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Comment: Re: Java is Pascal++ (Score 1) 492

by brianerst (#48902691) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

Then you didn't do it far enough back. The entire concept of a virtual machine was popularized by the UCSD Pascal p-system (BCPL had the O-system in 67 but no one used it). Not only was it the precursor of the JVM (James Gosling called the p-system the main influence on Java's VM) but it also virtualized the entire OS - UCSD Pascal was one of the three original packaged OSs for the IBM PC.

Even Wirth created p-system/p-code style Pascal compilers. Until the advent of Compas/Turbo Pascal, Pascal was hardly ever compiled into machine code.

Comment: Re:A New Kind Of Monopoly (Score 1) 221

by brianerst (#48717249) Attached to: Google Fiber's Latest FCC Filing: Comcast's Nightmare Come To Life

Not exactly the same, but local loop unbundling was done in the US after the break-up of Ma Bell. For a while, long distance telephone service was unbundled from the local loop. Any company could offer long distance service and the local incumbent phone service had to provide access to their infrastructure at a fixed cost.

We had an explosion of LDS providers and the price dropped like a stone. Within a decade, LDS was so cheap that all the LDS providers started failing and it just got rebundled into the local loop as a basically free offering - no difference between local and long distance calls.

You're starting to see a similar process occur in electricity provisioning in some states - the incumbent utility has to unbundle the infrastructure cost from the cost of electrons and open the grid to third-party electricity generators within a strict framework. Illinois has such a system - ironically, I don't know how well it works, because my local municipality has municipal electric and is the monopoly provider.

Comment: Re: One fiber to rule them... (Score 1) 221

by brianerst (#48717029) Attached to: Google Fiber's Latest FCC Filing: Comcast's Nightmare Come To Life

You obviously don't live in any major American city. With very few exceptions, they are all bastions of single party rule (primarily Democratic) so there is little accountability other than the occasional revolt over some truly monumental screw-up (usually involving the police or amazing levels of corruption).

In my wonderful city of Chicago, the mayor's office is generally a sinecure for the current generation of Daley with a few placeholders when the next generation isn't quite old enough to take over. The city council is mostly handpicked by the mayor (in various ways) and the few independents are either anti-business leftists, race-focused (usually legitimately) or insane. Infrastructure is either run to enhance political power (streets and sanitation workers are the army on which the Machine runs the city) or sold at fire-sale prices to pay for the massive mismanagement of the city's budget.

I wouldn't trust those bozos to run a lemonade stand, let alone a citywide fiber infrastructure. Heck, when the City of Chicago does infrastructure work, it manages to drown the city from underground...

Comment: Re:I disagree (Score 1) 257

by brianerst (#48492425) Attached to: The Driverless Future: Buses, Not Taxis

It really depends on which branch of the El you're on and what time of day. The north, northwest and southwest branches (Purple, Brown and Orange lines) are reasonably clean and moderately quick (they have fewer stops) but get ridiculously, Asia-level crowded during the rush. If you are at the edge of one of them (and can thus get a seat), it's not bad.

The north/south (Red) and cross-town lines (Blue and Green) are dirtier, slower and less safe. Part of that is just the realities of the neighborhoods they go through, but they also have a lot more stops, so there's a lot of jostling, bumping and standing.

The El also can have some fairly aggressive panhandling and muggings. The CTA, in general, is much more laissez faire about such things - partly because they got rid of the conductors that used to patrol the trains, partly because it's politically toxic to roust "undesirables" from public transit. The Metra (diesel trains) still has conductors who police the train (the Metra uses an on-train ticketing system, so someone has to be onboard), so the ride is a lot safer and civil. The Metra even has "quiet cars" where talking on cell phones (or other passengers) is prohibited. That's a nice ride.

I rode the El daily for 10 years and the Metra for 12, so I've seen the best and worst of both. I've specifically chosen where I've lived based on convenience to public transit - in my adult life, I've never lived more than three blocks from a train station. Due to a serious injury, I've recently had to switch to driving and while I've gotten used to it (there are a few upsides to being alone in a vehicle), I'll never get used to the boredom and waste of driving a vehicle into the city on a regular basis.

Comment: Re:I disagree (Score 2) 257

by brianerst (#48491779) Attached to: The Driverless Future: Buses, Not Taxis

It really depends on the mode of public transport. Here in Chicago, we have three main modes - diesel passenger trains, electric rail and diesel buses. Here, the diesel passenger trains are by far the best - clean (unless you end up at Union Station), comfortable, fast, reliable. It's suburb-to-urban center transport, though - great for that transit pattern, terrible for anything else. Riding the diesels is a relaxing trip.

Electric rail (the 'El') is next down the list. Mostly connects various city neighborhoods to the downtown (and to each other via transfers). It's not as clean, not as comfortable, not as reliable, not as fast as the diesel lines, but it's more flexible. On a crowded line, it's a moderately stressful trip.

Finally, you have the diesel buses. They suck unless you're taking a trip on off hours - an empty bus driving on empty roads is fine. Any other combination sucks - dirty, crowded, slow, unreliable transport.

Comment: Re:This is typical of the "Jobs era" Apple (Score 1) 135

by brianerst (#48059505) Attached to: Apple To Face $350 Million Trial Over iPod DRM

Ah, the Rio Karma. The reason I encoded all my CD rips in Vorbis. Those were the days... and once it died, time to reencode everything to MP3s as nothing else really supported Vorbis (fortunately, I saved everything in FLAC too, so it was a simple reencode).

I also can thank the Karma for my Decemberists collection - "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect" was on every Karma released in the States.

Comment: Re:Stop blaming the Soviets (Score 2) 151

by brianerst (#48039795) Attached to: Aral Sea Basin Almost Completely Dry

According to the linked Wiki article:

The disappearance of the lake was no surprise to the Soviets; they expected it to happen long before. As early as 1964, Aleksandr Asarin at the Hydroproject Institute pointed out that the lake was doomed, explaining, "It was part of the five-year plans, approved by the council of ministers and the Politburo. Nobody on a lower level would dare to say a word contradicting those plans, even if it was the fate of the Aral Sea."

So the plan from the beginning was to have the Aral Sea disappear.

Some Soviet experts apparently considered the Aral to be "nature's error", and a Soviet engineer said in 1968, "it is obvious to everyone that the evaporation of the Aral Sea is inevitable."

In fact, it seems that "some" Soviets considered the Aral Sea an "error" to be corrected.

From 1960 to 1998, the sea's surface area shrank by about 60%, and its volume by 80%. In 1960, the Aral Sea had been the world's fourth-largest lake, with an area around 68,000 km2 (26,000 sq mi) and a volume of 1,100 km3 (260 cu mi); by 1998, it had dropped to 28,687 km2 (11,076 sq mi) and eighth largest. Over the same time period, its salinity increased from about 10 g/l to about 45 g/l.

In 1987, the continuing shrinkage split the lake into two separate bodies of water, the North Aral Sea (the Lesser Sea, or Small Aral Sea) and the South Aral Sea (the Greater Sea, or Large Aral Sea).

So, by the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 80% of the lake was gone and had already split into several smaller lakes.

So, yeah, I think we can blame the Soviets. That it is now hard to reverse the facts on the ground is to be expected.

Comment: Re:I wonder if (Score 1) 460

by brianerst (#48022687) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

And you'd (probably) be wrong. According to a recent Pew poll, only 37% of Americans think "clergy" contribute a lot to society, while 65% believe that "scientists" contribute a lot to society.

This isn't exactly the same as "trustworthiness" but I think it's probably in the same ballpark. Americans are generally at the top of international polls on trust in science - there are a few areas of distrust/disbelief (evolution, climate change), but in general, Americans like their science and want more of it.

Comment: Re:Americans are smart. (Score 1) 460

by brianerst (#48022595) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

I agree, except that in this case, Celebrity M was mouthing the thoughts of Scientist W (Andrew Wakefield), who is British and misled a whole bunch of people around the world, not just Americans.

Everyone is susceptible to confirmation biases, conspiracy and wishful thinking and any number of issues that prevent them from seeing things clearly. This is by no means unique to, nor exceptionally more problematic for, Americans.

Comment: Re: Wrong Title (Score 1) 499

George Zimmerman was a bilingual, self-identified Hispanic (his mother was a Peruvian immigrant and his great grandfather was Afro-Peruvian) and registered Democrat. Hispanic Democrats are generally not a great source of Tea Party followers.

Andrew Joseph Stack III (the "IRS plane guy") left a suicide note raging against the policies of George W. Bush, the FAA, the IRS, the Catholic Church, Bush's TARP bailout and Enron (among others).

His note ended:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Once again, pro-communist, anti-capitalist, church hating people who blame George W. Bush for regressive tax policies are not generally considered prime Tea Party material.

Maybe next time, you could read up on the subjects that fill your own diatribes.

Optimization hinders evolution.