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Journal Journal: 15 minutes of uselessness 5 5

Every day at about 10:45 AM central my Windows 7 computer at the office grinds to a halt, and trying to use the computer is an exercise in absolute frustration. Windows are slow to gain focus, tabs don't change, even typing has a delay that I haven't seen since typing on a BBS with a 300 baud modem decades ago. The weirdest part is that when I try to alt tab to a different application during this, the window I'm trying to get to will actually completely disappear (showing the desktop underneath) for a couple of seconds then reappear as if nothing was wrong. Sometimes the entire monitor goes black and starts to redraw a little bit at a time.

Task manager shows svchost.exe sucking up 800+MB of RAM (on this paltry 1GB system). Even listing the processes and services by PID, it's impossible to tell what's going on, the PID of this svchost.exe process is listed on 15 different services: wuauserv, winmgmt, themes, shellhwdetect, sens, schedule, profsvc, mmcss, lanmanserver, iphlpsvc, ikeext, gpsvc, browser, bits, and appinfo. I'd like to say that I assume it's Windows Update causing this (isn't it always?), but windows update is scheduled to download and install updates at 3AM (and the computer is left on overnight), so either one of those other services is going haywire or Windows 7 hasn't got a clue what time it is.

Any ideas on figuring out what's going on, or is it time to give this thing the ol' reboot reformat reinstall?

User Journal

Journal Journal: First Contact, FRB 170806, Mark Your Calendar

August 6, 2017 could be a momentous day - this could be the day we have definitive proof of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

We currently have a list of 11 FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), two of them are almost certainly from the same source, FRB 110220 and FRB 1401514, as can be seen from their detected locations.

FRB 110220 2011/02/20 01:55:48.957 22h34' -12deg 24'

FRB 140514 2014/05/14 17:14:11.06 22h34' -12deg 18'

We have not been looking for this type of astronomical phenomenon for very long, and have not yet devoted many resources to the search (likely the list of FRBs will rise). There are probably multiple ways in which FRBs can be generated -- most of them quite exotic and rare -- neutron star mergers and Blitzars are candidates. These type of phenomenon would not repeat in the same location. There are certain types of hypothesized stellar flares that could be recurrent, of course they wouldn't be recurrent on a constant time scale. So should there be an FRB on August 6, 2017 (08:29:24 UTC to be precise), then we are looking at the first unequivocal evidence of a extraterrestrial signal of intelligent origin.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Refuting the Chinese Room Argument

Chinese Room

I find the using of the Chinese Room argument to disprove AI is possible to be completely backwards. Most everyone agrees consciousness is the process that arises from the passing of electrical signals between neurons in an organized fashion. Each individual neuron is merely executing/passing along instructions based on reading instructions (receiving incoming nerve impulses) with no understanding of the overall program. Thus our minds ARE a Chinese Room. Consciousness is the byproduct of the process of message passing between neurons which individually have no understanding of what they are doing.

It may seem alien and ethereal, but should you create a Chinese Room large enough to simulate in sufficient detail the message passing of the neurons of someoneâ(TM)s brain, then that Chinese Room would possess a consciousness (albeit one that runs incredibly slowly). Not just a simulation of one.

It shouldnâ(TM)t matter whether the message passing is pieces of paper with a number representing the weight of an action firing potential or a flood of sodium ions in an actual synapse. Both are message passing between discrete elements. In the case of the Chinese Room simulating a human mind, when the person in the Chinese Room shuffling papers gets bored and quits then the Chinese Room mind dies, just like a human mind dies when its brain is starved of oxygen and its neurons decide to quit their jobs.

Now to get our Chinese Room mind up to speed lets do our message passing with electrical signals between transistors in a computer. This is much closer to how our neurons work anyway (though irrelevant as to where consciousness derives from). Whether it is conscious or not will strictly be determined by its degree of self-awareness. Not what components it is made of.

Note: this is a re-posting of a response I made to Android Authorityâ(TM)s Will the emergence of AI mean the end of the world?
User Journal

Journal Journal: Two minutes of euuugh 2 2

Chrome's new bookmark manager is definitely a poster child for "half-ass it then push it to the masses". It seems to be working hard to almost replicate the Windows 8.0 Metro interface that everyone loved down to the "checkmark a tile to open the menu".

Tips:

If you want to make a new folder, go to the folder you want it to be in and press the NEW button on the left outside of the folders, there's no button for it on the right inside the folder (but there is a button to delete the entire folder from inside the folder).

If you want to drag items into your new folder, drop them quick. If you hesitate Chrome decides that you are re-ordering the items and you want the bookmark to go before the folder even though your mouse is directly over the tile.

If you have nested folders, opening a subfolder seems to randomly display all the elements in the center of the screen where you can't click on anything because its all on top of each other. Sometimes. There's no tree view of nested folders. Top level folders are on the left, after that you have to drill down individually.

No right clicking. Haven't you heard that there's no way to right click on a tablet?

When you checkmark a folder you don't get the option to edit its name or description. You have to open the folder then rename it from the inside.

User Journal

Journal Journal: An Open Letter to the Adults and Leadership of Iran

An Open Letter to the Adults and Leadership of Iran,

The Ayatolla Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Leader to The Islamic Republic of Iran, has sent an open letter to the Youth of Europe and North America - a direct appeal to them to learn more about Islam. The wording is all very friendly, but sends chills up my spine nonetheless. One must assume his eminence would be thrilled if our Youth upon hearing about the greatness of Islam decided to convert. So since this is a friendly exchange you must be considering encouraging the Leaders of Israel to send open letters to your youth extolling the virtues of Judaism, and the Pope to extol the virtues of Christianity. Perhaps your youth may want to consider a different path? Oh wait, in Iran apostasy a crime, one punishable by death.

This does pose a problem, in Iran and many other Islamic states religious tolerance seems to be a one way street. When pictures of the Prophet Mohammad are depicted by cartoonists, Iran's response is to fight back with a Holocaust cartoon contest. So an insult to Islam demands an insult to some other faith (and not even the faith of the provocateurs)? Islam demands respect, but seems to offer none in kind.

Though I myself am an Agnostic, you might as well consider me an Atheist in that while the question of God is open, there is no doubt in my mind all the organized religions of the world are based on silly, childish, fairy tales and wishful thinking. This is my opinion, sorry if you find it distasteful. I believe that it is a basic human right for people to believe what they wish and express it without fear. You have my full considered consent to believe in Islam - you can say whatever you want about my beliefs and that of others without fear of retaliation. The opposite appears not to be true. Ahmed Salman Rushdie wrote a work of fiction called "The Satanic Verses." Since this is a work of fiction its meanings are up for interpretation, however your then ruler Ayatollah Fuhollah Knomeini issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Mr. Rushdie. The fatwa has since then been rescinded in weak fashion - Iran no longer calls for the killing of Mr. Rushdie, nor would it condemn his killing should it occur (and only came to this weakened stance to reopen trade with the west).

My own country is going to great pains to declare terrorism and Islam separate. Our leaders constantly remind us that there are many peaceful followers of Islam (and there are). There is however a great deal of hatred growing here. But it isn't just the terrorists that are fomenting this hate. When virtually every Islamic state of note restricts freedom of speech and religion, then in my opinion they are not much above the terrorists they so wish to be differentiated from, and it is this restriction of freedoms regardless of sect, Sunni or Shiite, that leads to the fomenting of terror in general. Can you cite current great Christian conflicts between Protestant and Catholic sects? A great portion of Islam is not only at war with the west, but at war with itself, largely because many (most?) regional Islamic powers only view their own interpretations of Islam as acceptable. Of course perhaps insistence on enforcing Islamic dogma is merely a blunt tool for use by those in power to retain control by hypocritical means.

It is hard to have compassion for and care about the suffering of people who would cheer for killing those for speaking ill of their Prophet. I say this because I stand with those that ridicule Mohammad (and so must consider myself at peril). Let me be clear on this point; I have no respect at all for Mohammad, he was a rapist, a murder, and a torturer. If you worship him, you worship a false Prophet. I would be among those who many of you would have my bones broken, my body burned, my head severed - if not restrained by international agreements so as to be able to do business with the kafirs. For those Muslims among you who would not wish this fate upon me and respect my right to my thoughts and my speech (as well as those of all others), then peace be unto you. If not, then why should I care about you? Will you really tell me there is not a multitude among you that wouldn't have me pay a dear price for what I have just said? Have not many Muslims said similar or worse words about most other faiths? What should be their punishment? Under our system - none - so who shows true compassion? The leaders of Iran and other Islamic countries have condemned people to death for words. I would be proud if my words merited such attention and opprobrium.

