prone to disease and problems brought on by fly bites, and this led to a positive selection for those striped traits. I'm just saying it's always going to be a leap to say there's a "why" that any particular evolutionary advance happened, because "why" is vulnerable to the "why not" counterargument, and it's unprovable because no experimentation can (reasonably) be done.

Comment: Re: Futile gesture (Score 1) 145

by ZahrGnosis (#46620971) Attached to: GCHQ and NSA Targeted World Leaders, Private German Companies

There were too MANY warning signs... half the world was already at war, and it's very unlikely that the signal of any legitimate intel that Pearl Harbor was about to happen could have risen above the noise of everything else the intel community had to keep up with at that time. How many incorrect tips and hints do you think came through, and to whom, and from whom? It's easy to find that needle in a haystack with 70 years of hindsight, but at the time, with everyone gathering intel but without the technology we have today for ferreting out useful information, I doubt it was possible to give any real warning. Besides, any attack on our land would have brought us into the war... if a conspiracy truly wanted that, then they could have given just enough warning to still witness the attack, but be alert enough to not cripple our navy and waste a huge percent of our might going into the war.

Getting back on topic, though, this IS why modern spy agencies exist. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone we spy on is fairly cognizant of it without Snowden's revelations (which, I still point out, are going far beyond the "exposing domestic spying" that is the core of his defense). When Obama was quoted in his "All nations collect intelligence" comment about people knowing what he has for breakfast, I think he was conceding that other countries, even allies, keep abreast of our leadership's activities through all means necessary. Is that right? I don't know... some of it depends on the methods and some on how deeply we go even when that leadership is trying to be private, and how much we truly share about these activities with our allies. That is, while it may be easy to know what the president had for breakfast, and while we may not even mind that that information gets out, it should be difficult to know what he discusses in the situation room or the oval office with doors closed. Snowden provides no context, no background, and no well-balanced research that traditional journalism should provide, and he and his information are losing a lot of credibility, at least with me, in so doing. Of COURSE we collect information on foreign leadership. So does the entire media population. If a crisis breaks out you can bet that some reporters will know exactly how to get hold of any leader they want to almost immediately.

From the article, it's clear that whatever documentation Snowden provided is not sufficient to prove anything, and even if it were a red-handed case (which it's not), there's still the possibility that it was done with some level of consent or coordination with Germany. The US, Germany, and Britain do actually have pretty strong diplomatic ties... something also confirmed by Snowden ( A quid-pro-quo trading of this sort of information isn't out of the question, and could certainly make the legal aspect more difficult to unravel. This stuff is all far from black and white.

Comment: Re:Consider... (Score 2) 490

by ZahrGnosis (#46586271) Attached to: Are DVDs Inconvenient On Purpose?

Thank you... I can't believe how many posts it took before someone mentioned this. "Only" 70-80% of the country has some form of internet or broadband, depending on who you ask... I bet the remaining 20+% account for more than their fair share of DVD users (I can't be sure, but still). Alienating that group is potentially bad for business.

Your first three points were very good as well... Ultimately, though, it's also about what people are willing to pay for. I don't really care WHY people are renting DVDs, but as long as they still want to (any of the reasons you gave or more), providers will be willing to take their money. Given that streaming options are becoming more and more prevalent, it's less likely that people are being forced to and more that they prefer to, but either way people keep buying DVDs.

I, personally, buy them because they're cheap, I like having them, I can be more sure what my collection includes (my options aren't taken away by constantly changing catalogs), I can share them, they work on all sorts of old cheap hardware... all sorts of reasons.

Comment: Re:I wonder (Score 1) 154

by ZahrGnosis (#46483145) Attached to: A Look at the NSA's Most Powerful Internet Attack Tool

Of course, you could also imagine a group of highly intelligent and capable programmers that grew up on legends of the Enigma, Bletchley Park, and Alan Turing... who live for reverse engineering code and breaking ciphers. People who know that enemies of the state (in this case the US) had used secret communications since the US War of Independance ( and yes, there are non-nsa links to similar material, but I thought it proved the point that much better), up to the modern day -- new and old enemies, large governments and small factions, and all enemies in between.

They believe to their core that protection of the country to whom they actually are very loyal requires not only a strong military but a strong counter-intelligence program and, given the way modern information is exchanged, "things have worked out about as well as you'd imagine". Just like the military, these people have built what they hope is the world's most capable collection of people and tools. By "capable" of course I mean able to execute the core objective -- to collect intelligence. We have no background, no history on why any individual piece of code is put in place. The person building injection attacks to MySQL, as an example, may have had a specific MySQL using target in mind when it was created, just like the nuclear bomb was created largely in response to World War II, and no matter how controversial, we still have those weapons and we still keep them available should they need to be used. Invoking nuclear weapons isn't even necessary -- guns, missiles, missile defense, any military tech has moral implications. Whether we should use any weapon or not is fine for debate, but I do see parallels -- you can't write off the people developing or using these weapons as "amoral", when, in fact, the vast majority of them are explicitly doing so for the defense of their country.

These people need not be "amoral". They may be misguided, or have priorities not in line with the majority of the public (although even that is easily debated). I give these guys the benefit of the doubt most of the time, however; by and large they believe they are working for the right side.

Comment: Re:Do not overreacht please (Score 5, Insightful) 187

I consider it an overreaction because the reaction is more against the change rather than to the impact of the change itself. I, for one, prefer the new mechanism. The main reason is that I found the grey boxes and light lines difficult to discern, particularly on poorly calibrated monitors (including some of my own -- I tend to prefer a high monitor temperature that mutes the contrast there).

The big yellow "Ad" symbol is much easier for me to identify. The yellow stands out. It's not garish; they could certainly make it MORE visible, but again, for me, personally, the yellow is easier to spot than the grey, and I consider it an improvement. Yes, I'd probably have preferred that they do both.

Anyway, I'm sure people will disagree, but people disagree on any change... it's not the end of the world. Ads are still labeled and people will get used to it then complain about the next change. That's why it's an overreaction.

Comment: Re:reduce the amount (Score 1) 983

by ZahrGnosis (#46463605) Attached to: How Do You Backup 20TB of Data?

I like the compression idea. Blu Ray media is cheap per GB, and it's a nice alternative to HDDs if you want to keep two media types (i.e. to have one that resists magnetic damage). Given that media libraries don't change frequently (other than adding new content), this might make some sense.

Still, copying to BR is slow and loathesome, and at 50GB each (or 25 if you go the cheaper route) for home burning it will take a while to off load. Of course, once you have it, you have it.

External hard drives in an offsite vault may be easier; you may be quick to dismiss them. Archive by date or by content and a handful of cheap drives will get it done in such a way that you can easily find what you're looking for if you have to go searching for individual files, and it's quick to recover. You could probably get a backup for less than a grand and it will be pretty fast and easy to store and move.

Paid cloud storage is fine for this, but honestly the bandwidth has never worked for me for that capacity; "never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with," well, hard drives. I'd archive the most recent stuff to the cloud (because that's the stuff at the most risk if you haven't off-sited it yet),

Comment: Re:On Science, Actuaries, and FUD (Score 1) 139

by ZahrGnosis (#46419801) Attached to: 'Data Science' Is Dead

Thanks fort he nice replies... "disfavor" was probably strong, in terms of "Actuary", but I meant it more in terms of not having a negative connotation, just not having a rock-star or very popular buzz-word sort of connotation that "Data Scientist" seems to have now. I grew up wanting to be an actuary, curiously -- my father was one -- I got the math degree, I just wandered off into database work, but I do actually see our jobs as very similar. I think actuaries still come in as some of the "best" jobs annually in places where people report such things (

But (and don't tell my father this), I've never heard anyone call actuaries sexy (other than my mom and, let's face it, we don't want to go there). Not in the way "Data Scientist" has been hyped. That's what I meant -- no disrespect to actuaries anywhere. ;-)

Comment: On Science, Actuaries, and FUD (Score 4, Insightful) 139

by ZahrGnosis (#46409145) Attached to: 'Data Science' Is Dead

"Science" lacks a robust definition, but clearly the OP's definition is overly simplistic and narrow. Stephen Hawking has a lecture somewhere (found it: where he talks about the idea of the "positivist" approach defined on the ability to predict outcomes, and I like to apply that definition to Science (Hawking doesn't, directly, but it's sort of an underlying theme). That is, Science becomes the observation and experimentation required to form predictions or cause changes in predicted outcomes.

So Social Science can be a science in so far as it actually informs usefully on how people will behave or provides useful ways to affect and improve the behavior or state of society's future. Computer science is a science insofar as it is required to make computers function as expected (as predicted) -- if you want something to perform faster, you must do the research and experimentation to cause the outcome to be faster. Even archaeology can be a science by this definition in that discoveries are added to a general model of the past that predicted all sorts of things -- ancient society's behavior, glaciation, geological events... "predict" may be a stretch there (except when archaeological finds help predict the future), but in this case the method of building a model of how the world worked based on observation to describe and generalize behavior (of the earth, of ancient religions, or what have you) is a form of prediction; it's just after the fact.

Data Science is very much science in this form; the job of a data scientist is almost universally to predict what the data will say about the future given what it has said in the past. This is invaluable to businesses and while the name may fall into disfavor, in the same way "actuary" which means something very similar already has, the abuse in this article is unwarranted, unfounded, and inaccurate. I will only agree that many who sport the "Data Science" moniker may not actually be doing science by any definition, but that's the individual's fault, not the concept's.

Comment: Re:A few problems... (Score 3, Insightful) 149

by ZahrGnosis (#46279931) Attached to: Can Reactive Programming Handle Complexity?

I don't know about "anti-pattern", but they cause trouble because they cause other code to be non-deterministic and it's very difficult to create patterns around that sort of behavior. They're practically the logical equivalent of the "COME FROM" in Intercal, which was originally a joke for goodness sake. I was flabbergasted when I found out people are vaunting code that actually works this way. It's particularly painful in implementations where the "reactions" can override program flow with errors or silent rejection or just running off and doing whatever they want. It's nearly impossible to debug since reactions (triggers) are almost always coded in a language or paradigm separate from some procedural language used to provide the UI or whatever other layer is being reacted TO.

I just don't like it! But that's just me.

Comment: Re:The cypher (Score 1) 89

by ZahrGnosis (#46239977) Attached to: Vikings' Secret Code Cracked

Thanks for beating me to this -- it sounds like a simple substitution cipher; even with a many-to-one I'm amazed it would be THAT hard to crack. Of course, looking at the images in the articles I wasn't having a good time telling one rune from the next (there was a series of like 5 "R" looking characters in a row), so maybe it was a high order many-to-one so the trick helped narrow the field.

I'm impressed that such a cipher lasted this long, though!

Comment: Re:Classic Slashdot (Score 1) 463

by ZahrGnosis (#46166565) Attached to: Fire Destroys Iron Mountain Data Warehouse, Argentina's Bank Records Lost

Ob-On-Topic Follow up... off site backups are BACKUPS... if you archive something off of your production systems (say, because it's outdated), you once again need TWO COPIES (like beta and classic Slashdot!). Putting an entire country's banking records in one place seems like an awful bad idea whatever that place is.

1 Billion dollars of budget deficit = 1 Gramm-Rudman