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Comment: it's simple math, similar triangles (Score 4, Insightful) 372

by YesIAmAScript (#47921979) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

On the smaller phone (iPhone 6) the lens is 50mm from the far (button) edge of the phone and protrudes 0.8mm. The phone is 7mm thick.

Thus there is a triangle formed on the top of the phone which is 0.8mm tall and 50mm base. Now, if you make the triangle 7.8mm tall you form a triangle with the front plane of the phone, a triangle with a base (7.8/0.8)*50 of 487mm.

So if you take the picture from less than 487mm away (half a meter) you can take a picture which doesn't show the camera and doesn't show the face of the phone (thus is "edge on") without using any photoshop trickery. The phone body will simply block the camera from view.

And that's surely what Apple did. It's not hard to do.

Also note: you don't have one, troll. It doesn't come out for a couple more days.

Comment: Re:So, a design failure then. (Score 1) 152

by hey! (#47921919) Attached to: Developing the First Law of Robotics

It depends on your design goals.

In Asimov's story universe, the Three Laws are so deeply embedded in robotics technology they can't be circumvented by subsequent designers -- not without throwing out all subsequent robotics technology developments and starting over again from scratch. That's one heck of a tall order. Complaining about a corner case in which the system doesn't work as you'd like after they achieved that seems like nitpicking.

We do know that *more* sophisticated robots can designed make more subtle ethical systems -- which is another sign of a robust fundamental design. The simplistic ethics is what subsequent designers get when they get "for free" when they use an off-the-shelf positronic brain to control a welding robot or bread-slicing machine.

Think of the basic positronic brain design as a design framework. One of the hallmarks of a robust framework is that easy things are easy and hard things are possible. By simply using the positronic framework the designers of the bread slicing machine don't have to figure out all the ways the machine might slice a person's fingers off. The framework takes care of that for them.

Comment: Re:The protruding lens was a mistake (Score 2) 372

by hey! (#47921441) Attached to: Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

I don't think you've really grasped Apple's design sensibility. Job one for the designers is to deliver a product that consumers want but can't get anywhere else.

The "camera bulge" may be a huge blunder, or it may be just a tempest in a teapot. The real test will be the user's reactions when they hold the device in their hand, or see it in another user's hand. If the reaction is "I want it", the designers have done their job. If it's "Holy cow, look at that camera bulge," then it's a screw-up.

The thinness thing hasn't been about practicality for a long, long time; certainly not since smartphones got thinner than 12mm or so. They always been practical things the could have given us other than thinness, but what they want you to do is pick up the phone and say, "Look how thin the made this!" The marketing value of that is that it signals that you've got the latest and greatest device. There's a limit of course, and maybe we're at it now. Otherwise we'll be carrying devices in ten years that look like big razor blades.

At some point in your life you'll probably have seen so many latest and greatest things that having the latest and greatest isn't important to you any longer. That's when know you've aged out of the demographic designers care about.

Comment: Re:You mean... (Score 5, Insightful) 232

by Sloppy (#47918577) Attached to: AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise

I think the idea is that you pay the ISP for a "Netflix booster", and then your Netflix traffic gets un-humped into the fast lane.

Is it just me, or does anyone else see the foolishness in one of the highest volume uses of the Internet also being one of the highest priority? That people are thinking of the huge transfers of pre-produced video as being something other than the dead last, lowest priority cheapest-per-byte traffic there is, is totally ridiculous.

The only things that should be "fast laned" (low latency) are VoIP, videoconferencing, interactive terminals, etc: most of which is either low-bandwidth or else niche. If "high priority" is what many peoples' connections are doing several hours per day, then our very sense of "priorities" is fucked up.

I can't say I'm a fan of the ISPs that Netflix is fighting with, but at the same time: Fuck Netflix. Netflix is a case study in how to do video technologically wrong and it seems like they're just totally ignoring common sense. Why shouldn't doing things like a luddite, be relatively expensive? (Really, having storage in your box is still considered prohibitively expensive? It sure wasn't expensive in 2000 with Tivo series 1. Things got worse since then?!?) If the pampered princess insists that her cake be delivered from the kitchen a bite at a time and the commoner just puts a whole slice on his plate and takes a bite at the table whenever he wants it, we expect the princess' servants to be rolling their eyes when she's not looking, embezzeling, etc.