Islam must either evolve to embrace secular tolerance or it is doomed to an eternal war it cannot win with the west. This is not Christianity and Judaism versus Islam it is modern enlightenment and civilization versus the barbarism of the past. Let me state most emphatically; if Islam cannot abide freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of association, and freedom to enjoy all rights equally regardless of race, religion, or gender - then Islam is not a religion of peace and the theocracies based upon it will never truly be considered equal by the rest of the world.

I can have tolerance for a believer of Islam especially if he observes it in a way that does not restrict the freedoms of those around him. But I have no tolerance for regimes and political systems that build upon Islam (or any religion for that matter) as their foundation, because as far as I can see this leads invariably to the oppression of their people and coerces them into following the national faith. If Islam is not coercive - then why are there laws against apostasy? Shouldn't a person's thoughts on religion and how to practice it be their business and not the government's? While Islam in many cases allows a person to practice another faith (if born into it and with many caveats), it seems being born into Islam is to give up any free choice in the matter.

Our freedoms here in the west have allowed you to talk to our youth; there are no government restrictions against them seeing your words. Are your youth open to our words, especially those critical of Islam? How hypocritical of you to use our freedoms to promote your message when you restrict so many other views under your system. Of the top 500 websites visited around the world, Iran restricts viewing by censorship of almost 50%. I am unaware of ANY official Iranian websites being so censored here in America. I guess you fear our words more than we fear yours.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 0.38 Seconds of Hate 2 2

For the love of all that is holy, please do NOT automatically select shit from a dropdown list if I'm typing and a dropdown opens up underneath where the mouse pointer just happens to be idling on the screen.

Chrome: This. Means. YOU.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Holy shitballs, slashdot. Malicious ads being served up.

Love is over.

I was redirected to http://java-update-us.com/index.html?sid=42&aff_sub=wb-playanma-us&aff_sub2=am1&aff_sub3= which dropped a java_installer.exe into my Downloads folder from some ad playing on http://science.slashdot.org/story/14/07/24/1357256/empathy-for-virtual-characters-studied-with-fmri-brain-imaging around 2:30PM central time 7/24

User Journal

Journal Journal: Continuation on education 13 13

Ok, I need to expand a bit on my excessively long post on education some time back.

The first thing I am going to clarify is streaming. This is not merely distinction by speed, which is the normal (and therefore wrong) approach. You have to distinguish by the nature of the flows. In practice, this means distinguishing by creativity (since creative people learn differently than uncreative people).

It is also not sufficient to divide by fast/medium/slow. The idea is that differences in mind create turbulence (a very useful thing to have in contexts other than the classroom). For speed, this is easy - normal +/- 0.25 standard deviations for the central band (ie: everyone essentially average), plus two additional bands on either side, making five in total.

Classes should hold around 10 students, so you have lots of different classes for average, fewer for the band's either side, and perhaps only one for the outer bands. This solves a lot of timetabling issues, as classes in the same band are going to be interchangeable as far as subject matter is concerned. (This means you can weave in and out of the creative streams as needed.)

Creativity can be ranked, but not quantified. I'd simply create three pools of students, with the most creative in one pool and the least in a second. It's about the best you can do. The size of the pools? Well, you can't obtain zero gradient, and variations in thinking style can be very useful in the classroom. 50% in the middle group, 25% in each of the outliers.

So you've 15 different streams in total. Assume creativity and speed are normally distributed and that the outermost speed streams contain one class of 10 each. Start with speed for simplicity I'll forgo the calculations and guess that the upper/lower middle bands would then have nine classes of 10 each and that the central band will hold 180 classes of 10.

That means you've 2000 students, of whom the assumption is 1000 are averagely creative, 500 are exceptional and 500 are, well, not really. Ok, because creativity and speed are independent variables, we have to have more classes in the outermost band - in fact, we'd need four of them, which means we have to go to 8000 students.

