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Comment: Re:What difference now does it make? :) Sunk costs (Score 1) 354

by butalearner (#47425837) Attached to: The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

The F-35 is likely to be the last manned fighter ever produced.

Probably true, and quoted for emphasis, but that doesn't square with your observation that "that time is still decades off. That implies at least one more generation of manned fighters. Lockheed Martin and Boeing seem to be counting on that, though the Boeing article actually says they would propose a manned and unmanned variant (with an interesting concept image of them both). I saw that Russia expects the next generation to be unmanned.

Comment: Re:What's the business case? (Score 1) 143

Short answer; if you're asking on Slashdot for reasons to switch from product X to product Y, you probably have no real reason to switch.

The long answer was pretty good, but I disagree with the short one. Asking a (presumably) knowledgeable group of people questions like this is a good way to get a more complete picture of the problem space, and asking people from other companies might just score him a few stories about what worked for them and what didn't work.

Here's an anecdote from me: back when I was a fresh-faced, naive junior engineer I wanted to sell management on an open source alternative to an expensive commercial package by targeting some low-hanging fruit and arguing that we should use both. I surveyed my colleagues and found a number of small items here and there that could be automatically ported to the open source version, and demonstrated it to my manager. It wasn't good enough, because there were no hard numbers on what the company might save by doing this.

In other words, as you say, he needs clear financial benefits. Your Mileage May Vary, but these days I would not be surprised if, to his management, the financial justification is far more important than the technical justification.

Comment: Re:His choices... (Score 3, Interesting) 194

by butalearner (#47350095) Attached to: The Internet's Own Boy

Activism, or hacktivism, is one thing. Breaking critical research tools for millions of customers worldwide is abuse, and clearly criminal in several ways. I'm afraid that Aaron earned prosecution. The extent of the prosecution seems severe, but as best I can tell, the prosecutors were quite willing to "deal" for a a very low sentence, as long as the deal included a felony conviction. I'm afraid that that haggling over the charges and the sentence is _normal_ for prosecutors.

One thing I learned from Wikipedia that I hadn't heard anywhere else is that, a few years earlier, Swartz first downloaded the Library of Congress's "complete bibliographic data set" (whatever that is), then a bit later downloaded millions of public domain court documents from a paywalled system called PACER. The Library of Congress normally charged fees to access the former, and the latter charged users 8 cents per page back then (now it is 10 cents per page up to $3 per document). Despite gaining the attention of the FBI, he didn't get so much as a slap on the wrist for either one.

So we have a couple aspects potentially contributing to what happened. First, Swartz probably felt reassured by his past experiences that, even if caught, he wouldn't get in trouble. Second, he didn't make any friends in the government by pulling his first two stunts, so when federal prosecutors realized they could get him, they went overboard. This is just conjecture, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

Comment: Re:Turn off, tune out. (Score 1) 127

by butalearner (#47261593) Attached to: Emotional Contagion Spread Through Facebook

Or set the tone yourself by posting words of encouragement. As someone who has never quite mastered the hug or unsolicited complement or prying into what's bothering people, I find the broadcast medium of facebook a means of providing what I can. I mostly post humor (which has helped me through dark times), mix in occasional inspiration quotes from people like Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, some art I find beautiful, and try to be open about my struggles and the good places they have lead.

That's not bad in small doses, but rarely posting an original thought is pretty annoying. At this point, it seems like some of my Facebook friends can only convey thoughts by sharing somebody else's someecards.

Comment: Re:Age of the earth (Score 5, Interesting) 98

With what did the collision happen if the earth wasn't already there? I fail to see how the moon being carved out the earth 60 Myr earlier affects the age of the earth.

I believe that conclusion comes from the idea that the collision was between two proto-planets - that is, for all intents and purposes, the Earth and the Moon only came into being after the collision. Wikipedia calls them "the proto-Earth" and "the impactor" which supposedly was the size of Mars. An impact like that would have changed everything so dramatically that even if we had some age-measurable material that survived the impact, we wouldn't know whether it came from the proto-Earth or the impactor. So it makes some sense to use that event as the "birth" of our planet.

