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Comment: Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (Score 1) 662

by mpe (#46764901) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy
In other words, causes, no matter how big, don't really get power until they can pay enough to be taken seriously. That might mean lobbying, marketing, or awareness campaigns, but it still takes money to look like your cause has merit.

I wonder how many of these groups first use their influence to gain a source of public funding. Which would entrench their position.

Comment: Re:The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Score 1) 271

Heinlein's 1966 classic The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is wonderful and visionary on many levels but still tripped over some contemporary assumptions. Like one big computer ran everything, including the phone system. It could synthesize audio but it had to jump through fancy hoops to do video.

The other assumption made here was that it wasn't too difficult to create a functional AI. Something which modern authors don't tend to consider as easy as producing video good enough to fool people.

Comment: Re:It was a "joke" back then (Score 1) 271

Most authors back in Asimov's day saw the world like that - astrogators using books of navigation tables, slide rules, taking sextant readings from the stars, etc.

An obvious example of this would Heinlein's "Starman Jones" from 1953. Where the use of such tables forms a critical part of the plot. With the real Apollo Guidance Computer being far more "user friendly" :)

Comment: Re:It was a "joke" back then (Score 1) 271

So one person guesses in the mid-19th century that we will have horseless carriages in the future--but also thinks they'll run on steam engines and cause great depletion of our wood and coal supplies.

The first steam driven vehicles date from the early 19th century. One of the problems with the London Steam Carriage (of 1803) was that it cost more to run than a horse drawn carriage (needing a fireman in addition to a driver.) There were steam cars built which used liquid (petroleum based) fuels too.

Another person forsees an interstate highway system, but thinks it will be used for giant horse-drawn land trains.

By the mid 19th century nobody would seriously consider trains drawn by anything other than a locomotive.
Even around the turn of the 20th century there was plenty of competition between steam, internal combustion (both types) and electric engines when it came to "horseless carriages". Ironically a century old electric car can have a similar range to a modern one.

Comment: Re:WHAT? (Score 1) 723

by mpe (#46747313) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful? "A car alternator is a bad choice for a wind generator. The efficiency in normal use is never more than about 60 percent."

Wind is a poor way to generate electricity in the first place. Since the available power varies randomly. Even the most primative of steam engines would be a better choice.

Comment: Re:Microsoft wants more money again (Score 1) 322

by mpe (#46736225) Attached to: IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches
Windows 7 has been hands-down more solid and stable. In the 4.5 years I have been running it, on 5 PCs, I can count the number of BSODs I've had on one hand -- and those are typically attributable to unstable, unsigned device drivers.

5 PCs is no kind of "enterprise" setup. There's also no way to directly upgrade from XP to 7. The only way is a reinstall then finding out which applications still work with 7. Worst case senario being applications which install without any obvious issues, start up apparently fine, but certain functionional is either missing or different. Or maybe applications need to be "upgraded" with the new version being functionally different.

Comment: Re:Windows XP did not instantly become unsafe Apri (Score 1) 322

by mpe (#46736183) Attached to: IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches
It is like if you buy a car from a Toyota dealership. It comes with a 3 year warranty, Toyota fix things that break on the car for 3 years. After 3 years they no longer provide free repairs, and you *gasp* must pay to have things fixed and replaced.

Plenty of places have laws that require goods to be of "reasonable quality".
In the case of a manufacturing defect these can be applicable for considerably longer than 3 years. (Possibly with seller, rather than maker, having to pay.)
A problem with software is that it can fall outside the scope of such laws. Even if it's sold as a "widget".

Comment: Re:Windows XP did not instantly become unsafe Apri (Score 1) 322

by mpe (#46736109) Attached to: IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches
Software doesn't have "mechanical" wear, but it has ongoing discovery of security vulnerabilities that require maintenance from the vendor. Delivering that maintenance costs money.

Such vulnerabilities can also be introduced by "maintenance". Also they can't be easily related to some metric of usage or time, unlike mechanical "wear".

Comment: Re:Drones are still too dumb (Score 3, Insightful) 214

by mpe (#46736049) Attached to: FAA Shuts Down Search-and-Rescue Drones
Here's a small Parrot drone at 1553 feet in the UK. It's little, but if it was sucked into a jet engine, the engine would definitely be damaged and might fail. In 2013, someone was flying a drone near JFK in New York and the drone had a near miss with a jetliner.

Unless drones were to start flying in large numbers of "flocks" they are unlikely to be as big a hazard to aircraft as birds.

Comment: Re:The FAA has no authority over low flying drones (Score 1) 214

by mpe (#46735991) Attached to: FAA Shuts Down Search-and-Rescue Drones
By the law, their authority starts at something like 700 feet. Stay below that and they have no business saying anything one way or the other about it.
These drones pose no threat to conventional aircraft because they operate at closer to ten thousand feet... not under 700.

You'd typically find aircraft operating down to zero feet at or near airports. Also aircraft performing things such as powerline surveys and firefighting can be flying very low. So there might be cause for concern. But obviously not a big worry if the FAA has effectivly sat on this for several years.

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