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Comment: Your friendly neighborhood word pedant here (Score 0) 111

by hey! (#49191827) Attached to: Developers Race To Develop VR Headsets That Won't Make Users Nauseous

... with some food for thought.

The ending '-eous' or '-ious' is added to a noun to produce an adjective that means producing whatever that noun is. Something that is 'advantageous' produces advantage for example. Something which is ignominious produce ignominy (shame, embarrassment). Something that is piteous arouses pity in the onlooker.

I think you see where I'm going with this. The word the headline writer should have used is 'nauseated', although making users nauseous in the pedantic sense would certainly be a concern for the developers of any product.

Comment: Re:Why can't they fairly negotiate? (Score 1) 61

by hey! (#49184405) Attached to: SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

There was a period in the early 00's when one of the my company's manager would periodically walk through my office door and the first words out of his mouth was "I just read about this patent..." and I'd stop him right there.

"This is going to be one of those things where the extent of the filer's 'invention' was to take something people were doing with LORAN fifty years ago, cross out 'LORAN' and write in 'GPS', isn't it?"

"Well," he'd begin.

"I don't want to hear about it. It's guaranteed to be invalid on the basis of obviousness, but if they get lucky in court and I've actually read or even heard about that specific patent they'll be able to take us to the cleaners."

You'd be amazed at some of the technology patents the patent office grants. Stuff anyone who'd been a practicing engineer for more than a few months would laugh his ass off at if he were patent examiner.

Comment: Remembering Nimoy this way is illogical. (Score 5, Informative) 217

by hey! (#49183661) Attached to: <em>Star Trek</em> Fans Told To Stop "Spocking" Canadian $5 Bill

His family has requested that donations be made in his memory to one of the following charities

Everychild Foundation http://everychildfoundation.or...
P.O. Box 1808
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Foundation http://www.copdfoundation.org/
20 F Street NW, Suite 200-A
Washington, D.C. 20001

Beit T’Shuvah Treatment Center http://www.beittshuvah.org/tre...
8831 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Bay-Nimoy Early Childhood Center at Temple Israel of Hollywood http://www.tiohnurseryschool.o...
7300 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Source: http://www.startrek.com/articl...

Comment: Re:The obvious solution (Score 1) 59

by hey! (#49183073) Attached to: US Air Traffic Control System Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities

How it was initially deployed is known only to its makers, but Stuxnet was designed to enter an isolated facility on a USB drive. Once on the LAN it would propagate to other computers, and potentially to other networks via an infected laptop, which is how it ended upon the Internet.

You can use your imagination as to how they got the USB into the target facility. It might have been as simple as dropping the USB stick in the parking lot of a vendor, but given the resources needed to create the worm itself you can't rule out some kind of black bag job or human asset.

Comment: Re:The obvious solution (Score 1) 59

by hey! (#49182649) Attached to: US Air Traffic Control System Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities

I really don't see that as a the most vulnerable point. Not by a long shot. Tapping a digital fiber link wouldn't be like US submarines tapping Soviet analog telephone cables. The data on the link can be encrypted and authenticated at either end such that it's not really practical to modify or impersonate without the kind of assets in the organization that would make an inside job a lot simpler.

The real problem is human factors. Air-gapping sensitive systems is a sound idea in principle but in practice it often fails because it's too cumbersome for users who then undermine the system. And Stuxnet showed that it's possible for a sufficiently advanced opponent to target systems of the far side of an air gap.

So the problem is with the notion that separate parallel systems separated from the outside world are a "simple" solution. They're a potential solution, but if you want to have confidence in that solution there's a lot of work analyzing and policing the behavior of the people who use, maintain, and produce the equipment.

Comment: Re:There is science here (Score 2) 21

by hey! (#49178195) Attached to: Rosetta Photographs Its Own Shadow On Comet 67P/C-G

Hmmm. While your explanation is unquestionably true, I don't think you quite understood what the poster was asking. His question is, I think, about the sharp shadows behind ridges on the surface, not the shadow of the vehicle itself.

I think his problem is an implicit assumption that if you drew a line from the center of the sun through the spacecraft, it would intersect the surface at a right angle. In that case you wouldn't expect cracks on the surface to display in such relief. However I believe that assumption is faulty, and that the rays of the sun intersect the surface at a considerable angle.

This is not unlike seeing the shadow of a plane you are riding in on the surface of the Earth. Unless you are in the tropics, that shadow won't be directly beneath you. It will be off to one side. It will also be distorted as it is spread out across the non-perpendicular surface, but you won't necessarily notice that because of foreshortening.

Comment: Re:Easier to Analyze or Change == More Maintainabl (Score 2) 244

by hey! (#49177955) Attached to: Study: Refactoring Doesn't Improve Code Quality

I once took over 30,000 lines of code that had been written by a subcontractor and trimmed it to around 4000 LOC. And you better believe it ran faster! Not because refactoring is magic, but because once all the mind-numbing almost-repetition was mucked out you could actually see what the code was doing and notice that a lot of it wasn't really necessary. Ever since then I have always maintained that coders should never ever copy and paste code. I've had people disagree, saying that a little bit of copying and pasting won't hurt, but I say if it's really such a little bit then you shouldn't mind re-typing it. Of course if you do that very soon you start putting more effort into devising ways to stop repeating yourself, which is exactly the point. Repeating yourself should be painful.

That's I think a reliable litmus test for whether you should refactor a piece of software. If it's an area of code that's been receiving a lot of maintenance, and you think you can reduce the size significantly (say by 1/3 or more) without loss of features or generality you should do it. If it's an area of code that's not taking up any maintenance time, or if you're adding speculative features nobody is asked for and the code will get larger or remain the same size, then you should leave it alone. It's almost common sense.

I don't see why anyone would think that refactoring for its own sake would necessarily improve anything. If an automotive engineer on a lark decided to redesign a transmission you wouldn't expect it to get magically better just because he fiddled with it. But if he had a specific and reasonable objective in the redesign that's a different situation. If you have a specific and sensible objective for reorganizing a piece of code, then it's reasonable to consider doing it.

Comment: Re:Bad idea (Score 1) 648

by hey! (#49175719) Attached to: Snowden Reportedly In Talks To Return To US To Face Trial

Well, this is the thing about civil disobedience. The classic formula is to keep up awareness of your issue by forcing the government to go through the embarrassing and drawn-out process of prosecuting and punishing you. I'll bet they had to drag Thoreau kicking and screaming out of that Concord jail cell when some joker finally came along and paid his poll tax for him. Holding court for his admirers in the town pokey no doubt suited his purposes nicely.

In that spirit, this announcement is very effective. When was the last headline you read about Edward Snowden? If he comes back for a long and drawn out trial that'll show he's pretty hard core about this civil disobedience thing -- if leaving a cushy, high paying job in Hawaii with his pole-dancing girlfriend to go to fricken' Russia wasn't enough.

It occurs to me, though, that this situation is a lot like what I always say about data management systems: the good ones are easier to replace than the bad ones. Likewise the better governments, the ones with at least some commitment to things like due process, are much easier to face down with civil disobedience than ones where being a political threat gets you a bullet in the head, like Ninoy Aquino or Boris Nemtzov. If Snowden *does* come back, and if he ends up "detained" in limbo somewhere, then it'll be time for everyone to go into the streets and bring the government down.

Comment: Re:Brain drain (Score 1) 167

by hey! (#49175549) Attached to: Marissa Mayer On Turning Around Yahoo

Everyone likes getting paid. And all things being equal, everyone likes getting paid *more*.

But one thing I've noticed is that the people who are most dissatisfied with their current pay also happen to be the most dissatisfied with their working conditions overall, particularly how they feel treated. The feeling seems to be that if they ought to get more pay to put up with this shit.

Now I wouldn't suggest to any employer, particularly in tech, to economize by offering low salaries. You want to attract and retain the best people you can. But this suggests to me that many employers would do themselves a favor by paying a little more attention to worker happiness. If you're paying people approaching (or even more than) $100,000, there's bound to be a lot more cost effective ways to goose worker morale than handing out raises they'll perceive as significant.

But oddly many employers seem to think paying someone's salary is a license for handing out indignities. This doesn't even qualify as penny wise pound foolish.

Comment: Re:What is Parody? (Score 1) 252

by hey! (#49175113) Attached to: Gritty 'Power Rangers' Short Is Not Fair Use

What is gasoline if not a liquid? And what is liquid but a fluid? Therefore I should be able to run my car on hot air. So not all fair use is parody, nor is everything an author has to put up with fair use.

Fan fiction falls into that last category. Some authors encourage it, which is gracious; others are paranoid about it, which is understandable. But ultimately no matter how they feel about fan fiction they're going to have to put up with it. A successful work of fiction fires peoples' imaginations, and in the Internet era that means they're going to share their imaginings with like-minded people. Trying to police fan-fiction in a world where anyone can set up a blog or social media account to share it is like spitting into a hurricane force wind.

But even though a successful author pretty much has to put up with fan fiction whether he likes it or not, it's ridiculous to think that any author is somehow obligated to promote it. That just a fan-fiction author's fantasy. Authors have lives too, and there is not enough hours in the day for an author to police the stuff, much less to negotiate business deals for the people who write it. It's considered bad manners to even ask an author for the name of his literary agent, because an agent is supposed to work for an author, which he won't be able to do if he's swamped with requests from wannabes.

Comment: Re:Hillary is a divisive figure *among Democrats* (Score 2) 534

Well, it's an open question of who's living in a fantasy world. I'm actually old enough to remember these people. Show me a Republican today who'd be as aggressive as Nixon on regulation. Who would sign the Clean Water Act, or the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or appoint someone like Elliot Richardson the head of HEW. Nixon also took the single most intrusive act of economic intervention ever by an American president (including FDR): the wage-price freeze. It's fair to say that there's nobody in national politics anywhere on the spectrum that would undertake a step like that. For one thing it was hopeless; there is no way to stop incipient runaway inflation without restricting the money supply and reducing government deficit spending so as to induce a temporary contraction of the economy.

Comment: Re:Hillary is a divisive figure *among Democrats* (Score 1) 534

A generation ago, Hillary was on the left fringe of the Democratic Party. She has not moved right, the Party has moved left.

A generation ago, Paul Wolfowitz was on the left fringe of the Democratic party. People change.

Nelson Rockefeller was to the left of Hillary. So was Richard Nixon.

Comment: Hillary is a divisive figure *among Democrats* (Score 5, Interesting) 534

That may surprise people here. The Republicans have done a good job painting her as the quintessential ultra-liberal Democrat, but really she is no such thing. She is, in fact, from the right wing of the party and could have been an establishment Republican a generation ago. She is widely reviled by the left over her vote on the Iraq War Authorization of Military Force (although to be fair, Joe Biden voted for it too and he's seen as generally reliable on liberal issues, as long as he doesn't open his mouth).

On the other hand she's the first really plausible female presidential candidate for a major party, and I think a lot of people who want to see that milestone project a great deal of their hopes on her. But what makes her plausible in the first place is her acceptability to the establishment.

And what makes her acceptable to the establishment is her competence and personal accomplishments; being married to Bill helps. But the Ivy League education, experience in high profile NGOs and partnership in a major law firm mean she's seen as serious by "serious people". But in this case that should be held against her here. She's not like old Uncle Joe (Biden), whose heart is in the right place but who the hell can tell where his mind might go a-wandering; Hillary is someone you expect to have her head in the game. She knew damn well that conducting official business on non-government servers is exactly what people do when they're breaking the law.

I'm neither a Hillary partisan nor a Hillary hater. On the political spectrum I tend to fall a little to the right of the most vocal Democratic base and to the left of the establishment "DLC" wing that dominates the party at the national level. When the Secretary of State does something this fishy, that's a big deal. I think there should be something like a special prosecutor appointed, even though when the words "Clinton" and "special prosecutor" are uttered in the sentence the word "circus" can't be far behind. But then if the special prosecutor finds no indictable offense I'd be happy with that result.

Build a system that even a fool can use and only a fool will want to use it.

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