And of course you can't just use the absolute age of some atoms, if we could measure such a thing. Maybe some of the heavier atoms fused in that impact, but some material came the supernova(e) that seeded our solar nebula with heavier atoms and induced the rotation that eventually became the Sun's accretion disk, some came from other, smaller impacts of bodies probably formed at the beginning of the Solar System, etc.

Comment: Re:So, it's just another Democrat PAC masquerading (Score 1) 247

by butalearner (#47203123) Attached to: Mayday Anti-PAC On Its Second Round of Funding

So, do you really believe you get a good system of government when the more money you have the more access you have to political speech?

Of course he doesn't believe that, but those bills are sponsored by a bunch of Democrats. Don't be fooled by how the political process worked in the past; these days, the only item of importance in any given bill is the letter between the sponsor's name and home state.

Comment: Re:Astounding answer on Evolution (Score 4, Insightful) 161

by butalearner (#47196233) Attached to: Interviews: Forrest Mims Answers Your Questions

It's implied from his background - he is a Christian - and his use of religious terms like "sanctity of life." The main logical fallacy in his theological position is that his god is a god of the gaps. He is using gaps in evidence for the prevailing theory to "prove" that it's wrong. I don't know personally, but I wouldn't be surprised or dismayed if there is still a "missing link" in the fossil record that tells us how single-celled organisms evolved certain relatively complex things like flagella. The lack of evidence is not evidence to the contrary, so I am content to wait until further science sheds light on the matter. But the fact that we aren't sure how life got started doesn't throw the rest of Evolutionary Theory away. The fact that the Piltdown Man was a hoax doesn't either. Wikipedia has a fascinating series of articles on evolutionary biology, but here's a good place to start.

Also, as GP implied, jumping from "intelligent designer" to the benevolent and omnipotent Christian god just does not follow from "there are issues with Evolutionary Theory." There is no logical connection between the two, and his use of Occam's Razor only makes sense to those who take it as a given that there are extradimensional beings of unimaginable power. A biologist using Occam's Razor would instead extrapolate from observed processes like natural selection, and then look for evidence (which is exactly what we've done with Evolutionary Theory, and it has worked out pretty well so far).

Comment: Re:US Government is Corrupt by Inspection (Score 2, Insightful) 253

by butalearner (#47194513) Attached to: Kim Dotcom Offers $5 Million Bounty To Defeat Extradition

It is illegal to expose illegalities performed by US officials, so Kim Dotcom performing a corrupt action in hopes that someone involved in the process is corrupt enough to expose the corruption.

He's going about bribery all wrong though; it's not illegal if you call it "campaign donations."

Comment: Re:Ad astra per aspera (Score 1) 95

by butalearner (#47119885) Attached to: Robots Will Pave the Way To Mars


Quoted for emphasis. Even if the only thing we could extract was water, we could potentially use it for potable water, breathable air, rocket fuel, radiation shielding, hydroponics, cleaning... Basically, it would be difficult to have too much water on any extraterrestrial habitat.

Second to water would be just oxygen itself, which supposedly we can bake out of various oxides if we get it hot enough.

After those two items, it's a toss up, at least until we can do much fancier things. The article suggests extracting and purifying silicon and making simple solar cells out of that, as an example. But water and oxygen will be, by far, the two most important and relatively simple things to extract and use.

Comment: Re:What about it? (Score 2) 95

by butalearner (#47118741) Attached to: Robots Will Pave the Way To Mars

The truth is, we have given very little thought to what traits would be selected for in a hostile, alien environment.

We haven't put a lot of thought into it because it doesn't require much. Any corporation's HR department is already well-equipped to draft requirements for that kind of position: 15-20 years of experience building and maintaining extraterrestrial habitats, and able to make solid decisions and perform under intense pressure (or an increasing lack thereof).

Comment: Re:I believe it because.. (Score 2) 291

by butalearner (#47107443) Attached to: Parenting Rewires the Male Brain

Your children are a reflection of yourself. If they are difficult, it's because you are difficult. It absolutely amazes me that people never quite get this. If you want to have good children, be a better person. Seriously.

