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Comment: Don't beg the question (Score 2) 178

by l2718 (#48093081) Attached to: Ebola Vaccine Trials Forcing Tough Choices

Of course, if the experimental vaccine is effective, then we should be keeping people from dying and we don't need a control group. But this is an unwarranted assumption: we don't know yet if the exerimental vaccine is effective -- this is what we are trying to determine, and we won't have the answer until after the experiment.

You say "we already know the death rate of ebola through empirical observation", but the death rate depends on many variables. For example, health-care workers probably have better habits than the average person, but they are exposed to Ebola more than the average person. Suppose after the vaccine we see a lower death rate. Are we sure this is due to the vaccine? Perhaps the workers who got the vaccine were from volunteers from Sweden, and Swedish people are more resistant to Ebola? The point of randomized trials is exactly to account for any known and unknown effects of this type by randomly choosing who gets the treatment and who doesn't among a reasonably uniform population. This way the people who get and don't get the treatment differ statistically only in the experimentally tested property, and we can have some confidence any observed effects are due to the treatment.

Comment: Cotton is a big culprit (Score 1) 151

by l2718 (#48038029) Attached to: Aral Sea Basin Almost Completely Dry

Cotton is an extremely water-intensive crop. Until quite recently it was pushed on developing economies as an "export crop" for industrialized agriculture, replacing local food prodcution. This has generally been a disaster. For water-poor countries, growing cotton for export amounts to exporting expensive water to water-rich countires.

Diverting water for agriculture simply makes no sense. It is cheaper and more efficient to import the end product.

Comment: "Scarcity" of ZMapp (Score 2) 105

by l2718 (#47839415) Attached to: Obama Administration Seeks $58M To Put (Partly) Toward Fighting Ebola

ZMapp is not a mass-produced medication. It is an experimental treatment. Calling it "scarce" gives entirely the wrong impression -- it is amazing that it is available for clinical use at all.

It's certainly worth it to produce ZMapp in significant quantities -- people would rather take an untested drug than try to survive Ebola -- but there is no "scarcity" here. Perhaps if many people wish to try it we'll have a better idea if it actually works.

Comment: Re:IPv6 How will it happen? (Score 1) 146

by l2718 (#47525317) Attached to: Comcast Carrying 1Tbit/s of IPv6 Internet Traffic
Why should users care? How many "users" are aware of IP addresses, or view them as anything but a string of meaningless digits? The "complexity" of IPv6 falls entirely on sysadmins and on those who implement IPv6 stacks, that is on experts. It's possible some users will have a home network on the 192.168.x.x IPv4 range connected via a NAT to the IPv6 internet, but this choice will be made for them by the people who write NAT software: home users universally use first-come-first-served DHCP to assign addresses on their home network so they never see even the local IP addresses. I like to remotely SSH to my home computer, so I note the IP address assigned to my NAT by the ISP, but a typical user can't pull that off. I also like to have fixed IP addresses inside the home network so I can reliably use SSH between the machines. You might be diong the same. But the average user can't and doesn't feel the need to.

Comment: bad for standards (Score 5, Insightful) 194

by l2718 (#47515129) Attached to: Firefox 33 Integrates Cisco's OpenH264
Mozilla capitulating on the tag has serious implications for web standards. By including patent-encumbered code in the browser they take the rug from under those in the www foundation that argue for free web standards. Yes, some websites wanted to use H.264 for video encoding, but Mozilla shouldn't have abetted them.

Comment: Alcohol is a consumer good too (Score 1) 382

by l2718 (#47459443) Attached to: White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales
Post-prohibition most states regimented the alcholic beverage distribution chain into a three-tier system: producers, distributors, and retailers. As you can see this is even worse than with cars. For example, vinyards often cannot sell directly to the public, and they can't sell directly to pubs or wine stores. The middlemen must be paid ...

Comment: Standardization is critical (Score 3, Interesting) 137

by l2718 (#47244519) Attached to: BMW, Mazda Keen To Meet With Tesla About Charging Technology

For wide adoption there needs to be a full market around electric vehicles: opportunities to build charging stations, sell home charging equipment and so on. Gas stations are possible since practically all cars use the same fuel, but also because they have very similar intake openings so that the pump can stop by itself.

Tesla by itself is too small to set standards, so this is good news. It also shows how disclaim in patents helps: the benefit from a greater and more active market exceeds the payoffs from discouraging competition.

Comment: FVWM (Score 1) 611

by l2718 (#47137135) Attached to: Which desktop environment do you like the best?
A few years ago I switched from tvtwm to fvwm and I'm very happy. One year being forced to endure unchangeable defaults chosen by Apple engineers (which are no doubt very good for most of their customers) further cemented my preference. I still don't understand why focus policy or keyboard bindings are the business of the window manager designer.

Comment: Consider incidentals (Score 5, Insightful) 105

Taxpayers should not be paying for someone's pet cause ... Proper action would be to mandate the government to use the best software for the task at hand ... Let the technical merits decide.

I'm sorry, but while technical merits should be paramount, they are not the only consideration. Public contracting is not an exact science, and it is entirely appropriate to have non-technical considerations tip the scales in close cases. So while Free Software should not be mandatory, legislating a preference for it makes perfect sense.

Furthermore, there are considerations beyond the needs of a specific project and tender. Free Software has an externality: when the government (as a customer) requests modifications and improvements (and pays for them to be created), everyone benefits. For example, when my university has Blackboard Inc fix a bug (or improve the software) only Blackboard captures the value (when they sell their software to the next customre). If we were using Moodle, every other Moodle user would automatically benefit. Had we opted for Moodle, we'd also benefit from fixes made by other universities.

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.