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Comment: Re:The problem is... (Score 3, Informative) 189

In theory, you can always learn more by continuing to study something. In practice, though, modern medicine has a pretty complete knowledge of smallpox. Humans have been studying the disease since before anyone even knew what a virus was. There's evidence that the Chinese were inoculating people for smallpox over a thousand years ago. And the first practical, widespread form of that vaccine dates back to the late 1700s. This was literally the very first virus ever treated with a vaccine. It's well-trodden ground, research-wise.

The problem is, this virus is highly contagious and relatively dangerous compared with other viruses. For variola major, the case fatality rate is typically 30–60%, which puts it among the worst communicable diseases out there, approaching the fatality rate of ebola, and far more contagious. With nearly a two-week average incubation period (and up to 17 days in the worst case), one minor screw-up could easily cause a very serious pandemic before enough vaccines could be produced and distributed.

So basically, you have to weigh the odds of an accidental release (which, with recent revelations about this stuff getting lost for decades, then turning up by accident, seems not so improbable) against the relatively small chance of learning anything new from it that can't also be learned from cowpox or other similar viruses. On the risk-reward curve, this seems to be so far towards the "pure risk" end that any reward would border on undeniable proof of divine intervention, which means the speculated rewards would have to be pretty darn amazing for it to be worth the risk.

Comment: Re:The problem is... (Score 1) 189

What could possibly be gained from further experimentation at this point? We already know how to isolate it and how to produce vaccines for it. And for gene therapy, there are lots of other, less dangerous viruses that can be used as vectors for delivering genetic material. It seems that keeping anything more than the bare minimum amount of material needed to produce vaccines would fall pretty far towards the risk end of the risk-reward curve.

Comment: Re:But scarcity! (Score 1) 390

by dgatwood (#47492375) Attached to: Verizon's Accidental Mea Culpa

Well, that's not entirely true. The voice quality of analog phones has steadily improved, so the amount of data did go up a little bit in that hundred years. :-D

But seriously, we hit a wall with copper, and it only took a hundred years to get there. A single pair (or even a bonded double pair) of copper just can't cut it. But a single fiber provides more than enough growth potential. The current record is 100 terabit over a single fiber, or 100,000 times what most fiber providers currently provide. I figure that's good for another hundred years. Even governments can move at that speed. :-) And unlike copper, you don't have distance limitations from electrical resistance and capacitance. Yes, there's dispersion, but that hundred terabit speed was at a distance of 100 miles (without boosters, AFAIK), so we're talking about orders of magnitude less problems than you get with copper, where a mere ten gigabit over four pairs of copper will barely go the length of your house.

Comment: Re:But scarcity! (Score 3, Insightful) 390

by dgatwood (#47483643) Attached to: Verizon's Accidental Mea Culpa

That long cycle worked fine for the telephone lines that serve your house. They served us well for a long time. The biggest flaw was that instead of managing the infrastructure themselves, they gave it to private companies to manage. Then, when they started abusing the monopoly, the government had to turn around and start requiring them to allow CLECs to use the lines. The phone companies, predictably, hated this, and did the absolute least that they could do to comply with the regulations, often refusing to fix problems with lines while blaming it on the CLEC (and vice versa).

All those problems would have been avoided if the government had simply maintained exclusive control over the lines and leased them out to third parties. That's how next-generation fiber networks in cities should be set up. The entire premise of letting a few companies maintain exclusive control over critical infrastructure is fundamentally flawed and can only lead to more of the same bulls**t we've had for the last two decades.

The only scheme that works is the public utility scheme, where the government owns the wires and private companies provide the service. We know this model works because it has worked with our interstate highway system and private shipping companies for decades. Is it perfect? No. The government historically hasn't charged those shippers enough money in gas taxes to cover infrastructure maintenance costs, resulting in some roads falling into disrepair. But that's mainly a problem caused by lack of a single management body that manages all of the roads in a region. Dozens of city governments working together isn't a great way to get things done except on an "It burns! It burns!" emergency basis. The solution to that problem, of course, is for all the cities in a metropolitan area to get together to form a non-profit corporation, and make that corporation responsible for the management and leasing of lines a la TVA.

Comment: Re:Well, they certainly DID in the past (Score 1) 752

by dgatwood (#47479109) Attached to: Malaysian Passenger Plane Reportedly Shot Down Over Ukraine

And they added commercial radio equipment to warships to ensure that it would never happen again. One would hope that the Russians did similar things to their anti-aircraft batteries after hearing of that incident. If they didn't, one might reasonably ask what in hell is wrong with Russia. And if they did, one might reasonably ask what in hell is wrong with the people who fired that missile today without taking the time to use the equipment.

Comment: Re:Ah. (Score 1) 752

by dgatwood (#47479059) Attached to: Malaysian Passenger Plane Reportedly Shot Down Over Ukraine

No, it isn't particularly interesting how it ended up in the middle of a war zone. Not at all. The area in question is not closed to civil aviation, or at least it wasn't prior to this incident. The aircraft was flying about a hundred miles off its usual flight path, which is a completely reasonable deviation when avoiding inclement weather as they were. Presumably, the deviation was approved by the Ukrainian civil aviation authorities.

Comment: Re: Black hole? (Score 1) 277

by dgatwood (#47475253) Attached to: Sony Forgets To Pay For Domain, Hilarity Ensues

If I were their registrar, I'd probably resell the name to someone who would hold it hostage, just to make a point. This is the easiest thing in the world to avoid, just by having some basic policies in place.

