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Comment: Bitcoin's use (Score 1, Redundant) 42

by DrYak (#49343263) Attached to: UK Setting Itself Up To Be More Friendly To Bitcoin Startups

I'm still struggling to see what the benefit for me would be? I have little need for making anonymous payments,

Anonymity isn't what crypto currencies provide. In fact, far from the opposite: Their whole structure is based on publicly broadcasting every transaction, that then everyone in the network store in its local copy of the common ledger (= into the blockchain). At best your can call it "pseudonymous" (wallets are identified by a base32 hash. it's not obvious at first look which real person is behind a wallet, just like the username on a forum doesn't immediately looks tied to an identity).

The main argument for bitcoin is decentralisation: because everyone has a copy of the blockchain, every one can verify that a transaction is legit and did indeed happen. There is no need for a central authority. Things are kept in balance by the whole network, no single entity can take control. (Unless they control 51% of all mining hash power).

Another peculiarity which stems from the above is that you aren't bound to any specific company. As long as both ends of a transaction support the bitcoin protocole, they can do whatever transaction suits them.
(you could be using a web-based coin payment processor like coinbase, i could be using a wallet running locally on my machine like bitcoin.org's own, and we can still exchange BTCs)

international transfers are reasonably fast, cheap and convenient these days. {...} for local purchases iDeal (the Dutch banks' online payment solution) is better,

Well, we are both in Europe, so thanks to SEPA we already have reasonably fast and cheap transfers, that can work between any participating banks (I don't need to be at the same bank as you, or even in the same country. Because your dutch and my swiss bank are both participating in SEPA, we can send each other funds).

But that's not the case everywhere else.

Also, even if they are relatively fast, they still take between 24 and 72 inside the same country, and a few days up to a week for international payment. That makes it still usable for ordering goods around, for example.

One of the small advantage of bitcoin protocol is that it works much faster: between a few minutes up to half an hour at worst. Between any end-point wherever on the world as long as both support the protocol. That makes it usable for buying services.
It gives the easy and quick possibilities of cash transaction (here's your 5EUR note).
- but without the limitation of needing physical present (I can't send a 5EUR note over e-mail)
- and without relying necessarily on a third party or the same 3rd party.

One benefit is not having to give online merchants my full credit card details {...} and for international orders I can almost always use PayPal for that.

Yet still, these are form of payment where there is one single company in charge or supervising everything (most credit cards issued by banks will rely on the VISA or MasterCard companies). When paying an online merchant through a credit card, you need to have a credit card at the same company (e.g.: MasterCard) and that company is going to charge you both for the transaction.
Also, the company can decide to stop receiving payments (see Visa and MasterCard deciding to stop processing donations to WikiLeaks).

Same with PayPal: a single company, requires that both ends of the transaction use paypal.
Is known for making troubles and locking account on a very regular base.
And very often, you need to give your credit cards info to paypal anyway, in order to be able to add funds to your paypal account.

One of the reason bitcoin gained some traction, is to work around the blocking of funds by Paypal and credit card companies.

That's not the case, neither with SEPA as you mentioned in Europe, nor with bitcoins.
I could by exchanging my BTCs with CHFs face-to-face by meeting people (like localbitcoins) and sending them using a wallet running on my laptop. You could be storing them on your wallet of a big exchange platform (like BTC-e) and convert them back to euros there. Or one of us could be using a payment processor like coinbase, or whatever.

Beats mucking around with out of date block chains and/or crooked exchanges (though some people would put Paypal in that category).

Well atleast, unlike paypal, you can choose your poison.

Comment: Author vs. content (Score 5, Interesting) 515

by DrYak (#49328819) Attached to: A Bechdel Test For Programmers?

This even stupider, because the original "Bechdel Test" is about the *content* of the movie.

i.e.: the Alien movie discussed in Bechdel's comics happens to have been written and directed by guys. But none the less, it depicted strong female caracters, who actually have motivations, goals, etc. of their own.
the female *characters* of the movie aren't passive decorations, they are not only here to observe (or obsess about) the guys, they have a life of they own, their actions are here to move the plot forward.

counter exemple: you can probably find tons of romantic film or novels, written by author which happen to be female, but completely fail the test as their female protagonists are more or less only here for the sole purpose of falling in love with male caracters.

This "Programmer's test" is stupid because it only considers the *author* of code.
An author should be judged solely based on the quality of the work produced, no matter what sets of reproductive organs the author happens to be equipped with.
What should be judged in theory, is the depiction of gender role in the produced work. As code is sexless, there is no point in that. It doesn't depict roles or creates models for future generation, in merely gives instruction to hardware.

Comment: Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

Most scientist that influence politics are social scientists, political scientists, medicine, theologians, philosophers, economists, and historians.

You think historians are scientists? Really? Theologians? Seriously?

I did have a fairly detailed reply in mind. Then I read that little gem and decided that there was nothing I could say that would make you look stupider than you do right now.

I'm going to go talk to the grown-ups. Do feel free to have the last word.

Comment: Re:here's some statistics (Score 1) 764

by Khopesh (#49324061) Attached to: A Software Project Full of "Male Anatomy" Jokes Causes Controversy

This is the fallacy of small numbers, a.k.a. hasty generalization. There weren't many CS majors (of either gender) in the 80s, so the gender ratio will be less representative of a real trend (consider flipping ten coins. Your probability of getting 50% heads isn't as good as it would be if you flipped a thousand coins). Most of my software engineer peers who got degrees in that era actually studied other fields, such as math or electrical engineering.

That said, the drop from 10-15 years ago is completely valid and this is indeed a problem.

(disclaimer: I did not listen to that story and I don't have stats at the ready to prove my observations)

Comment: Re:Is the smartwatch fad stillborn? (Score 1) 60

Some tech writers have made this point already, and I probably won't get it out as clearly as they have, but the problem with smartwatches and our perception of them is that we're thinking about them in the here and now, and not in the future. Microsoft (well, Ballmer) famously laughed at the iPhone as too expensive and useless before it took off and crushed the Microsoft Mobile business into dust. He was thinking of the here and now, and not the future.


I think there's a difference though. When the iPhone came out it had this tremendous aura of Cool about it. I say that as someone who is in no way an Apple fan. I think just about everyone (or everyone who didn't have a vested interest in a competing product) could see that.

This is where Apple's so-called fanboys can be used to bootstrap a tech shift that would've taken much longer otherwise. When enough people start wearing these watches, they'll start to have more applications.

The thing is, I don't get that "Cool" vibe from these watches at all. I mean if the bootstrapping effect takes off then that's great, but I'll be surprised if they have the impetus needed to carry the change. Maybe I'm just not part of the target audience :)

Comment: Getting Older (Score 1) 4

by chill (#49305869) Attached to: Are printed books' days numbered?

I've been finding that reading e-books is *more* popular among the older crowd. The Kindles, Nooks and reading on tablets allows people to adjust font sizes and zoom in ways that making reading pleasurable once again.

Also, try picking up a backpack from a middle schooler when they have it full of their books. They're back breakers. My daughter switched to e-books in college and loves them for the simple fact she isn't going to strain something just to lug them around.

Paper books will survive, but start to get relegated to niche status -- especially for anything technical or lots of non-fiction. That stuff becomes obsolete so fast I'd rather have the electronic, up-to-date versions.

Comment: Re:Politicans don't understand science (Score 1) 320

There are a lot "constitutional democracies", in particular in Europe, that try to limit power to an intellectual elite.

I suppose we could start to have a "my-country-has-a-better-system-of-government-than-your-country" argument. I can't quite see how it would be either relevant or helpful, however. Perhaps if we stick to the matter at hand?

Of course, politics should say something about science: it should pick which scientific theories to believe and decide what policies to derive from them.

Of course. Someone with no scientific background and whose main priorities are getting re-elected and protecting the corporate issues of his campaign contributors is going to be much better placed to make objective assessments than someone whose training and career has been about quantifying objective phenomena. Yup. Totally buying that one.

Where did I say that they weren't "allowed to tell anybody"?

You said "scientists should not become politicians and they should not favor or advocate particular policies". If you say "should not" in the context of politics and lawmaking, you may well find that a lot of people interpret that as a call for sort of legislation or other prohibition.

There is a difference between telling people "an asteroid is going to hit earth" and "I want a law doing X".

If a scientist says "a giant asteroid is going to hit Earth" you can bet that someone will say "you're only saying that to force us to spend money on space exploration. Also the asteroid doesn't exist and will probably miss". Any public statement will be taken as a political one by someone who feels the data works against their interests.

As such, there are no purely neutral scientific publications. And the only way a scientist can stay aloof from accusations of politics is to remain silent.

Why is it always about "forbidding" with you people?

See previous point about "should not" in the context of politics. Perhaps you haven't been explaining yourself as clearly as you might have wished?

Scientists can do whatever they want, but as a society we should recognize that people who lobby for laws cease being responsible scientists and treat them accordingly.

We could apply that more broadly. I mean doctors are pretty much scientists. We should probably ignore them when formulating medical policy. Likewise we should probably not give any special consideration to teachers when it comes to Education. And we'll probably have to stop all those lawyers from exerting undue influence over lawmaking. And stop the bankers and financiers from influencing fiscal policy.

OK, so those last two almost seem like good ideas. I still think it wouldn't work :)

Actually, I really do think that's just an opinion.

No, sadly, it's historical fact.

Umm, which bits? The "all politicians are venal and corrupt" part? Or the implication that "only the political left has abused science in support of genocide, racism or political extremism"?

There may be facts in there somewhere, but I really don't think they come close to supporting the conclusion you appear to have drawn. Sorry, but it remains just your opinion.

Comment: Dell (Score 3, Informative) 385

by DrYak (#49288491) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Laptop To Support Physics Research?

As a postdoc and starting faculty member I used to have a Dell and it was blazingly fast but required a huge amount of tweaking to get power management and shutdown working (and ultimately these never really worked well at all).

If you want to use a Dell, I would advise to pick one from the "Business" line of products (Lattitude), instead of the "End-User" line (Precision).
Although they sometime don't have the latest bells and whistles, they tend to be much more supported, both hardware-wise (easier to find replacement parts later on) and software-wise (easier to get Linux running reliably on them).

I have a Latitude E6510.

Yes, we will be going to OSI, Mars, and Pluto, but not necessarily in that order. -- Jeffrey Honig