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Comment Re:It's IBM's fault. Everyone copied the PC. (Score 1) 596 596

My Osborne 1 split the capslock key into two regular-sized keys, one for CTRL and the other for capslock. That worked well. (And I really miss Wordstar. Amazing what they could cram into 64k. They had to play silly games, loading and unloading parts of the software from the floppy disk, a really primitive kind of virtual memory.)

Comment Re:Eventuality? (Score 5, Interesting) 545 545

It has the advantage of once having been worth something. People have a fondness for it. It might tempt back some of the old users. Social networks have an advantage in that they're worth more when more people are there, and that history might just barely let them leverage that.

The main value of the site, at least to me, was always its user base. I didn't RTFA because the commenters would often be able to give me a better summary of what was really going on. Especially when TFA was clickbait; I could see why it was clickbait without having to read it myself. Or for sciencey stuff that's out of my domain, Slashdot often had people who could explain it at my level. (That is, more than the average layman, but less than a grad student in that field.)

I'm not gonna get my hopes up, but I'll note that I'm still here, though mostly lurking. There may be others waiting for an improvement to the site's management to contribute more.

Comment Re:Glad somebody is taking columns seriously (Score 1) 67 67

Especially with the large number of small devices in the mix. Increasingly, web sites are targeting tiny screens. Which actually makes the column feature moot; this feature would have come in handy a while ago.

Fortunately, if done properly, it degrades nicely. Small screen, one column. Wide screen, several columns (which has advantages over scrolling, since it's easier for the eye to jump a column than to keep track of a position during a scroll.)

Comment Re:Help me here: where does the "new" C14 come fro (Score 1) 108 108

It comes from cosmic rays, which are roughly constant over time. They're not completely constant, and so we already have to calibrate our C14 tests. (There's a whole bit of weirdness in the way we report dates as the calibration itself has been refined over time, and when you read an old document you need to know exactly how it was calibrated.)

But the variations in intensities happen over centuries, rather than years. And instead of covering the whole world, it's going to be localized by the varying factors of how much CO2 was emitted (as well as nuclear bomb testing, which has been making dating confusing for quite some time).

It may not be all that important, since it applies mainly to new objects, and we don't really need to date them if we actually know how old they are. And very recent objects are always problematic with respect to carbon dating; it's usually precise to decades, rather than years. But archaeologists from a thousand years from now may find this era very confusing.

Comment Re:Cue the global warming b.s. (Score 1) 108 108

It's not gonna help, though. Climate change doesn't wipe out humanity. It may wipe out other, less tenacious species. And it'll kill tens, maybe hundreds of millions of humans, and cost into the trillions of dollars. You might count it as just punishment, but it won't eliminate the problem. (It might teach them a lesson... but I doubt it.)

Comment Glad somebody is taking columns seriously (Score 4, Interesting) 67 67

I find the lack of columns one of the more striking failures of CSS design. They don't appear to have consulted with anybody who actually knew anything about why things get laid on on a page the way they do. Line lengths are one of the more important factors in determining how easy it is to read something; the eye has a hard time tracking back on wide texts. Default layouts try to compensate with wide spacing, which just wastes a lot of space (and looks, at least to me, very unappealing).

I look forward to other browsers implementing this, so that web page designers (especially for responsible web pages) start using it instead of the hacks and design compromises they're currently forced into.

Comment Re:Crash Mitigation (Score 1) 549 549

It's extremely impressive that they can do this without making to many false positives or negatives. Just picking faces out of a scene is already a dicey proposition. Being able to model "human" versus "non-human" when you get only a side or back view is a nifty trick, one we associate with full intelligence and not just heuristics. And you need to get it right the vast majority of the time, since if you get pareidolia'd into thinking that a piece of junk or a pothole is a human, you're going to need a lot of supervision. Or worse, mis-identify a human as a piece of junk and run over it.

It's clear that they're getting it right enough, often enough, and I'm really looking forward to letting them chauffeur me around. So apparently they can get it close enough without full AI. I wouldn't have said beforehand that I was certain it was possible.

Comment Re:Number one! USA! USA! USA! (Score 1) 384 384

It really is quite amazing to me that the one place that has an ideological interest in not believing in climate change (and the economic push to ensure that nothing is done about it) is the one place that's actually getting colder. If I were the type to believe in such a thing, I'd feel like somebody was playing a cosmic joke on us.