This is probably mostly true if you're only speaking of behavior. Obviously my wife and I are the main influence since my kids have never been in day care, but they do soak up habits of other people they trust, especially older kids they look up to. My kids are all well-behaved, even on the three- to four-hour flights we take a few times a year, but my oldest (6) has picked up various bad or annoying habits in the past from his friends. One of his old playdate friends had a very annoying tantrum cry that my son tried once or twice. I had to break out the very rare Dad Voice on that one, and he never did it again. A worse example was his friend in son would do stupid things on his worksheets (scribble instead of drawing or coloring, just guessing when it came to math and reading), just because that's what his friend would do. We asked the teacher to move him, and it got better, then we happened to move across the country, and now he's doing pretty awesome.

Also, my middle child has always been more difficult in other ways. Only recently have we started to make progress on that front by starting a chore chart, where she can earn stars for things we normally have to fight to get her to do, like picking up her room and eating well.

The novelty of that is falling away, though, when it comes to eating. My wife and I love all kinds of food, and my oldest almost always eats whatever we put in front of him. My youngest (1) eats literally everything we put in front of her, edible or not. The middle one, though... We do try to make what she likes but that changes all the time. She won't touch pizza anymore. As of Monday, she apparently no longer likes ribs. In fact it's probably easier to list what she does like: cereal, white rice, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and any kind of noodles as long as there isn't too much "stuff" on them (like soup, she won't touch any kind of soup).

Hopefully our one-year-old continues to take after her brother.

Comment: Re:Auto-save is NOT your friend (Score 1) 521

by butalearner (#47075893) Attached to: Goodbye, Ctrl-S

Sometimes, I don't want to save. I will open a document with the explicit purpose of making changes that I don't want saved. Even Gmail's autosave has burned me pretty badly. I spent an hour typing out a very long email. Toward the end of it, something happened, and the whole body of text was gone. I'm still not really sure if it was a keyboard shortcut I inadvertently triggered, browser bug, or what. But I just thought "no biggie... I'll just go back to the auto-saved version". So I open up the autosaved version, and the latest auto-save happened AFTER the email body was deleted.

Ctrl-Z my friend. Undo works perfectly fine in many web forms (including Gmail) when you accidentally select a bunch of text and overwrite it. My wife almost cried when she thought she lost the text from a huge email to a relative she hadn't seen in a while, but luckily I was there when it happened or else she would have given up.

I just tested it and undo works on Slashdot comment fields on IE, FF, and Chrome on Windows 7, and I know it works in Linux because I use it all the time at home.

Comment: Re:"Anti-global-warming think tank?" (Score 4, Funny) 330

They're opposed to thinking.

Thinking requires energy in the form of glucose in the blood, derived from food that we eat. So sustaining critical thinking processes require the consumption of more food, which generally comes from a grocer. They have to truck tons of it in every week, which inevitably belches many tons of CO2 in the air.

Therefore, they only oppose thinking for the purposes of saving the environment for our children. Won't you just think of the children? The best thing you can do is not think about them.

You know, for the children.

Comment: Re:Same here, but more modern. (Score 1) 522

Yep, I use vim all the time for scripting tasks and FocusWriter for writing. At first I also used it for the rich text formatting, but I was using hacky scripts to convert it to other formats, e.g. starting OpenOffice in headless mode and converting to was hideous. On top of that, changing text to bold and italic was easy enough, but I was doing things like changing three hyphens to em dashes and a specific character sequence to horizontal rules in those scripts because those things weren't easy to put in while I was trying to write.

These days I just write in Markdown and convert it with pandoc, and the HTML and EPUB output is infinitely better. All those special cases like em dashes and horizontal rules are handled correctly by pandoc with the -S (smart) option. Since it's just plain text now I could probably do it in vim, but I'm too lazy to come up with settings to do that since it's all there for free in Focuswriter. It looks just as good in Linux as it does in Windows, too.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken