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Comment: Re:Moral Imperialism (Score 1) 445

by dgatwood (#48199685) Attached to: Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

Since you don't seem to be able to recognize that drawings of children are not children, it seems to me that you're part of the problem.

Video games encourage you to (in character) kill other people. Do we see hundreds of gamers going out every day and killing people? Of course not. Why? Because normal, healthy people are capable of separating fantasy from reality. Anyone who can't is clinically insane—more specifically, psychotic.

In the same way, arousing sexual lust towards a drawing in a fantasy universe, regardless of the supposed age of the character in that drawing, does not result in any increased risk of people attacking actual children. People are either inclined to sexually abuse children or they aren't. The ones who are will do so even without being exposed to drawings of kids. The ones who are not so inclined won't sexually abuse children even if they are exposed to it.

IMO, simulated child porn is no different from simulated rape porn, simulated torture porn, or any number of other similarly disgusting things. It's fake, and the people who like it know that it is fake, but they derive sexual pleasure from the taboo act of pretending to do something that would be horrible if it were real. As far as I know, there's no evidence that such groups have a higher percentage of people who actually commit those acts than the general population. Thus, criminalizing those fantasies, no matter how disgusting you might personally consider them to be, does not serve a legitimate public interest.

Comment: Re:Ridiculous (Score 1) 445

by dgatwood (#48193495) Attached to: Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

It's still perfectly legal to want the President dead. You just can't say you want it to happen. Speaking isn't a thought, it's an action.

Actually, you can legally say that you want it to happen, at least based on my understanding of the law in question. Where it becomes a crime is when there is both an expressed desire to actually cause that harm (or a call for others to do so) and a reasonable expectation that it might be feasible for you (or those others) to do so in the manner suggested.

Here are a couple of examples that illustrate the difference:

  • Lack of intent: In theory, you could legally say that you wish the President would get beaten to death by a gang dressed in clown suits while smoking bananas and drinking cheap beer. If you did so, such a statement would not be committing a crime, because wanting someone to die is not the same thing as threatening to kill someone.

    With that said, if someone actually expressed such an interest, the Secret Service would take a very close interest in that person's background, looking to see if (for example) he or she had ever bought a clown costume, bananas, or cheap beer.

    Additionally, it should be noted that if you then went on to say, "And if I ever get the chance, I'll be part of that gang," then you would almost certainly go to prison, because that statement of personal intent would cross the legal threshold for being a threat. Similarly, if you asked others to harm the President, or said things that appeared to advocate the assassination of the President, that would also be considered a true threat.

  • Implausible means: Most people could legally say that they want to hit the President with a giant meteor from space without committing a crime, because to the best of my knowledge, even our best scientists have no real means of making a meteor fall on the White House, much less some random person who has never had any affiliation with any space program whatsoever. With that said, if you are affiliated with NASA, such a statement might be seen as a threat. Maybe.

Additionally, the following conditions must all be met before something is considered a threat:

  • The threat must be made intentionally, not accidentally.
  • The context and manner of the threat must be such that a reasonable person overhearing it would assume that it was an actual expression of intent to harm the President. (For example, snarky comments at a political rally or in a stand-up comedy routine are not likely to be seen as legitimate threats.)
  • The threat must not be made under duress, and must not be forced.

Of course, you can easily get into grey areas, and if you do, even if you don't get jail time for it, you'll probably get a lot more scrutiny than you'd like.

Finally, I'd like to add that IANAL, and this post should not be taken as legal advice.

Comment: Re:Moral Imperialism (Score 1) 445

by dgatwood (#48193287) Attached to: Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

What society finds acceptable is irrelevant; even if they find it unacceptable, that does not mean it should be illegal.

This. The gold standard for legality is that something should be legal unless it harms someone else—as Justice Holmes put it, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Society's values are, or at least should be, utterly irrelevant in determining whether something should or should not be legal, except perhaps in defining what constitutes another person, and in defining what constitutes harm.

Then again, I'm half expecting somebody to deliberately twist that and say, "But manga characters are people, too...." And this, I fear, will be the first sign that all hope for humanity is lost....

Comment: Re: I don't follow (Score 2) 365

by dgatwood (#48184459) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

It's general knowledge in typography that Helvetica is the most legible typeface.

That's only true at very large sizes—say 5% of your total field of view or larger—and it is IMO highly debatable even at those sizes.

At small sizes, particularly for people whose vision is less than perfect, Helvetica Neue makes Comic Sans look readable by comparison. It's not a question of the screen's resolution; no matter how precisely you render two letters that are separated by a distance that's less than your eye's circle of confusion, you still can't distinguish the strokes from one another.

For example, on my brand new MacBook Pro with retina display, I have no trouble whatsoever reading Courier New at 11 point. It is easily readable, and every letter is visually distinct. Same goes for any number of other fonts, including the venerable Lucida Grande. On that same hardware, my eyes struggle with Helvetica Neue even at 18 point, which means if I want it to be readable, I would get substantially less content on the screen even when comparing it with a fixed-width, serif font!

And the reason for the readability problems are a decided lack of legibility in Helvetica Neue. With Helvetica Neue 12 point, when I look at the word "pill", the "p" touches the "i" until I'm six inches from the screen. And depending on where the letter happens to fall, it may or may not be possible to tell the difference between "pom" (the juice) and "porn" (naughty stuff on the Internet) without getting ridiculously close to the screen. Sometimes the gap is visible, sometimes it isn't. In other words, the tracking is simply way, way, way too tight to qualify as legible. Remember that when designers use Helvetica, they painstakingly tweak the kerning to ensure readability at the target output size. As a general display font without that level of hand-tweaking, Helvetica and Helvetica Neue are crap.