These students get placed in one of 808 possible classes per subject per year. Yes, 808 distinct classes. Assuming 6 teaching hours per day x 5 days, making 30 available hours, which means you can have no fewer than 27 simultaneous classes per year. That's 513 classrooms in total, fully occupied in every timeslot, and we're looking at just one subject. Assuming 8 subjects per year on average, that goes up to 4104. Rooms need maintenance and you also need spares in case of problems. So, triple it, giving 12312 rooms required. We're now looking at serious real estate, but there are larger schools than that today. This isn't impossible.

The 8000 students is per year, as noted earlier. And since years won't align, you're going to need to go from first year of pre/playschool to final year of an undergraduate degree. That's a whole lotta years. 19 of them, including industrial placement. 152,000 students in total. About a quarter of the total student population in the Greater Manchester area.

The design would be a nightmare with a layout from hell to minimize conflict due to intellectual peers not always being age peers, and neither necessarily being perceptual peers, and yet the layout also has to minimize the distance walked. Due to the lack of wormholes and non-simply-connected topologies, this isn't trivial. A person at one extreme corner of the two dimensional spectrum in one subject might be at the other extreme corner in another. From each class, there will be 15 vectors to the next one.

But you can't minimize per journey. Because there will be multiple interchangeable classes, each of which will produce 15 further vectors, you have to minimize per day, per student. Certain changes impact other vectors, certain vector values will be impossible, and so on. Multivariable systems with permutation constraints. That is hellish optimization, but it is possible.

It might actually be necessary to make the university a full research/teaching university of the sort found a lot in England. There is no possible way such a school could finance itself off fees, but research/development, publishing and other long-term income might help. Ideally, the productivity would pay for the school. The bigger multinationals post profits in excess of 2 billion a year, which is how much this school would cost.

Pumping all the profits into a school in the hope that the 10 uber creative geniuses you produce each year, every year, can produce enough new products and enough new patents to guarantee the system can be sustained... It would be a huge gamble, it would probably fail, but what a wild ride it would be!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Serious proposals to replace obamacare begin 49 49

The WSJ has floated an opinion piece offering what it calls a conservative alternative to Obamacare, that I think is the first time I've seen any conservative alternative except "Nuh-Uh!" Google news popped it up with a link to http://stream.wsj.com/story/latest-headlines/SS-2-63399/SS-2-381425/ which seems to be some sort of glorified rss feed with an HTML skin, so I have no idea if the link will be good for anyone else in the future.

It is, in my opinion, a beginning. In the past, I've called obamacare the wrong answer to the wrong question. This article suggests extending the current employer tax writeoff so that everyone, not just the employers, can buy insurance with tax-free money. Then it goes a step further by means-testing a tax credit for the poor so they can buy privately operated insurance with their tax credit instead of getting Medicaid. I think this is a good start to answering the question of how to make it possible for everyone to get at least minimal health insurance (if they want it. This is the conservative version, remember).

It is still the wrong question, though.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 2.8 seconds of hate - bash-completion 1 1

In an effort to be fancy and helpful, bash now has context aware tab completion (in the bash-completion package on Debian). Based on where you are and what command you're typing, pressing tab will Do (what the completion script writer thought was) The Right Thing.

Unless what you think is the right thing was was the behavior of older versions of bash where you could do

**/*.c<Tab><Tab>

and (eventually, ** is damn slow) get a list of all of the matching files. It also worked with [...] {...} ? or any of the other bash wildcards. You know, just in case you wanted to see what your command is going to do before you hit enter.

Now I have to ^U, ls ^Y, then ^Y, which takes about 2.8 seconds (including the realization that bash is just going to keep beeping at me if I keep hitting tab). Or disable fancy and helpful completion with complete -r

User Journal

Journal Journal: Two minutes of WTF 1 1

So I right clicked in an explorer window in windows 7 and went to "New >" on the menu and the submenu didn't open. I clicked it a few more times and nothing happened. I clicked it a few more times and the entire explorer shell crashed and restarted.

Wish I knew why the hell it sometimes takes 30+ seconds to get to "New Word Document" on my work computer.

