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Comment Installed base of AC (Score 1) 127 127

I've long thought that whole local power grids would switch to DC eventually anyway.

Unlikely to happen any time soon. Too much installed base of AC power. Not like people are going to rip open their walls to switch from AC to DC and virtually everything you plug into the walls is designed with AC in mind. The only wide spread DC cabling standard is USB and that's mostly low power stuff.

I have no principled objection to DC power but I think any switch will take many decades if it happens at all.

Comment Re:Policy should be based on facts (Score 1) 234 234

1-The only people making an in depth examination of the issue are those who make a lot of money if the answer comes back "safe".

Demonstrably not true. Certainly a lot of the studies are industry funded but there are plenty that are not. Not to mention that we've been eating the stuff for decades now as a sort of in-vivo test without any evidence of problems attributable to GMO crops or animals. If people want to be paranoid that's their problem - don't make it mine.

2-Is it ok to put pork in sausages shipped to the middle east and not lebel it?

Nice strawman. Saying something is GMO without any further details is nearly meaningless. GMO by what technique, using what genes, with what evidence of harm? If I tell you something is GMO and you make a decision based on that information alone with no further details then you are not making any sort of meaningfully informed decision based on actual evidence. You are simply being scared of something you don't fully understand.

As a parallel, there is basically no evidence that organic foods are more nutritious and it is not clear that they are better for the environment. The argument for organics is more one of logic than of actual evidence. It sounds good in principle but sounding good doesn't make it true. They require more inputs to get the same yield, the "organic" pesticides used (and they are used) are often more toxic than the synthetic options, etc. If someone wants organic food that is fine but you label what is different, not what is standard. You have the person who wants the specialty good pay extra for it.

Most food is non-organic just like for many types of food GMO has become standard. If there is a market for non-GMO food (like there is for organic) then that is fine. It might not mean much but let those who care pay extra for it. Personally I don't care but until there is some actual evidence of harm I don't care to pay for labeling that I think is unscientific and pointless and frankly amounts to scare-mongering.

Comment Shortcuts are a signal of bad design (Score 1) 605 605

Shortcut keys are for power users and aren't really meant to be memorized directly.

The term "power user" is fairly meaningless. It typically references someone who knows all sorts of arcane stuff about an application or system. But it reinforces my point. If they need to know all this arcane stuff and the system is so clumsy they need shortcuts then the system needs to be designed better. I could be considered a power user of quite a number of applications but I still think shortcut keys are usually a clumsy workaround in most cases. There are exceptions but they are exceptions that prove the rule. I think keyboard shortcuts are a perfect example of the "if the only tool you have is a hammer everything is a nail" principle.

I prefer nice menus but I tend to go look up the shortcut keys or try to create a macro when I notice that I keep doing the same thing over and over again.

Exactly my point. I do the same thing (when possible) but I maintain that generally if I need to do that it very often means the interface needs some rework.

If you want to know how useful shortcut keys can be, try playing StarCraft 1 with someone who uses shortcut keys. They will beat you every time if you're just using the mouse.

It's not that they aren't useful or that they don't work. The problem I have with them is more of a design principle than a specific complaint. For example I happen to know that the shortcut to display the History in my browser is Ctrl+Shift+H. In my opinion if I'm using that so much that it needs a shortcut then it should be a more prominent part of the interface. As a general rule I think keyboard shortcuts should not be application specific any more than absolutely necessary. Cut/Copy/Paste are fine. Ctrl+Shift+A to open the Add-Ons in Firefox should either be user defined or simply not be given a shortcut or be made more prominent in the GUI.

Comment Policy should be based on facts (Score 4, Insightful) 234 234

However, I also believe people have a right to their own paranoid delusions

That depends heavily on exactly how harmful the delusion is. Some are harmless, others not so much. But public policy should be based on actual facts and real evidence.

therefore they have a right to know whether or not the food they buy contains GMO ingredients

Why do they have a "right to know"? Is there any actual evidence that they are harmful even a little bit? If the answer is yes then maybe you have an argument. But since the answer so far is an unequivocal no, despite large amounts of research into the question, then I cannot agree with you. I prefer my public policy decisions to be made on scientific facts and not made on ill informed paranoia.

