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Comment: Re:A limit is a limit (Score 1) 459

by pla (#47706393) Attached to: Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit
Realistically, what are your chances of actually keeping pace with the thing or out-running it without losing control of your own vehicle?

Pretty damned good, actually - Unless talking about an intentionally homicidal driver in an unencumbered tractor, even the wimpiest piece of crap passenger car on the road can blow the doors off a loaded semi.

Now, against that trailer-less tractor, good luck. 400-600HP with no load and tires the size of your entire car means you can kiss your Fortwo, aka that shiny metal smear on the pavement, goodbye.

Comment: Much ado about nothing (Score 5, Insightful) 680

by pla (#47702403) Attached to: News Aggregator Fark Adds Misogyny Ban
Basically Fark has one particular mod, of a gender I don't need to mention, who gets upset every time she greenlights another trashy Jezebel link and the Fark regulars (rightly) rip it to shreds. Admittedly, some posters cross the lines of good taste in doing so, but most just point out that Jezebel itself does more to advance misogyny than any forum trolls could ever do.

The official announcement thread for the new policy pretty much says it all. Fark regulars openly mocked this new policy, much like anti-beta posts here... All while shown prominent links to Foobies (along with plenty of other not exactly "wymyn friendly" advertisements) in the sidebar. This policy will last a whole week, unless Drew goes nuclear and literally bans half the userbase. But hey, we need another MetaFilter since Google has starved off the original, right?

For those seriously debating the "need" for websites to take actions like this, look at Slashdot as a role-model. Put bluntly, sites that feel the need to censor their comments simply have inadequate moderation systems. As much as Slashdot's doesn't always work to bring the best to the top, it does do an amazing job of pushing the complete garbage to the bottom. Browse at -1, and Slashdot looks much like Gorgor-era Fark; browse at 2+, and threads look like a coherent discussion of the issues broached in TFA.

Comment: Re:Insurance rates (Score 1) 238

So you would rather have to have paid out-of-pocket the three times in the past 15 years for whatever happened?

In that 15 years, I paid somewhere on the order of $14-15k for insurance that paid me back less than $4k total. Worst investment ever. Hell, until I replaced my previous car recently, I paid more per year than the total KBB value of my car.

Now, do you have/want to pay all that money, or have the insurance company pay that money?

I would, grudgingly, put medical insurance in a different category than car insurance. Not to say I approve of mandatory medical insurance, and I still loathe the the insurance companies (if for a different reason, for having created an artificially hyperinflated market thanks to most people having a complete mental disconnect between the idea of treatment actually costing $400k vs paying $3000 or so out-of-pocket). I will accept, though, that we all eventually die and our last few years cost a small fortune in healthcare. We do not, however, all eventually get into car accidents with damages adding up to dozens of times the price of my car.

Or as you so aptly put it, "it would take you 400 years to recoup what the insurance company will be paying out" - The flip side of which means that such an accident happens at most once every ten driving lifetimes, and realistically far less than that (since that would assume 100% of all premiums paid went solely to that rare huge medical bill). Big scary numbers look big and scary, but that doesn't make it any more rational to live as though it will happen to me.

As for the potential liability issues, consider me a biiiig fan of "no fault" states - For that matter, the real topic at hand (driverless cars) will likely eventually force every state to go no-fault, since the question of who bears responsibility for an accident becomes effectively a battle between auto manufacturers, not passengers.

I do not like driving in states which don't require insurance

No worries! Your insurance company already charges you for "uninsured motorist" coverage, even though such things shouldn't theoretically exist in states that mandate insurance. How thoughtful of them to make sure you can rest easy!

Comment: Re:Insurance rates (Score 4, Informative) 238

There in principle cannot be a car insurance market if cars don't crash anymore.

In the past 15 years, I have invoked my car insurance three times, and haven't had a single accident in that time.

Insurance covers more than just liability - It covers a small rock falling from a dump-truck and breaking your windshield; it covers your car getting stolen; some policies even act as a sort of extended warranty, covering repair or replacement costs in the event of a breakdown.

And, even with a hypothetically "perfect" driver, some accidents will still happen - Front tire blowout at 75MPH in dense traffic, deer running from the woods into the road 10ft in front of you, construction debris falling from an overpass, etc. Driverless cars will probably handle these events better than live humans do, but such events will still happen.

All of that said, I would love for you to have it 100% correct, because I fucking loathe insurance companies, and deeply resent the government forcing me to pay them in order to drive. I just don't realistically see it happening.

Comment: Re:[tag satire] (Score 1) 267

by pla (#47692221) Attached to: Are Altcoins Undermining Bitcoin's Credibility?
So its Facebook compliant. Because no one really uses illegal porn/drugs/money launder coin do they?

Hate to break it to you, but the good ol' US Dollar, cash-in-hand, remains the worldwide go-to currency for laundering money.

BitCoin makes international transactions easier, no question there; but as far as its reputation for illegal activities goes, outside the opportunistic Silk Road, it actually has significantly more traceability than a stack of Jacksons.

If you want to launder on a purely domestic scale, you want nothing to do with Bitcoin. Yes, if careful you have a certain type of anonymity once in the system; but the weak points comes from the buy-in and cash-out. Unless you "launder" your money by buying mining rigs, and don't mind cashing out by buying things at Tiger or OverStock, moving large sums around in the blockchain just gives the feds a blinking neon sign for where to look for you.

Comment: BitCoin has a problem (Score 1) 267

by pla (#47692145) Attached to: Are Altcoins Undermining Bitcoin's Credibility?
I say this as an avid supporter: BitCoin has a serious problem, at least as far as its "distributed" nature goes.

As it has grown in populatity, the motivation for the average Joe to participate in block creation has vanished. Personally, I used to mine one or two BTC per month; first on my CPU, then on my GPU; today, it would literally take me about four years on a high-end GPU to mine a single BitCoin - Why bother? Today, only a handful of hardcore dedicated ASIC-based miners control new block creation. And make no mistake, I don't hate on them for doing so, they serve a valuable purpose for the BitCoin economy as a whole (no new blocks means no transactions processed).

Altcoins serve as a sort of "American Dream" for those who missed out on the gold rush. People see others who made a small (or in some cases, not so small) fortune mining BTC, and want to put their otherwise-idle PC power to use doing something similar. Hard to blame them, but at the same time, the activity itself very much counts as speculating with an "investment" funded through their electric bills - Not healthy for either cryptocurrencies as a whole, or for the individuals hoping to get in on the next LiteCoin.

I consider this the "awkward" years for BitCoin growth. Once it becomes infeasible to make serious money mining BTC, the huge mining farms will vanish, the difficulty will drop, and eventually people will go back to casually mining in the background on their GPUs just for the transaction fees if not the block rewards. For now, though, only those willing to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a mining rig can participate in that half of the economy.

Comment: Yes, with a Biiig caveat... (Score 1) 432

by pla (#47690477) Attached to: Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?
Yes, but doing so requires one very significant change to how we currently distribute power across the planet.

We need nothing less than a planet-wide superconducting power backbone (preferably with some significant degree of redundancy). Until we have that, we have no alternative but to have a few days' worth of local buffering capacity.

Now, once we get over the BS "national security" implications of such an impressive infrastructure project, the yes, we just need enough worldwide solar/wind/tidal capacity to meet the planet's power needs at any given point in time. But until then, the idea counts as a non-starter. We can't just have local rolling blackouts based on a day or two's bad weather.

Comment: Re:That seems fair (Score 1) 371

by pla (#47688535) Attached to: Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers
Just out of curiosity, was the course based on Hal Varian's textbook [BUY IT NOW] []? He's at Google now.

