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Comment Re:The irony (Score 1) 294

Ehrlich is simply wrong when he says "[the study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event"; that would require 75% or more of all species to disappear; the paper only looks at a small subset of species, those most affected by humans.

I wondered if the extinction record could be used as evidence of past intelligent species on Earth. If there were any kind of prior top-shelf minds spreading across the globe one unmistakable evidence would be in how they shaped the foreign ecology they spread into.

Tools and buildings may not survive deep geological time. We may not even recognize something created by a very different kind of intelligence as a tool. Ancient hearth and midden piles on the Amazon are mined today for rich soil and charcoal but really hide the enormous human presence on the river that disappeared overnight to mostly likely European diseases. It took a surprising amount of time for someone to figure out that stuff came from us just a few centuries ago. But a sudden biodiversity decrease without a volcanic or meteoric crater and a change in seafloor sediments might be a smoking gun.

I would think humanity is almost a best case for leaving behind a detectable legacy. Outside of a pathogen we are the ultimate bad neighbors for a tasty species. Humans are aggressive territorial omnivores with very poor hygiene as a group. We may leave behind just enough trash to tell someone we were here long after our radio and radar signals are lost to the background noise. But what about our paleontology record?

If we cannot even kill most of the vertebrate species then that argues against using the extinction record to track prior intelligence that may have arose here. A technological species that develops green ethics before hitting the shoot-it-if-it-moves level may leave little change at the level we can detect.

Comment Re:Normal women... (Score 3, Interesting) 765

Where are the "Female Anatomy" joke projects?

Or is reminding people that humans have sexual organs somehow denigrating women?

I mean, it is sexist by definition. Being based on sex and all that. But when can we, in a world of transgender and homosexual people, stop abusing sexism to mean 'only hurtful to women?'

Really, can we at least get a show of hands of the number of gay men offended by this low-brow dick joke project?

Comment Re:Better definition of planet (Score 1) 196

Is the Sun a planet?

Yes, the Sun is a planet by the older definition. But the new definition isn't much better*.

The classification of what is and is not a planet changed over time. Now it is tied to some metrics involving orbits and gravity that doesn't even apply well in the Solar System let alone a different Star System.

By the original meaning the Sun and Moon (of Earth) are also planets.

There are 7 objects that visible to the naked eye (say 5.5 magnitude or less at best) which move with respect to the fixed stars (everything above 5.5 magnitude.) Sol, Mercury, Venus, Luna, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The real problem is when you start using telescopes to see things moving in the "firmament" that you cannot see with the naked eye. Then you start seeing things like Vesta, Ceres, Neptune. With a powerful enough scope we can even see Uranus. All of these got called a planets at one time. Some of them are not called planets anymore. Uranus may be full of gas but still gets this top billing.

Planet was once the word for wanderer of the night sky. A nice, simple definition. Now it means something else. Somehow everyone decided once we found out there's a lot of stuff wandering out there, planet became a special status and not just a simple label. In Science and Fiction people travel to or hail from Planet X, not Oblate Spheroid Mass X in orbit around Mass Y where Mass X is much larger than anything else in a similar orbit. The most recent definitions for astronomers appears to just be trying to encode that bias giving a bad definition - complex and counter intuitive.

It's like the term spaceship. If you put a big enough engine on anything and it will fly wherever you want it. So the difference between a space station and a space ship is a question of temporary fitting.

But astronomy is full of definitions that are not well founded (asteroid belt?) Astronomy as a field needs to learn from biology. Cladistics is a big part of biological science. You're going to getting it wrong, even for 100s of years. Naming controversies come with the territory. The International Astronomer's Union is charged with naming things in space so we can all agree on what to call that thing over there. Some of names are going to be arbitrary. Turns out planet is one of those arbitrary names**.

Time is long past to just put up a list of 'these are planets' and everything else is not. Then get used to everyone else, particularly the amateurs, using different lists.

* Over long time scales even rocks are fluids. There is no such thing as a solid on the timescale of atomic stability. There are just temporary crystalline or amorphous structures seeking lower energy states. Humans (or stars) just don't live long enough (yet) to see perfect gravitational stratification of a cold bulk object by quantum tunneling.

