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Comment Dangling participle error in title (Score 4, Informative) 195

Today's grammar lesson: dangling participle

As a cable channel, the FCC has little to no jurisdiction...

Oops... the FCC is not a cable channel. Suggested rewrites:

As a cable channel, HBO is pretty much not under the jurisdiction of the FCC.

As HBO is a cable channel, the FCC has little to no jurisdiction over it.

P.S. I really enjoy a good dangling participle. "Landing at the airport, our car was visible in the parking lot."

Comment Re:Already Too Late (Score 1) 152

Any particular reason you'd recommend MATE over Cinnamon, incidentally?

Basically, I want either Cinnamon or MATE and until recently, Cinnamon was kind of half-baked.

The GNOME 2.x desktop has man-decades of work in it, and it has a level of smooth polish that I like. All the things I want to do are possible. To change the way things are laid out, you pretty much just click and drag. When Cinnamon was first released it was really rough around the edges, especially in comparison.

Since Cinnamon is getting nicely polished, it may be time for me to switch. While I am not a fan of the GNOME Shell GUI, everything I read here on Slashdot says that GNOME 3.x is a solid, well-engineered system; so with Cinnamon layered on top of that, it should have a bright future.

On the other hand, there aren't any apps yet that I care about that don't work under MATE so I'm not in a hurry to switch.

Comment Re:Already Too Late (Score 1) 152

Windows 10 is looking to be fairly popular at this point, and contrary to a lot of concerns, you can actually turn off all of the privacy-intrusive features.

Are there any good articles about that? The stuff I have read has made me leery of Windows 10. I wish that ReactOS was in shape to run my Windows games; I would probably switch to that instead of Windows 10. (For now I'm staying on Windows 7.)

My Linux experience has historically been to attempt to install and use some Linux distro every five years or so, only to be rebuffed by some serious issue

I've been using Linux by preference since the late 90's. When I started, it was hard to get a lot of stuff working... I remember buying PCI Ethernet cards since I couldn't get motherboard Ethernet working for certain chipsets, and buying a USB WiFi dongle because it was so hard to get the internal WiFi chipset working on a laptop.

But these days, pretty much it all Just Works. You can still have trouble with sleep/hibernate, and I think that power management isn't quite as good in general, but things like Ethernet, audio, and WiFi all pretty much just work.

I'm still using Linux Mint MATE edition (64-bit) as my primary desktop Linux. IMHO, the Gnome 2.x desktop is the best thing ever; it ripped off the things I like from the Mac GUI and from the Windows GUI, and it's polished.

Linux Mint Cinnamon has come a long way though and you might want to go with that. MATE is kind of a dead end, and someday there might actually be apps I care about that run under Cinnamon but not under MATE.

Also, you could try setting up VirtualBox on one of your Windows machines, and running Linux inside the VirtualBox. The virtual hardware inside VirtualBox is well-understood by Linux, so you should be able to stop worrying about hardware and focus on learning your way around Linux and doing stuff with it.

Comment Re:Exclusivity (Score 1) 698

modern militaries have leaps and bounds better weapons than anything civilians could possess.

That's true. I would say that in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, our soldiers had "leaps and bounds" better weapons than anything their enemies did possess. However, the enemies still managed to hurt and kill our soldiers.

Air power, armored vehicles, missiles... there are all kinds of overwhelming weapons that civilians are not going to have that the military has. And if the military ever used those on the civilians, all the civilians could do would be to get under cover or go somewhere else. But it's impossible to use those sorts of weapons as an "occupying" force, and the more-lightly-armed civilians would inflict losses on the occupying soldiers.

even worse, this operates on the premise that the only way to have civilization is through constant fear of one another.

There is an old saying: "If you would have peace, prepare for war."

It shouldn't be necessary to live in "constant fear" but equally it should be possible to be prepared for the worst case.

I'm going to turn your statement around: you would have us arrange things so that if the government ever did go off the rails, the civilians would know that there was absolutely nothing they could do about it. Is that really better?

Governments can do things wholesale, and when government starts killing people, it does so wholesale. Nazi Germany got really organized about killing Jews... and I don't believe that the German people were innately evil or really completely unlike the people in my own country. Likewise, under Stalin, the Soviet Union got really organized about "purging" people; and look up "the killing fields" in Cambodia sometime. These events are history. They happened. It's not impossible for such things to happen again, and if you want to claim "it can't happen here" you had better explain why.

My answer: it can't happen here because armed citizens would fight the government, and would have effective weapons with which to do it.

The top two rights in the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, and the right to own and carry effective weapons. These were intended by the authors of the Bill of Rights to be checks on government power.

Nobody wants to see the citizens of our country needing to use firearms to fight our own government. But the fact that they could, if necessary, makes it less likely that they ever will need to do so.

Comment Re:Let the market decide. (Score 1) 528

We should also let the market decide if the military and the police are worth paying for.

There are a few people who believe that we don't need a government; that the free market can solve all problems up to and including national defense. These people are called anarcho-capitalists.

Other people believe that government should handle things for people that the people cannot handle for themselves, and military and police fall into the latter category. I am in this camp; I consider myself a minarchist.

Still other people believe that government should be really big and do lots of stuff; not just the core functions like military and police, but government should feed people, provide medical care for people, etc.

Your joke about making military and police optional is kind of funny, but actually conflating military and police with renewable energy policy is fuzzy thinking.

The big problem with anarcho-capitalism, IMHO, is the free rider problem. If 90% of the people make their voluntary contributions to the national defense, and 10% don't, it is not possible for the defense to allow attacks on the 10%. National defense is either effective for everyone or effective for nobody.

On the other hand, privatized fire departments actually work. Not only have they been tried, they actually are in current operation in the USA. It's simple: if you don't pay for fire protection, the fire department doesn't save your house; they watch it burn down (and make sure the fire doesn't spread to paid-up neighbors' homes). No free-rider problem.

So while I don't actually believe that privatized police and military would work, other things like power generation and fire departments could work. Then it becomes a political question of what the majority of people prefer. (I don't expect ever to see the government get as small as the imaginary minarchist model would propose; I'd be happy just to see it get smaller. Most people like public fire departments and would vote to keep them, and I'm not such a hard-core frothing-at-the-mouth minarchist that I have a real problem with this. Overall, public fire departments are working okay.)

Comment Government mandates aren't magical (Score 0) 528

The cost of solar has fallen dramatically, so lots of people will build solar even if the government doesn't do anything.

The government could best encourage solar by streamlining regulations, and possibly with some sort of low-interest loan program to help people get past the initial cost. If solar makes sense, people could save enough money on their electricity to pay back the loans.

My big fear though is that if the government tries to force this, it will turn out like the similar program in Germany. Because of the lack of practical grid-scale energy storage, Germany has simultaneously managed to produce huge amounts of free renewable power while making the German citizens pay far more than ever for power and while burning more coal than ever. (Germany is shutting down nuclear power plants; solar and wind aren't dependable enough; result, more coal burned.)

President Obama's administration has implemented new rules to reduce coal burning, but the example of Germany shows that this shall really cause a dramatic increase in prices so it will not be politically possible for that plan to be fully implemented. It's easy to talk about it now, but it will be hard for politicians to say "your electricity cost will necessarily skyrocket and you just need to deal with it, and vote for me." (The plan contains "escape hatches" that will allow the utilities to keep producing power with coal if the plan doesn't work out.)

I think that all we really need is practical grid-level energy storage, and the "green energy" solution will take off like a rocket with no government intervention needed. I have hopes for liquid metal batteries but any high-density storage solution would solve the problem.

If we get grid-level storage in the near future, solar and wind power will become much more economically attractive and we will get more of it. Then politicians will claim the credit and the coal-burning reductions will actually happen. If solar and wind power remain economically problematic and government forces us to use more, we will all pay more for power, and politicians will say there is nothing they can do.

Comment Re:Also, I have an idea: make murder illegal! (Score 1) 318

Either nobody likes my sense of humor or whoosh. Or both I guess.

I'll just spell it out:

After they pass this law, they should also make it illegal to commit murder. Think of all the lives that will be saved when murders stop happening!

Translation: you can pass a law banning something, but the law can't magically remove that something from the world. Murder is already illegal yet we still have murders. If a law is passed requiring web sites to memory-hole things that under-18 people posted when those people turn 18, that doesn't mean that the memory-holed things will be gone from the Internet.

The Internet is forever. Once something has been posted, it's not possible to undo that.

Also, they should totally add Barbara Streisand to the law.

For those of you who didn't click the link, this was a reference to the "Streisand Effect", where demanding that something be removed from the Internet results in more attention and fame for the removed materials. Nobody really cared about the photo of Streisand's house until she tried to have the photo suppressed; after she tried that, hundreds of thousands of people looked at the photo.

Thus, not only is it impossible to remove things from the Internet, but the attempt is likely to backfire and make things worse.

P.S. Slashdot needs a "-1, Not funny" moderation. I presume that's what the "overrated" meant on my post.

Comment Also, I have an idea: make murder illegal! (Score 0) 318

After they pass this law, they should also make it illegal to commit murder. Think of all the lives that will be saved when murders stop happening!

Also, they should totally add Barbara Streisand to the law. 18-year-old kids, and Barbara Streisand. Yeah.

Comment I for one welcomed the comedy (Score 1) 58

Not every movie needs to be serious.

Also, I loved the fact that the original Star Trek had some just plain funny episodes. My favorite episode was very serious ("The Doomsday Machine") but I was happy to watch the funny ones as well ("I, Mudd" and "The Trouble With Tribbles"). It was something I missed with Star Trek: The Next Generation... that show was so serious all the time.

"The Trouble With Tribbles" was a masterpiece, in that it was primarily a comedy episode but there was an actual serious plot underneath, and both worked together. And IMHO the Ant Man movie worked the same way: it was almost pure comedy, but there was a serious plot. There was a big twist that had me actually concerned (oh no, it really would be bad if those particular guys got that particular bit of technology) but the comedy kept on coming.