Nope, not that one... I don't remember the actual title, but it had the word "management" in it, which I eventually came to learn meant "watered down so you'll know the buzzwords but have almost no understanding of the underlying material". And sadly, I don't mean that as a slam, I mean it quite literally - I had taken micro as an undergrad and we covered more in the first month than this "graduate level" class did in the whole semester.

Comment: That seems fair (Score 4, Insightful) 371

by pla (#47688377) Attached to: Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers
That seems fair (at least at face value), given that engineers tend to hold business weenies in complete contempt.

We do, however, have both a power and a knowledge imbalance in the situation. We have a power imbalance in that those business weenies can fire me, but I can't fire them; and we have a knowledge imbalance in that many engineers do know the business side of things. I can work up a set of financial statements as well as the weenies; I can perform a ratio analysis better than the weenies, because unlike them, I "know" what the numbers mean beyond a cut-and-paste job in Excel; I can analyze the company's capitalization structure and consider the impact on near-term cash flows right up there with the best of the weenies.

Now, you might fairly point out that I've mostly describe accountancy, not "business"... But the knowledge imbalance gets worse when we get into actual strategic planning, market analysis, and consideration of macroeconomic factors - At least many of the weenies have significant exposure to accounting, sometimes even a related undergrad degree. For the harder material, they just can't grasp even the basics of supply/demand curves without a solid math background (in taking my MBA, I found one particular economics class hilarious; we spent more than half of the semester learning a set of related equations for (for example) forecasting optimal production levels, that all just took the derivative of the same damn underlying equation from different perspectives. And that counted as one of the "killer" classes in a goddamned graduate-level degree?

Sadly, though, business weenies do have exactly one trait that engineers lack - Smarm. And in this sick sad world, that will get you further than any level of mastery of any legitimate domain of knowledge.

Comment: Re:https is useless (Score 3, Interesting) 166

by pla (#47681879) Attached to: Watch a Cat Video, Get Hacked: the Death of Clear-Text
unless we want to strip the state off their power to search us (and trail us).

Dingdingding! We have a winner!

Two and a half centuries ago we allowed the government those powers, under certain strict conditions, for the good of society as a whole. The government has repeatedly shown itself incapable of acting up to its side of that bargain. We The People therefore need to strip them of that power entirely. Can't find physical evidence of a crime without making my computer tell on me? Then It didn't happen.

"But we need the government to have those powers to preserve the public order", you say? No. The sort of crimes the NSA catches (heh, I typed that as "commits" and had to correct it) have nothing to do with you and I in our daily lives. They protect megacorps and the government itself, and nothing else.

Comment: Re:Cheap Alternative (Score 1) 153

by pla (#47680795) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Recliner For a Software Developer?
This is definitely in my list as a "plan B" -- but silly though it sounds, it strikes me that *someone* should have come up with something by now... I can't be the only coder who spends time working on a recliner.

I don't know if anyone else did it before, but as of tonight, I plan to try it myself. What a great frickin' idea!

...Though I think I'll start with the GP's suggestion before I buy a $600 specialty chair. :)

Comment: Short answer: No. (Score 1) 81

by pla (#47678073) Attached to: Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?
The first thing to keep in mind here, "online instruction" doesn't mean the same thing as "MOOC". MOOCs may have an insanely high dropout rate, but that doesn't hold true for "normal" scale classes hosted through an online learning management system.

Second, not everyone likes or does well in online courses. I would use myself as an example of that - I count as exactly the sort of person you would expect to like and do well in online courses, as someone both tech-savvy and educationally self-motivated (not to mention rather introverted). Yet, I hate hate hate them, with great passion. As someone with multiple college degrees, I can say with absolute certainty that I would have dropped out if my alma mater had forced me to take any significant fraction of my courses online.

And I know for certain that I don't count as unique, or even uncommon, in that opinion.

So to answer your question, no, remote instruction will necessarily remain an option but not a requirement, at least until "remote" means holodeck-level telepresence.

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling