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Comment: it wasn't about text-to-speech (Score 1) 176

by epine (#48652889) Attached to: Amazon "Suppresses" Book With Too Many Hyphens

From Hyphen Hate? When Amazon went to war against punctuation

A ridiculous number of people have gotten caught up in the whole âoehe used a minus sign instead of an ascii hyphen! The bastardâ controversy that has followed this thread around and has spilled over into any number of internet message boards. First of all, let me be clear. The issue was not with my use of a minus sign. The issue Amazon had was that someone had complained about hyphenation. Second, I have since gone back and checked the original file on the Kindle text-to-speech app and it renders fine. No issues. [my emph.]

These days 75% of all Slashdot posts seem to involve drilling down to get the original story straight. Tell me, when did a mass-confusion clusterfuck become the new nerd foreplay? Kindle typography, meet declining Slashdot editorial standards. You've got more in common than you think.

Comment: Re:Copenhagen interpretation != less complicated (Score 1) 194

by epine (#48641759) Attached to: Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated

Determinism = fail

With entanglement, we have an FTL coupling that can't be used to convey classical information.

Why can't we have a similarly knackered stripe of determinism, one which can't be used to shatter the illusion of free will? This would be a kind of determinism where even if you sort of know it's there, it makes no damn difference to your interpretation of local space.

Think big, grasshopper, think big.

Comment: the sociology of accidents (Score 1) 175

by epine (#48619309) Attached to: Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene

The only "accidental" discovery in science is the discovery one could have stretched out over a great many more research grants if one had better anticipated the scientific windfall.

Of course, we do tend to refer to the outcome of bad planning as "an accident" concerning our hominid prime directive, so perhaps there's no help for language after all.

Comment: Re:Does the job still get done? (Score 1) 661

by epine (#48618993) Attached to: Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

You do realize that a narrative of this type can be fashioned around the prevailing conditions of all human societies at all points in human history?

America is an especially big and complex society, so one needs a correspondingly large and complex boogie man (though nevertheless, reductive to the core).

In the gospel of the one true fracture, defining yourself as against something only serves to throw more fuel on the fire. In reality, complex systems have hundreds or thousands of fault lines, and it's not always the case that the largest fault line is hovering around the supercritical state. Unless we all agree to obsess about it. Then the story self propels.

The slow march of AI is going to spin our a thousand fault lines. Get yours today!

Comment: Re:The interne cables are tapped... (Score 1) 159

by epine (#48605869) Attached to: How Identifiable Are You On the Web?

Next it's not that hard to develop mathematical techniques to analyze text and language in posts ...

Budget projects much? "Doable" and "easy" are not the same words. I'm guessing one person out of a hundred in the general population could take a reasonable stab at developing such an algorithm, and only one person out of a thousand could be considered a natural talent.

The first 20% of the work gets you to sqrt(sqrt(7e9)) as your mean perplexity, which is simultaneously impressive and yet not terribly actionable. And then the difficulty curve shoots off into the exponential regime.

Comment: pristine records for a prissy nation (Score 1) 134

by epine (#48585677) Attached to: Facebook Offers Solution To End Drunken Posts

My impression is the regret in taking these drunken pictures happens years after the fact, when the drunken college scene has been left behind, and the poster now has a family and a 9-to-5 job and they want to distance themselves from that past.

It shocks me how rarely the cultural underpinnings are made overt in these scenarios. What you depict might actually be the case in America, but I suspect it will be different in France, where when a search pulls up no college revelry whatsoever, cultured individuals might begin to seriously doubt your breeding and character.

Whether posting photos of regular drunkenness counts as bad judgement has a circular basis case. If you get yourself photographed draping and drooling over some chick who looks none too impressed with the group grope, there might be some legitimate flags raised. Multiple binge-ups during school session might also raise eyebrows, even in France. It sure won't accentuate that embarrassing C- you received in Economics 101 because of the "family crisis".

Daryl Hannah's distal indecency. In America, s/irony/context/g.

