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Comment: we're all citize^h^h^h^h^h uncharged criminals now (Score 1) 108

by xeno (#47792245) Attached to: Judge Allows L.A. Cops To Keep License Plate Reader Data Secret

This. By stating that none of the bulk data can be disclosed because of "potential charges," that's a little different than redacting "ongoing investigations" against specific individuals. The latter is a pretty reasonable limitation on the information disclosed from a FOIA request, but the former is a pretty literal form of treason: an appointed or elected official is seeking to subvert the US Constitution's prohibitions on warrant-less searches, and also to bypass constitutional checks and balances by essentially turning judgements into decrees removing rights from every citizen in perpetuity. Add the notion that the topic is secrecy of scope as well as content, and that's pretty much a literal definition of "conspiracy" to violate* the constitution.

*Perhaps "provide a legal contortion that exempts all citizens from certain constitutional protections in a manner that clearly and purposefully violates the intent of the law."

Comment: treat it like a maker project for the kids (Score 2) 187

by xeno (#47739397) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

I just worked thru this same project with my MS/HS kids. For us, the answer was not a specific scope, but the best one we could find for cheap secondhand. It worked out very well to involve the kids not just with the content viewable thru the scope, but with the mechanics of assembling a working setup. Now they're interested in the optics and process, not just the results.
After several crappy new ones (thanks, woot...) we happened upon a Celestron Astromaster 90 for $25 at the local Goodwill (1000mm focal length/which they advertise as "dual-purpose telescope appropriate for both terrestrial and celestial viewing" -- but the most important thing for us was the stable tripod. Even a great scope will be frustrating and a turnoff for the kids if it's wobbly and hard to see something cool at the outset, like craters on the moon. For the CA90, I picked up an eyepiece-to-Tmount adapter and T-to-DSLR for $30, allowing us to swap naked-eye viewing and digital photography (face it, if you succeed and the kids go 'oo shiny' the next question is 'can i put this on tumblr?'), all for under $100 and the whole setup fits into the car trunk.
An alternate which we also enjoy, while not strictly a "telescope": I picked up a 500mm F6.5 camera lens for under $50 (I have both a refractor and long-tube/telescope style and slapped a 2x matched doubler on it, giving us an effective 1000mm telescope with a t-mount end. We dropped an additional $8 on a t-mount adapter for a DSLR, and $30 for a manfrotto lens holder for a tripod (optional). For under $100 total, this gave us some pretty sharp digital-only viewing that fits into a messenger bag. Again, this is a win not because it's the best optical setup, but because it pulls the kids into the process AND the result is shareable.
Oh... and one other cheap trick that is a huge help with viewing using budget (but not crap) optics: Attaching about 8in of 1in link chain (just the standard hardware store proof chain) to the objective end of your long telescope makes an excellent vibration damper. With this chain damper and a 2- or 10-sec delay on your camera, you can snap no-touch/super-clear pictures thru the scope with most excellent results.
YMMV. Good luck!

Comment: Connected to mass layoff of Windows SDETs? Maybe? (Score 5, Insightful) 304

One of the bits of logic used for recent layoff and reorgs has been something like 'component/security/etc testing had become so mature at Microsoft (!) and ingrained into normal dev processes, that such a large population of SDETs (testers) across OS and key office products is unecessary.' Just chew on that for a second, and ponder how intensely stupid that seems.

But nevermind my opinion; I guess we're getting some at-scale empirical testing of whether getting rid of testers en masse was a good idea.

Comment: Where does it keep its brain? (Score 1) 98

by xeno (#47671995) Attached to: Gartner: Internet of Things Has Reached Hype Peak

The Cloud = software as a service (SaaS) = hosted services = "the network is the computer" = blah blah blah..'s all more or less the same decades-old idea:
  "you just click buttons and pay us all the money, nevermind what's behind the curtain."
...where you trade huge amounts of control for incremental savings
"we're not sure where your data lives, so you'll just have to trust our vague compliance statement"
...with the same bad security implications:
  "software vulns and compromise stats are a trade secret, so don't ask"

So with a nod to JKR...
I offer the only truly wise decision principle regarding adoption of "cloud"/hosted services:
"Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain."

