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Comment: You need to look beyond the math. (Score 1) 202

by westlake (#49753175) Attached to: Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

When it comes to risk assessment, there's one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It's why so many of us are so eager to play the lottery, and simultaneously why we're catastrophically afraid of ebola and plane crashes.

Playing the lottery is a daydream that anyone can indulge in for the expenditure of a few dollars --- an impulse buy and a month's entertainment for the price of two rentals from the Red Box.

On 9 November 2005 a Boeing 777-200LR, dubbed the Worldliner, completed the world's longest non-stop passenger flight. It traveled 21,602 kilometres (11,664 nmi) eastward...from Hong Kong to London, in roughly 22 h 22 min

Non-stop flight

Ebola is simply a reminder of how quickly in the modern world a new and deadly infectious disease can spread beyond its origins. Replace West Africa with Central America and the Caribbean and see how you like the odds against containment.

The geek is not particularly good at distinguishing between singular incidents that have a massive --- long term -- social impact beyond a simple count of the number of dead and dying and those with occur randomly on a small scale across an entire country or continent and which can be absorbed without much difficulty.

Comment: Re:How the executive wipes away democratic power? (Score 1) 121

by westlake (#49719601) Attached to: Learning About Constitutional Law With Star Wars

I thought the political message of Star Wars was clear: a powerful executive gradually demonizes, marginalizes, ignores and then disbands a representative body...

Whatever their faults, the prequels make it plain that a decadent Republic and Jedi Order were ready to be shoved over a cliff before Palpatine came along.

The signs of sterility and paralysis can be seen everywhere you look.

Comment: Re:USA in good company... (Score 1) 648

by westlake (#49703941) Attached to: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Gets Death Penalty In Boston Marathon Bombing

Slapping him in maximum security prison for life with no chance of parole might as well be death, but is something like 1/10th as expensive as execution.

The economic argument against the death penalty doesn't work when you compare the state and federal systems. It would be trivially easy to dispose of the federal death row inmate if anyone really wanted to do it.

The number of federal prisoners on death row is 61.

27 are on death row for crimes committed in Texas, Missouri and Virginia. 2 for crimes committed in California. Federal Death Row Prisoners [March 24]

The number of California prisoners on death row is 743. Death Row Inmates by State and Size of Death Row by Year [January 1]

Comment: I have a cunning plan. (Score 1) 611

by westlake (#49658513) Attached to: To Laid-Off Southern California Edison Workers: Boo-Hoo

Given current business practices in the US, the rational thing to do is train your replacements incorrectly, but in such a way as their lack of training is only noticeable after you are fired, or long enough after the training has taken place that it can't be tracked down to your specific instruction.

When the geek turns to thoughts felonies he contrives schemes so finely calibrated that they cannot possibly work.

Comment: Re:Why limit to just CS education? (Score 1) 131

Because Microsoft and Facebook want and abundant (and therefore cheap & expendable) workforce.

The geek is economically and socially illiterate.

What Microsoft and Facebook needs are customers who feel financially secure, have a generous amount of disposable income, and the more of them, the better.

Microsoft typically pays about 15% above market. The lowliest entry level software engineer at Microsoft earns about $80,000/yr. Average Salary for Microsoft Corp Employees

The median household income in the US is $52,000.

Comment: The Chewbacca Defense (Score 1) 99

by westlake (#49644689) Attached to: Amazon's Delivery Drones Will Be Able To Track Your Location

It's a little amazing to me than a lowly Slashdot poster outwitted the entire engineering division at Amazon...

Instead of answering the question, you are just talking around it.

It wouldn't be the first time that the geek has relied on sarcasm as a substitute for brain-work.

The courier drone will be perfectly safe so long as it serves only the middle class suburbs and grander estate homes --- quiet side streets, fenced in back yards, no strangers about.

Comment: The Fanboi's Tunnel Vision. (Score 2) 65

by westlake (#49614261) Attached to: Accessibility In Linux Is Good (But Could Be Much Better)
I can't speak for OSX. But it is hard to take seriously a post that ignores the accessibility tools that have been baked into the Windows OS from the beginning, expanded and improved over the years.

Unlike proprietary alternatives...Linux distros with the Gnome desktop...includes accessibility tools out of the box, such as:

Screen reader A text-to-speech system to read what's on the screen
Magnifier Helps users with visual impairments who need larger text and images
High-contrast mode Helps users who have trouble seeing text unless contrast is corrected, such as white text on a black background, or vice versa
Mouse keys Controls the mouse using the number pad
Sticky keys Helps users who have trouble pressing multiple keys at once, and users who have use of only one hand
Bounce keys To ignore rapidly pressed keys or if a key is accidentally held down
On screen keyboard Helps users who cannot type at all, but who can use a mouse Visual alerts Replace system sounds with visual cues

Accessibility in Linux is good (but could be much better)


While this article is aimed at Windows 95 much of the information on Accessibility Options also applies to Windows 3.x and Windows 98.

Making Windows 95 Accessible

Comment: You know nothing at all, not a thing. (Score 1) 171

What I do know is that Bill Gates was a completely unknown school kid until he was brought to IBM's attention by his mother.



Revenues $16,000


Microsoft refines and enhances BASIC to sell to other customers including General Electric, NCR, and Citibank.


Microsoft FORTRAN


Applesoft BASIC, Microsoft COLBOL-80


Microsoft 8080 BASIC is the first microprocessor product to win the ICP Million Dollar Award. Traditionally dominated by software for mainframe computers, this recognition is indicative of the growth and acceptance of the PC industry.

MBASIC for the 8086


Microsoft Z-80 SoftCard. CP/M plug-n card for the Apple II.

Microsoft 16 bit XENIX OS (licensed from AT&T) and a full suite of 16 bit *NIX programming languages.

Microsoft PASCAL

Revenues $7,520,000. ($21,273,620, adjusted for inflation) Microsoft Timeline

CP/M-86 was in development hell.

Gates promised delivery of a marketable 16 bit CP/M clone in time for the scheduled launch of the IBM PC --- at an unprecedented mass market price of $50 retail list in return for a non-exclusive license.

80% off the proposed list price for CP/M-86.

The entire point of the business, btw, was to isolate the IBM development team from the IBM PC hierarchy.

I very much doubt the PC development team ever gave the slightest thought to Gate's mother. They were looking for lean and hungry outsiders, ready and willing to move.

But Billl Gates and Microsoft were not the unknowns that myth made them, even then.

Comment: Lies, all lies. (Score 1) 171

It's well-documented that Billy Gates' success is largely due to having rich and well-connected parents.

Gates was selling microcomputer BASIC to the Fortune 500 in 1975. MBASIC was the first product for the micro to reach the top tier in software sales for all computer platforms.

It took Microsoft less than five years to develop a full suite of mature and highly regarded programming languages for CP/M. The gold standard for operating systems in the eight-bit era.

In the late seventies, Microsoft was superbly positioned for a move into operating systems and had licensed UNIX from AT&T.

In the right hands, 16 bit CP/M or a serviceable 16 bit CP/M clone could be a right profitable little goldmine. But Gates had something much bigger in mind when Digital Research fumbled the ball:

Non-exclusive licensing at a mass market price of $50 retail list. The MS-DOS PC was a viable commercial product before the cloning of the IBM PC BIOS.

Comment: RADIOFAX (Score 1) 67

by westlake (#49589195) Attached to: Apple, IBM To Bring iPads To 5 Million Elderly Japanese

One weekend, I came home and he showed me the radio-fax kit he'd bought. Say what??? It was a receiver that plugged into the headphone jack of a shortwave radio on one side and the serial port of the computer on the other side. The software would record and decode faxes of weather maps that were broadcast over shortwave then print them on the DeskJet 500c. But, when this kind of thing became widely available on the internet, he wouldn't switch until either they stopped broadcasting or the software didn't survive an OS upgrade. I forget which.

The geek needs to take a closer look at analog systems and HF radio.

Rafiofax is over ninety years old and still very much alive. NOAA RADIOFAX If you think terrestrial satellite data services are expensive and limited try pricing off-shore marine.

WR-G33EM Marine Receiver

Comment: "The moral test of government" (Score 1) 67

by westlake (#49588913) Attached to: Apple, IBM To Bring iPads To 5 Million Elderly Japanese

NIce to see Apple and IBM profit further from the nanny state.

The geek seems to moving to the farthest right of the political spectrum. He is, after all, the creator of the "SJW" social justice warrior meme which the right has found so useful.

The postman, the doctor, the lineman, the visiting nurse. the preacher and the fireman, share a special place in American folklore and legend.

Loneliness and isolation, the need for human contact and support, is something a rural community, the elderly, the ill and the homebound come to understand profoundly.

"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. " ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

Comment: The elephant can remember... (Score 1) 263

by westlake (#49577469) Attached to: Crashing iPad App Grounds Dozens of American Airline Flights
... but the geek never forgets.

Reminds me of a US naval ship being towed to shore because Windows NT crashed.

In 1997, the ship in question was a test bed for the introduction of COTS technologies at sea. The Wikipedia essay on the Aegis Cruiser "Yorktown" kind of slides over the fact that the ship remained in active service until 2004 with no other significant Windows-related incidents. USS Yorktown (CG-48)

Disclaimer: "These opinions are my own, though for a small fee they be yours too." -- Dave Haynie