** For fun, go look up Asimov's description of the Earth and compare with IAU's definition of a planet. Does Earth qualify?

Comment Re:Better than monitor rate. (Score 1) 100

So while the catalyst driver may be faster, in some cases doubling the frame rate, I highly doubt you'd actually notice the difference.

Above monitor performance FPS seems useless until you factor in multi-monitor, screen resolution and multi-boxing. Or that games are more than movies (looking at you Japanese RPGs) and have to actually take input and do processing in between frames. Being able to drop a few frames for better input might just mean that click that keeps you alive makes it into the game. And when the drive is no longer struggling to get a frame to the screen you can move the performance bottleneck elsewhere (like the network in MMOs).

Given a marginal setup like a lot of these F/OSS developers seem to have, just running multiple clients of an online graphical game can drop you from 120-150fps to the mid 30s-50s on your 60 Hz screen. Some games actively encourage this (Eve Online).

Then lets talk about wine. It's not an emulator, but if your game is already slowed by a thunk that thick the graphics stack better be awesome or your game is going to look like crud.

I'm sure there's something in there for 2D plain old apps, too. Maybe less detectible tearing and artifacts while you drag and drop around your office software.

Comment Re:Jesus H. Christ on a crutch! (Score 5, Interesting) 216

Porn may tip the favor for a particular coin but there is one market that can make Bitcoin or any given altcoin an huge (relative to current) market.

Marijuana is a Schedule I drug no matter what any State's laws say. This Federal classification means that banks cannot do direct business with dealers, transporters, processors or growers of it. Several publications have covered this problem.

People in the trade are either working in very grey banking situations or dealing with large amounts of cash. Having to pay your $20,000 taxes this quarter with a duffle bag of twenties is a perfect situation for robbery. Pot dispensaries on Colorado, USA are starting to figure out that they don't need banks to deal with Bitcoin or other altcoins. Right there could be a real Business-to-Business revolution for digital currency.

Sure, today a digital coin is mostly useful for transactions. A business would have to convert between cash and coin at the ends. And even when you can go bitcoin from customer to suppliers for your business you'll still need to get out cash.

Comment Re:Command line is more error-prone (Score 1) 606

It's easier to shoot yourself in the foot with the command line. ... Just offering a counter-argument for the sake of discussion.

Well, the UNIX camp would just point out this is an argument for using crusty typing instead of click-n-drag pictures. The appropos quote from wikipedia is:

"Unix was not designed to stop its users from doing stupid things, as that would also stop them from doing clever things." – Doug Gwyn

The original poster has more than two different problems conflated and it reads like 'I took a bad class and this is why.'

The study of computer training, as a part of the larger pedology, frequently brings up the user vs programmer paradigm. But the whole framing is captive and derogatory. It's parishioner verses priests and proletariat verses bourgeois. Some people use some tools differently. This is not culture, it is just label-ism, that first step on the road to racism, at its finest. We should call that black sheep what it is and move away from it.

One of the problems the article points out, graphics verses typing, nothing new to even to slashdot. It may be that he is encountering this for the first time but others have written better on it. I see whole books published by Sun Microsystems on Graphical User Interfaces(GUI) verses Command Line Interfaces(CLI) on my shelf without even standing up.

To teach people to program in the 21st century you have to be prepared to show them both graphical tools and the command line. But you do have to explain them and why and when to use them to new people. They each have their uses. Tower for the mac and good ol' git in the terminal for version control. Google docs or Microsoft Windows and RestructureText and LATEX. Sales and Marketing may claim training's purpose is to get free swag and charge an arseload for support. But that's the point of training: to explain stuff.

If you don't know enough to explain that, why are you trying? (nobody else? boss + deadline? free t-shirts? It's your "job?")

However, it looks like the preparation for the training class that the article is based on wasn't even up to a standard where such mechanisms could be addressed directly.

  • They reported people failing to get a Linux laptop to use $RANDOM_BRAND projector. Noob trainer mistake #1 - prepare to present by practicing with what you'll actually use.
  • The trainers presents follow-along training using stunt-configured terminals different from what the students saw. Noob trainer mistake #2 - eat the same dogfood your students do or you'll waste the student's time explaining and dealing with the differences.

If you are dealing with people who are starting out you will spend most your time on jargon and concepts. Diving into the command line would be fine, but you would be putting artificial constraints on your presentation. A good trainer needs to be aware of and explicitly mention that.

Adult education is a different form children's education. Usually the one that never gets the adequate funding. We expect different from and for adults. Kids are used to walls of new unrelated stuff. Adults usually are not or are good at ignoring it. You can convince a child that 'this is just how you do it' most the time where as an adult probably has some biases built in from previous experience.

That's the only good point I see in the article: people aren't blank slates. But one person's trivial obvious fact is another person's mind blowing revelation.

Comment Re: Earth isn't delicate, (Score 1) 414

So let's just become a horde of locusts jumping from planet to planet

Humans don't consume 'planets.' At best we make it inconvenient for other humans to live near us in the tiny rind on a huge orange. Not really even a rind, but the zest layer that we favor. This is what we get for being slobs, though. No matter how many cute cuddly pandas we kill off, if there is a niche for them something just as cute and cuddly will be back once humanity loses the Russian Roulette we play every time someone craps in public or throws trash in the streets.

But this is Planetary Chauvinism at its worst. Planets are inconvenient accumulations of resources down a deep gravity well. Heck, all the good minerals are locked deep down underground. Most the planet is useless to us. Sure, baring major collisions or inconvenient changes in stellar output they are neigh invulnerable (outside pure Science Fantasy.) But I'd much rather be out there in a comfortable station, craft or other human-friendly bubble with the rich resources of the Solar System than suck on a rock.

Too many people are mentally stuck on a rock. Literally and figuratively. Hawking is stuck in a chair and yet he gets this.

Comment Re:Avionics (Score 2) 369

What the hell is the problem anyway? For fifteen minutes at the beginning and end of a flight you can't use your iWhatever or eWhatsis. Big deal.

Because if these tiny sources (cube law, hello?) of random RF noise really were a problem, they don't suddenly become less of a problem while flying in the air at over 10,000 ft. Or when flying through or even remotely near a thunderstorm that produces many times that RF. Heaven help the poor pilots that get painted by a military radar or even the radar from the airport.

It's not like an airplane needs reliable controls when say, hurtling through the air at a couple hundred miles an hour over populated areas, is it?

At the best we can blame the aircraft designers for not doing their due diligence in properly shielding the route between servos and controllers and cockpit. After all, shielding is precious weight in paying passengers you'd have to give up in fuel. And we obviously don't have lighter weight communication medium that isn't RF sensitive.

Comment Will it Game? (Score 1) 36

His researchers are also working on a system modeler tool, which will allow researchers to simulate complex devices with tens of thousands of components

How many years until it catches up to Dwarf Fortress?

And can it get more than 4 frames per second modeling 200 dwarves down to the fingernail on a 3.5GHz machines with 16Gb of ram and SSD drives?

Comment Re:Everything old is new again (Score 1) 68

One of the big criticisms of MS is that it did not start with how humans were going to interact with it's equipment.

One must be careful when using this definition of human. This wide net catches up the technophiles and the feature freaks with the technophobes and the Alzheimer's patients. The wider market is all that Google is courting here with their Not Dorky Glasses(tm). That group is made up of very different people from the early adopters. It should be obvious that majority of users of computing devices today are not going to use these devices the same way someone who would come to slashdot or install GNOME 3 would.

It's not like a google search wouldn't uncover the massive industry dedicated to showing how foolish such generalizations are. Yet we continue to make bad UI choices and target the wrong crowds, often poorly like armchair quarterbacks at the human interface Superbowl. Your average human has more than the average number of legs, that still doesn't mean you make one legged pants. Why do developers continue to churn out the proverbial pocket, pant and half-a-fly?

I claim it's only partially this 'every human' culture but mainly lack of training. Outside of the craft industries the engineers, developers and other creators of our stuff start off learning how to solder circuits to breadboards and sling code at a compiler without even the idea they need to consider how people will use this stuff. Run tar --help verses git --help verses gpg -h and see for ask yourself which one was designed to be used by people and which one was slapped together to be run by a machine.