Comment: Re:Best $4400 I've ever spent in my life (Score 1) 109

Mmmmm.... No. Bzzzzt.

Presbyopia eventually affects virtually everyone by age 40-50, but that just means that you become slightly more farsighted as the natural lens becomes less flexible. Corrective surgery still removes all astigmatic defects, corrects the focal distance to a normal range, reduces eyestrain by normalizing the two eyes, along with other minor benefits. Old people getting laser correction just means "only" having perfect vision past 0.5-1 meter or so.

Now that I'm old (near death by hipster standards, or so I'm told) and need reading glasses for close work, do I regret getting laser correction? Am I not getting "bang for the buck" as I read highway signs a quarter mile ahead? Do I feel sad as I look at the moon and pick out crater edges wiith my naked eyes?

No. Not one single teensy bit. I am happy to age this way; much happier than all other options.

Comment: Re:Reality not sufficient, (Score 2) 109

Mod parent up. Wish I had points.

I had my eyes zapped about 5 years ago, and even with some complications I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Why? I did it beause glasses were making me hesitant to play with my kids.

As they grew older, I was always getting them knocked off in game play or horsing around, and then I found myself declining to play or playing soft or begging off.... Sport lenses were always a half-measure, and contacts are a maintenance timesink vs continual risks of infection. For a while I was interested in intracorneal rings (the only corrective eye surgery that is 99+% reversable) but there wasn't enough data and they were never really popular in the US. I had PRK instead of LASIK because my astigamtism's anomalies were near the surface (the "flap" would contain irregularities). The final thing that swayed me was that laser surgery (in my case) could be performed in about 10-15% of the corneal depth that is safe to treat. This meant plenty of safety margin for the initial treatment, plus I can have it re-corrected to better than 20/20 as necessary over multiple years without hitting safety limits -- basically I'll die many years before hitting any kind of limit on corneal correction. The PRK process is a much slower recovery than LASIK, and I had some complications that added a couple weeks to that, but I remember the first afternoon after getting the "bandage contacts" off and seeing with my fresh new 20/15 eyes... looking across Lake Washington at ripples in the water from canoe oars, and seeing the color and texture of the window trim on the Safeco building well over a mile away from my car on the 520 bridge. The world is absolutely fucking gorgeous again.

But would I have done it specifically for gameplay? What?

Jesus, dude, go outside and look at a tree.

Comment: Re:It's TCO, not licenses only (Score 2) 296

or the feature plain sucks (track changes in Office > Libre)

Huh? Have you used a recent version of LOffice? The track-changes feature in LO is considerably more elegant than MSOffice, both visually (in page view you still see the tagged and ordered comments/changes while displaying an accurate representation of the print view), and logically (I can reply by comment on a comment in LO, and record the justification for edits as the comments are ordered in a threaded conversation. And you don't lose the comments if you select and type instead of explicitly deleting text. By contrast in MSOffice, if you overwrite a section with track changes turned on, it always deletes the comments that went with the old text -- so MSOffice only has "track SOME changes."

I know it's a minor issue, but that in that respect, LO wins hands-down.

Comment: Re:Good to hear (Score 1) 296

Visio... ugh. I have a love-hate relationship with Visio, and got off the train at Visio 2010 -- which is ok, because it runs acceptably under Wine.