I don't think that the Republican party would really be taking all that different of a stance if the southern US were hitting heat records year after year... but it sure does make it easy on them to justify that stance to the public. To accept that it's going on requires believing in government reports rather than the evidence of your eyes, and since they've spent the last four decades insisting that the government has it out for you, they get a kind of perfect storm for denialism.

Comment Re:if you ask a geek (Score 1) 363 363

Hell, I've been through a few places where there are no left turning lanes, so if someone is trying to turn left traffic grinds to a halt.

Driving in DC's "arteries" is broken-field running, jumping into the right lane to get around people turning, then jumping left to get around cars that are somehow allowed to park on the arterial roads in some spots. It's really quite abysmal.

DC's traffic largely due to more cars than lane miles, but a fair bit of it is due to poor design that leaves a lot of pavement underused. I'm really looking forward to letting a computer do it. Computers could coordinate a far better system without having to build a lot more asphalt.

Comment Re:This run at driverless cars will fail (Score 1) 114 114

As long as the total liability is decreased, then it's a solvable problem. We already have mandatory insurance in a lot of places. We could piggyback off that. It would involve some legislating and contracting and other paper-shuffling, but it doesn't seem impossible to just treat it as part of your insurance.

Heck, the insurance companies might even offer you a discount for turning your car over to a superior mechanical driver.

People may want to go after Google's deep pockets, and that's up to lawyers to figure out. I'm not a lawyer myself, so I can't really say how the ins-and-outs play out. For all I know, it may end up with Google assuming full responsibility, and you pay your insurance premiums to Google rather than your insurer. Google then turns it around to whatever reinsurer was really handling your insurance in the first place.

The transition would, I'm sure, be ugly, just because this is a litigious society and the rules encourage people to sue. Not to mention two political parties whose first jobs will be "what side of this issue are we on, and how can we make sure that the other side doesn't get what they want?", blocking any legislation. But of all the tech companies in the world, Google seems the one with the most practice at lobbying for a change.

Plenty of people will try to stop it, but there's also going to be at least some impetus to fix it, since it has the potential to save many lives and reduce traffic massively. (Automated cars can be much better coordinated and timed. Go watch humans try a zipper merge and you'll scream at all of them to get their incompetent hands off the wheels.)

That all depends on it working, of course, and we're some years from that. So it's not too soon to start working on the political theory of the new system. But a new system shouldn't be impossible. (Note: I am being uncharacteristically optimistic. My usual response to political things is "it's going to fail because the system is designed for inaction". Try again tomorrow and I may well find it impossible.)

Comment Re:This run at driverless cars will fail (Score 1) 114 114

Thing is, the systems that are already on the road are also controlled by neural nets. Really crappy ones, with slow reaction times, a very limited sensor set (it has barely 110 degrees of vision), and is incredibly prone to impairing even those limited abilities. Yes, it's got a few advantages, with an almost preternaturally potent visual recognition system, but even so it's responsible for 10 million accidents per year, with tens of thousands of fatalities.

Humans just aren't very good drivers. Automated systems will make mistakes, though the more of them there are on the road, the fewer they will make, because they'll be able to communicate with each other to reduce accidents still further. Total accidents will likely be reduced dramatically. People will throw red flags as soon as somebody manages to actually get injured by one (most likely in an urban setting, with a small child laying in the middle of the road and being mistaken for road trash), but if we get lucky and avoid that for just a little while, people will realize eventually that the total number of deaths is far, far fewer when you turn it over to machines that don't get drunk, fall asleep, or take most of a second to get information from their brains to the brake pedals.

Comment Re:it could... (Score 1) 148 148

Well, lessee... a bit of Googling says that your average 9V will have about 15 to 20 kJ. Let's go with the high number.

For a 100 kg fridge, if I'm doing the math correctly, that comes out to 20 meters. Not bad, actually. Or 15 meters for the low end.

Of course you can't really get that kind of efficiency, I'm sure. And 100 kg is actually a pretty light fridge. But it's actually not completely out of the realm of possibility.

(Unless I've screwed up the math, which is entirely possible.)

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.