(I had forgotten that this clip also contains some good geek humour, though slightly dated and with just a hint of cheese.)

Comment: Re:This really is a man's world... (Score 1) 377

by epine (#48578947) Attached to: Bellard Creates New Image Format To Replace JPEG

Artists practice drawing nudes for a good reason: the human eye is exquisitely sensitive to the normal shape of the human body, so you can't draw or paint badly and not have it noticed.

Of course, we have a good evolutionary reason for having developed this proficiency, along with a taste for keeping this proficiency in good working order.

Porn doesn't happen until the rest of the brain takes a holiday (our visual sub-system is by far our biggest neurological subsystem according to a Levitin book I read recently). Big chunks of the human brain taking a poorly planned vacation is endemic to the human condition. That's why I keep a list of twenty different types of cognitive porn, only one of which involves obsessing over the female body. I'm pretty sure "PC porn" must be on my list somewhere.

Comment: Re: Have Both (Score 1) 567

by epine (#48578841) Attached to: The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait

A general ergonomic rule-of-thumb is to adjust your monitor's vertical position so that the top edge is level with your eyes and you don't need to look upwards.

Do you go around believing every lazy-ass statement you've ever read?

My gut estimate is that I actively view the 20% of my portrait monitor above my horizontal line of sight about 2% of my total working time. What's up there, anyway? A menu bar, a window title bar, a bunch of FF controls, a bunch of FF tabs, the Slashdot header, some junk about DEALS NEW, "Reply to: Re: Have Both", then the Slashdot story header which repeats "Re: Have Both (Score: 3)", then there's you user information / date / perm-link. Everything else on this screen is below my horizontal line of sight, including the entirety of this input form where my gaze is normally focussed.

That lazy-ass statement almost certainly originates from an era where devoting 20% of a monitor to menu/window/media cruft left you with a painfully small working area.

If you bother to read articles where researchers are interviewed decades later about lazy-ass statements they tend to say: "well, yes, of course we knew that at the time, but at that time hardly anyone had even heard of ergonomics, so we chose to make the message as simple as possible, so as to get 80% of the benefit from 20% of the yammering". Last time I ran into this it concerned one of the BMI formulas (there are several body mass formulas in competition). And then they say, "if you go back and look at my original paper, it actually warns against expanding the mandate of this tool beyond our narrow focus of study". Did you really expect people would respect that warning? "Oh no, but what can you do?"

What typically occupies the bottom third of this screen, below where my gaze is the most comfortable? A tilda pop-up console bound to my Windows keyboard menu key.

I have a custom user style that adds white space to the bottom of every web page so that I can maximize FF on this monitor, pop up the Tilda window over top of the bottom third, and still scroll the bottom of the web page high enough to not be covered over.

And then I have my landscape monitor to the left, all within the optimal attitude wedge. In fact, the combination of the two is much better ergonomically than having them both in landscape mode, which was so wide that I used to sit tilted to one side or the other, putting strain on my back (also pushing more of my pixels into the far margins of my vision). I never been happier with any previous monitor setup, though it did require switching from Ubuntu to Mint with extreme prejudice.

In my opinion, most people persist in using fonts that are much too small, I suppose so that they can crowd more stuff onto their desktops. Small fonts would be a problem with this setup as it would cause me to lean forward sharper reading, and also creating sharper viewing angles toward the edges (my input box is presently displaying three lines per inch; I can read what I've composed without difficulty from six feet away).

A portrait-orientation of your monitor makes that objective difficult to achieve.

I suppose if the sum total of your ergonomic wisdom comes from a fortune cookie ("Eyes level with bezel last a lifetime.") and you have no capacity to think for yourself, portrait mode just won't seem terribly appealing. When one's approach to ergonomics is more holistic, one quickly comes to a different view.

Comment: Re:What people want to read (Score 1) 368

by epine (#48545309) Attached to: Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

And if you're writing that way because that's the story you want to write, or because you truly believe it's important to the integrity of the story that the culture be very different than our own, and you're OK with selling a few thousand copies or less, then that's fine.

If you don't write that way—with integrity and determination—then what you're writing isn't SF, it's what I call GSF, or genre science fiction.

Genre is primarily a form of entertainment. SF is properly a form of deep enquiry. I pretty much won't read genre anything. Of course, people lump much of what I do read into genre, but I don't support them in this activity (and none of Vonnegut, Le Guin, or Atwood would—or did—so far as they could get away with it).

One or two pieces in Stanislaw Lem's Microworlds (circa 1986) were very much to my liking. He shit on genre, too, and in a big way.

Comment: and the generica shall prevail (Score 1) 438

by epine (#48471347) Attached to: How Intel and Micron May Finally Kill the Hard Disk Drive

the performance war

Because, as we all know, performance comes in only one flavour.

This is an even sneakier version of what Daniel Dennett calls "rathering". This is where you write "The proponents of A would say that A resolves this issue. As we can see, A does not solve the problem, so rather B." The trick here is that no-one ever said the issue was a dichotomy between A and B. It's been implied by a rhetorical device that few readers even notice. Apparently Stephen J. Gould used this technique a fair amount. This surprised me. He was a pretty solid author for the most part.

Do you really think that SSD is the best storage option for Google Earth's highest resolution imagery of the Nunavut territory? I guess your philosophy is that if the data isn't in high enough demand to justify SSD performance levels, there's no point keeping the data online in the first place.

Then there's a few hundred people who charter expensive hunting trips in the Canadian north and afterwards they go to Google Earth to review where they've been and Google Earth says "Imagery 404: not enough demand to make it cost effective to host the data on SSD".

If it's just a few hundred people, so who gives a shit?

Comment: market-based approach (Score 1) 157

by epine (#48436533) Attached to: Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

As it happens, I was just wondering to myself this morning how much of our present right-wing enthusiasm for our current economic system is rooted in capitalist democracy being far, far, far superior to pre-COBOL Stalinism. The true test arrives when some Asian economic model arises, one very different from our own historical model, and kicks us in the pants.

It's sad, really, that "market-based" turned into such a horrible cliche. Most of the damage was caused by so many people putting it in front of "solution" (market-based solution) when what they really meant was market-based approach.

Many don't even realize that these two phrases are different, because they've defined "market-based approach" as being the solution, as it was and ever shall be, dating all the way back to pre-COBOL Stalinism.

It is, in fact, possible to design markets—markets are a human construction—that create more problems than they solve.

Ideology is when you play epsilon-delta with an infinite sleeve of mulligans. If this market fails, that just means we need to change something and try again. Even market failures are characterized as stepping stones to progress.

Personally, I'm not willing to drink mulligan Kool-Aid. I love markets that work. I hate markets that don't. It sure would be nice at the outset if it was more obvious which was which, without greater society picking up the tab for all the hooks and shanks.

Comment: Re:Why? (Score 1) 327

by epine (#48397463) Attached to: Apple Disables Trim Support On 3rd Party SSDs In OS X

Until we know *why* Apple's doing this, it's hard to judge the situation. They may have a reason that seems insignificant to the end user, but you don't get to be the biggest company on the planet by making decisions like this for no reason.

I recently watched the documentary The Prince of Sugar in which a rabble-rousing priest fights for the rights of illegal Haitian aliens the Dominican Republic can't do without (sound familiar?) while the least fortunate among the Dominicans burn giant tires in protest against the Haitians "taking away" jobs extremely few Dominicans would willingly do at the wages offered.

The movie makes it out like the Catholic Church stands completely behind the hard ass priest, but well before the movie's formal release the Catholic Church reversed its stance and the priest, Christopher Hartley, is promptly expelled from the country (as many of the power brokers in the Dominican sugar trade had demanded with ominous overtones the whole time he was there).

From Christopher Hartley:

Bishop Ozoria never describes the specifics of the "incident," but he does state in a letter to Father Hartley dated September 21, 2006 that Father Hartley's "deplorable" actions affect "'the good of the souls' entrusted to [Bishop Ozoria's] pastoral care," create a "harmful" ministry to the parish and diocese, produce "serious detriment or disturbance to the ecclesiastical community," and harm the level of trust necessary between a bishop and a priest.

Certainly, the Catholic Church didn't get to where it is now by having no reasons at all. But just look at what they consider to be an adequate external justification of their decisions within.

Until we know *why* Bishop Ozoria did this, it's hard to judge the entire controversy.

When I went into information technology long ago, the great joy for me was getting away from these cryptic smoke signals of thin public account. And what does Apple mainly offer in compensation of this lost joy? World class interior decoration—another profession very near the bottom of my high school career assessment (along with manning the security desk in an appartment-building entrance lobby).

When one can go s/until/if ever/g with complete impunity to the meaning of the message, I'm done with the program. The moral of the story is that one man's patience is another man's purgatory.

Comment: Re:Kernel mess (Score 1) 123

by epine (#48392983) Attached to: FreeBSD 10.1 Released

Do you ever say anything with any truth in it? The 4.x series was the worst in FreeBSD history as they switched on all the horrible SMP bits. No one used 4.x on anything that required stability.

The 4 series had legendary stability. The 5 series, not so much. I think by 5.3 it was stable enough for some purposes, and by 5.4 things were cleared headed in the right direction again. (How about you create a keyboard binding to output that phrase "Do you ever say anything with any truth in it?" and use the time you save for an itty bitty Google refresher course?) The unusually flaky 5.x releases covered a time period of about 18 months beginning January 2003.

The last 4-STABLE branch release was 4.11 in January 2005 supported until 31 January 2007.

The problem was that the FreeBSD transition to kernel SMP came late in the day, and by 2005 one tended to strongly desire kernel SMP performance levels. Unfortunately, there was a highly inconvenient period where you couldn't enjoy legendary stability and critical-path kernel SMP at the same time. It was a good time to run Linux for some purposes.

I recall that some FreeBSD deployments running 5.3 had spotless stability, but you had to get your build right and then muck with things hardly at all, which I guess went against the grain of some server admins. The 5 series was not a release for these people.

GIANT hung around for a long time on some less critical kernel paths. It was a long, slow excision.

The Linux social contract at the time was that you put your finger in the air to find out what the cool kids were doing, and if you did mostly the same things—for whatever was trending that month—you couldn't go too far wrong. The problem was the different things were trending every six months, so the moment you took your finger out of the air and stopped pumping your feet like a teenaged Fred Flintstone, you'd find yourself running a not-entirely-supported combination of Old Things.

The rate at which The New Hotness decayed into An Old Thing in the Linux community was truly terrifying if you were trying to build a security appliance to be deployed in the worst possible places—places where you might prefer to buy a new ride rather than cross the tracks to fetch your old ride, even a ride barely six months old and custom armored.

Under FreeBSD it remains a good idea to read the release notes and then exercise personal restraint over unsuitable flavours of ice cream. The cool kids algorithm does not work well.


At a very late hour on Prometheus Night, Fred's car glides to a silent stop at the side of a dark road. "What's the matter?" Wilma asks. "My dogs are beat," says Fred. "Rub my feet for a just a minute?" Wilma harrumphs silently to herself for a short moment, but doesn't wish to create a scene. "Well, put your filthy feet up if you must," says Wilma. Fred's hesitates. He had vaguely hoped that Wilma would halfway invert herself under the steering plinth.

Sorry, Fred. Life's not that easy.

Comment: precautionary principle contra emetic (Score 1) 695

The whole "fault" meme is Garden of Eden bullshit, the implication being that we need to busy ourselves—pronto—with barfing up the forbidden apple.

To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report's scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to 'near zero or below in 2100.

This forecast has about a 5% chance of being vindicated retrospectively by future generations of scientists as being mostly on the mark. Isn't it amazing how it comfortably falls within the parameters—as tuned by the 2C free parameter—of what might fly politically (if we really did busy barfing up the forbidden apple).

No species on planet earth has ever before barfed up a forbidden apple. The general principle in the biological world is "see food, eat food". It applies to every life form from bacteria on up.

Our species has managed to turn coal into sugar. It's a clever bit of business in the department of thermodynamic laundering, but hardly the cleverest trick mother nature has yet tossed into the soup—were it not for the human fixation on human exceptionalism.

Prudence might actually be the right path forward. I was in favour of prudence growing up in the 1970s, a point in time where it would have been almost trivial to enact. What was then coming out of most tail pipes was richer in unburnt hydrocarbons than much of what now comes out of the ground. It was one of the hardest things to understand about the world back when I was that age. I now understand that what America was paying for hydrocarbons from the Middle East was a tiny fraction of the wealth one could create through its consumption, this being the primary reason the race was on—the race to exhaust what was already then strongly suspected of being a soon-limited resource. Had the western world slowed its consumption out of prudence, less of the wealth would have crossed the divide. That was too high a price on prudence in the Nixon era, and realistically, it probably still is, because—you know—Sun Tsu and Machiavelli have grown so outdated since the advent of the microchip they are now relegated to the category of mere historical curiosities along with books, and land lines, and VHS.

One of the first professional software developers I ever met was a young fellow driving a first or second generation Honda Civic as The Right Thing To Do (circa 1979). Since then, because the debate has been hijacked by self-serving neo-Luddites vs anyone with even half a clue, the science itself gets more smug by the day. So far as I'm concerned, there is no scientific certainty or consensus on the appropriate societal response to these changes which appear to be taking place with ever greater confidence, though not yet as judged by the standards of scientific process established over hundreds of years as taking hundreds of years, in the ideal case.

Increasingly they just wave around the smoking gun—the gun, the gun, the gun, we've proven the smoking gun—and then they expect their policy recommendations to be given the same heft as the conclusions they are actually trained to reach. Are they crisis management experts? Are they economists? Are they political scientists? Have they traced the precautionary principle all the way back to the primordial soup?

There's no great track record of science getting anything much right over time periods of under twenty years. Give me a century any day. Every year I read another paper outlining yet another carbon sink now suspected. The target is still bobbing around faster than a UFO hand-filmed from a topless Corvette before the invention of wishbone suspension. It's absolutely clear that there's an anthropic contribution to the future condition of the blue marble. I wouldn't have argued against that in the mid-seventies barely out of elementary school. We simply can not un-eat the apple of our own success. Any precautionary principle that suggests otherwise is no precaution of mine. (Side note: The Catholic church did us no favours in this department, not since way back, by making human procreation the prerequisite for animal-nature equilibrium.)

I bear the same hostility toward the anthropic principle physicists, who want us to believe that this new physics dovetails with the past eminence of physics as we have grown to know it. Not at all. This anthropic business is an entirely new and highly dubious venture, and by no means warranting a free pass just because the proponents of this new approach trained beside physicists who still actually do experiments.

This IPCC science—whatever it turns out to be—is not the science of my childhood that I have grown to know and love. It's a whole new beast, with a whole new urgency, an urgency unbecoming of the sober enterprise they claim to represent. And that's a scary things, boys and girls, when they claim to hold the balance of the planet in their palms. I hope they realize somewhere deep down just how far out on a limb this newly discovered enlightenment really is.

We all know where this ends—should the human species even survive: being told that had they not advocated 2C in 2014, we would never have held the line on 3C in 2080. Even if they're wrong, they'll still be vindicated. Where have we seen this shit before?

Neo-con: There's no solid evidence the stimulus package accomplished anything useful at all.

Paleo-lib: Without the hopelessly inadequate stimulus we actually enacted, we'd be infinitely more SOL than we have now become.

First law of hard nature: If you've got a good rejoinder to any outcome at all, there's barely a hint of real science in whatever it is you think you're doing. Even the outcome we actually get can't be construed as non-stochastic, so the chance that this ever turns into hard science of the first order is not high.

"Free markets select for winning solutions." -- Eric S. Raymond