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Comment: Re:I have an idea (Score 1) 148

by swillden (#48031437) Attached to: Apple Fixes Shellshock In OS X

While I'm a big fan of open source, that approach has real and obvious problems.

The problems show themselves just as much in software as anywhere else. e.g. People would much prefer to create new code than do code reviews or write tests, so defects in open source software linger around for a decade or two.

Exactly. The approach does have a lot of benefits, but there are some negatives as well.

Comment: Re:How important is that at this point? (Score 1) 150

by swillden (#48030139) Attached to: Adobe Photoshop Is Coming To Linux, Through Chromebooks

Both Windows (7) and Linux (Ubuntu 14 and Crunchbang). The problem with the UI isn't with window managers or other technical parts; it's the design of the UI. The way an excessive amount of buttons are seemingly randomly slapped together in a toolbar.

Meh. I don't think it's that random and in any case I have no trouble whatsoever with finding the buttons I need on any platform.

The way dialogs and popups don't follow platform styling.

Who cares? Okay, so it's prettier if it follows the platform styling, but the style has no impact on usability.

The way it defaults to a multi-window environment.

This is only a problem if you lack a good window manager with proper focus-follows-mouse behavior. On Linux, I prefer the multi-window environment. It's much more flexible, especially if your workflow includes needing to interact frequently with other apps.

Comment: Re:free will is not a religious idea (Score 1) 88

"no" is the answer, if you use legal definitions of 'free will' (or concepts similar to in practice)


ook, we're just going to have to agree to disagree about how actually feasable what you describe really's just so far out really is, from an engineering and psychology perspective, about as likely as humans being able to travel across the whole universe and through time

Nonsense. There is a fundamental difference between something that is barred by the laws of physics and something that is perfectly possible, but just beyond our current ability. Oh, it's possible that we'll discover new physics that make supralight and time travel possible (it's even possible that the same discovery will enable both), but it's more likely, I think, that both are simply disallowed by the laws of nature.

Construction of brains, however, is incontrovertibly not barred by any physical laws... because it's done many times every day.

if what you describe ever really is even on the horizon and we see that it may be done, then, IMHO, we can have a reason to have this debate for real

I don't think it's far off at all. I suspect that we'll understand and be able to construct artificial intelligence before we can replicate a human brain, but I don't think either is more than 100 years away.

idk if humans would even still be 'human' in an evolutionary sense by the time we could do what you describe

It's perfectly conceivable that we'll have achieved sufficient mastery of genetic engineering to begin modifying ourselves in non-trivial ways by then, so you may be right. But this, also, is not so far away.

Comment: Re:I have an idea (Score 1) 148

by swillden (#48027703) Attached to: Apple Fixes Shellshock In OS X

This sounds needlessly complicated. Let's just each do what we can for others in, say, seven hours on four days of every week, and leave the rest to our leisure.

So... you're suggesting that we apply the open source notion of "everyone works on what interests them" to all productive labor? While I'm a big fan of open source, that approach has real and obvious problems. Are you going to volunteer to maintain the sewage treatment plants?

Comment: Re:How important is that at this point? (Score 1) 150

by swillden (#48027457) Attached to: Adobe Photoshop Is Coming To Linux, Through Chromebooks

I can just about manage to get things done in GIMP, but it's not a pleasure; the UI is an utter mess.

On what platform?

I find that GIMP's UI is just fine with a proper window manager. On OS X it's very painful, though, and I would expect the same on Windows (dunno, I haven't used Windows in about 15 years).

Comment: Re:Statistical Literature (Score 1) 122

Oh, god. Mel Gibson's 1990 Hamlet was awful. It was the most asinine thing I've ever seen. Shakespeare for people who really *are* dummies. Reportedly it was director Franco Zeffirelli's attempt to make Shakespeare "less cerebral" and more accessible to the masses. What a choice to try that with! The whole point of Hamlet is that he's so damned smart the only person who can really stand in his way is him.

My point was that you've got to find an actor who can give a knowledgeable performance. Not some meat-head action star stunt cast miles out of his depth. I'd rather watch Arnold Schwarzenegger Hamlet.

I think the best film adaptation of Hamlet I've seen was Kenneth Branaugh's 1996 version, although it is long, long, long at 242 minutes (to Gibsons' 134 minutes). Olivier's 1948 Hamlet is generally highly regarded, but it's too sentimental for my taste. Haven't seen Derek Jacobi's 1980 BBC performance, but I've heard good things about it. I've seen snippets of the David Tennant Hamlet, and it looks promising, although it's hard to shake the impression that it's Dr. Who playing Hamlet.

Comment: Re:No he didn't (Score 5, Insightful) 194

by hey! (#48024477) Attached to: Man Walks Past Security Screening Staring At iPad, Causing Airport Evacuation

Exactly. Security screwed up, and then they HAD to deal with it. It's not mere security theater to have a security checkpoint. Those checkpoints are demonstrably important.

Not many of us remember, but until 1973 there was no baggage screening, no metal detectors, and no id requirements for getting on a commercial flight. The number of skyjackings had climbed rapidly since the mid-50s so that in 1972 there were 11 skyjackings of commercial flights around the world, seven in the US.

After security checkpoints were introduced in the US, there wasn't another skyjacking in the US for three years. Then an occasional one now and then, as people found loopholes. There was one passenger airliner hijacking of a flight FROM the US in all the 1980s and none in the 1990s.

My conclusion is that the security measures put in place by 1990 were highly effective. 9/11 fit the pattern of the early dribs-and-drabs hijackings, the difference is Al Qaeda made an effort to do multiple simultaneous exploitations of the vulnerability they'd found. There hasn't been a hijacking of a US flight since then, but given that the last passenger hijacking BEFORE 9/11 was in 1987, it's likely that this long dry spell is mostly if not entirely due to banning blades from carry on luggage. That's not to say that EVERY other change since then is security theater. I think reinforcing cockpit doors and changing pilot training was a reasonable response. But a lot of the enhanced pat-downs, magic scanners, no-fly list shennanigans and such are no doubt bogus.

Comment: Re:net metering != solar and 10% needs new physics (Score 1) 433

by hey! (#48024379) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Your analysis depends on two assumptions. First, that at the daily peak the amount of solar produced exceeds the total demand for electricity. That's actually quite likely to happen in the long term in certain locations -- sunny, densely developed residential neighborhoods for example -- but not in others -- in a neighborhood that has a steel mill. Maybe in the short term in a few places if the adoption of rooftop solar accelerates even more.

One of the ways to alleviate this would be to improve the distribution grid so that the excess supply could be sold further away. But lets say the day comes that the peak solar production exceeds the total electricity demand. That brings us to the second assumption.

The second assumption is that electricity is charged at a flat rate all day long. Clearly if lots of excess solar is being produced at noontime, you could easily reduce the cost you charge to electricity consumers (or pay back to electricity). We already do peak vs. off peak rates for industrial users.

This combination of grid improvements and reduced peak rates will encourage people and businesses to concentrate their power usage around noon. Maybe you'll charge our electric car at a higher rate, or maybe even charge large industrial or household batteries. The losses hardly matter, since we were throwing away the sunshine anyway. Increased noon usage will offset the tendency for electricity rates to fall during peak generation periods.

Am I saying the utilities won't lose a little money in a few isolated spots in the short term? No. What I'm saying is that we're hardly facing some kind of insurmountable singularity. Certainly not any time soon, nor in the long term if we can bring ourselves to prepare for it.

Comment: Re:Hodor (Score 2) 122

Martin will kill off an important character because he has no idea how to write a character arc out of a wet paper bag.

I actually don't think that's true. I think what you're reacting to comes with the epic scale of the novel (SoI&F really is just one, long, continuous work) -- both in word count and the enormous cast of characters. It's a kind of literary clutter. If you boiled Game of Thrones down to the story of Ned Stark's rise and downfall, that would be quite a satisfying (although grim) story arc. The fact that the story goes on and on after that dissipates the emotional impact of that one story line.

At over 1.7 million words currently, Song of Ice and Fire is more than six times as long as typical English translations of the Illiad and Odyssey combined. Think about that. In the time it took you to read just the first volume of Song of Ice and Fire, you could have read BOTH the Illiad and the Odyssey. And as a bonus you'd have read BOTH the Illiad and the Odyssey.

As works go further and further north of 200,000 words, they almost inevitably lose the tight, clockwork structure you expect in a 2 hour stage play or 70,000 word novel. Stories stop feeling like they have a beginning, middle, and end and start to feel more episodic. That happens to some stories well before they hit the 200,000 word mark (American Gods, 183 KWords).

At 473 KWords, Lord of the Rings is one of the rare exceptions. From Rivendell onward it's a marvel of complex yet tightly interwoven structure. But it's a hot steaming mess of false starts up until Ford of Bruinen. Tom Bombadil anyone? I think that it could probably be edited down to 400,000 words without losing much artistically. That's still almost miraculously long for a story that feels like one story.

I have a theory about episodic megastories like Song of Ice and Fire, which is that they aren't catharsis you get from a tightly plotted play or novel. They're about transporting a reader to a world he finds interesting to visit again and again. If so that bodes ill for the the Game of Thrones TV series now that Emilia Clarke has sworn off nude scenes.

Comment: Re:It's sad (Score 1) 383

Actually, they made it COVERT. They have other ways of finding your real name. Like, say, automatically parsing your emails. Or buying your name from the telco which provides your phone service.

You're assuming that getting your real name for their own use was ever Google's goal. I see no justification for that assumption. Even if you assume that Google cares to know your real name, those other options aren't new.

Comment: Re:Statistical Literature (Score 1) 122

I don't have to read Shakespeare in Klingon, reading him in the original english is enough to put me to sleep.

Some would say this doesn't deserved to be dignified with a response, but I disagree.

The best introduction to Shakespeares plays is to see them on stage, performed by actors who know how to perform Shakespeare. Because of the shift in language, there's special skill needed for presenting Shakespeare to modern audiences. You'll be amazed at how much you understand. Until you know the play's text you'll be missing a lot too, but in the performance you won't notice that.

I'd go so far as to say it's better to see a Shakespeare play performed first before attempting to read it. Then tackle the text with its footnotes on every line.

Comment: Re:Problem oriented (Score 1) 56

by hey! (#48022831) Attached to: How To Find the Right Open Source Project To Get Involved With

I tried this once. I installed a rather obscure open source app that that turned out to be quite useful to me. But it took me a couple days to get to the point where I could do anything useful with it. And I was only able to do that because I can read source code and have lots of software installation and configuration experience. And because I enjoy a puzzle.

After using the app for a month or two, I thought to myself, "There's got to be thousands and thousands of people who'd benefit from this app, but I bet 99% of the people who try it give up before they have any success. What this project needs is documentation." So I contacted the development team with an offer to write some. I explain that while I'm a developer, not a tech writer, I had written early-adopter oriented documentation for several successful commercial projects, so I knew how to get those people up to speed while the app was still something of a moving target. I also offer to maintain that documentation for at least a year.

I got back a quite haughty response from the project leader stating that he *might* let me write documentation if I became a regular code contributor to the project. Now I'd assumed that his ideas of what documentation was needed might be different from mine, but it turned out he didn't seem interested in documentation at all. Also the response had a weird, hostile vibe; it was as if I'd asked him for hundreds of hours of his time rather than offered him hundreds of mine. So I thanked him for *his* invitation and declined it.

I guess the point is that there are other, social dimensions to choosing a project to contribute to. One of them is whether the project even wants what you have to offer. Another is whether the team seems like people you'd enjoy working with. There are some projects, like the Linux kernel, which are so prestigious that you might well take a lot of crap to be a contributor. But most projects aren't like that.

If you do start our own project, watch the TED video How to Start a Movement.

Comment: Re:It's true (Score 1) 256

by swillden (#48022353) Attached to: Former GM Product Czar: Tesla a "Fringe Brand"

It's a fringe brand in that Ferrari is a fringe brand.

Yes, but I think BMW and Mercedes are better comparisons, at least with respect to price range.

I don't think most people wouldn't want one but I don't know a soul who has one. Very few have seen them.

I know several people who have Teslas, but no one with a Ferrari. I've not only seen, but test-driven a Tesla, but not a Ferrari. In fact, assuming you're not in a state that is making Tesla's life hard, getting a Tesla test drive is easy. A Ferrari, not so much.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach