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Comment: I suppose... (Score 2) 72

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48907447) Attached to: Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters
Assuming that the obsolete compute modules are of standard size/pinout (or, more likely, that compute chassis are only produced for phones that ship in sufficiently massive volume to assure a supply of board-donors), this scheme would work; but I have to imagine that a phone SoC would make a pretty dreadful compute node: Aside from being a bit feeble, there would be no reason for the interconnect to be anything but abysmal. For efficiency's sake, SoCs tightly integrate all the parts that need to chat at high speed with one another(along with whatever else fits, just to save board space), and only such interfaces as are absolutely necessary are brought out of the package, much less broken out on the board in some sort of civilized connector. In terms of dedicated interfaces you'll have some dubiously appropriate wireless stuff, a USB slave or host/slave interface, and a few GPIOs. The only options with really serious bandwidth or low latency would probably involve creative(and not necessarily possible, depending on the situation) abuse of camera and screen interfaces.

For all those nice, tractable, problems that behave well on loosely coupled nodes, each individually quite feeble, I guess it'll work; but that certainly doesn't include most of the really obnoxious computational crunching problems.

Comment: Challenge Accepted. (Score 5, Insightful) 369

As much as I'm deeply displeased that the attitude would be 'give us what we want or we'll take it, Stasi-style'; I'd see a situation where the spooks are forced to resort to physical intrusion as a vast improvement.

Implicit in the GCHQ flack's 'threat' is the idea that totally invisible 'no touch' surveillance is somehow better and nicer. In the sense that it has better PR, and is easier to maintain (and on a massive scale) without public outcry or logistically overwhelming amounts of black-bag work, this is true. In terms of the relationship between the clandestine agencies and even the pretense of democratic government, though, I'd say that it's exactly the opposite.

If team spook has the advantage of technology for scale and efficiency, and is capable of invisibly watching more or less everything without any visible signs of having done so, you have about as imbalanced a situation as one could reasonably imagine. A perfect panopticon; but so subtle that you sound like some sort of schizo nutjob for suggesting that it is happening. If they actually have to break and bug, this will mean more physical intrusion; but it also creates a de-facto limit on how broadly they can pursue fishing expeditions, and how reasonably they can make the assumption that they will never be caught.

If what he says about more encryption is true; bring it on.

Comment: Re:Quadcopter (Score 4, Insightful) 142

That's (among the) downsides of our obsession with risk-minimization, overwhelming force, and technological supremacy. Whether it's using $40k hellfires to destroy rust-eaten technicals in hellholistan or calling out the bomb squad every time somebody tosses a paper airplane over the white house fence, we really need to maintain that economic superiority if we want to survive the sheer attrition.

Comment: The utterly obnoxious part... (Score 5, Insightful) 231

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48903627) Attached to: Verizon, Cable Lobby Oppose Spec-Bump For Broadband Definition
What I find utterly insufferable about this 'argument'(if it rises to a level where you can call it that) is how badly it misses the point:

Netflix and a few friends say that 25/3 is needed because a household might be streaming multiple things while running a cloud backup and doing some skyping or something. Verizon et al. say that such usage is atypical, and therefore everyone can take the status quo and like it.

In both cases, the most important bit is being ignored: new uses for bandwidth are not going to emerge(or are going to be academic and deep-pocketed-corporate curiosities) unless there is at least some prospect of bandwidth being available. Does 'today's typical use case' need 25/3? Probably not; because it was developed under the constraints of a market where 25/3 is markedly above average, so anyone developing products and services is condemning themselves to a niche if they require very high bandwidth, especially upstream.

If just doing what you did last year, forever, was good enough, 'broadband' would still involve an acoustic coupler. Chicken/egg.

Comment: Umm... (Score 4, Interesting) 78

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48902229) Attached to: SpaceX, US Air Force Settle Spy Sat Dispute
Maybe I just don't understand the bold postmodern reality where you can change things just by changing what you call them; but isn't a 'united alliance' between the two effective players in a market what we used to call a 'cartel'?

Is there some sort of argument in favor of it that gets trotted out with a straight face when someone asks if there was just too much 'ruinous competition' between Boeing and Lockheed, and some 'price stability' was badly needed, or is this purely a because we can sort of operation?

Comment: Re:Why is this a surprise? (Score 3, Insightful) 77

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48900105) Attached to: Fish Found Living Half a Mile Under Antarctic Ice

Considering all the extreme places we've found life on earth, I would actually have expected to find some.

I'm not a subject matter expert; but my surprise isn't "life"(there's some sort of extremophilic bacterium cracking molecules that would make a biologist cry and only a chemist would identify as a possible energy source basically anywhere we've been able to look); but that it's big, energetic life.

These probably aren't the world's peppiest fish; but even so, a fish is a big, demanding, multicellular, operation. Some sort of spore-former bacterium that wakes up and divides a couple of times every decade or two is one thing; but fish populations mean a fair amount of active cellular metabolism swimming around in what you would expect to be a very low-energy zone.

Comment: Critical mass? (Score 1) 463

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48899707) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?
Given the value of having other people using the same software that you are(they encourage commercial support and/or contribute to FOSS support, they sometimes save you a ghastly bug-slog by running into it before you do, the work that they start but don't finish, or that needs maintenance, may be your next job, etc.) isn't 'being underrated' itself a defect, however unfair it feels?

Ubiquity isn't always a good thing, especially if it makes it harder for everyone to distinguish between barely adequate crap and excellent stuff; but (with the specific exception of somebody who has mastered a specific set of skills and tools and would be very pleased for it to become an esoteric specialty just in time to land a few lucrative consulting gigs before retirement), are there really situations where you say to yourself "Yeah, Language X is great and all; but it would be better if there were fewer people using it, less incentive for commercial support or non-bitrotting FOSS support, less useful advice floating around, and fewer openings for people with a knowledge of it."?

It is obviously the case that a pure monoculture is not a recipe for success(barring a yet-to-be-invented language that can in fact be all things to all people, well); but a language that is good, possibly even modestly superior; but lacks some specialty feature of elegance and power, are you ever better off on the underrated one?

Comment: Re:Disintegration of the ecosystem (Score 3, Insightful) 114

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48897001) Attached to: Twitter Moves To Curb Instagram Links
In this case, it's actually rather impressive how badly the twits appear to have forgotten.

"Hey, let's select a group of our most influential users and then annoy them with an unexpected and minimally useful nag screen when they try to use our service!" is a plan that sounds like a joke, not a strategy; but apparently twitter is now doing exactly that. Are they really gambling that all those users are just morons who are too stupid to realize that twitter has a given set of features; but would totally love to embrace them over a competitor they already use if only they are nagged enough? That seems...a trifle optimistic.

Comment: Re:Interstellar missions... (Score 1) 210

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48890841) Attached to: At Oxford, a Battery That's Lasted 175 Years -- So Far
Some applications can get away with the 'trickle charge the capacitor, wake up and work quickly once the threshold voltage is hit' approach(works nicely for solar data logging, as long as you don't need moment-by-moment results); but a nanoamp is likely to fall below the self discharge rate of any capacitor of reasonable capacity; and would sleep for a long time even with an idealized 100% efficient capacitor.

Comment: Re:Not a lot of power. (Score 1) 210

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48890815) Attached to: At Oxford, a Battery That's Lasted 175 Years -- So Far
The durability is impressive. It's not like cleanroom fabrication and high-purity metallurgy were exactly top of the line in 1840, so I would have naively guessed that some mixture of corrosion and non-current-generating side reactions among impurities or airborne contaminants would have trashed it in less than a century, possibly a lot less, depending on the exact arrangement of the battery, even if the energy density is totally plausible in physics-experiment-land.

Comment: Re:Is there something wrong with me that .,.. (Score 1) 178

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48887567) Attached to: New Nicotine Vaccine May Succeed Where Others Have Failed
Snakebites are a bit of an edge case: the production of antivenoms essentially involves inducing an immune response (in a convenient, usually large, animal) and then extracting and purifying the neutralizing protein produced. So, it is very much the case that you can prime an immune system to recognize and respond to venom.

The trouble is that snakes tend to (in the case of actually dangerous snakebites, a dry strike is just a couple of puncture wounds) introduce a substantial amount of venom into the wound, and the venoms frequently kill (or cause nasty localized tissue destruction, there are lots and lots of neat variations) substantially faster than the human immune system can synthesize the necessary counteragent, even if the person has prior exposure.

An antivenom has the advantage of being a relatively massive amount of the correct counteragent, ready to be injected into the bloodstream faster than you could synthesize it yourself.

For the less dangerous venoms, and the lower-volume strikes, acquired immunity is more useful.

Comment: Re:what the vaccine actually do? (Score 1) 178

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48886331) Attached to: New Nicotine Vaccine May Succeed Where Others Have Failed
I've sometimes wondered whether the techniques used to produce vaccines against exogenous drugs could be modified to produce vaccines that suppress endogenous ones. If enforced nicotine withdrawl is unpleasant, I can only imagine that, say, losing the effect of endorphins might really ruin your day...

Comment: Re:Is there something wrong with me that .,.. (Score 1) 178

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#48886269) Attached to: New Nicotine Vaccine May Succeed Where Others Have Failed

I find this offensive?

We're spending science mind power, money and time researching a way to make a drug that replaces a persons weakness of character and lack of willpower. If you want to stop smoking, just stop. Don't buy cigarettes.

I feel that our culture is sliding away from any concept of holding people personally responsible for their own choices. If a person smokes, overeats, under-exercises - those are their choices. They must be held accountable.

Aside from the crass pragmatists' "Well, I bet I can develop a drug that compensates for weakness of character and lack of willpower faster than most of the population can develop strength of character and lots of willpower..." Why does this bother you?

Is there evidence that people actually develop more willpower(rather than just smoking more) when these 'replacements' are available? If there isn't, surely reduction in smoking related mortality is a win regardless of willpower, and even if there is; exactly how many people of weak character are on the acceptable losses list?

On the more theoretical side, would you condemn a drug that was actually a general-purpose willpower simulant? That actually gave the person taking it all the changes associated with 'strong will' while it is in their system? Or would you consider that to be a great breakthrough, a drug that produces a highly valuable personality trait?

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