If there is a market for people who want to know if a food is GMO-free then you will see labeling to that effect on some products and that is fine. Although if they are truly paranoid I'm not sure how they could ever be sure the label was actually true.

Comment Too many shortcuts (Score 1) 605 605

The Windows key is pretty damned useful in day-to-day activities:
I for one make use of:

That's quite a long list and I have NO interest in memorizing all that. If it works for you that's great but personally I detest arbitrary keyboard shortcuts. I use a handful that are common but to me its a sign of a poorly designed system. If the interface is so clumsy you need to memorize a page long list of shortcuts then I'll just use something else. It's a big part of why I detest both vi and emacs.

(For the record I also hate tiny icons you have to mouse over to figure out their function)

Comment Prime space (Score 1) 605 605

You mention caps lock, which I don't use, but any change is likely to just screw with muscle memory and not have any practical benefit except as some symbolic gesture against caps lock.

You'll get over it. Caps lock needs to be deprecated and relocated. Besides it's not like all keyboards are identical, particularly on laptops. Caps lock takes up lots of space that could be better used. Personally I'd put Home and End in its place or maybe volume controls or perhaps browser forward/back controls.

Comment Windows key = useless to me (Score 1) 605 605

On both Windows and Linux, it's a pretty handy key.

Depends on your workflow. I never use it. If you are someone who really never wants to take your hands off the keyboard I get it but I'm not that person so it sits lonely and unused on my keyboard. Only time I ever press it is by accident or if for some reason I'm forced to use Windows 8 (shudder).

Comment Definitely not the least used key (Score 1) 605 605

Keys that never get used ever because they are no longer useful:
Sys Rq
Scroll Lock

Let's put Caps Lock where Scroll Lock is currently. Caps Lock is occasionally useful but the key word is occasionally. Most of the time it is just annoying and it is WAY too prominent on the keyboard.

Personally I'd get rid of the Windows key too since I never ever use it but I know some people actually do. Freaks... ;-)

Comment Air rights (Score 1) 1056 1056

I doubt that owning property automatically implies ownership of the airspace above the property.

Property owners generally DO own the airspace below navigable airspace which in the US is generally considered to be around 500 feet as I understand it. Airspace above that limit is controlled by the FAA. Unfortunately the regulations regarding low flying drones are still being worked out so there is little clear precedent or statute here.

Comment Re:Swift (Score 1) 339 339

I agree, to a point. COBOL is designed to be readable, but that doesn't stop some people from writing code that nobody can make sense of. There was one group of programs, written by the same person, that everyone was afraid to work on for years, until the boss had me rewrite them from scratch (from incomplete specs :-P).

OTOH, certain languages *cough*Perl*uncough* encourage unreadability.

Comment He would not get a fair trial (Score 1) 580 580

What you don't like is the law... Fine, just don't keep saying he won't get a fair trial because according to the LAW he will. Saying he won't get a fair trial is wrong. The courts are there to fairly apply the law and for the most part, that's what they do.

You cannot have a fair trial governed by unfair laws. Jim Crow laws were brutally unjust. Are you seriously going to claim that the rulings under Jim Crow laws were in any way fair or just? Just because something is the law does not mean trials will be fair. It is a trivial exercise to write laws that clearly prevent a fair trial under any reasonable definition of the term "fair". You seem to have a fairly mechanical definition of the word fair. Just because something follows the law does not mean it is fair. Under your logic anything a dictator does is fair because he is applying the law interpreted correctly. That's a ridiculous argument.

Although it seems obvious to me that the laws on treason are fairly clear and even handed

I guess it's fortunate you aren't a lawyer then because it's not at all clear that the actions of Mr. Snowden constitute treason. In fact it's rather easy to argue that they do not under the US Constitution which puts some rather strict limits on the definition of treason. He did not levy war against the US and it's debatable whether he gave aid and comfort to the enemies of the US. Convictions or even indictments for treason in the US are quite rare. The most recent was in 2006 and the last before that was in 1952. Mr. Snowden's actions would likely be considered a felony rather than treason. Daniel Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers wasn't charged with treason nor were numerous captured spys and others who released confidential documents.

I'm not sure how you think the law can be changed so Snowden get's what you think is a fair result, without letting other folks off who really *should* be convicted.

The law doesn't have to be changed at all. The justice department merely has to decline to prosecute or the President can grant a pardon. Happens all the time. The next guy can be prosecuted or not under the same set of rules without changing anything or causing any serious problems.

Comment Everyone should be able to build useful tools (Score 1) 339 339

But if I want to build storage sheds for other people, the rules change. I need to build them to at least a minimum standard of quality, people will expect the trim and paint and the like to not fall off or peel, the doors can't fall off the hinges if you push them wrong, that sort of thing. And if I don't build to those minimum standards I'm going to be held legally liable for the shortcomings.

So when are we going to start holding software developers "legally liable for the shortcomings" of the software they write? With some notable exceptions we definitely are not doing this now. When is Adobe going to be liable for the problems caused by Flash? When is Microsoft going to be liable for Windows?

The same thing applies to software development. Just because you can slap together a to-do list app that works for you, doesn't mean it's ready to market to others.

It also doesn't mean we shouldn't provide ways for people to slap together that simple app. I see too many people here thinking programming always has to be some deep art requiring years of training. When people use a spreadsheet they are doing a form of programming. And if that spreadsheet is useful to others (as they sometimes are) then there is nothing wrong with them giving or even selling it to others. The market will determine whether it has real value or not. It doesn't have to be developed in some high cathedral of programming in every case. There are no lack of times when yes you absolutely want well trained IT pros doing the coding but we shouldn't turn it into a clergy where only the IT pros are allowed to code. Swift clearly isn't the solution but in principle there is no reason we shouldn't have tools to allow anyone to program meaningful and useful tools.

I am an engineer (among other things) and I've done more than a trivial amount of coding but I do not code for a living and likely never will. My talents lie elsewhere. But I do develop a lot of small tools to automate business processes. Spreadsheets, small databases, scripts, macros, web pages, etc. I can think of lots of tasks where a sort of pre-fabricated programming systems where I could just organize a set of pre-defined tasks would be super useful and this is a form of programming. (Think lego mindstorms level complexity but more general purpose) I don't think there is any danger of professional programmers being displaced by such a tool. If anything it would free them up to concentrate on less trivial tasks.

Comment Everyone should be able to program some (Score 1) 339 339

"Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need?

To some degree yes. There absolutely is a need for tools to allow people who aren't professional software engineers to do some form of programming. It doesn't have to be the most sophisticated but the need is there. Haven't you ever wondered why spreadsheets get used for all sorts of tasks they aren't optimized for? It's because it is a way for non-professional programmers to program a computer to do useful tasks. People use spreadsheets as sort of ersatz databases all the time which should be a serious hint that there is a huge need for databases for modest tasks with a much easier to use interface. (yes even easier than Filemaker or Access) Programming doesn't have to be written in C or Swift or Java. Writing a spreadsheet is a form of programming. Creating a macro in a word processor is a form of programming. Sure it's like bowling with the bumpers on the lane gutters but what's wrong with that?

Everybody should have some means to program computers. Swift clearly isn't actually the answer but the notion that everybody should be able to program isn't a dumb idea at all. Expand your definition of what programming is.

People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not.

That is a ridiculous argument. There will always be a need for programmers to solve problems beyond the abilities of the unwashed masses. Nobody is pretending they are a doctor because they stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night except in advertisements. But that is not a credible argument against providing tools that allow those with less expertise to do useful work. Do we only allow Formula 1 drivers on the roads even though most drivers are far less skilled? Give people the tools to do work at the level they are capable of.

Like punning, programming is a play on words.