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Comment: The important question... (Score 3, Interesting) 81

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49498339) Attached to: Incorrectly Built SLS Welding Machine To Be Rebuilt
The article does not mention where the cost of this error is going to fall. This seems like an important detail. On a sufficently complex project, one of the bevy of subcontractors fucking something up isn't a huge surprise; but I would be very, very, disappointed if NASA wasn't able to contract sufficiently vigorously to make the vendor eat the cost of delivering the goods as specified, rather than paying them for their effort no matter how well or badly they do.

Comment: Re:Yeah, why not looking for ant-tools? (Score 1) 86

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49495677) Attached to: World's Oldest Stone Tools Discovered In Kenya
Alas, the only known emergent sentience is the one that exists in the neuron colony inside each of our skulls; but there are some pretty damn cool sub-sentient emergent behaviors even in quite limited organisms. Bacteria in biofilms do some very impressive things, as do slime molds when they form masses.

It's too bad that (to the best of my knowledge, and I've hunted a bit), no organisms have evolved to exploit RF signalling. It's not inconceivable, loads of organisms use electrical signalling internally, a fair number have magnetic sensory structures, and a variety of common metals are amenable to biological chemistry if you need a better antenna; but that's the sort of thing that would make linking multiple nervous systems with reasonable speed and without direct contact possible.

Comment: Re:Buyer's remorse (Score 1) 319

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49495603) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
I would hope that, should any impropriety be found in the contracting process, that the superintendent and any collaborators are dealt with as harshly as possible.

As for Apple, I'd be curious to know how much terminating the deal would involve for them. Obviously they'd rather have the sales than not; but there is a big difference between 'not making sales we had previously expected to make' and 'large piles of used inventory being returned and/or inventory prepared for this specific contract now without a destination.'

Particularly if it is only the former, Apple might well cave(not for honor's sake; but because an 'iPads in Education Program a Giant Clusterfuck; Lawsuits Fly!' is not a headline that Apple PR wants running any longer than necessary); if it's the latter they might be harder to convince.

Comment: Re:Sign off. (Score 1) 319

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49495547) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
In fairness to Apple, they have been working to improve the situation, and things are better now; but the state of the possible when this program started(~2 years ago) was rather less pleasant. They started tightly wedded to the 'device basically has one user, who has an account directly with Apple and a CC number on file' model; and it has been a rather slow path to getting support for a model where things like 'applications owned by the institution' actually works smoothly.

Apple's first-party support for remote management is still better than Android's; but their grip is tight enough that it is them or nothing, while Android is all over the map; but 3rd parties can actually offer options without the keys to the OS.

Comment: Re:Sign off. (Score 1) 319

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49495447) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
Wow, asking you to do the work so that they can deliver a sales pitch is really, really, nervy.

Are you running something in-house(or off the shelf but fairly heavily specialized) enough that they couldn't just put together an equivalent test environment on their end and use that for the sales pitch, or are they actually that lazy and entitled?

We certainly deal with doing the various things required to make what our users choose work; that's sort of what they pay us for; but I wouldn't have imagined a salesweasel demanding that I set up their tech demo for them.

Comment: Hasn't it always? (Score 4, Insightful) 175

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49488277) Attached to: Cyanogen Partners With Microsoft To Replace Google Apps
Hasn't the future of 'open' android always looked bleak, more or less by design? At the bottom of the stack, we have SoC vendors who don't give a damn, handset OEMs who don't give a damn and/or actively prefer that older handsets remain as outdated as possible so you'll buy something new, and carriers who have largely the same incentives as handset vendors; but with their own crapware. This ensures that hardware support is spotty and typically weak for anything except whatever the device shipped with(and it's a moot point on the cryptographically locked devices). Markedly worse than the PC world in terms of vendor helpfullness or ability to do much of anything without a BSP or cobbling blobs together from vendors with slightly longer update support windows.

From the top of the stack, the 'free' parts of android are basically Google's hardware abstraction layer for google play services, and getting steadily more so.

