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Comment: Re:The idea was a good one, the execution poor (Score 1) 201

by fermion (#49165573) Attached to: That U2 Apple Stunt Wasn't the Disaster You Might Think It Was
iTunes users can already go and get loads of free music. This is how I was turned on to High-Fi.

Presumably this was not good enough for U-2, so we have this intrusive method of stuffing iTunes user accounts with unwanted music. For the record I was never a U-2 fan, and now it just seems like some desperate cut rate band.

Comment: Re:The Optimistic viewpoint hade a source (Score 4, Insightful) 232

by fermion (#49163401) Attached to: Spock and the Legacy of Star Trek
This is it. The original Star Trek, all of them, pretty much said that diplomacy occasionally backed up with defense would end up in the best results. That technology over time helps us build trusts. There are a few bad agents, but we are mostly good.

The new Star Trek says violence is the way. That the violent people win. And brings a new level of suspension of rational thought. That the Earth would have no defenses against a rougue star ship. That a meeting would have no defenses against a rough droid. That we would be running across the city chasing a suspect. That civilization could build a starship, but could not protect the citizenship. It is not so much a dark world, but a world that reflects the fears of technologically illiterate audience.

Life is pretty bad when your star trek movie makes less sense than the Fifth Element, which at least had good actors.

Comment: Re:Not so fast (Score 1) 257

by fermion (#49136379) Attached to: 5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken
Most jobs can be automated or be done more efficiently through automation. In computer jargon, gates are cheaper than humans, unless one is a human named Gates.

This has been true through most of human civilization. Machines has increased the amount work that a human could do, and with power production amplified it. With electronics we code the actual human knowledge so that less skilled workers can actually approximate the output of a more skilled worker. This has been actually been since the advent of the Jacquard Loom.

In any case, another thing that has been happening since electricity is that work hours has been decreasing for many people. Many people work less than 40 hours a week because the level of technology and kind of work they do makes that a optimal time to work. So we are at a time when we really need to make wages so that 30 hours a week provides a basic income. This is how we create jobs. Part of that is going to be an $11 a hour minimum wage.

Comment: Re:Seems pointless to sue (Score 1) 114

by fermion (#49114769) Attached to: Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware
Suppose I sold people a full featured high end computer for $100. Suppose in the EULA I said I would collect data that would be aggregated and sold. Suppose I used technologies such as the web cam and keystroke monitor to collect such data. No data was personally identified to a machine, but I sold the video and emails to interested collectors.

I assume that this would be like buying a useless windows license, and there would be no point to sue.

Lenovo did something very very bad. It put users privacy and personal information at great risk. It was not just replacing ads. It was security certificates, potential back doors, full system security failure. The point of this lawsuit is not to recompense for damage, but to make sure there is a line that will not be crossed when PC manufacturers try to maximize profits for inexpensive consumer machines.

Of course we know that the manufactures have to sell out the users in order to generate a profit. This is the deal that consumers make. The consumer gets a cheap PC in exchange for being exploited in the long term. It works and most consumers do not seem to have an issue with the deal. But there must be a line, and those that cross it must be punished.

Comment: Hindsight is 20/20 (Score 1) 153

by fermion (#49114451) Attached to: Is Sega the Next Atari?
Also, past performance does not predict future results. If a company fails, it is reasonable to say that doing something differently might have helped the company not to fail. One cannot say that a specific action would have cause the company to succeed.

Sony could have taken all the ideas and shut down the company like MS did with Nokia. They could have gathered enough intelligence during due diligence and then just paid to end the process before the sale.

Comment: Re:safety (Score 1) 110

by fermion (#49112799) Attached to: Mars One Does Not Renew Contracts For Robotic Missions
Again, Mars One is not likely the best vehicle for human space exploration. Again, it may be that some highly indemnified commercial project is going to be the path to human exploration outside of the local area. The question asked is if Human Exploration provides some huge benefits that justify huge costs. I do not believe the answer is an absolute no. It could be that there is a path to paying for this in a productive manner. When we regularly spend half a billion dollars on a movie, including advertising and distribution, a couple billion on a space mission is not hard to think of. As far as competing manned and unmanned mission, this is where the commercial venture comes in. Where government tax dollars are often seen a zero sum sort of situation, the free market is not. A commercial human project to Mars does not exclude robot missions any more than humans climbing mountains precludes aerial tours of the same.

Comment: Re:What he really said (Score 2) 677

by fermion (#49108813) Attached to: Bill Nye Disses "Regular" Software Writers' Science Knowledge
There are a lot of highly educated people, doctors, lawyers, computer scientists, who do not have a good grasp on the scientific process and what it means when a scientist reports a result in research. Most think that they are reporting a immutable fact, which is completely wrong.

What worries me is that these people who think they are so educated are not really able to differentiate between what they know and what they don't know. I would say that a course in philosophy might fix this, but that would fix the issue of ego that is probably at the root of the problem.

Comment: safety (Score 0) 110

by fermion (#49107667) Attached to: Mars One Does Not Renew Contracts For Robotic Missions
We have been lucky we have no stranded ,alone, on an alien world. People have died leave and coming back to earth. That safety has costs a huge amount of money. Compare that to other explorations, the number of Europeans who were lost or starved to explore what is now the US. Look at Jamestown, a commercial operation, and the number of people who starved or froze. More than likely such risks are unacceptable to us now. Going to a literal new world under less than ideal conditions, where a dozen people might die in a horrible way, is probably unthinkable to us now, with our instant communication and seemingly endless food supply.

It is not something a government is going to do. That is why it is unlikely that humans are going to leave the earth local area for a while yet, at least on a government craft.

What we have to ask ourselves is there is value to actually being there. If there is value in actually learning to live in the harsh environment, to see what it is really like. We know that going to space is hard because no matter how carefully you try to work things out, there is always a gotcha you forget about. It is working out these problems in real time that teaches us how to cope and survive. This is true even in regular life, and some people fail, and die early. I clearly think there is a value to actually being there. I think that we do not have the technology to bring people back, so setting up a system where there is an even chance for some heroes to live out their lives and explore the planet would be good. If it is ok for someone to climb mount Everest even though several people die every year, but not to explore another planet? Mars One may be a scam. I don't think we are going to be able to explore other planets in person without higher risks than we have accepted thus far.

Comment: Re:disclosure (Score 4, Interesting) 448

by fermion (#49103517) Attached to: How One Climate-Change Skeptic Has Profited From Corporate Interests
At the base it is disclosure. Papers should have a note of who is funding the research. Sometimes that funding is obfuscated because the money goes through shell non-profits. This is why government funding is so useful. But there is nothing wrong with independent funding, as long as it transparent. When Al Gore was big, he never hid his objective or funding. Likewise Green Peace and PETA are generally transparent. OTOH, when Philip Morris was trying to push cigarettes as healthy, most of their research was far from transparent.

This is interesting, because despite the diplomatic title of the post, many if not most researchers who are publishing against man made climate change are funded by people who are going to lose money, at least short term, if man made climate change becomes a political reality. To be sure the improvements to industrial processes are going to create a whole new class of very wealthy people, but those who will no innovate will be left behind.

Comment: textbooks cost money (Score 2) 139

by fermion (#49102363) Attached to: L.A. School Superintendent Folds on Laptops-For-Kids Program
Back in the day, kids were given textbooks. Six classes of textbooks cost $600-$800. They get lost, damaged, and cost a fair amount of money to keep up with. Some districts try to force the teacher to pay for books lost by the students.

If we assume that students still need textbooks, giving those textbooks on an iPad or similar device can be cost efficient. If the student buys a keyboard, the iPad can do much of what they student would do on a regular computer. One can even teach the basics of programming or web development on the iPad, if there is a server running somewhere they can telnet to.

Of course the iPad is different from a book because the iPad is worth real hard cash, and the market for stolen iPads is robust. That is a hard problem to solve. It is the same problem with calculators. Students steal them and sell them.

At some point education will enter the 21st century and kids will have computers, and we will just each the cost of stolen machines. If we are to have a trained workforce, kids need to learn to use computers as tools, and that requires an acquaintance with them. We have not had a powered machine quite like the computer. The closest thing would be the car, but the car is not a general work device.

The biggest problem to educating our children is the idea that 'they don't need a computer'. I am fortunate in that in the 80's my family did not believe that. If they did I would be as ignorant and underemployed as so many who graduated in the last century are.

