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Comment: Seems to be an already solved problem. (Score 1) 98

by wvmarle (#49499681) Attached to: Google Adds Handwriting Input To Android

Every day I'm on the MTR or the bus I see numerous people around me writing away on their phones. Handwriting input is the norm, not the exception. It seems to work pretty well, considering the very few corrections they have to make.

Or is recognising and distinguishing between those thousands if not tens of thousands of different Chinese characters really that much easier than the 26 letters (well, make that 52 to account for capitals) in our alphabet? I always thought they'd use handwriting input because it's so darn hard to input Chinese on a regular keyboard, let alone a mobile phone keyboard. In contrast, entering English on a mobile phone keyboard, combined with automatic corrections, works quite well for me, not as good or as fast as a real keyboard but I think I still type way faster than I could possibly write on a phone or other mobile device.

Comment: Re:I'm gonna go out on a limb. (Score 1) 290

by wvmarle (#49455333) Attached to: Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses

The real question is now: now much of the effect is from the actual consumption of alcohol/cannabis, and how much is from the time spent consuming it?

A night spent in a bar drinking means generally you don't spend that time studying, and often results in a night with too little sleep. Same for smoking pot. These long nights of partying, and as a result less time spent in your books, certainly must have an effect as well.

Comment: Re: Easy grammar (Score 1) 624

Easy spelling!

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but 44 phonemes. I'd start there. Expand the alphabet to 44 letters; one letter per sound and double le(tt)ers are not necessary. Thus no ambiguity on how to spell a word; you spell it like it sounds. It would be like a metric system for speaking/ that it makes sense. So "two" becomes "tu" or maybe just "2" (wi yuz tu karakters wen won wil du?), "too" becomes "also", and "to" becomes anything...maybe "tob".

You nicely illustrate how incredibly hard this is to do correctly.

The word "to" would have to become "tu" (certainly not "tob" as it would sound more like "tahb" - the "ah" sound as in the "won" you use for "one") to keep in line with your previous examples, as it's pronounced exactly the same as "too" and "two". Furthermore you shouldn't use "also" without pointing out that the "o" in that word has to become a new letter, as you have used the letter "o" already in "won" (as phonetic spelling of the number "one").

This is also ignoring the constant spelling updates you'd have to perform to keep track with changes in pronunciation of different words over time (which, in part, is why we have so many spellings in English that do not fully match current pronunciation), or regional differences in pronunciation of various words: which version of English would be the standard? You won't even be able to say "British" or "American" as neither has a standard pronunciation but comes with huge regional differences. Those spelling updates will seriously mess up reading as a large part of reading is done by recognising the word as a whole, rather than looking at and parsing individual letters.

On the other hand, some languages like Latvian have settled down on their spelling only quite recently, and it's possible for a non-speaker like me to read out Latvian text and have native speakers understand what I say, while I have no idea of the meaning of the words, just reproducing the sounds. The same supposedly works in Hungarian, and probably some more languages.

Comment: Re:Only Republicans are stupid enough... (Score 2) 318

by wvmarle (#49325221) Attached to: First Lawsuits Challenging FCC's New Net Neutrality Rules Arrive

A government's role should be: (pick one)

1. Break up monopolies, reduce barriers to market entry, and encourage competition, or
2. Regulate the behavior of monopolies.

Net Neutrality attempts to do #2.

3. All of the above.

Natural monopolies should be regulated. This includes utilities (power, water, telephone) that rely on physical infrastructure. The owner of the infrastructure (the cables, the pipes), should be strictly regulated - and where possible being forced to allow competitors on their infrastructure. Ideally, owners of infrastructure and service providers using that infrastructure are separate.

The most obvious and easy to understand example is roads. The government builds roads and bridges, and everyone can use those roads and bridges - either for free, or against a fixed cost which is the same for everyone. Every driver pays the same toll to cross a bridge, based only on things like size/weight/type of the vehicle and maybe the time of the day, regardless of which company he works for. It's the same for everyone, roads are neutral.

In Europe, this has gone so far as to decouple rail roads from rail transport providers, power lines from power suppliers, telephone lines from telephone/ADSL Internet suppliers, etc. I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't always go smooth and there are issues, but the idea is the correct one. It's just really hard to execute well. Net neutrality is also an issue there, though generally the governments are highly in favour of net neutrality, and in the end we'll have full separation between providers of physical infrastructure (the cables in the ground), network service providers (the ISPs providing connectivity), and content providers (the individual web sites).

That'd be the ideal situation.

Low barrier of entry to the content market (everyone can set up a web site and be sure that all their potential customers can actually reach that site on equal footing with all other sites) which of course enhances competition. Low barrier of entry to the service provider market, as everyone can rent the required connectivity for a fixed, known price.

Physical infrastructure is a natural monopoly, very high barrier of entry, and therefore has to be highly regulated. This is something that I consider a prime government task, be it done directly, through a SOE, by appointing a commercial entity to do it, or even by forcing a commercial entity to open up their existing networks to the competition.

Comment: A second language DOES change your world views (Score 2) 274

by wvmarle (#49280915) Attached to: Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World

If only because of the enhanced cultural exchanges, and expanded possibilities for travel!

It's just a pity that the world's de-facto common language (English) is so hard to learn well... still glad I managed to master it, if only as second language (out of four) for me.

Comment: Re:Most ambitious (Score 1) 132

by wvmarle (#49258137) Attached to: Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City

This handover from computer to human is what bugs me.

How to do this reliably?

Point in case: just yesterday I missed my bus stop on a routine commute, simply because I was too distracted by a stupid phone game. This is comparable to automated drives, as I do a stretch of city transport by hand (home to bus stop), there hop on the bus (human driven but from the passenger pov it could as well be a robot), take back control when I reach the exit point: press the button to get off and do the last bit of transit through city traffic by myself.

