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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.

Comment: Re:It's still NP. (Score 3, Informative) 114

Squaring key lengths would be entirely impractical. That said, the improvements only apply to a case of discrete log which isn't actually in use. Cryptographic algorithms generally depend on hardness of discrete log mod p (p a large prime), not in the field with p^k (p fixed, k large).

Comment: Re:arXiv link (to the technical paper) (Score 2) 114

Yes; the preprint was posted to arXiv when the research was completed. Obviously Science Magazine (the source for the slashdot posting) prefers to write about results when the journal article comes out later, because otherwise the magazine would to check the preprints for correctness on its own, which it can't be expected to do.

Comment: Somewhat (Score 5, Interesting) 114

Reading the paper, the most notable feature is that their algorithm is efficiency for constant characteristic, including the common case of fields of characteristic 2. It's also okay for the characteristic to grow somewhat with the size of the field, but not very fast.

This is not at all relevant to most implementations of DH, which use prime fields of large characteristic. For example, DSA depends on discrete log modulu a large prime p. In particular, I wouldn't worry about forward secrecy of current internet traffic.

Comment: So what? (Score 5, Insightful) 76

by l2718 (#46957397) Attached to: As Species Decline, So Do the Scientists Who Name Them

If DNA sequencing means taxonomy is now straightforward, then it's good students are switching to other fields. The goal of science is to solve problems, not to ossify. In this case, while taxonomy may cease to be a significant research field, morphology (understanding the structure and evolution of plants and animals) is surely going to continue. The people doing it will simply not be called "taxonomists" anymore.

During the 80s and 90s there were different projects trying to determine the cosmological parameters (mass density, curvature, cosmological constant, Hubble constant, etc). Then WMAP was launched in 2001, and by 2006 (release of 3-year data) the previous techniques were obsolete. Do you think many students in 2001 started working on the old techniques? Should they have? But we haven't lost interest in the cosmological parameters.

Comment: Re:A consideration for professors (Score 1) 252

by l2718 (#46954061) Attached to: $200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?

Many publishers will try to bribe professors to use their book for a course. Either you're very honest & kind or your class is small.

Do you have first-hand experience with this? It has never happened to me. Publishers routinely send me free books with the hope I'll use them for a course. Almost all have a policy of giving you a free copy of any book you make mandatory for a large enough class (say 100 students) -- which is the closest it gets to a "bribe" -- but in fact it's basically irrelevant to the decision. First of all, the only reason I need the book is for teaching purposes, I'm not particularily motivated to own it except for use during that particular class. Second, since the book is for teaching, if I don't have a copy the academic department (my employer) will buy one for me to use during the course. So the only thing this "desk copy" policy do is save some money for my boss; it has no effect on how I choose a textbook.

Comment: Re:This has little to do with copyright law (Score 5, Informative) 252

by l2718 (#46944983) Attached to: $200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?
I'm a professor, actually. In two words, you're wrong . If the book is only used in the class of the professor who taught it, the book will go out of print in a jiffy, and in any case the total harm to a single class of students is negligible. For a book to actually stay in print, many professors in many universities must use it. In this case very few will, and the problem will solve itself.

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles