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Comment: Re:Name the type, or statement is meaningless (Score 1) 260

by amck (#48344269) Attached to: Computer Scientists Ask Supreme Court To Rule APIs Can't Be Copyrighted

This makes using them in the aggregate as "Intellectual Property" legally meaningless if one is trying to state something concrete.

The one thing copyright, patents, trademarks have in common is that legally, None of them are a form of property.

Property means the thing is permanently yours, you get to keep it or at worst get compensated for its removal. If the state takes your land to build a road, you get compensated.

Copyright, Patents and Trademarks are monopolies granted "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times". Intellectual Proterty is a political cause or movement to get these temporary monopolies granted as Property. It needs to be recognised as such, and denied.

Comment: Re:What difference will it make? (Score 3, Insightful) 125

by amck (#48261595) Attached to: 16-Teraflops, £97m Cray To Replace IBM At UK Meteorological Office

You do more than rescue. When you know the storm is coming you prepare ahead of time. With 3-5 days notice, Councils, police cancel overtime. All vehicles are out of the garage/repair shop. Priority on getting sandbags in place, clearing all drains and drain covers.

Then the general public are warned. Less events are on, or they are cancelled. Less people travel, everyones been to the shops two days before.

And away from storms, farmers know 5 days in advance what they're doing; warm humid weather means preparing for blight, etc. Less fertlilizers, less pesticides are wasted.

People still grumble about the bad weather, but harvests and lives aren't lost.

Comment: Re:Have the solutions converged? (Score 3, Informative) 77

by amck (#48053909) Attached to: Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts

These simulations are forecasts. They check every forecast against observations, and have very good metrics on how good their forecasts are, and how much skill changes.
See for example how the European ECMWF does its forecasts:
http://www.ecmwf.int/en/foreca...

Every change to the operational model(s) can be and is checked out first against " will it improve the forecast". Similarly improvements in computing power: we simply run yesterdays forecast at higher resolution for example; we can then say "this new model is n% better, but takes 10x as long to calculate", and use that to decide whether its worth buying a faster computer.

On the climate timescale we have a challenge verifying the simulations, but on the weather timescale its straightforward, and done.

Comment: Re:kill -1 (Score 1) 469

by amck (#47962341) Attached to: Fork of Systemd Leads To Lightweight Uselessd

PID1 has special significance in Unix that means if it needs to be restarted, the whole system needs a reboot. Its essential functionality can (has) been written in 10-20 lines, allowing it to be carefully audited and ensure no CVEs, with other functionality subordinated.

systemd has too much functionality in pid1. it is also, in my and many peoples opinion, too highly integrated: Effectively everything has to be done "the systemd way". We have a range of init 'setups' at the moment suitable for embedded systems through servers to desktops. systemd does a "one size fits all" that locks in a design. Replacing it in the future (even eg. /usr on a separate mount, for example) requires rewriting much of the core code. We lose the one-component-does-one-thing design, allowing individual components to be replaced and new designs tested (eg. different mailservers, different bind implementations,etc).

Comment: Re:I've grappled with the ethics of CS for 20 year (Score 1) 183

by amck (#46812879) Attached to: The Ethical Dilemmas Today's Programmers Face

This is Engineering. This dilemma has been faced before by other Engineers, and its time for software engineers to step up to the mark and earn the title.

Basically, professionalize. Join an industry body like IEEE, create and get standards like C.Eng, lobby for critical software to be signed off by Licensed Engineers. Wrestle control from the PHBs.

Comment: Re:But is it a class M planet? (Score 4, Interesting) 239

by amck (#46781665) Attached to: Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered

No.

There have been several studies of tidally-locked planets around M-dwarfs which refute this.
Simulations of the Atmospheres of Synchronously Rotating Terrestrial Planets Orbiting M Dwarfs: Conditions for Atmospheric Collapse and the Implications for Habitability, M. M. Joshi, R. M. Haberle, and R. T. Reynolds , Icarus (1997)
A Reappraisal of The Habitability of Planets around M Dwarf Stars, Tarter et al. (2007), Astrobiology,

Basically atmosphere and ocean circulation transfer the heat, and you get a relatively habitable earthlike environment.

