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Comment Re:Only Outlaws will Have Encryption (Score 1) 141

Generally, I don't agree with arguments of the form "If we ban X, only the bad guys will have X". (For example, if X is "guns", then total general unavailability of them, would eventually drive manufacturers out of business - and sooner or later all guns (and ammunition) would rust into non-existence and the bad guys wouldn't have them.)

But crypto is different. It's math. Since the math is already "out there", it only takes someone with roughly college-level software skills to turn that math into code.
So it is truly the case that making crypto illegal will simply result in no-back-door-crypto software appearing on the dark net for low-$$$ and the bad guys will have it.

At that point, the lack of crypto in the open market is irrelevant. The NSA (et al) will still need to decrypt the bad guy's messages the hard way.

And if we're honest about it - the real bad guys can probably figure out how to use a one-time pad correctly - which is easy enough to do and unbreakable.

Another issue here is how the law would get rid of all of the crypto that's already out there - do they seriously expect everyone to load new software for every device that uses cryptography in any form? The cost of that would be staggering!

Comment Re:The real headine (Score 1) 653

That would be incorrect though - they say that only 20% of their readership uses an ad-blocker. Some percentage will doubtless white-list, others (probably not many) will cough up the $1.

No matter what - their readership won't drop by more than 20% (I'd bet 10%) - so saying that they lost "the majority" (meaning more than 50%) would be wildly overstating the effect.

Comment Re:$52 a YEAR? (Score 1) 653

The trouble is that they are seeing this as a punitive measure. For some unknown reason, they'd prefer that you unblock the adverts...there is no way they can be making $1/week from adverts - I just don't believe it. So they are trying to 'fine' you $1/visit for having your ad blocker enabled.

I think that's a dumb move - if they dropped it to some micropayment (give us $5 now and we'll deduct 10 cents per visit and re-bill you $5 when you run out) - maybe they'd find this to be more profitable than handling adverts.

    -- Steve

Comment Pay-to-view ad-free is OK by me. (Score 1) 653

Personally, I think the world would be a better place if ads were simply illegal - across the board. No TV ads, no web ads, no freeway ads...nothing. Obviously, services that are currently ad-supported need to get paid somehow - so we'd need subscriptions and/or per-visit payments.

People complain that they can't afford those fees - but adverts don't make things free. Adverts increase the price of things you buy (someone has to pay for the advert!), adverts eat your time (==money), they cost more bandwidth to deliver (==money) and there are the middle-men who make the ads and who deliver them who eat more money.

Consider this: 23% of the cost of a car is the cost of advertising it. If just car adverts were banned - and assuming you pay $200/month in car payments - you could be saving $46/month to spend on advert-free TV and per-visit web site fees...and that's just cars. Add in your savings on everything else that's advertised - and you'd probably have a couple of hundred bucks to spend on paying web sites to deliver decent content to you.

So - if I live by what I claim, I should be OK with paying Wired $1/week to get ad-free content...the trouble is that I don't visit their site once a week...maybe once a month or something. $4/month is far *far* too much. Given the large number of sites I visit, there is no way I could afford to pay everyone $1/week.

So I'm behind Wired on this one - *but* it needs to be a micropay-per-visit thing and it needs to be much, much cheaper.

But they have the right idea.

Comment The basic question is answered...but still... (Score 5, Insightful) 551

Sure, we know the answer is "The world is getting hotter and it's all our fault" - but there are still a heck of a lot of questions that need to be answered. "How Fast?" and "Will the extra CO2 help crops or weeds grow faster?" and "What can we do about it?" and "Will such-and-such course of action have enough effect to avoid such-and-such consequences?"

We need those guys even more than we did before the original question was answered.

Comment I worked on some of this. (Score 5, Informative) 177

Many *MANY* years ago I was working as a software engineer at Philips Research in the early 1980's when they were looking into ISDN systems somewhat like DSL for the UK market - the business of sending anything over twisted pair copper is a nightmare. I wasn't directly working on the electronics (I was doing software) - but I shared an office with people who did...and they had a heck of a time characterizing the wires that their signals had to go down.

As I recall, the problems mostly come where one wire is spliced into another. Much of this infrastructure was put in the 1900's and it's horrible. Sometimes wires are just twisted together and capped, sometimes twisted and taped, sometimes twisted and just left open to the elements, sometimes they are soldered. Sometimes the places where the wires are joined gets wet when it rains. Sometimes the tightness of the twisted wire connection depends on the ambient temperature. The amount of cross-talk between wires is all over the map as different kinds of insulation was used (and much of it has degraded over the years). At the subscriber end, there were all kinds of phones being used - plus ugly stuff like "Party lines" (where two houses share a phone line!) that had been abandoned leaving extra wires in the ground that were still connected to the network.

All of those things affect the ability to get a decent amount of bandwidth down a wire that was never designed to do it. So the electronics has to be smart about the signal being reflected at each splice down the line and causing 'echoes', and designing affordable circuitry to detect and cancel those echoes was a nightmare. The amount of attenuation you'll get is all over the map - everything has to self- adjust and monitor to give it any chance of working.

So, as poor as DSL can be - it's a miracle it works at all over crappy old telephone wires.

    -- Steve

Comment Re:Lost ability? (Score 1) 310

The problem isn't "going to the moon" - the problem is staying there long enough to do something useful while you're there. What was done in the original Moon missions could be done much more efficiently with robots.

The things we need people for is much more long-term - and the Apollo technology couldn't do that.

I don't buy the argument that the moon is a good stepping stone to Mars - the difficulty of creating and maintaining all the infrastructure to manufacture rocket fuel and get it up into lunar orbit (or back to Earth orbit) is way harder than just going to Mars.

Mars has more gravity, a source of CO2 for plants, a sane day length (also for plants), water (probably) just underground rather than in the shadow of the rim of some craters that never see sunlight (which might be kinda hard to work in, don't you think?)

At the very least, I'd want to see a robot crawl across a lunar crater and take a photo of the water ice piled up there before we made any kind of a judgement as to how useful the moon is.

The main reason I see to go there is to collect Helium 4 for fusion reactors...and then the water would be a bonus. That's a commercial opportunity that a big company could actually go and exploit.

Comment Re: /. editors know less science than mad scientis (Score 1) 223

I agree that the 2nd law is pretty much a statement about statistics - and the 1st law is just a restatement of the conservation laws.

The issue of whether the 1st law might be incorrect is interesting.

Obviously, science knows of no situations where mass/energy is not conserved - and discovering such a situation would be a truly monumental discovery...perhaps more important than things like relativity.

What this means for the perpetual motion nuts is more nuanced.

Firstly, the realms of physics which are attainable by amateur tinkerers are very well explored indeed - there is simply no possibility that some fiendishly clever arrangement of mechanical parts, magnets, coils, hydrogen flames, water electrolysis and so forth is going to break the most fundamental law of physics we know of. All of the science involved in those systems are far too deeply explored and well-understood for that.

If a perpetual motion machine (or anything else that breaks the 1st law) is possible - it's going to be far outside the realms of normal existence - something in the quantum range - or involving black holes and singularities of other kinds - gravity waves, dark matter/energy - things that AREN'T well-understood yet. Sadly, these are things that lie outside the range of amateur tinkerers.

It's possible to overturn major scientific laws - as Einstein did to Newton's laws of motion. But (as with Einstein) - you have to do that outside the realms that have already been tested. When Einstein proposed relativity - we did not have the ability to send super-precise clocks out into orbit to measure how they fared in reduced gravity and high relative velocities - and the flaws in Newton's laws only show up under those kinds of extreme situation.

If the flaws in Newton's laws were noticeable in the realms that amateur tinkerers could reach - they'd have been overturned a century earlier - but only with advanced technology could we actually prove that Einstein was right.

The same thing happened with conservation-of-energy - every experiment open to a Victorian scientist shows that energy is indeed perfectly conserved. It's only when you have nuclear reactors and exotic radioactive materials that the fact that energy can be interchanged with mass became evident that caused us to have to talk about "the conservation of mass/energy" instead. Again, the experimental evidence to overturn this very old "law" only came about with cutting edge instruments and experiments that the average person could never undertake.

So these tinkerers with magnets and such are really wasting their time. It's probably impossible to make a perpetual motion machine - but if there will EVER be a machine that breaks the 1st law of thermodynamics, it'll have something exceedingly exotic going on inside...and it'll come from the bowels of a research lab - or perhaps a cosmologist's telescope.

Comment Re: /. editors know less science than mad scientis (Score 4, Interesting) 223

OK - so how about or or

None of them are talking only about heat engines - they carefully point out that historically, thermodynamics was all about steam engines. But nowadays, it's realized that the laws are far more universal than that.

Not one of them talks about "the triple of volume, pressure and temperature" - that stuff is a tiny, tiny subset of what modern thermodynamics covers. You're still back in the Victorian era of steam engines.

Anyway - I'm done arguing with you. I guess that 99% of other people here agree with me.

Comment Re:I'm one of these guys... (Score 1) 223

Sure, you can build machines that store energy and release it slowly - or store it slowly and release it rapidly - or convert energy from one form to another. But the difference between that and a machine that'll run "perpetually" is more definitely a black and white distinction. The former is merely some kind of clever system - possibly interesting, possibly beautiful, possibly useful. But the latter would shatter the laws of physics and require a radical re-think of everything we think we know about the universe.

The existence of a for-real perpetual motion machine would be astounding - more surprising than the arrival of a starship full of aliens, more surprising than the proof of God. Nobel prize material for sure. The inventor could be an overnight billionaire (well, assuming (s)he could manage to patent the beast - which might be a challenge!) - world energy markets would be in total upheaval.

Coming within 99.999999999999% of making a perpetual motion machine ain't that.

You don't live in a grey area - there is no grey area. It's a very clear, bright-line distinction.

Comment Re: /. editors know less science than mad scientis (Score 2) 223

Hmmm - Wikipedia has an article entitled "Laws of thermodynamics" and it says:

    "First law of thermodynamics: When energy passes, as work, as heat, or with matter,
      into or out from a system, its internal energy changes in accord with the law of
      conservation of energy. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the first kind
      are impossible."

    "Second law of thermodynamics: In a natural thermodynamic process, the sum of
      the entropies of the interacting thermodynamic systems increases. Equivalently,
      perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible."

It backs up those statements with no less than five scholarly references.

No mention of heat engines there...and an explicit statement that conservation of energy and the first law are equivalent. So, no - you're wrong - it's equally valid to discuss the first law and conservation...but conservation laws don't forbid perpetual motion machines of the second kind (the kind that operate perpetually - but produce no energy output) - so talking about thermodynamics makes a little more sense in this context.

Comment YouTube "science" (Score 1) 223

About a year ago, I watched 100 randomly chosen "Science Demo" videos on YouTube.

80% of them were faked, misleading or failed to demonstrate some kind of wild claim.

Of the remaining 20% about half did a "Oooohhh! Cooooool!" kind of a demo - but didn't say what was going on.

So, honestly - you have about a one in ten chance of learning some actual science by watching YouTube videos - and about an 80% chance of being mislead by idiots. This is even worse odds than watching Fox News!

Comment ...profit. (Score 2) 256

1) Sell all of your bitcoins.
2) Tell everyone that the system has failed - watch confidence disintegrate and the price plummet.
3) Buy back all of your bitcoins.
4) Wait for 1e6 people to point out that you're an idiot, thereby allowing confidence (and the price) to recover.
5) Profit! should be a "..." bit in there someplace. Sorry!

Comment LGPL as a middle-ground. (Score 1) 208

Stallman is indeed a fundamentalist. His goals are just fine - but he's about as remote from what a typical software engineer is as it's possible to be. That's OK, he's the idealist - and that lets the rest of us be pragmatists.

GPL is great for complete software packages - emacs, gcc...that kind of thing. But for libraries, it sucks. That's why we have LGPL. Sadly, there is a lot of anti-LGPL rhetoric out there

I think we need something like that for OpenHardware. The ability to use a piece of OpenHardware design in a closed-hardware ensemble without hiding the open part of the design...putting a BeagleBone inside my (commercial) 3D printer perhaps.

Keep that in mind - while I consider why LGPL is a good thing for *parts* of systems.

I get paid for writing software - I need that money to by food, clothing, housing, transport, etc. When I put something out into the public domain it's because I expect to get a fair trade out of it - I give you my software - some of you give me back bug fixes, improvements, etc. My gift to you is repaid to me - possibly in just a small way - but possibly many, many times's a fair trade for some kinds of software - but not for others.

Yet when I open-source a game (I've actually done this) - I got 300,000 downloads in the first month - a lot of thanks and ego-boosting praise - but almost zero actual tangible benefits in return (one guy - a musician - sent me a new, original music track). But if I open-source a library (and I've done that too, on many occasions), then with only a tenth the number of downloads - for years to come, my library was polished, fixed and improved - for free! That's because users of libraries are software engineers, and they are capable of helping out - players of games are typically not.

I learned my lesson - and I mostly OpenSource library code - or complete applications that programmers are likely use the most - these things give me a return on my work.

With a library, we need to allow the maximum number of people to use it in order to get constructive input. If I use GPL, it effectively causes all users of my library to have to license their application via GPL (or similar) too. That cuts out 100% of all commercial users and a large chunk of potential OpenSource users. The only people who can use my code are those who are working on GPL'ed applications - and those are a small minority. With LGPL, I can force the library sources to remain free - while allowing the maximum possible number of users to want to help with the maintenance. This gives me my best return on investment.

So it makes sense to have an LGPL-like license for hardware components - the BeagleBone inside my 3D printer design, for example. Keep the BeagleBone "open" and "free" while allowing me to use it in some larger project that I can sell to keep the lights on.

But for Stallman, this is a religious matter - he's trying to get me to use GPL on my library in an effort to leverage more GPL'ed applications out there. That's a nice goal - but it not one that a typical working programmer can rationally cope with. Closed source code pays the rent.

    -- Steve

Comment Re:It eould be nice, but... (Score 1) 208

The big problem is security. There are too many places for exploitable bugs, deliberate back doors, key loggers, side channels and other forms of pwnware to hide in modern processors. Do you know where all the components in your PC were fabricated?

That's "security by obscurity" - which is no security at all. If you want to avoid all of those exploits, you have to allow the good guys to find, report and fix them before the bad guys find, hide and exploit them.

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