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Comment: Re:Photos still stuck in... (Score 3, Informative) 173 173

by hankwang (#50007039) Attached to: Disney Bans Selfie Sticks

Problem is that these photographers are still stuck in the 20th century, and will give you a printout.

They changed the photo business in the biggest attraction park in the Netherlands, quite recently. They used to charge EUR 10 or so for a single printout. Now they sell you a 4 GB USB stick for EUR 20 which you can load with up to 15 (?) photos and which you can re-use on a next visit until some expiration date. And afterwards, you can use it as any other USB stick. I thought it was pretty reasonable. It was the first time ever I paid for photos in an attraction park.

Comment: Re:GMOs have so many different problems (Score 1) 187 187

"I will agree that with the rate of technological change today, the current 20 year protection is ridiculous. Technologies are typically woefully outdated by the time patents expire. IMHO patents should last significantly less time than currently (say 5 years or so),"

A farmaceutical product can well take much longer than that between the time the compound was discovered and the time it has passed all clinical trials and gets approval.from the authorities.

I work in the high-tech industry, where it can easily take 5 years between the first conception and the actual sale of the product. Only for small, incremental changes of existing technology, we sometimes get below 2 years.

The patent system is broken IMO, but not because of the 20-year term. The threshold for patentability is way too low IMO. Every big player in the industry is aggressively patenting every little idea just because the others do the same and nobody wants to be bitten in the ass by a competitor's patent or a patent troll. (I am personally in a strange position,since my employer provides various incentives to generate IP, so I end up contributing to the systemic problem.)

Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 4, Insightful) 401 401

by hankwang (#49927207) Attached to: European Court: Websites Are Responsible For Users' Comments

"The case in question is regarding defamatory comments posted to a site that the victim went to court over. The courts ordered that the content be taken down. The lazy assed website owners took SIX WEEKS to remove the content."

No. RTFJ(udgment), under the chapter "FACTS".

The comments were removed the day the complaint came in, at which time the comments had been online for 6 weeks. This happened in 2006, by the way. The website had a mechanism for users to flag comments; apparently the complaining party had not used that and demanded monetary compensation at the first contact.

The judgment is surprisingly legible, though rather long. Much better than the average EULA. I didnn't read past the description of initial events. I'm sure that it also explains why this particular website owner was held responsible.

Comment: Re:NSA removing PRISM taps (Score 4, Informative) 168 168

by hankwang (#49922181) Attached to: FBI Investigating Series of Fiber Cuts In San Francisco Bay Area

While the owner is detecting the problem, isolating where it is on the fibre and sending out crews to fix it, the tap is applied in the second location, along with suitable repairs and whatnot.

I'd say that finding out where it is on the fiber is done by measuring the time it takes for a light pulse to reflect off the disturbance and converting that to distance. If the distances measured from both ends of the fiber do not add up to the length of the fiber, the owner of the fiber should get very suspicious. Would the eavesdropper take that risk?

According to a friend of mine who's into fiber optics, tapping a fiber can be done without interrupting the fiber. If you bend a single-mode fiber, it will leak light, which is relatively easy to capture. The resulting signal loss of a few dB is likely to go unnoticed.

Comment: Re:Weak encryption = No encryption. No exceptions. (Score 1) 108 108

by hankwang (#49883553) Attached to: US Tech Giants Ask Obama Not To Compromise Encryption

"You cannot make encryption only weak for the "good" guys. It simply doesn't work that way and wishing will not make it otherwise"

The broken elliptic-curve random generator actually had such a feature: it was likely that the NSA has a secret key that could be used to recover the internal state of the random generator. However, recovering this secret key was impossible for all practical purposes.

For encryption, one could demand that encrypted data includes a header that contains the key to decrypt the data, that key being encrypted using a public key provided by the "good guys". Voila, the good guys can decrypt your data and the bad guys cannot.