When we have broken up the monopolies and our streets have conduits under them containing a dozen competing fibers, we can re-evaluate the tech from our position of abundance. Maybe video streaming won't be on-the-face-of-it-stupid, then. But that's the future, not today.

Comment: Re:Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 4, Insightful) 178

by hey! (#47915329) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

I'd argue that we do try to write about the future, but the thing is: it's pretty damn hard to predict the future. ...
The problem is that if we look at history, we see it littered with disruptive technologies and events which veered us way off course from that mere extrapolation into something new.

I think you are entirely correct about the difficulty in predicting disruptive technologies. But there's an angle here I think you may not have considered: the possibility that just the cultural values and norms of the distant future might be so alien to us that readers wouldn't identify with future people or want to read about them and their problems.

Imagine a reader in 1940 reading a science fiction story which accurately predicted 2014. The idea that there would be women working who aren't just trolling for husbands would strike him as bizarre and not very credible. An openly transgendered character who wasn't immediately arrested or put into a mental hospital would be beyond belief.

Now send that story back another 100 years, to 1840. The idea that blacks should be treated equally and even supervise whites would be shocking. Go back to 1740. The irrelevance of the hereditary aristocracy would be difficult to accept. In 1640, the secularism of 2014 society and would be distasteful, and the relative lack of censorship would be seen as radical (Milton wouldn't publish his landmark essay Aereopagitica for another four years). Hop back to 1340. A society in which the majority of the population is not tied to the land would be viewed as chaos, positively diseased. But in seven years the BLack Death will arrive in Western Europe. Displaced serfs will wander the land, taking wage work for the first time in places where the find labor shortages. This is a shocking change that will resist all attempts at reversal.

This is all quite apart from the changes in values that have been forced upon us by scientific and technological advancement. The ethical issues discussed in a modern text on medical ethics would probably have frozen Edgar Allen Poe's blood.

I think it's just as hard to predict how the values and norms of society will change in five hundred years as it is to accurately predict future technology. My guess is that while we'd find things to admire in that future society, overall we would find it disturbing, possibly even evil according to our values. I say this not out of pessimism, but out my observation that we're historically parochial. We think implicitly like Karl Marx -- that there's a point where history comes to an end. Only we happen to think that point is *now*. Yes, we understand that our technology will change radically, but we assume our culture will not.

Comment: Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 5, Insightful) 178

by hey! (#47914675) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

The pessimism and dystopia in sci-fi doesn't come from a lack of research resources on engineering and science. It mainly comes from literary fashion.

If the fashion with editors is bleak, pessimistic, dystopian stories, then that's what readers will see on the bookshelves and in the magazines, and authors who want to see their work in print will color their stories accordingly. If you want to see more stories with a can-do, optimistic spirit, then you need to start a magazine or publisher with a policy of favoring such manuscripts. If there's an audience for such stories it's bound to be feasible. There a thousand serious sci-fi writers for every published one; most of them dreadful it is true, but there are sure to be a handful who write the good old stuff, and write it reasonably well.

A secondary problem is that misery provides many things that a writer needs in a story. Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I actually Tolstoy had it backwards; there are many kinds of happy families. Dysfunctions on the other hand tends to fall into a small number of depressingly recognizable patterns. The problem with functional families from an author's standpoint is that they don't automatically provide something that he needs for his stories: conflict. Similarly a dystopian society is a rich source of conflicts, obstacles and color, as the author of Snow Crash must surely realize. Miserable people in a miserable setting are simply easier to write about.

I recently went on a reading jag of sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and when I happened to watch a screwball comedy movie ("His Girl Friday") from the same era, I had an epiphany: the worlds of the sci-fi story and the 1940s comedy were more like each other than they were like our present world. The role of women and men; the prevalence of religious belief, the kinds of jobs people did, what they did in their spare time, the future of 1940 looked an awful lot like 1940.

When we write about the future, we don't write about a *plausible* future. We write about a future world which is like the present or some familiar historical epoch (e.g. Roman Empire), with conscious additions and deletions. I think a third reason may be our pessimism about our present and cynicism about the past. Which brings us right back to literary fashion.