What Google is doing here is something salespeople, marketers, Apple and the military have known since the first rock got sold to the first caveman. You can sell to everyone on envy what you cannot sell to everyone on features. And Google is out to "sell" to everyone (i.e. put ads in front of as many eyeballs as possible.)

I wish them the best of luck with their Not Dorky Glasses(tm). The very existence of contacts and their popularity among the visually impaired strongly argues against their success in Western markets.

Comment Re:This is blatantly illegal (Score 1) 464

While EULAs can be problematic, Microsoft's antics here are much more serious.

Read over the details analysis by a real lawyer of Bilbo's Contract with the Dwarves. That is an item sold as merchandise with the new Hobbit film. The lawyer brings up that in most court systems contracts are not valid if they ask one of the parties to engage in or are written to cover illegal acts. The huge contract is written carefully to avoid outright saying the Dwarves are hiring a Hobbit to steal for them just because of this.

IANAL, but this appears to me to be a problem for Microsoft. Is Microsoft is requiring these terms as part of support contracts for which they are receiving money? Is this first-sale-is-final-sale contract? Is this forced bundling contract? Are they doing this under or outside the terms of the court rulings about their prior monopoly activity? If this is in fact an illegal practice in the jurisdiction those contracts are written could Microsoft be writing contracts obligating someone to perform an illegal act?

It is probably a good bet that only a Judge in a civil court will settle any of those questions. Assuming he can get his Microsoft Office to install on his PC to open his docket files.

This is not legal advise. Consult your lawyer before applying. Do not pass Redmond. Do not collect 200 Debian CDs. Some itchiness and soreness is normal. Contact a doctor if it persists past four hours.

Comment Re:that's what the job killing lines get you stuff (Score 2) 143

At what point do the particulates start to cause problems with Internal Combustion?

I can find plenty of information on what it does when humans breath that stuff in (hint: a coal miner is you!) but little on when the engines start to choke on their own output.

Diesel engines can operate on some pretty ridiculous fuel mixtures as long as there is enough oxygen. Considering how nasty oxides can be once mixed into water I'd expect something else in the power train (beyond the operator's lungs) would break down before the engine couldn't cycle on that mix of "air".

Comment Re:It Could Be More (Score 1) 295

They started with getting it to work on one distribution (on of the more popular ones), they will get it to work on others.

The steam .deb package converts well with alien and installs on .rpm based systems (fedora and opensuse tested). Some of the games require libraries distributed by Ubuntu and nobody else, but that can be worked around as well with self-made packages or upstream tarballs. (libtiff4, really?)

In my opinion the Valve engineers have done a good job of integrating their application with the ecosystem of a Linux user's home. Adhering to XDG standards for configuration directories makes steam 'just work' on a desktop using those standards.

Also, their team deserve props for using actual packages. This is unlike some ported-to-Linux games that are shipped as sharchives, binfiles or even tarbombs. On Microsoft's platforms, not having a quality installer could hurt your sales and look really terrible in the review press. On package-based Linux distributions not having a package (or even a repo) is just tacky looking but can also backfire when the installer will no longer work even when the game will.

Comment Re:Mining and refining in space (Score 1) 200

Lasers could do the trick to harvest material from NASA's space asteroid. And not just because science fiction video games overuse this particular trope.

AVLIS (and the closely related MLIS) should work in a microgravity or free-fall scenario.

Once again, space technology can benefit from something created from the nuclear weapons research of those spunky monkeys from the dirtball orbiting a nondescript yellow dwarf out in the spiral arms of the Milky Way.

Comment Re:Mathematician? (Score 1) 203

A professor once described to me an elevator system at his former place of employment that used machine learning to try and anticipate where the elevator should be when not in use.

I wonder how a machine learning program deals with the 10 year old who thinks it is funny to press every single floor button then get off on a random stop. Usually when at least half the building's population is running 5 minutes late for their flight.

Science is what happens when preconception meets verification.