I'm not sure I will ever bother to watch Ant Man a second time, but I regard that as two hours enjoyably spent and I do recommend it. If you watch the trailers and it looks like fun, you will like it.

Comment Re: Isaac facepalming himself in the grave (Score 1) 27

Maybe Isaac Asimov was unhappy with his novelization of the movie, bit I like it. It is the one example I have ever read where the novelization of a movie improved on the movie.

There is a bunch of stuff in the movie that is just there, not explained. Why will the submarine stay tiny for only 60 minutes? Where does the sub go at the end? Asimov came up with reasonable explanations.

There was one bit from the movie that was just too stupid, so Asimov just omitted it. Someone brought a little box onboard the sub, and dialog explained that it contained an atomic particle to power the nuclear reactor. "We are going to be so small that all we will need is one particle..."

Hmm, now I kind of want to watch the movie again.

Late in his life, Asimov wrote a sequel. Since I loved the first one, I tried to read the sequel, but it bored me and I never finished it.

Comment Re:Harder: self-stabilizing parachute, or balance (Score 1) 496

I'd argue you are going to need a heck of a lot more rocket fuel for deceleration than the mass a parachute system would require.

I'm not so sure of that. But I'm not an expert. Most of what I (think I) know about space I learned by reading through long discussions on the Internet.

In this case I am thinking back to discussions of SSTO craft and whether or not wings make sense; the experts all agreed that it would be better to land as a rocket than add extra mass to the system. And the key is that the thing lands almost empty... when it's taking off it's boosting itself full of fuel plus whatever upper stage(s) are in use; when it's landing it's just decelerating its own empty weight.

Comment Re:Harder: self-stabilizing parachute, or balance (Score 1, Informative) 496

Which of these strategies do you choose:
a) Attach a parachute to the nose and let basic physics work.
b) Try to balance it atop rocket engines firing from the bottom.

I realize you were going for humor (and got it; congratulations on being moderated +5 Funny). But here's a serious answer.

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish:

If your top priority is to save the rocket stage, then you pursue an engineering strategy that has the best chance of saving the rocket booster. Maybe that means a parachute system; I don't know.

But a parachute system adds mass and complexity. It becomes another critical system ("if the parachute fails, we lose the rocket stage"). The rocket stage needs functioning rocket engines, so landing on the rocket engines is another use for those engines rather than a new system with a single purpose. All else being equal, the simpler design with fewer systems is more likely to succeed in its tasks.

If you add a few hundred kilograms of parachute system mass, that's going to mean the booster can push less mass to orbit. I'd guess that the loss factor is higher than 1... that each additional kilogram of non-fuel mass on the booster reduces the to-orbit capacity by more than one kilogram. But ask a physics expert for the actual numbers.

Note that new software to make the booster land on its engines does not add mass to the booster.

So I'd say that if your top priority is to efficiently deliver stuff to orbit, the parachute system is right out and the clear engineering decision is (b).

Comment Re:My god you people need to think about economics (Score 1) 1094

pays their full-time workers so little that they can't afford food or a place to live without welfare and foodstamps?

Could you please provide a source for this claim? In 2014, the Wal-Mart blog fisked a hit piece that was claiming things similar to what you just claimed, and pointed out that the average hourly wage at Wal-Mart was $12.91 per hour (and that is specifically not including highly-paid management).

http://blog.walmart.com/fact-check-the-new-york-times-the-corporate-daddy

How does it help me that my tax dollars have to subsidize Walmart employees

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/11/13/apologies-but-welfare-payments-to-employees-are-not-subsidies-to-walmart-and-mcdonalds/

Wal-Mart makes about 3% profit. In comparison, Apple Computer makes about 24% profit. Additionally, Wal-Mart has a more ethnically diverse set of employees than Apple Computer has. You seem to hate Wal-Mart; do you hate Apple Computer even more?

https://www.aei.org/publication/every-month-walmart-gets-one-profit-day-from-its-sales-while-apple-gets-7-5/

Also, low-income people like to shop at Wal-Mart because the low prices are a benefit. Some economists have written papers attempting to estimate the impact.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/08/11/walmart-destroys-jobs-yes-but-the-benefits-go-to-consumers-not-the-top/
http://www.nber.org/papers/w11809

So, to summarize: Wal-Mart pays a lot of taxes, employs a lot of people at an average hourly rate 78% over the US federal minimum wage, and benefits the poor by helping them spend less on the things they need.

I just don't understand all the Wal-Mart hate.

Comment Re:Daily carry (Score 1) 278

What I have in mind for the "companion tool" is the sawblade, the metal file/metal saw, magnifying glass, and possibly pliers. Plus whatever else they can fit without making it any wider.

The problem is that they sell a knife that has everything my knife has on it, plus some or all of the above list. (Example: the Craftsman) I don't want the weight or bulk of a single tool with all of that stuff.

Time is an illusion perpetrated by the manufacturers of space.

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