OK you can set an alarm - even for your bus stop there are phone apps that can do that - but what if the human doesn't react and the robot reaches the desired exit, or the end of the highway? No guarantee there is a place to stop (may be occupied by other soundly sleeping drivers).

Comment: To impress me, try cross-city drives instead. (Score 5, Insightful) 132

by wvmarle (#49256211) Attached to: Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City

More impressive would be for the car to drive from one end of New York to the other. During the day, avoiding highways, dealing with really chaotic traffic on narrow, poorly marked roads full of distractions and ambiguities.

Highways are simple. Traffic flows in one direction only, clearly marked and wide roads, no intersections, all roughly the same speed. No surprises. It's where by far the fewest accidents happen for human driven cars, even though it's boring and probably the part where human drivers pay least attention. Doing an hour of highways, ten hours of highways, 100 hours of highways - it's just more of the same. Now it's cross country, tomorrow it'll be cross country and back. And back again. As long as the fuel will last.

Comment: Re:Email lets you organize your thoughts (Score 1) 115

by wvmarle (#49212203) Attached to: Preferred way to communicate with co-workers?

You're really underestimating the social part of face-to-face meetings.

Those moments discussing other things, laughing about irrelevant jokes, etc are not lost time. These moments are valuable as well, they help people get along with one another which in turn helps the whole process. It helps defuse arguments, it helps people to be nice to one another and to cooperate. People are, by nature, social creatures. You may figure you're an exception, it may indeed be true that not everyone can exchange information in person, but I'm sure the other 99.999% or so of people in this world do so just fine, some arguably better than others but overall people can manage to do this just fine.

Face to face meetings, especially those late at night in the bar over a beer or two, are also the place that people feel free to launch the craziest ideas. Ideas that pop up, are on second thought totally stupid and impossible, but may just spark another idea that gets the group closer to the solution - or at the very least you can have a good laugh about, which again is good for the group as a whole. This are things that are rarely done on e-mail as everything there is on record, and definitely not everything that's being said in a meeting has to stay on record. Only the final conclusions with possibly some arguments on why that decision was made.

For the other extreme - groups trying to work together without any face-to-face meetings, be it formal or informal - just see what happens on Internet mailing lists. That often degrades into a flame war, people fighting with one another over the most irrelevant details. This may take even more time than the off-topic time in face-to-face meetings. The main reason it seems to work is that all participants are so driven to get the project done.

Both have their place, and I think the face-to-face meeting should come first (mainly for the social part), e-mail second. The meeting is great for discussing what's to be done, e-mail/IM is great to follow up on specific details - either one to one or in small groups.

Comment: Re:If I can make it here I can make it anywhere... (Score 1) 734

by wvmarle (#49193939) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

US jobs have to be the best paying in the world, as the cost of living there is also among the highest in the world, and the tax system there is probably one of the worst - if only because you have at least county level, state level, federal level taxes, and maybe a few sublevels and other kinds of taxes that have to be paid for and all have their different rules on what constitutes taxable income and what not. There is more to income and salary than just amounts of money.

After growing up and studying in a place, most people will stay there. A while back I heard that most people in this world (to the tune of >90%) get born, live their life, and die within a 20-30 km radius. Sure you always hear about ex-pats, people moving far away from home (I'm one of them), but overall most people stay close to home. That's the place they know, the place where their friends are, their families - for most people there is no good reason to leave home. Belgium is a fine place to live, I'm sure.

There are many Chinese that want to get to the US, but don't forget there are 1.3 billion Chinese out there. If just 0.1% of the mainland Chinese population wants to make this move, that's 1.3 million people queueing up - potentially adding 0.4% to the US population, and most of those end up in the university population, making the influx very visible.

In contrast, if 0.1% of the Americans is looking for a job in China (and really - I know quite some that moved this way out of their own free will, plus many that were asked by their company to do so), that'd be a mere 0.32 million, adding just .025% of the Chinese population. Barely noticeable.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 1) 362

by wvmarle (#49187497) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

How many accidents are due to pilot error (and would not have happened without pilots), and how many accidents did pilots actively prevent from happening? Only if the first is greater than the second, there may be an argument for doing away with human pilots on airliners.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 1) 362

by wvmarle (#49186963) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

The operational limits of a robot car are arguably much wider than those of a human.

No fatigue; radar that can see through fog and in the dark; no map reading errors and usually more up-to-date maps (I recall driving using 10 year old paper maps to get around); never taking calls while driving..

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 4, Insightful) 362

by wvmarle (#49186953) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

Given that operator handoff is most likely to happen either under relatively hairy conditions, or when some system failure has left the automated systems unable to cope,

Euhm... let me get this right... you expect cars to drive automatically, except when it gets difficult or something else unexpected happens it suddenly gives back control to the driver. That's what you mean, right?

Bad idea. Very bad idea. The driver is probably reading the paper, or is dozing off, or otherwise simply not paying attention to the road, as the car is doing the driving and he has nothing to do. He's not supposed to do anything about driving, as the car is in full automatic driving mode. Suddenly asking for attention, then expecting the driver to handle a difficult situation instantly, is asking for accidents. Many more than when the driver was in control already, and possibly sees the situation coming, so anyway has much more time to react.

To allow the driver to fully hand off control to the car, the car should be able to handle it all. The driver assist functions we have available on certain cars nowadays are a great start in working towards full control by the car: now the car will intervene in certain emergency situations, when that's all settled, we can think about giving off control of the rest of the ride as well. For fully automatic drive, the car should not rely on human intervention, ever.

If you don't have time to do it right, where are you going to find the time to do it over?