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Comment: Good (Score 2) 161

by macwhizkid (#43772657) Attached to: NWS Announces Big Computer Upgrade

It's kind of astonishing how little we (by which I mean the U.S.A.) spend on weather forecasting relative to the economic effects. The economic costs of weather are in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. You can't change the weather, but more accurate predictions will save more lives and property.

I try not to plan my life around the weather, but a few million to possibly offset billions in damage from an incorrect hurricane path prediction is a no-brainer.

Comment: Bizarre Story (Score 5, Insightful) 229

by macwhizkid (#43315053) Attached to: Boston Cops Go Undercover Online To Crack Down on Concerts

So, let's get this straight: there's no proof that the police are connected to this, just a half-baked assumption based on someone's analysis of a couple two-sentence emails? And the messages aren't even very funny anyway... ("LOL, he used the word concert . What a loser! Must be a cop!")

Slashdot editors, you need to step up your game.

Comment: Re:Um... (Score 1) 612

by macwhizkid (#43234821) Attached to: Wrong Fuel Chokes Presidential Limo

I do not have large batteries that will need to be recycled or tossed into a landfill next year.

This idea that hybrid batteries need to be replaced every year is a thoroughly debunked urban legend. I drove to the office this morning in a Ford Escape Hybrid that has 70,000 miles and is 5 years overdue for a battery replacement, by your count.

And out of curiosity, what's wrong with recycling a battery?

Comment: A rare chance to rebuild your tech collection (Score 2) 770

by macwhizkid (#42968733) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Starting From Scratch After a Burglary?

Had this happen last year. Came home late at night on Christmas 2011 to a broken basement window and saw that all my electronics had been stolen - TV, laptop, desktop, game system, etc. While it was certainly pretty frustrating (especially dealing with the police (hint: don't expect much) and insurance company), eventually I realized that it was actually a good opportunity to rebuild my tech collection from scratch.

In other words, think about what devices you didn't use much, and how to replace that functionality with other things you have. For me, this was:

  - an early 40" LCD ($1200 circa 2007). It was 1080p, but it was a monster to move anywhere and too small to make watching HD content worthwhile when sitting across the room. Still, it worked fine - I wasn't going to go buy another one. I also don't watch much TV to begin with, so it went days without being turned on. So, I replaced it with an Epson HD projector ($800). Sure, the lamp life is less, but I don't use it more than a few hours/week anyway.

- a Blu-ray player (bought in 2008 for $160) replaced with a PS3 ($200 on eBay).

- an Apple time capsule ($300) replaced with FreeNAS (in virtual sandbox) on desktop computer (free, since I was replacing the desktop anyway).

Comment: This doesn't make any sense (Score 1) 404

by macwhizkid (#42648703) Attached to: Will Microsoft Sell Off Its Entertainment Division?

The Xbox is basically a specialized, stripped-down Windows gaming computer, in terms of both software and hardware. The games use DirectX, just like regular Windows, and make it trivial for developers to port their games to desktop. In other words, the Xbox ecosystem makes the Windows platform stronger, not weaker.

Comment: Disappointing to read (Score 1) 143

by macwhizkid (#42636465) Attached to: How Apple Killed an iTunes Competitor

It's disappointing how the Microsoft-pioneered "buy up your competitors before they can afford to buy you" technique has become standard practice for Apple. Up until the day before they were purchased, so many people I knew were using Lala on a daily basis. And why wouldn't you use it? Lala had a great catalog, came up high on Google results, offered full songs for preview, and worked in any web browser. And this was all 2-3 years before Spotify was available in the US.

When Apple bought them, I naturally assumed they'd be offline for a couple days and then reappear on "" or something. In fact, months went by before I realized that wasn't going to happen.

It's too bad. iTunes has gotten a lot better, but competition is always a good thing.

Comment: Software is the hard part (Score 1) 203

by macwhizkid (#42615885) Attached to: Open Source Gaming Handheld Project Wants Your Money

The problem with a home-brew or emulation-only game system is that the hardware is now easier than the software. We're now well into the age of mobile devices. The hardware here is basically a smartphone with a lower-resolution screen and slightly different processor. (Although the screen choice seems like a bad idea: 320x240 is just too low.)

The hard part is getting developers to write native games for it. Good luck with that in this day and age unless you're Sony or Microsoft and can spend millions on wooing developers with dev tools and conferences.