Comment: Re:Buyer's remorse (Score 4, Informative) 319

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49487839) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
I can't digg up the original contract to check; but some of the stories state that they are going to Apple because the deal was to purchase 'iPad+software', as a packaged product, from Apple. By all accounts Pearson was the significant weak link (not a shock, that's pretty typical for them), while Apple's stuff suffered only from the fairly pitiful state of iOS management; but the school district didn't structure the deal as 'Contract #1, buy ipads, Contract #2, buy textbook apps'; it was a package, and their claim is that half the package was rotten and the other half is of little use to them without the underdelivered component.

Given that Apple is reputed to be a brutal and efficient taskmaster of its suppliers, I'd imagine that either the school district will fail, or Apple will gouge it out of Pearson; but to the best of my understanding there is logic behind complaining to Apple, given the terms under which the devices were purchased.

Comment: Re:It's the school's fault (Score 1) 319

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49487721) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
If you are working on the (probably bullshit) theory that these devices improve educational outcomes, there is a civil rights interest in ensuring that students who made poor prenatal choices still have the opportunity to get a decent education.

However, that assumption is under-supported(even if they were free, it's not news that electronic gizmos are good for slacking off with, so they might have a negative effect unless the school actually has a good plan in mind; and since they aren't free, they are being chosen to the exclusion of other possible educational aids), and if it doesn't happen to be true; then there isn't much of a civil rights case for access to toys. If anything, devices for slacking off probably amplify the effects of differing qualities of home life, since parental attention will have a major effect on how much slacking you can get away with.

Comment: Re:Sign off. (Score 4, Insightful) 319

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49487579) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
The superintendent at the time 'resigned' over the controversy; but depending on the outcome of the FBI's ongoing investigation into the circumstances of the bidding process, he may or may not be looking at further consequences.

Pearson is a company that brings a sort of defense contractor vibe to the educational sector. They are huge, superb at landing contracts, excellent at writing contracts that promise somewhat less than they appear to; but not so hot on delivering, much less on time or on budget.

Anyone buying a zillion ipads for school children without realizing that they'll be using them mostly to screw around on the internet within about five minutes is certainly an idiot; and Pearson certainly can't take the blame for that; but their failure to deliver some curriculum slurry and a terrible textbook app or two within the agreed upon time? That's the sort of thing they do.

Comment: Re:Hmmm .... (Score 1) 113

It would not much fail to surprise me if it wasn't done this way; but something like those seatback location/direction displays require relatively little data transfer(you wouldn't need more than the 4800 baud NMEA spew you'd get from a standard GPS device, and you could likely get away with less) and no responses from the seatback unit; so you could do everything you'd need over an isolated, intrinsically unidirectional, link.

Put the avionics on the emitter side of an optoisolator, blindly blinking out location and heading data, the controller for the seatback entertainment system on the receiver side, listening, and you get an arrangement where there simply isn't anything to attack at the software level(you could probably hose in flight entertainment for the entire aircraft one way or another; but boredom isn't very lethal); and where physical attacks might be possible; but (by choosing an optoisolator and the location of the interface between the critical and noncritical side) can be made quite difficult.

Comment: Re:Yeah, why not looking for ant-tools? (Score 1) 86

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49477197) Attached to: World's Oldest Stone Tools Discovered In Kenya
Ants are awesome; but really a different flavor: they(along with termites) manage to get extremely impressive results from emergent behavior among swarms of really, really, dumb individuals. Very cool, particularly fascinating if you are trying to get good results from multiple agents without tacking on an unweildy command and control system.

The sort of tool use in TFA is interesting because it suggests fairly advanced cognition(and sometimes communication and transmission of learned techniques). Ants aren't so hot at that.

Comment: Re:Who cares about this guy? (Score 2) 236

by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (#49472855) Attached to: Chess Grandmaster Used iPhone To Cheat During Tournament
Oh no, his behavior was a flagrant violation of the rules; and they can selectively destroy his ability to interact with 8x8 black and white tiled surfaces using a cold war mycotoxin for all I care.

If anything, my intended thesis(that even a relatively weak or computationally limited computer could be a substantial aid to a reasonably skilled human) suggests that even modest machine assistance is quite dramatic cheating in terms of allowing you to beat people above your skill level. Being reasonably good just serves to make the computer's job markedly easier in this case, which then allows it to make your job markedly easier, which defeats the point of involving humans at all.

"You stay here, Audrey -- this is between me and the vegetable!" -- Seymour, from _Little Shop Of Horrors_