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Comment: Re:it's explained in the study (Score 1) 86

by whit3 (#47033011) Attached to: Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation

This water layer ion creation effect is fairly well known in materials physics. Until now, I don't think it was well known that it played any role in static generation.

While it might not be well known, it IS the best
theory I've seen for lightning (air currents and gravity sorting ice particles causing charge separation).

Comment: Re:I sent this to each of the Commissioners: (Score 1) 217

by whit3 (#46860873) Attached to: How the FCC Plans To Save the Internet By Destroying It

Bravo!

There are historic instances of telecommunications NON-neutrality to consider, too.
I favor internet neutrality.

Ben Franklin, as a printer in the colonies, knew the danger of selection in telecommunication;
his competitor (Bradford) in Philadelphia was also the local postmaster.
Bradford's publications were sent by post, but as for Ben's printed work

" what I did send was by bribing the riders, who took them privately,
Bradford being unkind enough to forbid it"

Our constitution was written to make telecommunication a priority of the new federal government,
"to establish post offices and post roads", and our first postmaster-general, Ben Franklin,
saw to it that postal regulations forbade favoritism. He wanted the carriers to remain
neutral. It worked well.

At the dawn of telephonic communication, a similar circumstance came up: an undertaker
thought his business suffered because a telephone operator was related to a competitor.
Mr. Strowger invented a gizmo, the Strowger Switch, that allowed a caller to connect
without talking to an operator (and dial phones worked on this principle for years).
Again, the solution to Mr. Strowger's problem was to keep telecommunications
neutral; we have all enjoyed the benefits for so long, that it seems quaint that
this ever WAS a problem.

So, at least twice before in history we have seen preference in telecommunications,
executed by carriers who had mixed motives (usually related to a profit scheme)
which caused anguish to the people of this country. Any worthy Federal Communications
Commission should exert itself to ensure that the customary fairness of
messaging is maintained into the foreseeable future. I will be watching.

Comment: Re:This approach has gone nowhere for years (Score 1) 169

by whit3 (#46818129) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can We Create a Culture of Secure Behavior?

Truly, it is foolish to think millions of 'users' can be handed the
security problem, and advised to take action individually.

We should all cringe in horror when we hear that
millions of nontechnical users are being encouraged to
'take the problem seriously'. It's like asking all the residents
of an apartment building to safety-check the steam boiler (probably
only one or two will want to tighten the relief valve spring).

There have been attempts to 'take the problem seriously' with
draconian legal sentences: that, too, is doomed. The law moves
too slowly, and relies on things, like electronic documentation,
that can be SO easily corrupted.

There have been attempts to 'take the problem seriously' with
proliferation of passwords, and password-generating rules and
password replacement schedules, and by moving controls into
obscure places (what port do YOU open for SMTP?),
which entirely miss the target of security, because the poor
user has to write those things down (I know I have to!).

Instead, we should be building institutional watchers and code
(walls, if necessary, and alarms, and a few traps) to deal with
such issues. Sadly, government and commercial interests
aren't good for personal computer security- we need OTHER
institutions.

Comment: Re:All publicly funded research needs public relea (Score 1) 348

by whit3 (#46790571) Attached to: VA Supreme Court: Michael Mann Needn't Turn Over All His Email

If the public pays for it, the public should receive it in its entirety.

But, this was 'freedom of information act' request, and that act refers only to
the records of government civil agencies.

The researcher had a teaching job, and acted as an independent
contractor in pursuing a research topic.

The researcher's phone calls, e-mails, piles of scratchings and musings,
aren't the proper product of his funded research at all. Only the finished report,
and/or any publishable papers (in peer-reviewed, edited journals) are
the concern of the research funding agency (probably National Science
Foundation). The NSF isn't a party to the request, they and the researcher
are presumably satisfied that the research findings WERE published.

Neither the editors of peer-reviewed journals, nor the authors, want undue
attention paid to unclear, misspelled, poorly-supported or otherwise unpublishable
debris from the research process. The researcher (and the University of Virginia)
acted properly in not handing over every tatter of e-mail that could be found. The
supreme court of the state just agreed with that.

Comment: Re:What the bill really is doing (Score 1) 32

This bill is silly. And, the arguments in McCaskill's webpage are HILARIOUS.

>>'74%' [ of articles available from other sources]

That test (this is the INTERNET we're talking about) is so ephemeral as to be meaningless.
Here this week, gone the next, or renamed, or miscatalogged (or, that page actually has
a really CUTE pic of a kitty- **awww...). Ten years from April 2014, who will be able to
locate an unedited copy of the McCaskill argument page, to understand this discussion?

>>'sold only 8%' [of the available articles, recently]

I'm pretty sure I haven't looked up anywhere near 0.1% of the listings in my local
phone directory, but I'm not burning the book to save shelf space! This also, is meaningless.

A copy of a scholarly study (which I got from NTIS and wore to tatters) is of great
value to me, and whenever I pass my work on, there will be a nice scholarly reference to it, with
NTIS being listed as the source. Anyone following good scholarship procedures will require
access and NTIS IS THAT ACCESS.

Kill the bill. It looks like someone : thinks libraries are run for profit; thinks bookburning
is an easy 'final solution'; perceives inefficiency; and doesn't see the increase in value of
old literature. Internet availability of articles and discussions WITH SCHOLARLY REFERENCES
means that many streams now trace to those old sources.

Comment: Re:Why Ubuntu?! {POE damage question} (Score 1) 208

In regard to probing ethernet wire combinations

...he only had 4 combinations to try. Only 4 pins of a RJ-45 are used. If it was PoE then he'd have damaged his laptop.

Since Ethernet has two (in 100baseT) transformers, there's a possibility that one bridges two POE
(power over Ethernet) poles with a receiver transformer. Compliant POE sources, though, shut
down if there's a short, so it shouldn't harm anything.

If the experimenter used a simple voltmeter, he could see power presence, and (if he also tested
the resistance) would know which wires went together in pairs. Then, there's two polarities in
each pair, and swapping pairs, so that's eight possibilities. Without probing, there'd be 4*3*2 = 12
possibilities.

Comment: Re: TCO (Score 1) 341

Sorry, thats a load of bollocks - the NHS has had over half a decade to do something about their situation and they failed...
UK law requires that a purchase be fit for a reasonable period of time (depending on the item involved, but the maximum time is typically six years), and XP is well past that test...

The government is to blame here, not Microsoft, so its only right that the government pay the fine, not Microsoft.

That's a bit too strong, surely! The NHS is intended to serve health care, and they HAVEN'T failed.

The 'reasonable period of time' argument does hold some water, and of course the extension of
software support is worth paying for. But, don't try to set a maximum time of six years! No
major project (road, hydrolectric dam, harbor) is ever funded on such a short period,
and there's no reason to stick such a software expiration date into every system that relies on software!

Microsoft has decided, for marketing reasons, to kill off XP software maintenance. Third party replacement
is difficult, or impossible, or more costly than buying a new version. Big customers can and should
fight for any modifications of the 'deadline for support' that they deem appropriate. Kudos to NHS!

Comment: Re:Solution... (Score 1) 167

by whit3 (#46494713) Attached to: Forests Around Chernobyl Aren't Decaying Properly

I would have thought that the fact that the experiments with leaves brought there from elsewhere decaying slower demonstrate that merely bringing foreign organisms (the collected leaves are not sterile, of course) is not going to help.

It's a full set of organisms you need; if, for instance, the earthworms were missing, a few strips of sod (or waiting for 'foreign' worms to migrate in) would be effective, but a pile of leaves wouldn't.

Comment: Re:clear, but wrong (Score 1) 107

by whit3 (#45147859) Attached to: Extreme Complexity of Scientific Data Driving New Math Techniques

While there may be millions of possible reconstructions for a fuzzy, ill-defined image, the simplest (sparsest) version is probably the best fit."

Of the millions of possibilities, the sparsest is MOST likely. Perhaps it's twice as likely as any other possibility. That still means it's 99.999% likely to be wrong

I interpreted this to be a description of maximum-entropy filtering (i.e. making an output image with least information, consistent with input image with sparse information content overlaid with full-textured noise.)
It certainly works for (for example) starfields seen in a badly focused telescope; NASA used this for Hubble reconstructions.
Every possible reconstruction will have some 'wrong' content, because noise is guaranteed (if only by the quantum uncertainty principle). That doesn't make the maximum-entropy filter useless, it just means the utility depends on the subject's compliance with the minimum-information assumption.