User Journal

Journal Journal: 2 mins of hate: What can make me switch to a new RCS again 1 1

Three words: Four. Way. Diff.

Show me where my patch (before and after) conflicted with the last patch (via blame) before and after. Bonus points if you can show both complete commit messages. Extra bonus points if you look at the branch, figure out where it went wrong (at what point did my patch last apply cleanly?) and show me all the commits since.

Telling me shit's fucked up doesn't help anyone (that's what I got with cvs).

Telling me what I was trying to do tells me what I was trying to do, not what Bob was doing when he checked in before me, but at least I know what the hell I was doing when I did it months/years ago (this is where I am now with git rebase).

Telling me what the hell I was trying to do and what the hell Bob was trying to do, now that's what I need, because now I know what it's supposed to be doing when I'm done merging the code and can do so with a reasonable degree of confidence that both Bob and I will be happy with the result.

For my company's workflow, this would be the holy grail of revision control. I'd even be tempted to use a graphical tool to do it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Today's two minutes of hate

git, a love/hate relationship. Right now, hating really really hard.

You can do all sorts of incredible things with it, but there's so much that seems obvious I ought to be able to do, but just can't see how.

Case in point: git rebase. This is an incredibly powerful tool that lets you take changes and apply them to a different branch, one at a time very rapidly (if there are no conflicts). If a conflict arises, the process pauses, tells you where it died, lets you fix it, then you git rebase --continue. EXCEPT you get half of the first line of the commit message (despite being on a 128 column terminal it cuts off at 80) and no hash or any other way (I can find) to look up the complete description of the current commit being fixed (other than aborting the whole thing, going through the complete log to find the commit starting with whatever message then starting again (rerere makes this not painful, just annoying)). Oh, and if you used a branch name, that branch name is MOVED to the new location.

Other case in point: git merge. This is an incredibly powerful tool that throws everything together all at once and lets you deal with the aftermath. Conflicts, conflicts everywhere and no explanation of what the code is supposed to be doing. Fortunately, someone made a git-merge-like-rebase script that creates a temporary branch, rebases it to the target, then deletes the temporary branch leaving you with the original branch where it was (like merge) but applying one commit at a time (like rebase).

Still, I just took 2 hours of work doing something that would have taken 2 days in CVS, thanks to git rebase (rolling out a new version of our code for one of our customers with a heavily customized application. Rebased their custom branch onto our new release branch, fixed all the conflicts where they want customers sorted firstname lastname or blinking red lights or whatever and done). Probably could have done it in 1:30 if I didn't have to go back through the log to figure out how to fix "Change order of fields so that customer rep appears before ". I'm working in more and more tricks to reduce conflicts every upgrade so hopefully I'll have it down to less than an hour soon.

So now I love it again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Life post Google-Reader 5 5

So Google followed through on their threat to kill Reader and I ended up having to track down a new RSS feed reader. Having been bitten by the Cloud, I decided it'd have to be locally installed, after trying a few I've settled on FeedDemon (now discontinued, a shame) as "best so far".

The one thing I really, really miss about Google Reader (which in fact was the reason I started bothering with RSS in the first place) is that it had a bookmark you could set that would open the URL of the next unread item in your queue. Dragged the bookmark to the bar, and one click gets me to read something new and exciting (and middle click to read lots of new and exciting things in tabs). Sure, every time someone published an RSS entry without a URL google gave me a 500 error and marked every single article read, but hey, it was damned convenient when it didn't implode.

FeedDemon gives me a link to click on each article to open in its (embedded IE) browser, but as I go down the list of articles it doesn't automatically remove the read ones nor does it automatically add new unread articles unless I manually refresh the article list (maybe I'm doing it wrong?). It has a "Next Unread" button but it doesn't open the URL, it just shows the RSS item header and then I have to click it to open the URL.

Strongly considering taking some of what I learned in the Coursera python class a while back, this feed parsing library, and learning wxPython (platform independence!) and spinning my own. It won't do much, but it WILL have a button that launches a chosen browser with the chosen URL (thinking of making it a systray icon: left click to open next item, right click for menu, blinks when there are unread articles).

It could even pop up a window to display an article with no URL.

If you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it.

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