Comment: Re:FDA == slow progress too (Score 2) 80

by fermion (#49051867) Attached to: Unearthing Fraud In Medical Trials
Also the washington post reports a John Oliver story that most pharma companies spend more on marketing than research. A number of stories has come out over the past few years indicated that phramcos essentially pay doctors to prescribe their drugs.

The real issue here is the idea that medical science is in fact a science. It may have elements of science, but if science is to flourish we must root for the null hypothesis, and there is no incentive in medical science to so do.

No, everyone want to believe the snake oil works. The desperate patient who wants to believe the snake oil will magically cure the illness. The doctor who is going to be paid a huge sum of money to promote the drugs. The legislators who need to win the next election. The regulators who want to get a job after they do their government stint.

I would support allowing risky drugs to be used for terminally ill patients, even children. What I don't support is the routine use of drugs we know are dangerous, and then the litigation after the fact, which arguably a major reason drugs are more expensive. Don't put dangerous drugs on the market, and the pharmcos would save billions, if not ten of billions.

Comment: Re:What do you expect? (Score 1) 252

by fermion (#49013375) Attached to: AP Test's Recursion Examples: An Exercise In Awkwardness
I looked at the AP exam a while back. I found it to be, like so many AP exams,too much trivia and minutia for my tastes. I am all for a clever well written exam, such exams can be a wonderful teaching tool, but it can be taken to extreme. Plus we are making the same mistake we made with pascal, choosing a language for pedagogy rather than practical application.

I myself was taught FORTRAN when I was 14 in a one year high school course. The first grading period we solved problems, wrote algorithms, learned the vagaries of pre-pc computing, and learned to behave. Then we spent the rest of year learning FORTRAN, complete with coding sheets I picked up at the university bookstore.

This included recursion, and we used the only reasonable example one can give a high school student. The Fibonacci series. I assume that everyone has coded this by the time they 18. Like the swap function.

It is not so much that there are not simple and meaningful things kids can code to learn the proper technique. It is just that most of these are already part of the library, so kids are going to balk or copy or just not do it. For instance it would be great for kids to learn linear algebra by coding it, but how we can justify it when the row reduction is already part of most libraries.

Here is a little bit of AP trivia. In AP Physics they want kids to collect data and practice a least squares fit by hand. They note that computers do this now, but it is good experience. It is like AP CS. The kids are not being trained in basics, so they really don't know how anything really works. CS should be a craft, physics should be a process, but it is not always being taught that way.

Comment: Re:He should have seen that coming. (Score 4, Insightful) 327

by fermion (#49008109) Attached to: Swatting 19-Year-Old Arrested in Las Vegas
I find that some kids are just well protected. They never have to really deal with the consequences of their actions. We have seen some high profile cases where a kid gets to college, do some stupid thing, hacking, drinking, sex, and because they have never had to deal with consequences they fall apart, even commit suicide. In this case, who knows what other trouble he has caused and how he has been protected from consequences.

It is unfortunate the the law has to be called in because the kid did not have the guidance or the sense to stop anti social actions on his own.

Comment: retcon much? (Score 4, Interesting) 99

by fermion (#49005897) Attached to: The Man Who Invented the Science Fiction Paperback
A lot of this had to do with WWII and advancements in technology. WWII produced an increased literate adults who in turn produced children who read. It also lead to a shift in the demographics of readers, namely more men read, which lead to their sons reading. In the 1940's this was mostly lead by magazines who published short stories, novella, or series of science fiction written by most of the names we know from the classic period of science fiction.

One of these authors that was writing before 1950 was Robert Heinlein who first published in 1947 and had established serious science fiction by the mid 1950's.

What lead to the popularization of science fiction, arguably, was the technological innovation in print. That is, printing paperbacks was cheap enough so that even if very few books sold, it was still possible to at least break even. The advent of the paper back is like the advent of direct to video movie. Lower risk, more titles, profits are driven by the few that sell well, the rest are pulped.

So this is what those publishing houses invented. Pulp Fiction.

Take your work seriously but never take yourself seriously; and do not take what happens either to yourself or your work seriously. -- Booth Tarkington