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Comment: Re:Perfectly appropriate action for the FAA to tak (Score 2) 105

by jfengel (#47438001) Attached to: FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

It's time for Congress to do a lot of things. But when was the last time Congress did anything at all? Has there been even a single non-trivial piece of legislation in the entire 113th? Was there any in the 112th?

The bar to legislation is fairly high and there's always a large set of voters prepared to punish their legislators for allowing anything through that would be seen as a victory for the other side or even as a compromise with them, regardless of the issue. Those Congressmen have been trained in a Pavlovian fashion to loudly denounce anything anybody tries to do.

So don't expect Congress to fix this, or anything else.

Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 200

Interesting.

Given MAD, it's hard to imagine another WWII-type scenario (though it would be a bad day if China invaded Taiwan). But I could foresee something like Afghanistan spreading to the entire Middle East, where they couldn't nuke us (at least, not more than a couple of times, not like Cold War-style "nuclear winter" barrages), and we'd be strongly pressured not to nuke them. But the theater would be so wide that we'd need vast, vast number of ground troops.

Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 200

The closest we get to that is the airport, where rights have been considerably and visibly curtailed (as opposed to the comparatively invisible loss of rights due to government intrusion in electronic communications). People seem to have accepted that more or less gracefully: they bitch, but it's not seen as a massive imposition on most people's daily lives.

I don't know if we'd ever get to the point of rationing food. Even if we declared a full-scale war, technology means we grow a lot of surplus food in this country. Prices might rise, but I don't think we'd ever see "grow victory gardens" posters as we did in the last unlimited war.

Oil, however, would skyrocket, and technology might be severely curtailed. It would be interesting to see how people reacted to that. It's hard to say whether that would be a bigger factor than outrage at a draft of manpower. In Korea and Vietnam, a lot of the public seemed to take the draft with equanimity since it came without the kind of rationing we saw during World War II.

Comment: That and DACs aren't the issue anyhow (Score 2) 473

It is easy to make good DACs these days. Basically any DAC, barring a messed up implementation, is likely to sound sonically transparent to any other in a normal system. When you look at the other limiting factors (amp, noise in the room, speaker response, room reflections, etc) you find that their noise and distortion are just way below audibility. Ya, maybe if you have a really nice setup with a quiet treated room, good amps, and have it set for reference (105dB peak) levels you start to need something better than normal, but that isn't very common. Even then you usually don't have to go that high up the chain to get something where again the DAC is way better than other components.

Now that said, there can be a reason to get a soundcard given certain uses. For example you don't always want to go to an external unit, maybe you use headphones. In that case, having a good headphone amp matters and onboard sound is often remiss in that respect (then again, so are some soundcards). Also even if you do use an external setup, you might wish to have the soundcard do processing of some kind. Not so useful these days, but some games like to have hardware accelerated OpenAL.

Regardless, not a big deal in most cases. Certainly not the first thing to spend money on. If you have $50 speakers, don't go and buy a $100 soundcard. If you have a $5000 setup, ok maybe a soundcard could be useful, but only in certain circumstances.

As a side note, the noise in a PC isn't a big issue. Properly grounding/shielding the card deals with it. A simple example is the professional LynxTWO, which is all internal yet has top notch specs, even by today's standards. http://audio.rightmark.org/tes...

Comment: Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (Score 1) 200

I recall some talk during the lead-up to the Afghan war about the potential for a draft. It wasn't clear at the time just how big that particular conflict would get. It wasn't impossible to imagine it turning into World War-sized scenario against a lot of Islamic countries. The resulting conflicts were small compared to that, but we had to scale up the military substantially and if they'd grown any bigger we'd have had to have a draft.

Now that women are allowed access to combat positions, it's going to be very hard to exempt them from a draft should one be necessary. I can't conceive of the legislature passing any such bill right now (I can't imagine this Congress passing any non-trivial bill, and I don't see that changing), but a wise legislature would want to do that ahead of need rather than after the fact. If women are going to be drafted, you'd need to start registering them now.

I sincerely hope that it's never necessary. And if a war of that scope does happen again, we'll probably be a lot less selective with our weapons of war. (Afghanistan and Iraq were fought house-to-house, because as bizarre as it sounds that was a way of reducing civilian casualties, at least compared to just flattening entire cities as was done in World War II.) So we may well not have a draft even in a bigger conflict. But I think that, while it's politically impossible, a really good pragmatic case could be made for starting to require Selective Service registration for everybody right now.

