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Comment: market-based approach (Score 1) 143

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) 326

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) 119

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.

Comment: lest we forget (Score 1) 145

by epine (#48264231) Attached to: Verizon Launches Tech News Site That Bans Stories On US Spying

@namespace url(;

@-moz-document domain("") {

body:before {
  content: "Forbidden from covering American spying or net neutrality by Verizon's corporate sponsorship";
  color: #FF0000;
  display: block;
  text-align: center;
  font-size: 3vmax;
  padding-top: 10vh !important;
  padding-bottom: 10vh !important;


Comment: Slidebox Bob (Score 3, Informative) 47

by epine (#48228353) Attached to: Google Search Finally Adds Information About Video Games

Google didn't do this to make the gamers happy. They did it to make the non gamers happy, because video game culture is ladden with a rich and repurposed vocabulary that constantly shows up when people don't want to see video games in their search results.

They have to recognize games in order to remove games. Once they've gone that far, throwing up a positive infobox is Slidebox Bob.

Comment: Re:Not a surprise, but is it just one ingredient? (Score 1) 422

by epine (#48182649) Attached to: Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

I didn't see an actual link to the study anywhere, but TFA at least appears to assume correlation = causation.

No, actually every version of the article I've seen bends over backwards to end off by saying "correlation does not equal causation".

With this kind of a study, which is methodologically weak (participant recall), I don't think one gets uniform results across gender, age, race, and education very darn often. You would get this in a study of cigarette smoking, because the health impacts of smoking are direct and universal.

When one gets a study with a profile that resembles a study on cigarette smoking in its power and statistical profile, it does tend to clear the mind of ancillary explanations. Occam's razor is practically beating the door down. It's not like sugar have never before been suspected as an agent of direct metabolic stress.

If this study holds up, it's a pretty darn big deal no matter how you slice it. Anyone here have a method to detect 5 years of invisible biological aging which is less onerous than giving someone a fifteen minute quiz? No, I didn't think so.

Comment: why won't it just die.die.die? (Score 1) 240

by epine (#48145111) Attached to: Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

Almost all the hacks imposed on C++ to remain compatible with C are linear hacks that don't combine combinatorially. That's what makes these hacks ugly: bending over backwards to achieve hack containment. The C++ standardization literature contains many of the fiercest debates ever waged among pointy hats concerning hack containment. Purity wasn't an option. Impurity segregation was.

The hacks in C++ that do have combinatorial complexity pertain to features of the C++ language completely unrelated to C, such as templates and namespaces.

The bending over backward to avoid non-linear hacks due to compatibility with C got the standards committee into a wee bit of time pressure. Both the template and namespace features were added "on the fly" against the stated policy of the standardization group to only standardize after there was enough experience on the ground to avoid the worst mistakes.

If the standard isn't finished on a timely basis: market fail.

If the standard is finished without templates and namespaces: paradigm fail.

If the standard makes blunders in defining templates and namespaces: an eternal witch's brew.

The committee members rather sanely (and unhappily) chose the least of several competing evils.

There's never been a language like C++ to get otherwise smart people to say stupid things.

* C++ contains many ugly hacks due to its C legacy
* most ugly hacks are combinatorial
* C++ contains many combinatorial hacks
* therefore C++ is riven with combinatorial hacks due to its C legacy

Yes, but the ugly hacks to support C are not the combinatorial hacks, and the combinatorial hacks to support templates and namespaces before their time are not the hacks to support C.

Of course, if you don't delve deeply enough to figure this out, one might just conclude that C++ was concocted by a brigand of insane ideologues. You'd be stupid and wrong, but if your surround yourself with an echo chamber of the equally lazy, there's hardly any detectable social downside (near you).

There's remains, however, this irritating tendency of the world around you not to adopt your favourite "clean" language and put C++ out to pasture once and for allâ"due exclusively to inertia, incompetence, and mendacity. Of course.

The next rank of fierce debate during standardization concerned the elimination of all proposed features where adopting the feature imposed a performance penalty across the board even when it isn't used. A few performance points here and there on a heavy-lifting, industrial programming language quickly adds up to entire data centers. Elegance was never a sufficient argument, unless the performance tax imposed was—at most—barely measurable.

Elegance looks like such a great thing until one begins writing an application at industrial scale. The hacks inherent in making any computational system work efficiently on industrial scale (with smooth degradation around the edge cases, and no crippling instabilities) instantly dwarfs the hackishness of the C++ language itself.

Comment: Re:Still being made... (Score 1) 304

by epine (#48098865) Attached to: The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made

I've had an Erase-ease Keyboard For Compaq Computers for a long time now.

Surprisingly, almost without me noticing it, it's become my silent workhorse. It's fairly heavy and stiff, with just enough key feel for the speed I type. It has nice key surface sculpting, too. Every couple of years I shake an entire meal out of the mechanism and give the key caps the car wash treatment. It still works great, but does get a bit sticky for a few days after being washed.

I had two of the old IBM keyboards around, but I simply type too fast to use one as my main keyboard. My typing oscillates between high speed ticking and a low frequency buzz. IBM keyboards are noisy and stiff and I began to wonder about the strain on my fingers, as well.

On this keyboard I've never actually forced myself to use the backspacebar key. I popped the the key cap off the right Windows key a long time ago. Miraculously, Firefox is now the bane of my typing existence, since any accidental strike of the right ALT key takes me into a modal menu-bar mode.

About six months ago I bound the Linux compose key to capslock and set it up to generate mdashes and ndashes and a whole bunch of HTML markup.

I have <blockquote> bound to caps-q-a and </blockquote> bound to caps-q-s. I have <nowiki> bound to caps-w-a and </nowiki> bound to caps-w-s. I guess it's obvious what software I use for taking notes. What a godsend to have a useful capslock key. Now if I could just shoot someone at the Mozilla Foundation for perpetrating the modal Alt key to activate the drop-down menubar, my keyboard life would be nirvana.

Yeah, maybe there's a Firefox setting to disable this. Can't be bothered just yet. Too many moving carpets. This I learned from Ubuntu. If you hate something, do nothing about it. If twelve months down the road some twenty-something GUI designer asshole hasn't already yanked the carpet out from underneath you consider investing three minutes of quality Google time in stone-from-shoe removal prowess. (My what sharp fangs you have, Grandma! All the better to service the tablet marketplace, my darling little Ms Underhood.)

For example, I use middle-click paste all the time, while also carrying a to-be-pasted item around in my regular paste buffer (and even more in my clippy tool). I'm sure I read something about some distro/desktop deciding to eliminate this from their next GUI iteration, right before I hit the emergency stasis field activation button and curled into a foetal ball.

What I desperately want is a middle-click erase-paste, in which the contents of the target area are vaporised prior to the paste operation (clearing out search boxes is especially annoying). I just noticed that the paste happens on button release. A long middle-button press could be a field erase operation. Then long-press/release would be paste-replace. That would be golden. All the methods I know to quickly delete a field involve first selecting the field, which really sucks when you're already carrying something in your X buffer.

Hard on the heals of my compose key triumph, I might give it a go at some point in the next six to nine months.

Comment: Re:Lots of cheap carbon stuff (Score 1) 652

by epine (#48080073) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

Actually you only need to pear the population down by about 20 million. The top 2% of the world's population consume something like 90-95% of the resources, they are extremely expensive to have around. Remove them and everyone's standard of living jumps significantly.

And what about the other 98% who dream of becoming the 2%? Nature abhors voluntary prudence. Stable equilibria in straightened circumstance is what you get after everyone goes "oh shit, what now?"

Perhaps in about twenty more years, we'll have a SimEarth realistic enough to set your proposal up to watch the earth burn. The stampede to replace the profligate 2% being but the first unmitigated ecological disaster of many to follow.

Skill testing question: Does the extremely high American incarceration rate aid or abet the trade in deprecated substances? I'm not even going to bother offering up antonyms. Prison is many things, and one of those things is serving as a first-rate finishing school in general lawlessness. Every trip to prison makes your "straight" options that much less attractive. After three trips to prison, minimum wage under the table is your glass ceiling in the straight economy.

The law of unexpected consequence is nowhere else in force so strongly as it applies to human incentive.

Comment: the core problem (Score 1) 139

by epine (#47977469) Attached to: Google Quietly Nixes Mandatory G+ Integration With Gmail

The core problem is not Google+ (pustulent imposition that it was) but that Google does not provide clean answers about anything it does. Google's motto has long ceased being "don't be evil" and morphed into "that's for us to know, and users to divine".

My view is that happiness in life is directly proportional to eliminating all forms of "X behind a curtain" where X is man, woman, beast, tyrant, saint, priest, missionary, Smallpox vector, committee, club, association, organization, governmental body, natural, supernatural, mythical, legendary, or outright fabrication.

Google as presently configured is not a conduit of happiness in this world.

Comment: ask not for whom the bell doesn't chime (Score 1) 478

by epine (#47966973) Attached to: Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

Yeah, if he's stuck in a state of decline, he can still contribute.

I guess you don't have any grandparents who live alone, but can no longer reliably identify their own children. My wife's grandmother recently "celebrated" her ninetieth birthday (I don't use scare quotes lightly). All her "loved ones" showed up. She spent the entire day looking like a four-year-old lost in a giant shopping mall. She didn't know who she was, who anyone else was, where she was (with all the people around, she couldn't identify the house she had lived in since 1950). Out of compassion, the family soon arranged a quiet room, so that she could "contribute" to the celebration by sitting alone in a nearby room.

You are so deep into denial about the reality of aging, I had to pull out triple scare quotes. If you still don't get it, I'm done. I'll just have to say "I've got nothing" and leave to you to your own date with destiny. Enjoy it, if you can.

Comment: Re:What is BSD good for? (Score 1) 77

by epine (#47479327) Attached to: FreeBSD 9.3 Released

So I am honestly asking, what is BSD good for.

When exactly did "honestly" become a synonym for living under a rock? This question comes up on almost every thread where FreeBSD is mentioned, though granted this is barely more often than its major releases.

The first answer in every such thread for years now is always ZFS, but actually this just disguises how many people have been using it for years or decades and just plain like the way FreeBSD does things even if nine out of ten, or ninety nine out of a hundred, or nine hundred and ninety nine out of a thousand have different tastes.

I get intensely piqued over the implication that there's a nuisance hurdle that needs to be cleared just for existing. When "honestly" becomes a cover story for living under a rock (or an equivalent not-be-bothered-hood) this ultimately seems to resonate as the main implication.

It's especially irritating when FreeBSD predates all the Johnny-come-latelies. It would have needed to be clairvoyant to have correctly decided to not exist, so as not to strain the reputational resources of open source groupthink.

I used to use an axe, but I stopped using it when I had to cut down a tree ten-feet wide at the base. I am presently using a Husqvarna and I am perfectly happy with it but for some reason the axe retains a magical "hard core" allure. So I am honestly asking, what is an axe good for?

Comment: we'll see if this cures my ten-year Slashdot habit (Score 1) 454

by epine (#47333441) Attached to: CDC: 1 In 10 Adult Deaths In US Caused By Excessive Drinking

@namespace url(;
@-moz-document domain("") {
div, p, h1, span, table, footer, header {
      display: none !important;
body:after {
    content: 'CDC: 1 In 10 Adult Deaths In US Caused By Excessive Drinking';
    color: #FF0000;
    display: block;
    text-align: center;
    font-size: 1.5vmax;

Truth is free, but information costs.