Comment: Re:Flamebait (Score 2) 149

by amck (#46667943) Attached to: TCP/IP Might Have Been Secure From the Start If Not For the NSA

The NSA has two conflicting tasks:
(1) Secure national communications.
(2) Break other countries communications.

This made sense in the 1950s when secure encryption was something only the military, spies, etc used. It breaks down badly in the internet, international era.

"They declined to help" hides the fact that _that was their job_. They are the national, even world experts on the problem, and they stood back
and allowed a broken internet security model. Elsewhere, they've made swiss cheese of encryption standards so they could continue to do (2),
at the cost of (1).

The NSA is Broken As Designed and needs to be scrapped.

Comment: Re:That's one heck of a very **BROAD** Patent ! (Score 1) 258

by amck (#46386259) Attached to: Inventor Has Waited 43 Years For Patent Approval

Yes, the trouble is that independent invention is no defence. And yes, it is the "natural" way of doing the task, used my many if not most in the field.

Hence the conundrum for the patent office: by rights he should be granted the patent, but in effect they will have given Hyatt an incredibly valuable monopoly by virtue of their delay in processing the patent. But they can't think of any valid reason _not_ to give him the patent.

Comment: Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (Score 5, Insightful) 292

by amck (#45985603) Attached to: Thousands of Gas Leaks Discovered Under Streets of Washington DC

Monopolies are bad. Government makes a monopoly. Results are bad. Are you surprised? I am surprised at your apparent attitude, given the track record of government-managed systems. You think that would be better?

Not necessarily. For example the method used in Former Yugoslavia: the bread business was nationalised to ensure cheap bread for the populace. Two government bread companies were set up (IIRC). They were made to compete with each other, but with within strict rules, so that profit-taking for the benefit of staff salaries was out, but they could find efficiencies and compete. Also, it was legal for private companies to set up and sell other types of bread, but obviously couldn't control the market.

Similarly, Ireland had a nationalized shipping company to ensure shipping happened in Ireland ; during WWII no-one else would ship to Ireland because of the danger, and after the war they needed stable prices. Other companies could compete, but this meant there was a ceiling on prices and there was always someone capable of shipping.

Secondly having spent half my life in the public and half in the private sector, the private-sector is just as bad, it just doesn't have public investigations into waste.

Comment: Re:meta stable (Score 1) 249

by amck (#45850231) Attached to: Reducing Climate Change Uncertainty By Figuring Out Clouds

No, You've plenty: we run our climate models on other planets, too. There are operational models running for Mars (to predict dust storms);
Titan, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Neptune and Uranus have been tested too.

We also have paleoclimates, matching CO2 and temperature patterns against fossil and isotopic records both on Earth and recently on Mars.

We have lots of individual tests: climate model accuracy on a regional scale, when the models are not tuned to this; getting predictions
such as Arctic ampliification right, etc. Getting the magnitude and duration of global cooling in the wake of volcanos such as Pinatubo, etc.

As another poster said, we've plenty of tests that we can do and have done, if you show any imagination.

Comment: Re:Fixed-point arithmetic (Score 4, Insightful) 226

by amck (#45489529) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Reproducible Is Arithmetic In the Cloud?

Getting the result to be deterministic is only the start of the problem. How do you know it is _correct_, or more properly, know the error bounds involved? How much does it matter to your problem?

e.g. If I am doing a 48-hour weather forecast, I can compare my results with observations next week; I can treat numerical error as a part of "model" error along with input observational uncertainty, etc.

I might validate part of my solutions by checking that, for example, the total water content of my planet doesn't change. For a 48-hour forecast, I might tolerate methods that slightly lose water over 48 hours in return for a fast solution. For a climate forecast/projection, this would be unacceptable.

Getting the same answer every time is no comfort if I have no way of knowing if its the right answer.

It is much harder to find a job than to keep one.

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