Comment: Re:Fear of guns (Score 2) 535 535

by hankwang (#49855063) Attached to: Stormtrooper Arrested

Even if you are not very familiar with guns, you'd have to be pretty obtuse to mistake [a stormtrooper gun for a 9 mm gun]. If you can't tell the difference between them, then you probably wouldn't be able to distinguish a gun from a stick.

Of course, it's obvious to anyone that a stormtrooper gun is not a standard 9 mm gun. But that's not the point. The question is whether it's reasonable to assume that anyone would be able to tell in an instant that there exists no firearm that looks like a stormtrooper gun. I would surely be scared as hell if a stranger pointed that thing at me.

Here in the Netherlands, it's illegal to carry something in public that could reasonably be mistaken for an actual firearm. That's why toy guns here are invariably made of bright-colored plastic. I believe that this policy has prevented quite a few (fatal) misunderstandings.

Comment: App permissions (Score 1) 106 106

by hankwang (#49793923) Attached to: Android M To Embrace USB Type-C and MIDI

"Feature request: manually set app permissions please."

From TFA: "You don't have to agree to permission that don't make sense to you. Now, apps will ask when you first start them which device functions they want access to. You can pick and choose on a per-app basis what is permissible."

It's about time...

Comment: Re:Computers Kill Trees (Score 1) 128 128

by hankwang (#49788859) Attached to: Computer Chips Made of Wood Promise Greener Electronics

Your EPA document is about sequestration rates PER TREE in (sub)urban setting. Under such circumstances, the CO2 sequestration rate would depend mostly on the amount of sunlight that it can capture, which increases as the tree grows. A typical urban tree looks like a short stick with a strongly branched green ball on top.

In a production forest, trees are planted closely together and compete with each other for light. You'd expect the photosynthesis rate per unit of ground area to level off once a full leaf coverage is reached, which could well happen within 20 years. My idea of a production forest is lots of tall stems with little branching, most leaves near the top, and not enough light to support plant growth at ground level.

Secondary effects could be that the trees waste more energy on forming new leaves every spring that capture a smaller and smaller fraction of the sunlight as the competition for light increases. That could well lead to a reduction in net sequestration rate over time.

To me it seems plausible that you're both correct, but comparing apples and oranges.

Comment: Re:How? (Score 2) 333 333

by hankwang (#49721047) Attached to: Genetically Engineered Yeast Makes It Possible To Brew Morphine
"any home brewer can replicate the yeast with ease." I wouldn't be so sure of that. If this yeast is slow to replicate compared to wild yeast strains that float around in the air, it may be quite difficult to keep your strain from getting outcompeted by other strains unless you have a cleanroom facility at home.

Comment: Re:Sheerwind "bladeless" wind generators (Score 1) 164 164

by hankwang (#49709513) Attached to: Wind Turbines With No Blades

This Sheerwind Invelox sets off my BS meter as well. The Venturi effect (a special case of the Bernoulli principle) won't magically let you harvest more energy then what was already in the airflow. In a Venturi device, flow velocity increases temporarily in exchange for a pressure drop (to less than atmospheric pressuee). Downstream, the velocity lowers and the kinetic energy exchanged back into pressure, reaching atmospheric pressure. If you were able to harvest the kinetic energy, you would end up with a slow gas velocity and still subatmospheric pressure, which wouldn't be able to flow back into the atmosphere.

This is also worth reading: http://www.gizmag.com/dodgy-wi...

Comment: Re:160 characters to die for (Score 1) 247 247

by hankwang (#49566481) Attached to: The Engineer's Lament -- Prioritizing Car Safety Issues

"Folks walk out into traffic staring at the samsung. Go 10 blocks in Manhattan, you will get at least a dozen of these folks. No spatial awareness at all."

If you're on foot, you can usually have pretty good spatial awareness of cars from your ears. Doesn't work well for bicycles and e-cars at low speed, though.

When I'm cycling abroad (I'm from Netherlands) on the countryside, it's weird how some car drivers seem to think that it's necessary to announce themselves by honking the horn even though I could already identify them as truck, passenger car, or agricultural vehicle before they were aware of me.

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