Comment: Re:Best solution? (Score 4, Insightful) 225

by whit3 (#44752469) Attached to: Japanese Ice Wall To Stop Reactor Leaks

Frozen ground is only waterproof if there are no holes. Frost heaves tend to break up the ground and make holes.

Actually, a frozen region in the soil is a good container, because water that starts to
  leak through... freezes solid and plugs the leak.

Frost heave is caused by thermal gradient, and
transports water to the coldest spot (which is
the container wall, safely underground) then freezes it.
So, no problem there!

Comment: Re:"Enable"? (Score 1) 102

Any cast metal needs machining afterwards, even if it's just to clean up the sprue area and to cut screw threads. Difficulties in casting are not why we don't see conventional metals used ...

Yes, and no: most cast metal shrinks markedly when it cools, so there's an oversize pattern (two percent for iron) used in making the mold. Amorphous metal has almost the same density when it's cool, it shrinks only slightly (an order of magnitude less shrinkage).

Comment: Re:This may be Elon Musk's dream, but... (Score 4, Interesting) 258

by whit3 (#44277583) Attached to: Colorado Company Says It Plans To Test Hyperloop Transport System

credit for the invention belongs to Dr. Joseph V. Foa who was awarded US Patent 3213802 for a "train in a tube" in 1965. This was the basis for a number of years of research into the concept at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the 1960s.

It's far older than that, of course. Isambard Bunuel was tinkering with 'atmospheric railway' hardware a century and a half ago. Patents issued in Britain, 1838.

Comment: Re:The H1B onslaught has won (Score 1) 401

by whit3 (#44262801) Attached to: Electrical Engineering Labor Pool Shrinking

A modern day Ben Franklin would outsource the kite flying: some inexpensive foreigner takes all the lightning risk and Benny gets all the credit and fame and votes himself a raise.

Odd you should mention this. In fact, Ben Franklin described the make-a-spark-in-a-storm experiment, and some Frenchmen hired a retiree to do the work. Ben was presented to the (then) King of France with the results (and suddenly, America had a bit of international prestige, no longer just a backward colony).

Comment: Re:FCC (Score 1) 372

by whit3 (#44253555) Attached to: FCC Rural Phone Subsidies Reach As High As $3,000 Per Line

[it simply doesn't cost THAT much]

It depends on what they are including in that cost and how they are amortizing it. For instance setting up a local relay station for a small town...

But the cost per CUSTOMER in that small town wouldn't ever be so high.
There's microcell pole-top repeaters that can run on a solar panel and battery, that can handle the 'last-mile' problem in a rural environmen. Cisco 1000 series, for instance. The lesser monetary amount mentioned ($3k) would buy one and its maintenance for ten years. The last-mile problem is solved at the community level.
Low-capacity fiber backbone is relatively easy to build, and should be provided for in any state roadway construction. That solves the 'last 40 mile' problem, at the state level.
So, the real issue is 'last-500-mile' connection, and that's a necessity in interstate commerce, which we've presumably already solved independent of the subsidy.

I'd disbelieve any '$9k per year per customer' costs, and that means either the researcher is cooking his numbers, or there's a telco fraud (like, first-year retirement of costs on a 10-year bit of infrastructure).

Comment: Re:Text, but why? (Score 1) 329

by whit3 (#44216437) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Store Data In Hard Copy?

30 years ago I was using a 3 1/2" floppy drive. I still have one to this day. Plugs right into a USB port. In fact, you can still get hardware to read any of the old media that you stated.

Not true, of course. The Macintosh floppies of 1984 were recorded in zoned fashion (required a variable speed disk drive), not compatible with 1.44M modern 3.5" drives, and the early file formats aren't intelligible to modern computers. There were so many 5.25" floppy formats that we had a special computer set up just to read 'em all (does anyone remember Discon?).

Thankfully, there's a good written standard for CD and DVD filesystems; those will be readable for a long time if the media survives.

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