Require that all ongoing accounts be set up to send email to role accounts that forward to multiple people (an email list). Have a policy where any employee termination/retirement triggers an automatic check of all role accounts, and if it results in a role account with no recipients (or, ideally, below some higher threshold), the current IT head has to start contacting managers until they can sort out who should be responsible.

Had Sony done this, it wouldn't be a problem.

Comment: Re:user error (Score 1) 708

by dgatwood (#47459691) Attached to: People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

The Gas car, our behavior is to fuel it up once a week.
The Electric car, should be charged nightly. So people will need to change their behaviors to charge the car every night.

Changing behaviors doesn't quite cover it. If a car has to be charged nightly, that means it doesn't have enough range to do many of the things people do with gasoline-powered cars, which makes it of significantly lower utility. I was ready to pull the trigger on a RAV4 EV the second it hit the market... until they announced the range on the thing. At that point, I realized that it will just barely handle my daily commute when brand new, which means that in a couple of years, when the battery is down to... say 97% of its factory capacity, I would have to spend over ten grand to replace the battery pack. There's no way to change behavior that would somehow work around such a huge loss of functionality. I would gladly pay more money for a car that has sufficient capacity. However, I will not buy a car for any price unless it does. For me, that means a 200-mile range at a bare minimum, and preferably a 300-mile range.

Call me when the electric cars have to be charged once every three or four days. That's the point where they'll finally be practical for real-world use. Until then, they're just too impractical, as much as I wish that weren't so. And no, I won't even consider Toyota's proposed insane hydrogen fuel "solution", which just shifts the carbon problem to wherever they extract the hydrogen from natural gas, not to mention being impossible to refuel using solar power (which is the main point of moving to an EV from my perspective). Calling a hydrogen-powered car "clean" is quite possibly the biggest lie since "clean coal".

Comment: Re:You keep using that word... (Score 1) 708

by dgatwood (#47459497) Attached to: People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

I think so, but normally they don't draw less power, but just produce more light.

But they draw a fixed amount of power (the wattage) that is determined by the resistance of the bulb. Therefore, if they produce more light for a given wattage, you can buy one that draws less wattage and get the same amount of light.

For example, a typical incandescent bulb gets about 15 +/- 2.5 lumens per watt. A typical halogen gets about 20 +/- 4 lumens per watt. So if you're using a 100 watt incandescent bulb, you need about 1500 lumens (15 * 100). If you replace that with a halogen bulb that draws only 75 watts (1500 / 20), you'll get about the same amount of light. Alternatively, you can use a 100 watt halogen if you want more light, and let's face it, who doesn't? :-)

Comment: Re:PWM? (Score 1) 202

by dgatwood (#47459267) Attached to: New Raspberry Pi Model B+

And if you don't mind a little latency, you can always get two more PWM outputs by writing software that drives the headphone output appropriately, then adding a suitable gain stage as needed. Because it is buffered by the audio hardware, unless your Pi is badly overloaded, I'd expect it to make a pretty clean PWM output, but the latency is likely to be significant, depending on the buffer size you choose.

Comment: Re:haven't we learned from the last 25 exploits? (Score 1) 68

by dgatwood (#47420303) Attached to: 'Rosetta Flash' Attack Leverages JSONP Callbacks To Steal Credentials

How does one embed "JavaScript URLs" in CSS?

Very easily, and because so few people know it is possible, it's a rather nasty vector for cross-site scripting attacks.

Also you seem to have no idea about where the web is headed or have heard about responsive design and SPA.

I'm well aware of responsive design. I think it's an abomination, because all it does is make it take two page loads to view your site instead of one, by ensuring that I have to first load your broken mobile site, then click the "full version" link. Every single freaking time I end up on a "responsive" mobile version of a website, I find myself locked out of features that I regularly use, and end up having to switch to the full desktop version of the site.

If you need much more than a couple lines of JavaScript and a custom stylesheet to support mobile devices, it invariably means that your site is badly designed (too complex) to begin with, and as soon as you release the mobile version of your site, you're almost certainly going to make me hate your guts and curse your name.

And SPA is even worse. If your site loads significantly faster as a web app, there's something wrong with your site. 99% of the time, most of the resources should be shared across pages, and only the text of the page should be changing. There's usually not an appreciable difference between the "load the full page" case and the "load the body of the page" case from a performance perspective unless something is very, very wrong. There are exceptions, such as storefronts that use precisely the same page layout for every page, but these are exceptions, not the rule, and even then, the extra savings in initial page load time just result in a customer sitting there wondering why there's no data on the page, and thinking your site is broken. The real problem is that every web engineer thinks their site is the exception to this rule, but most of those engineers are wrong.

More to the point, if I'm accessing your site often enough to care about performance, I'm going to download your native app instead of using your mobile site, because it will always be much, much more functional, with fewer limitations, more features, and better performance. If I'm going to your website, it's either because I don't care about performance or, more commonly, it is because your native app is missing features that are only on the full version of your site. Giving me a mobile version won't help with the second case, and the first case is largely unimportant for everybody but the site designers who are trying desperately to shave off a few bytes from their data bill.

BTW, it's possible to do a manifested web app (giving you all the advantages of heavy-duty caching of shared content) without using JavaScript for all your navigation. You just specify the base path of the content directory as an external URL (I forget the details) in the web app manifest. This approach is much, much more user-friendly than a SPA in my experience.

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