The emulation aspect is an interesting idea, but as someone who has fooled around with Playstation and N64 emulation, I can tell you that with most games, you'll find yourself wishing for a native controller pad if you play for more than a couple minutes. And why not? That's what the games were originally designed for and tested with. But even without accounting for the ergonomics, how are you going to play PS games when the device has fewer control buttons than the PS controller did?

Comment: Let me be the one to say... (Score 4, Insightful) 354

by macwhizkid (#42520317) Attached to: AIG Contemplates Joining Stockholder Suit Against US Gov't

What a bunch of ungrateful bastards.

AIG's stock had fallen 95% in a matter of months and the company was days away from bankruptcy. If 14 percent interest was so damn high, why the hell didn't they make the deal with the private investors that were willing to go with a lower rate than the feds?

Oh, that's right, because there weren't any.

Comment: Re:Musings from an oldest child (Score 4, Insightful) 178

by macwhizkid (#42088831) Attached to: Compared to my siblings ...

If you say so. I'm not sure you quite have a grasp of what welfare is, but if you honestly don't support funding scientific research, I really hope you don't come down with, say, Tourette syndrome or Parkinson's disease. But at least in your alternate reality you can rest assured that capitalism will prevail and the free market will rush to assist you in your moment of need.

Comment: Musings from an oldest child (Score 4, Interesting) 178

by macwhizkid (#42087765) Attached to: Compared to my siblings ...

Grew up hearing about how education is indispensable from my two first-gen college-educated parents. Went through high school with very little effort, graduated near the top of my class, got a degree in physics at a well-known university. But here I am, late 20's, with a tenuous job as a research associate, not knowing whether I'll still have a job next year given the uncertainty with federal research funding.

Younger sister on the other hand (currently in her early 20's), struggled a bit in high school, dropped out of college after freshman year, to the utter dismay of my parents. She got a job washing dishes and worked her way up, now works for a farmers market delivering produce to local restaurants. She earns almost as much as I do now, and without the uncertainty that the {Republicans | Democrats} will legislate her out of a job next year over the latest government spending fight. It's a pretty safe bet that 10 years from now people will still be eating vegetables.

In theory my career opportunities and income should exceed hers in the years ahead, but I say that with a whole lot less confidence than I did a couple years ago.

Comment: Just stop. (Score 0) 377

by macwhizkid (#42028037) Attached to: John McAfee Launches Blog, Offers $25K Reward For "Real Killers"

I wish the tech media (/. included, though Gizmodo is the worst offender) would stop covering McAfee's latest antics. The guy clearly has some serious mental and legal issues and needs professional help. Enabling him by conducting interviews and real-time blog coverage isn't doing anyone any good (except for a few journalists who clearly have book deals pending).

Comment: Re:5 days prior to hearing. (Score 2, Informative) 401

by macwhizkid (#41938311) Attached to: CIA Director David Petraeus Resigns, Citing Affair

He resigned 5 days prior to the congressional hearing on what transpired at the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and other US personnel.

Oh, for crying out loud. Look, maybe there was a genuine conspiracy relating to the Benghazi attack. Or maybe there wasn't and shit just happens.

But, if you want to convince anyone else of your case, you have to stop treating every shadow like it's a smoking gun and every government official like they're a co-conspirator until you have real, substantial evidence. That's the way it works: you don't get to claim conspiracy just by randomly picking facts to be a story and hoping some of it pans out.

If Congress wants to talk to Petraeus, they'll subpoena him. If that happens and he flees the country, then that's a story. His exact job title really doesn't matter.

Comment: Facebook is building addictive habits (Score 5, Interesting) 98

by macwhizkid (#41603125) Attached to: Facebook Tests 'Want' Button To Hoard User Data, Save Its Stock Price

This probably is not well-known to people except those working in neuroscience/behavioral psych research, but "wanting" and "liking" are part of a drug addiction theory called incentive salience. The basic notion is that "liking" something is a momentary, pleasurable feeling of hedonism. It passes quickly, but it's powerful reinforcement that drives you to want that hedonic feeling. The "wanting" is where motivation and incentive comes into play to drive the craving for reward (be it drugs, food, whatever).

Think about it: what's the last time you ate a cheeseburger? Do you have a vivid memory of it? Probably not.

But do you want a cheeseburger? Especially one with cheese, bacon, medium rare, fries on the side... mmm...

Anyway, the theory explains why addiction persists and drug abusers fall back into old habits, even when they've been clean for years. Salient cues are too much to ignore (a needle, a bus stop they used to meet their dealer, etc). The theory works with rats getting drugs, food, sex... No reason it can't be applied to website visitors too.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle