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Comment Re:Discovery Channel is all BS reality TV now (Score 1) 164

I agree. Frontline is one of the few American documentaries worth watching. A lot of the crap on Netflix or Amazon Prime is just repetitive bullshit that keeps asking the same question over and over again, plays the same footage on a loop, and keeps you waiting to the end of the show for the answer.

Comment Re:My Commodore 64 (Score 1) 332

Think my Apple ][+ clone I got when my real Apple started failing still works, but I haven't booted it up in a decade. It's just easier to use an emulator. On both machines, some of the keys have broken off. Seems those stems get brittle with age. The genuine Apple is also suffering electrical disconnects in its chip sockets, making the BASIC ROM no longer reliable. Still runs assembly language programs without a problem, but when running a BASIC program anything can happen. Usually just crashes, but once it jumped to the DOS format routine. I heard the characteristic sound the floppy drive makes when it is formatting, and leaped to stop it, but was too late, it had already erased enough to make it unrecoverable.

Also have my brother's old Commodore 64, which I believe still works. Decades ago, the video display subsystem went out, and we had it repaired. Wasn't worth doing, really, should've trashed it and moved on.

Comment Re:Good! (Score 1) 364

I believe the problem is deeper Copying is easy, been getting easier and easier for years, but it's not that. Seriously, one of the main protections of the audio CD when it first came out in the early 1980s was simply that it contained too much data for easy handling, 700M at a time when hard drives weren't even 40M, there was no mp3 format, and wide area networking for the masses was done on 2400 baud modems, which would need days to transmit all the data on one CD. Also no CD ROM drive, though no doubt an audio CD player could have been hacked to rip CDs. Anyway, it's not that, not that copying is easy, and enforcement of copyright against millions of individuals is all but hopeless, it's that copying should be a basic human right.

Sharing of knowledge should be a basic human right Perhaps sharing could be regarded as a form of speech, and therefore protected under the 1st Amendment. But if not, sharing deserves no less protection, maybe should be even better protected. A system that attempts to compensate artists by regulating and restricting the sharing of knowledge in order to impose a toll, is fundamentally broken. There is no essential difference between teaching children the 3 R's, and copying songs. Both are a transmission of knowledge. Sharing of knowledge is fundamental to civilization and humanity. Our ability to communicate and cooperate better than any other animal put us on top of the animal kingdom. We sure can't compete with most animals on hardiness, strength, or any purely physical measure. One man, naked, no weapons or clothes, just bare hands, vs one lion is going to end in victory for the lion 99% or more of the time. But with the knowledge to build weapons, now it's the other way around. The lion has no chance whatsoever against a man backed with modern weapons tech. To give control of that power into the hands of a few is to put the rest of us in the same fix as any wild beast, utterly helpless to resist their will whenever it conflicts with our own. The 2nd Amendment is the right to bear arms. Maybe it should've been the right to bear pens, since The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword.

A typical objection to removing these tolls and restrictions on the sharing of knowledge is that artists will starve. How can any artists make any money without copyright? Well, there are other business models. Patronage is one. The usual objection to patronage is that it doesn't work, can't possibly work, which ignores that patronage has been around for centuries. The next objection I usually hear is based on the thinking that patronage has not changed, only the wealthy can afford it, which overlooks that now, thanks to the awesome expansion of communication the Internet has made possible, we can "crowdfund", as it has been called.

So, please, when you call copying a crime, think of piracy as a moral wrong, you are merely parroting the propaganda of the copyright extremists.

Comment Re: Unconvinced... (Score 1) 242

The really sad thing is 100k/year is actually not so much, not compared to the wealth we have. School pay has taken a beating in recent years, but a high school principal is still earning on average about 85k. School administrator pay varies widely, sometimes being as little as 40k. Some of these charter schools are more for lining the pockets of top officials than educating students, and there the pay can be well over 100k. Sometimes the most overpaid person is the football coach. College football is completely out of hand, enjoys far, far too much popularity and money, and this influences the high school level. I have no sympathy for whines that there aren't enough STEM graduates, not while they can lavish that kind of money on something as frivolous as football.

Outside of school, upper management has been on a long running high compensation spree. Pay themselves millions, and have the nerve to complain we are greedy for asking for a mere 80k, keep trying to cut us down to 60k, or less, classify us as junior technicians or whatever other justification they can hoke up.

Comment Re:Wrong? (Score 2, Insightful) 149

Depends on the creditor. Some debts I regard as a badge of honor. Anyone who manages to obtain vital medicinal pills that can be produced for under $1 but which have been priced at $750 each, on a "bill me later" basis, and then stiffs the pharmaceutical business by paying only $1 per pill, is a hero.

Don't pay tolls of a private road that was public but which was sold far too cheaply to a private company in a sweetheart deal? Hero. Bonus points if you find out the license plate numbers of the offending politicians who made the sale, and charge the tolls to them. Also, don't pay the red light camera ticket. Maybe throw the notice in the trash, but now I think such things may be better used on a wall of shame, for shaming cities.

And, ISPs? Well, let's see. Is Comcast a reputable business? How about AOL? I don't know of any US ISP or telecoms company that have not pulled some underhanded stunt to bilk the public. Maybe it's different in Canada, and this poor, poor ISP really is being cheated by the public.

Comment Re:But remember kids, it's not a planet! (Score 1) 52

They could have waited. Should have let Pluto stay a planet, officially, until after New Horizons' visit. Could have said that they would wait on the data from New Horizons before making a decision. What was the harm in that, or, why did they want to refine the definition when they did? What was so urgent that they couldn't wait?

Rushing to demote Pluto ahead of the New Horizon's visit is a slap to the US. Pluto is the only planet discovered by the US. It is largely because of that, and because Pluto was regarded as a planet, that there was enough backing from American public for the New Horizons mission to happen at all. What is the IAU trying to do, discourage space exploration?

Comment Re:birth dates and social security numbers (Score 1) 113

Yes, this! None of this info is private! And so, there was no data breach. Not only is the poor employee being blamed for an action that he didn't do, it wasn't or shouldn't even be problematic.

Further, if the info was thought so sensitive, why was it evidently stored without encryption? Who didn't encrypt the data? For decades, passwords have been transformed with secure one way hashes, and not even the system admins can view the originals. (May still be crackable, but that's another issue.) User names, user IDs, on the other hand, are still stored plainly, as they should be, because they aren't private, aren't meant to be private, no matter how much banks and others try to tell everyone to keep your user name a big secret. The systems can't function if there is no way to match actions to identities. How the heck is a citizen to renew a driver's license without an ID? Some sort of ID is essential, or we will be unable to keep records of who has what, and, who is allowed to drive. Don't want people incapable of driving trying to do so, and causing wrecks and injuries.

No, this firing is total political and security theater. It's also one of the downsides to being recognized as smart. You're easier to blame mistakes on. You should have known better, because you're so smart.

Comment Re:Back in the old days (Score 0, Redundant) 393

A university degree wasn't supposed to be for only getting a better job. Education is its own reward. Education helps people understand themselves and the world, which helps avoid tragically wrong thinking and unwarranted harshness. It makes life better, it allows us to see more options. Speaking of the old days, what were WWI and WWII but completely unnecessary, senseless, and brutal events that could have been avoided if only the world leaders and peoples of those times weren't fools? We did not have an overpopulation problem, or mass starvation, or some other compelling reason. No, WWI ignited because of a lack of communication, fantasies of the glory of war and a sort of promise that the most powerful statement men can make concerning their worth is to serve in the military, and greed for the spoils, and fear and contempt of other peoples. Perhaps we did have a problem, mass stupidity, and it took a few wars to kill off the idiots. Now maybe we're drifting back into that problem, not having had any massive events capable of sorting out the idiots, handing out Darwin Awards en masse.

Everyone who is capable of earning a degree should have the opportunity to do so. Maybe, if most of the public had degrees, the world wars would have been impossible to start because the soldiers would have been unwilling to fight, and indeed it would have been tough to recruit soldiers because the people wouldn't hold them in much esteem and desire to become soldiers.

Thanks to my education, I can think intelligently about the problems. Why aren't there enough jobs? Has pay stagnated, and if so, why? Are universities not serving the purposes for which they exist? It's a complicated set of closely linked issues with a lot of different reasons, and possible answers. Despite the stagnation of pay, we in the West still live very well. Therefore places like India can easily undercut our workers. And yet, we also see that the superrich are hoarding the wealth, and gaming our system to do it. There is enough wealth for us all to live even better. So, why aren't we stopping the supperrich? We're not yet starving, that's why. Another factor is the advance of technology. We really need to rethink how education should be acquired. The high costs of textbooks is an excellent example of the corruption currently present in schools at all grade levels, from 1st grade to grad school. There is zero reason to subject students to the textbook racket, when our technology has empowered us to go entirely free, open and digital. Free and open publishing for textbooks is such an obviously superior model that there should be no question of whether to do it. Something else that technology makes more possible is telecommuting. We're not making full use of that either, and why? The MOOC is a challenge to organized education of the sort universities practice. Then there's the issue of automation. Will all menial work eventually be automated, leaving us with no manual labor to do so that education is even more important? It's a disruptive, exciting time to be alive.

Comment Re:SUSE doesn't allow 1 character user names (Score 1) 31

That's an excellent example of security creep. User names were never intended to be secret, in fact, they were public so the users could message each other. Today with spam being a big problem, that seems quaint and naive. Nevertheless, the basic model is still correct, it is the password and only the password that must stay secret.

Why the login screen in its current form has become such a fixture is a bit if a puzzle. Why ask for user id first, why not ask for the password first? Why even ask for the user name at all? So that two or more users can use the same password?? I investigated, and traced the login screen back to Compatible Time-Sharing System, the ancestor of UNIX, first operational in 1961. Amazing how something like that can become an unchangeable tradition.

Comment SUSE doesn't allow 1 character user names (Score 1) 31

A big reason I don't use OpenSUSE is its seemingly trivial limitation that usernames have to be at least 2 characters. I like to use "u" as the main user, "g" for guest, and "p" for porn. Why did SUSE ban single character usernames? I see no good reason for that limitation. It sure doesn't enhance security! If the SUSE developers are going to dictate a trivial matter like that, what else do they force on users?

It becomes rather less trivial and more annoying if you have installed some other distro, and set up with single character user names, and now you want to switch to SUSE. You can't just keep /home, you have to do something more. If you're lucky, it may be only "mv /home/u /home/u1", as both end up as user id 1000. If not, then maybe "chown -R u1 /home/u1" is enough more, if you don't have any funky links, hidden files, and the like. But the old username may have snuck into configuration files in the home directory and in /etc, flash drives, boot options, defaults, and who knows where else. Changing usernames also can mess with backups. Rsync can handle a change of user ids, but the problem is it's a little more work to check that the change of username has not broken anything, say, in your backup scripts..

Comment Re:My take? (Score 1) 363

It's not just textbooks. Our capitalist society is so thoroughly steeped in profiteering that there is very little you can trust. Doctors over-prescribe procedures and medicine, and when there is a choice, pick the one that profits them the most, never mind what it costs the patient. And health insurance, woof! What a byzantine mess of forms and copays and secret agreements! Try never to use the emergency, always visit a regular doctor if possible. Auto mechanics are notorious for pushing unnecessary repairs, just in case, you know? Employers cheat employees of pay, the whole H1B program is just one example of the things they do. Advertising is designed to convince people that they have a problem and the best solution is their product or service, never mind the best interests of everyone. Marketing is totally amoral that way and marketeers won't hesitate to run propaganda campaigns they think will work. The stock market is full of scams of course, but it is kept honest enough that most individuals can do okay, a big problem for some time now has been the institutional funds composed of our tax dollars or pension payments that the big players rob shamelessly, and corporate officers transferring scandalous amounts of money from the company and stockholders to themselves through exercising options and other trickery, and calling it fair compensation. And the media! Mainstream media doesn't do enough honest reporting. They spin stories to make them more dramatic. Other stories, full of drama and wrongdoing, they inexplicably ignore.

I don't know what the solution is. I would say that the markets must be policed, same as sports games must have refereeing, but the problem with that is that the market police are too easily corrupted. Ultimately, it's up to us all to keep them honest.

Comment Re:BASIC (Score 1) 270

For years, I thought iostream was a terrible mistake because of poor performance relative to the older stdio library. Didn't matter whether it was a better model, the lack of performance made that moot. Then recently I heard that iostream is only slower when support for stdio is enabled, which it is by default. I had no idea there was such a toggle, never thought to look for anything of the sort. The worst part is the legacy support is enabled even if all the source code is C++ and stdio is never used.

Maybe C++ is badly taught. But language designers and implementers ought to take the blame for not informing the community how best to use iostream. We know not to mix new and delete with malloc and free. Why weren't we able to discover that iostream does not have a performance problem after all? Legacy support for stdio should have been off by default, so that the iostream library would run at maximum performance, and the compiler should have been programmed to issue an error if stdio was used along with a helpful message about the correct flags, compiler options, directives or whatever was needed to use stdio if the coder really wanted to.

I agree that C/C++ is a terrible choice for a beginning programmer. Pointers are especially tough for newbies to learn. But BASIC? No. When I first learned how to program, I thought the program would exit a loop the moment that the exit condition was satisfied. It was not obvious to me that the exit condition was checked only at the end of the loop. Now I understand it's done that way not because that's inherently better or more intuitive, no, it's done that way because it's easier and faster for the computer. And that's a big problem with most languages. The capabilities of computers still play too big a role in programming language design decisions. That's one reason why I think we don't have any programming languages that have achieved the goal of making programming as simple and accessible as possible while at the same time being fully capable.

Comment Re:OpenGL and LockOSThread (Score 1) 185

Why even use OpenGL directly? It's been called the assembly language of graphics. It has no brains when it comes to sorting polygons by visibility, it just dumbly draws everything in the list your program builds for it, whether visible or not. It's up to your source code to employ a little algorithmic cleverness to prune the list. But even if you do, you soon find that unless the pruning is very good, performance is still unsatisfying. To make the pruning excellent requires implementation of some fairly complicated algorithms.

I'd much rather use a library such as OpenSceneGraph or OGRE.

Comment stop the handouts to the rich (Score 5, Interesting) 444

Many dogs, if given unlimited food, will eat themselves to death. Yes, really. These dogs have no restraint and will consume food until their stomachs cannot physically hold any more. The stomach may rupture, and if not treated quickly, that is fatal.

I think of most of the super rich as suffering from the same sort of problem, only with money instead of food. They will earn, steal, and horde wealth beyond all sense. Even if it causes great harm to many others, damages society, they can't stop themselves. An example is wage theft. We have many people working in the restaurant business, for extremely low pay. But it seems the low pay isn't low enough to suit some owners, who bully their workers into working a few extra hours off the clock, delay paychecks, miscalculate the pay in their favor, and other tricks. It might be somewhat understandable if the franchises were struggling, but often they are doing very well indeed, don't really need more money. Nor is the owner hurting for money. Why then do they do it? They don't have good reason. Reasons of the "trickle down" variety are wrong. It simply is not possible for one person to use vast wealth efficiently. They can blow thousands on luxury conveniences that save a few minutes here and there, but it is not good value.

Meanwhile, the cheated workers must spend even more time struggling to get by on extremely limited means. The old expression "time is money" is so true for the poor. A lot of expense can be eliminated by burning more time. Dishwasher broken? Wash dishes by hand! Water cut off? Lug your laundry to a laundromat, use paper plates and plastic spoons, and as for showers, well, can rent a cheap motel room or visit the Y, but not every day. Instead, keep the deodorants and perfumes handy, and wear a cap to hide your hair. Toilets can be flushed with buckets of rainwater. Car repossessed? Take public transport, or bike or walk. The poor are forced to work around all kinds of things that the middle class take for granted, and ingenious and actually better and healthier though some of the workarounds are, it all takes time. What might they be able to accomplish if they didn't have to spend so much time scrapping and scrounging for every penny?

We should keep constant watch on the rich, and rein them in. Instead, we practically worship them. That's not good for anyone. People think the rich are really special, leaders and doers who've been rewarded with great wealth for their hard work, think it's all merited. Think they're John Galt. Some are, no doubt. However, when such status is given to someone who doesn't merit it, the result is almost always bad. That's where we as a society have fallen down. We let these undeserving rich get away with murder. In all the fraud and cheating that resulted in the Great Recession, only Madoff ended up in prison. This Angelo Mozilo should have gone to jail, instead he was only banned from ever running a company again, and allowed to keep much of the wealth he had stolen, and live on in freedom. Sure, he was fined a record amount, a fact they like to play up to try to show how tough they are on rich criminals, but it didn't reduce him to poverty, far from it. Since then, a few more perps have been put away, but it took years to do it. Meanwhile, little people are routinely dragged through the mud over petty debts. Some consequences would be okay if the big people faced the same consequences, but they don't.

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