Some detail: At work I have a major publication based on about 50 complex diagrams in Visio, now in its 5th edition over the past 5 years. Originally drafted using 2003, the move to 2010 was annoying but acceptable, as it brought no discernible benefit but took away no features I needed. I was also ok with 2010 because it runs acceptably under Wine, which means I can load it at home where I much prefer Linux.
Since I work somewhere near Redmond, I got pushed to 2013, and I find it completely dysfunctional. The interface is hideous, object manipulation is difficult and requires many extra clicks for common tasks... and FFS the PDF rendering is totally broken. Even our IT and product support can't get pub-quality resolution out of the v2013 PDF engine. For a while I used Visio 2013 + GhostScript to generate acceptable PDFs because the file format incompatibilities between 2010 and 2013 made it a PITA to roll back, but there were other problems with that and eventually I just rolled back to 2010.

Upshot: If you're content with Visio 2010, then I'd say to use it on Windows or Linux as you prefer.
But Visio 2013 has regressed in UI and functionality to the point where I prefer to use DIA on Linux.

Comment: Re:no thanks (Score 5, Interesting) 172

by xeno (#47510639) Attached to: Firefox 31 Released

...and I'm not alone. According to Moz's own dev feedback tools, the Australis phelgm-globber of an interface has been trending at 80%-dislike from day one after introduction..

Comment: no thanks (Score 3, Insightful) 172

by xeno (#47510623) Attached to: Firefox 31 Released

I'll install it when that godawful Australis interface is rolled back or replaced with something less eye-bleedingly bad. (And no, the craptastic classic plug-in is not a long-term solution.) For now, I'm holding at v28 (on Linux Mint or Ubuntu: "sudo apt-mark hold firefox"), and pondering what to do re security updates in the long run.

Firefox has gone down the ugly-UI-shuffle-for-the-hell-of-it route, Chrome sends an astounding amount of telemetry back to the hive-mind, and IE's performance is still a total joke even if I can see past the OS implications and numbingly-bad design. Are niche browsers all we have left?

Comment: Bose's leans into a corner... and jump obstacles (Score 5, Interesting) 243

by xeno (#47191401) Attached to: New Car Can Lean Into Curves, Literally

A couple of others have mentioned the ~2007 work that Bose did in active suspension, but nothing really clarifies the idea like pictures or video:
Leaning into a curve is one thing, but At 1:40 the car jumps a curb-size obstable. Nice.

I'm not sure it's worth the engineering complexity versus standard sway bars (for a typical diver),
but Bose's system (and Mercedes') sure as hell is cool.

And while we're on the topic of making unreasonably large cars more agile than they ought to be, I'm still pretty happy with Volvo's 4C system and oversized sway bars on a 7yo S80 V8 -- switching to "advanced" it behaves like a fat WRX or that pudgy football player you didn't think could move that fast, and in "comfort" mode it hunches down *evenly* about 6-8cm in hard curves... all with just plain old leverage, a few poly bushings, and electromagnets around the ferro-oil filled shocks. Simple is good.

Comment: Re:This is so 1990s (Score 5, Informative) 132

by xeno (#47162203) Attached to: Linux Mint 17 'Qiana' Released

For a major update to this distro it is. Mint is the reasonable middle ground in a sea of partisan battles and "UX" disasters. The past couple of years has seen Shuttleworth slam Ubuntu's rudder over to starboard with Unity as the ONE-true-way, then MS followed suit with Metro as the MORE-ONE-true bastard child of Unity and IOS, and Gnome passed the Jonestown kool-aid with Gnome3 as the ONEST-true-way. I've lost count of the number of major companies and orgs that decided to shove their half-baked ideas into production; usability and feedback be damned.

By contrast, Mint's "Mr Neutral" Clem provided support for a variety of GUIs while focusing on the underlying stability and functionality of the OS. Remember way back when Gates derided the notion of an OS that just improved stability and performance without introducing a slew of new features? He said Microsoft would never do that, and this was a dumb idea. Well, Clem did the reasonable thing -- he and the team worked on stability ad performance... with a *choice* of new UI features. Take it leave it, love it or hate it, you can't deny that Mint gives you tons of operational/UI choice while resolving much of the technical bustedness that has been a weak spot for Linux acceptance.