Comment: Re:When the cat's absent, the mice rejoice (Score 5, Insightful) 285

Well, I'd be with you if the government was poking around on the users' computers, but they weren't. The users were hosting the files on a public peer-to-peer network where you essentially advertise to the world you've downloaded the file and are making it available to the world. Since both those acts are illegal, you don't really have an expectation of privacy once you've told *everyone* you've done it. While the broadcasting of the file's availability doesn't prove you have criminal intent, it's certainly probable cause for further investigation.

These guys got off on a narrow technicality. Of course technicalities do matter; a government that isn't restrained by laws is inherently despotic. The agents simply misunderstood the law; they weren't violating anyone's privacy.

Comment: Re:Crude? (Score 2) 96

by hey! (#47904781) Attached to: Original 11' <em>Star Trek Enterprise</em> Model Being Restored Again

Compare that to some of the ST:TNG props that I've seen that look fine on screen, but when examined closely look like someone gave a 5-year old a couple of shots of vodka and turned them loose with a paintbrush.

There's a certain wonder to that too.

I had the same reaction when I saw the ST:TNG props in person. You wouldn't buy a toy that looked that cheesy. The wonder of it is that the prop makers knew this piece of crap would look great onscreen. That's professional skill at work. Amateurs lavish loving care on stuff and overbuild them. Pros make them good enough, and put the extra effort into stuff that matters more.

Comment: Re: Great one more fail (Score 1) 582

by hey! (#47904749) Attached to: High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

These kinds of responses are conditioned on certain assumptions that may not hold for all users.

For example, let's assume that you have no need whatsoever to prevent other users from using your gun. Then any complication you add to the firearm will necessarily make it less suitable, no matter how reliable that addition is. An example of someone on this end of the spectrum might be a big game hunter who carries a backup handgun.

On the other hand suppose you have need of a firearm, but there is so much concern that someone else might use it without authorization that you reasonably decide to do without. In that opposite situation you might well tolerate quite a high failure rate in such a device because it makes it possible to carry a gun. An example of someone on this end of the spectrum might be a prison guard -- prison guards do not carry handguns because of precisely this concern.

This isn't rocket science. It's all subject to a straightforward probabilistic analysis *of a particular scenario*. People who say that guns *always* must have a such a device are only considering one set of scenarios. People who say that guns must *never* have such a device are only considering a different set of scenarios. It's entirely possible that for such a device there are some where it is useful and others where it is not.

Comment: Re:It should be (Score 1) 363

by Cyberdyne (#47902537) Attached to: Text While Driving In Long Island and Have Your Phone Disabled

It should be the car that is disabled (or your license taken away)

Exactly - as they do already in the UK: get caught driving while using a mobile phone, you get 3 penalty points. That puts your insurance premiums up in itself, and if you reach a total of 12 points, no more driving for a few years. The penalty may be increased to 6 - in which case, get caught driving on the phone twice, you're in the passenger seat for several years. If someone's been caught driving on the phone (whether texting, talking or reading Slashdot), why let them continue driving at all? Will disabling the phone stop them driving while fiddling with the radio, eating, shaving etc? Of course not - so get them away from the wheel and let them text all they like as passengers.

Comment: Re:A solution in search of a problem... (Score 1) 324

by Cyberdyne (#47902361) Attached to: Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

It is against the law pretty much everywhere. However that law is enforced pretty much nowhere. It is just simply too difficult to enforce it, as a police officer has to catch the person in the act to even write a ticket. And then the ticket is so laughably small in terms of the monetary penalty as to be pointless to even write.

Here in the UK, the penalty is that you get one-quarter of the way to no longer driving (3 penalty points, where 12 means a driving ban); the government announced earlier this year they were considering doubling that to halfway, i.e. get caught doing it twice (within 3 years) and you won't be driving again. However small the risk, I suspect that's a big enough deterrent to scare many - particularly since it would often mean losing their job too. You don't have to be caught red-handed, either, just suspected enough for the police to investigate, then they check the network usage logs and confirm you were using the handset at the time in question. (Or get seen on a traffic camera, of which there are many.)

The idea in the article is just silly, though.

Comment: Re:I just want the new Nexus. (Score 1) 222

There are three professions where being untruthful is the key to success: Lawyers, salespeople, and marketing. All three are hired to portray their client in the most favorable light possible, and the very best ones lie through their teeth. The worst of these three are the marketers because they have legions of psychologists and scientists trying to figure out the best way to lie to people.