Comment: Re:Most humans couldn't pass that test (Score 1) 279

by jfengel (#47426033) Attached to: The Lovelace Test Is Better Than the Turing Test At Detecting AI

To me, this seems to cut to the heart of it. AI is commonly conceived of as trying to mimic human intelligence, while there are cognitive tasks that cats and even mice can do that prove too hard for computers. A cat can recognize a mouse with essentially 100% accuracy, from any angle, in an eyeblink. No computer would come close, and the program that came closest wouldn't be a general-purpose object matcher.

Vertebrate brains are pretty remarkable. Human brains are an amazing extra step on top of that. We don't know exactly what that is in part because we don't really understand the simpler vertebrate brains. IMHO, we won't have a good mimic for sapience until we've gotten it to first do sentience. We don't have to rigorously follow the evolutionary order, but it seems to me that conversation-based tests are rewarding the wrong features, and even if they get better by that definition they're not getting us any closer to the actual goals of understanding (and reproducing) intelligence.

Comment: Uh... I don't get it (Score 1) 27

by jfengel (#47425133) Attached to: The Video Game That Maps the Galaxy

I did read the fine article, but I'm afraid I just don't get what's going on here. Are the players contributing something in some kind of crowd-sourced "Yes, that blob is a star, and its center is here" kind of way? Or are they using players' computers as a distributed processing system?

It's nifty either way, but I don't the New Yorker's audience has the same kinds of questions about the technology that I do. Can anybody in this audience (more like me) help me out?

Comment: The US is not the pollution bad guy (Score 1) 380

by magarity (#47418187) Attached to: Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

I just got back from Shanghai where the pollution haze limits visibility to a couple of miles. In Beijing it's down to a few hundred yards most days. Let me know how the relative climate impact of electric cars in the US vs the economic impact and compare with the climate impact of 1/3 of all cars sold worldwide being in China in 5 or 6 years from now and I bet almost all of them will be gasoline powered. The international economic competitive impact to all electric in the US would be huge compared to the relative environmental impact.

Comment: Very clever (Score 4, Interesting) 68

Reminds me a little of some work done by Terje Mathisen, an expert assembly language programmer. Not exactly that same as the exploit, but probably interesting to a few slashdotters. I'll let him describe it:

"The most complicated code I have ever written is/was a piece of executable text, in order to be able to send binary data over very early text-only email systems:

"Minimum possible amount of self-modification (a single two-byte backwards branch), a first-level bootstrap that fits in two 64-byte lines including a Copyright notice and which survives the most common forms of reformatting, including replacing the CRLF line terminator by any zero, one or two byte sequence. This piece of code picks up the next few lines, combining pairs of characters into arbitrary byte values before flushing the prefetch cache by branching into the newly decoded second-level bootstrap. (Everything uses only the ~70 different ascii codes which are blessed by the MIME standard as never requiring encoding or escape sequences.)

"This second level consists of a _very_ compact BASE64 decode which takes the remainder of the input and re-generates the original binary which it can either execute in place or write to disk.

Comment: They don't care about the cards (Score 1) 349

by Sycraft-fu (#47409003) Attached to: Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies

They track you using your credit card. The cards are because people want them these days. Albertsons finally knuckled under and started offering them. Not because they needed them for tracking, like I said they already did that, but because customers whined they weren't getting a "good deal". So they raised their prices, and introduced a card.

Comment: Also (Score 1) 110

by Sycraft-fu (#47408593) Attached to: YouTube Issuing "Report Cards" On Carriers' Streaming Speeds

It doesn't take in to account the net speeds that people have. So you might well have a provider who has no problem doing HD video from Youtube all day every day, on lines that can handle it. However they sell slower lines and some customers have that, so that skews things.

Like say a phone company offers ADSL and IDSL for customers who are way out in the boonies, but VDSL for people in the city. Well those slow connections will bring down their stats, even if their network is quite fast and makes them look bad, despite them actually being the only option for some people.

A somewhat similar deal with cable companies can be people using old hardware. DOCSIS 2 cable modems only use one channel per segment, and those can get saturated these days. Well cable providers tend to be DOCSIS 3 to deal with that... but not everyone has a new modem. The cable company can recommend they get one, but if it is your equipment they can't make you (I guess other than cutting you off but they don't wanna do that).

A penny saved is a penny to squander. -- Ambrose Bierce

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