But Helvetica Neue's problem goes way beyond over-tight tracking. The most critical requirement for a font to qualify as "legible" is that you must be able to distinguish letters from one another. Helvetica Neue fails miserably at this, though not quite as badly as Helvetica or Arial.

For example, look at a lowercase "L" and a lowercase "i" in almost any font, and you'll see that they are decidedly different heights. This is deliberate; it makes it possible to tell the difference between a pillow and a plllow, (which I believe is Ancient Egyption for an unreadable typeface, but I could be wrong).

Not in Helvetica Neue. They're the exact same height. This makes it excessively hard to read text that combines those two letters, particularly at small point sizes where the gap in the lowercase "I" is often hard to see.

And speaking of "I", is that a capital "i" or a lowercase "L"? If you're reading this in Slashdot's default font (Arial) or in Helvetica or Helvetica Neue, you probably can't be certain, because the two letters are nearly indistinguishable. So when I say I'm "Ill", do I mean that I'm sick, or that I'm three years old in Roman numerals? At 13 point, even on a Retina display, a capital "i" and a lowercase "L" can look literally identical, depending on where the letters happen to fall and how font smoothing interacts with them. And that's even with getting my corrected-to-20/20-vision eyes as close as a couple of inches from the screen.

Legible, my ass.

Comment: Re:One crap audio brand battling with another (Score 1) 320

True. On the other hand, we also go to a lot of trouble to make sure it doesn't sound like crap on systems that aren't flat, because we know that some people will listen that way. I've spent many hours doing critical listening in my car, through iPod headphones, etc.

IMO, as long as a system has reasonably smooth response, even if it isn't flat, it sounds acceptable. Where you get into trouble is when your speakers are too small, and in a misguided effort to boost the bass response, the hardware engineers put a huge bump in the lower mids, making everything sound... I guess floppy is the best word I can think of to describe that mess. But as long as your speakers are big enough to produce real bass response down to at least 30 Hz at the typical listening distance (bass tends to fall off faster than treble with distance, so listening difference is critical), flat isn't necessarily that important.

Comment: Re:Clueless (Score 1) 320

AKG's I can't speak for, but having used noise cancelling headphones I won't settle for ordinary ones. It doesn't matter how good the speaker in the earpiece is, if its competing with noise from outside, its not a clean sound.

For casual listening, yeah. For serious external noise, though, noise isolation is a lot better than noise cancellation. I have a pair that lets me play back existing tracks at a manageable level while beating the ever-living crap out of a drum kit. Now that is clean sound.

Comment: Re:One crap audio brand battling with another (Score 5, Insightful) 320

I always find it amazing that audiophiles want 'flat'...this is nice is you want to listen to 'audio' as opposed to music. Unless I'm doing sound design work where the stuff is intended to be in a variety of types and styles of music (i.e., owned a company that use to provide instrument samples / libraries for synth companies), I'm not going to want to listen to anything flat.

Audiophiles—at least the ones who competently seek ways to improve quality, as opposed to the pseudoaudiophiles that spend $200 on a power cord—often listen to a wide range of music. For us, flat is a virtue, because any accentuation of frequency ranges that makes one style of music sound better invariably makes another style of music sound worse.

Comment: Re:It's the OS, Stupid (Score 5, Interesting) 249

by dgatwood (#48178235) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

It isn't the idea that is bad; it is the implementation. One device with two distinct interfaces is a recipe for epic failure. But a single, unified interface that can take input in more than one way is useful, assuming you can get developers to adopt it. Mind you, it isn't a game-changer, and it isn't something that would be useful for every app, which makes it a hard sell, but that doesn't mean the concept lacks merit.

For example, if I had a full-scale laptop with a touchscreen:

  • In audio editing apps, I could just reach up and nudge three or four sliders at once, rather than click each of them one at a time. When I need to mute every channel but one, I could reach up and drag across the buttons. And so on. Because mixing isn't something that most people do frequently, you wouldn't have the "gorilla arm" problem. With that said, if you do find yourself doing a lot of mixing, you could always spin the screen around and use it as a tablet, all without interrupting what you're doing, changing apps, moving the content from one device to another, etc.
  • In photo editing apps, you could swing the screen around flat, then treat it as a pressure-sensitive art tablet (using either finger press spread or a stylus to detect pressure). Then you could switch back to the normal mode to work with type layers, adjust layer effects, etc.

An iPad can theoretically do both of those things, but lacks the CPU power, storage capacity, and pointing precision to do aspects of either task well. And although you can buy physical control surfaces and digitizer tablets or use an iPad as a controller in conjunction with your laptop, that's nowhere near as convenient as having it all in a single package, and being able to just reach up and interact by touch occasionally.

Comment: Re:It's the OS, Stupid (Score 3, Interesting) 249

by dgatwood (#48177433) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

Correct. With that said, although it is derived from OS X, there are some key differences that make it less than ideal for use in a laptop-like environment. In particular, pointing devices become a problem, in part because iOS doesn't really support them, and in part because apps aren't designed in ways that would work well with mice even if it did.

IMO, any usable hybrid device would really need to run the full OS X stack when in laptop mode, with UIKit running in a full-screen Simulator window when used as a tablet. Otherwise, it's just an iPad with an attached keyboard, which isn't really any more interesting than an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard.

Comment: Re:Ebola vs HIV (Score 1) 381

by dgatwood (#48174987) Attached to: How Nigeria Stopped Ebola

HIV is not present in tears, sweat, saliva, or mucus. As I understand it, Ebola, by contrast, can be spread through all those fluids, though it is much less likely to spread that way than through other fluids.

So no, they aren't strictly spread through the same pathways. Ebola is quite a bit easier to catch than HIV. The saving grace is fact that with Ebola you're obviously sick by the time you're significantly contagious.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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