Yes! You're both presenting a perfectly defensible argument against marketing and reinforcing my original point! Because geeks tend to abhor marketing, we dismiss its significance, and are perennially gobsmacked as to why an intrinsically emotional, manipulatable species is so susceptible to emotional manipulation.

So long as humanity is what it is, reason will only ever get you so far. You either need to blow the doors off with a staggeringly amazing thing, or come to terms with the fact that every single entity who might care about your thing has feelings, and bending those feelings in your favor can work wonders.

It's not all bad, though; emotional manipulation works under much the same constraints. Unless you're a Level 80 Snake Oil Salesman with a hat full of luck, you're going to have a very hard time making your thing last if it doesn't live up to the hype--and your reputation will suffer for it.

Comment: Re:How about (Score 2) 208

by Sloppy (#47891047) Attached to: Turning the Tables On "Phone Tech Support" Scammers

So sure, it's easier to hang up on them but you are actually doing them a favor and helping them out by doing so.

No, failure to take hostile action isn't a favor; it's neutrality. Installing their malware would be a favor. I can appreciate those with the time and energy to take fight to this enemy (good on you!), but I have other battles to fight with my (however high) limited anger.

The problem with this enemy, which makes it so hard to care, is how irrelevant they are. So they call people about bullshit, wasting their time. That can be annoying, but there are so many more annoying things.

I suppose some people would say this enemy is worse that that, because the call is just a way of performing a SE attack, but I disagree. I just can't help but get blame-the-victim-y with SE attacks like that. I think many of our society's real problems are caused by SE, much of it legal (e.g. "vote for me, because I'm a member of the correct party," or "believe our religion's dogma, because your parents did") and that we'd all be a lot better off with more "scam antibodies" in ourselves. So part of me hopes these scammers flourish, thereby teaching people to stop being so fucking gullible. Maybe you can't fix stupid, but we can try, and an environment full of con artists is good for that. These assholes are evil, but they're good for us.

No, I'm not fully committed to that outlook (sure, I wanna hurt the bad guys too) but I'm conflicted enough that it evens out. And while we're at it, don't knock lazy! So a position of neutrality, it is.

Comment: How about THIS? (Score 1) 208

by Sloppy (#47890653) Attached to: Turning the Tables On "Phone Tech Support" Scammers

I have never gotten one of these calls. But I have gotten a few calls like this:

[Phone vibrates. I see the non-local calling number. Reject and block.]

That's the new, lazy version. Until a few weeks ago, I had many of these:

[Phone vibrates. I look at the non-local calling number and wonder who that could be. Google the number and apparently every non-local number that ever calls me, is associated with robocalling. Reject. They call again a few days later. Reject and block. Then a few days later I look at my Visual Voicemail which my shitty Galaxy S4 software never tells me has new entries until I refresh it, and some actual human speech may happen.]
ME: "Fuck."
[And I see they left a few messages containing nothing but silence. Delete.]

But that second scenario doesn't happen anymore. Robocallers have successfully trained me.

Comment: Re:I just want the new Nexus. (Score 5, Insightful) 222

The only real feature of note was Apple Pay, which might finally make NFC payments take off in the US. It's been a technology that should have hit it big a couple of years ago, but has never seen much consumer buy-in for some reason.

It's pretty straightforward, to my mind. With the exception of all but the most staggering technological advancements, widespread adoption of new technology typically requires:

  1. a sound implementation,
  2. a robust support infrastructure, and
  3. an effective marketing campaign.

Geeks, for a variety of reasons, tend to respect the first, grok the second, and abhor the third. I personally believe it's what drives our perpetual cycle of incredulity on this subject--because we so detest the last part of this equation, we refuse to see its importance in getting all those squishy, distracted, emotional bags of water to adopt cool new stuff.

NFC has never had the effective marketing campaign in the US, and only kinda had the support infrastructure. The iPhone has incredible inertia on the marketing front, and Apple have clearly done the legwork on building a good starting lineup of financial institutions and retailers for Apple Pay. It remains to be seen whether this'll be sufficient to make NFC catch on, but it's easily the closest we've come to covering all three of the bases above.

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