I'm typing this on a fully configured Mint 17 system. I booted from a live USB drive at 8:38pm, and the install from bare metal was complete by 8:44. Connected to the wifi and had all updates pulled and installed by 8:55pm. A few quick tweaks that any newbie could do, and I'm up and running with a fully current system, office suite, media tools, with tunes playing in the background, and *everything* just works -- in about 20 minutes. (I played with it over the weekend on a bench full of systems, and have yet to find a recent HP, Lenovo, or Dell not fully supported.) With Mint I get the "just works" simplicity of OSX with the ass-kicking power of Linux, and in another 20min I'll have Wine installed with my genuine copy of MS Office (Visio if nothing else). And I still have the linux-just-rocks no-click configuration of my office scanner without downloading the 350mb driver package for Windows. Mint is happiness for total luddites who want stuff to look like WIn95, while maintaining compatibility and app-management consistency with faux-modern-minimalists who want the UI to look like an empty white room. Take your pick... it just works. I actually *enjoy* using Mint.... and so do the less-geeky people who just want to click and do stuff.

This is what an OS should be.

Comment: Re:Good luck with that. (Score 1) 379

by xeno (#47069705) Attached to: With the Surface Pro, Microsoft Is Trying To Recreate the PC Market

Yes, THIS.

I am stunned at how UGLY windows 8 and Office 2013 are. Last night my s.o. asked me to work on a 50-page doc on her new corp laptop with Office 2013, and the default layout/ribbon/color combo was so shockingly bad... it's hard to see the edge of the page in page layout, outline mode is hidden, strict styles are hopelessly broken, 30% of the screen is devoted to finger-pokey whitespace. Ugh. She hates the machine and usually uses it only for corp email.

So I mailed the doc to myself and picked it up on a Linux machine, and happily edited in Office 2010. But the thing that slays me is how really great MS Office 2010 (or 2003) works on top of Linux. Word 2010 is *faster* running in Wine on top of Mint or Ubuntu than it is on Windows 8 on the same hardware. Aside from corp websites that require IE10 for SSO, why in the world would I use Win 8 when it's slower and buggier than freely downloadable commie OS distros.... which have better-thought-out unified interfaces?

So the Surface is going to turn this around? With a flaccid keyboard, and a kickstand idea they ganked from Archos' android tablets 5 years ago?

I think MSFT remains in real trouble. Sure there's a mountain of money and Nadella is shuffling things like mad, but the company's become like a 10-million-horsepower Buick with a crap transmission, resulting in no torque whatever. It's comfy and we're going to coast for a long time, but nothing really interesting is gonna happen.

Comment: single biggest threat to STEM education (Score 3, Insightful) 264

by xeno (#46894601) Attached to: An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

Yes. THIS.

The single biggest thing that renders useless an otherwise-great STEM education is the lack of ability to write well.

Legion are the devs who string together many words, but forget to have a verb or period at the end. Innumerable are the IT wonks who can't scrape together a coherent and concise summary of 1000-page compliance reports. I swear, the collective plural noun for some of the security analysts at work is "a shimmer of tin foil hats" or "a fuckery of subjectivism" ...and they don't even understand the nature of the criticism.

Can I *PLEASE* have a critical thinker and good writer in the house???? Anyone??

Science does no good if you cannot express a coherent hypothesis, imagine a threshold, or string together a sequence of actual actions for testing. In medicine this costs lives.
Technology is an interchange, it does no good if you cannot listen to a problem, and express understanding back. At this moment in software, we're awash in UX implementations that aren't traceable to a functional problem.
Engineering compounds the problem later without functional expression and holistic and temporal views. Ask a Boeing maintenance tech about the plethora of could-have-been-shared 1-off components in 20-40 year old jets.
Math does no good if you cannot draw a picture. Ask the Morton Thiokol guys about their reports on the o-rings on the space shuttle.

Among other "humanities" like history and writing/composition, Tufte ought to be mandatory for high-school seniors in a STEM program.

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