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Comment Re:power corrupts (Score 3, Informative) 502

With power as finely balanced as it is in the US, a party doesn't need anything like a third of the vote. A percent or less of the vote - if concentrated so that it elects one or two congressmen - can give a party power way out of proportion to its actual electoral vote. Countries like Israel have long suffered from a tail-wagging-the-dog syndrome where tiny parties have vastly disproportionate power for that very reason: if they leave the coalition, taking their two or three votes with them, the government loses its majority.

Comment Hard to force people to pay attention (Score 1) 1

Peter Bright argues that the ban should persist. Not because of interference with aircraft control systems, a self-evidently silly fear (if there were any quantifiable danger, we'd be strip-searched and relieved of our gadgets at the gate) but because it would keep our attention safely on the plane during the more dangerous take-off and and landing phases. In addition, he argues, the ban gives us a spiritually refreshing period during which we must part ways with our gadgets and smell the metaphorical flowers. I dunno. If a sudden gut-wrenching roll or nose-down doesn't make you look up from your iphone, I'm not sure banning them during those times will make you more attentive. As far as spiritual refreshment is concerned, listening to the fuss and noise of my fellow passengers, most of whom I'm forced to sit closer to (and certainly for longer) than most sex partners, does not encourage spiritual cleansing. Playing Air Attack on my Galaxy and doing my best to pretend no one else is there is way more relaxing.

Comment Re:There's Your Problem Right There (Score 1) 1108

The flip side of this is what I got in Ontario (Canada), whose curriculum 25 years ago required the teaching of creationism as well as evolution. After spending a week or so looking at all the evidence for the theory of evolution, our grade 13 biology teacher announced "I am also required to teach an alternate theory known as creationism. You've seen all the evidence for evolutionary theory (he went on to list it). But there are some who believe that this is all false and that god did it. It is up to you to decide which theory you find more plausible." And on to the next topic. When I read about teachers having to "teach the controversy", etc., I'm not too worried. I suspect that, even in Tennessee, a majority of science teachers have the same severe doubts about creationism as the rest of us.
The Military

Marine Corps Wants a Throwable Robot 270

coondoggie writes "The US Marine Corps has a request — build and rapidly deploy more 10lb-or-under robots its personnel can throw into dangerous situations that can quickly gather information without endangering Marines. The throwable robot is part of a family of robots that would range from the 10lb version to one that would act as a central controlling device and weigh close to 300lbs. Marine commanders are demanding ever lighter robots so that troops don't have to offload critical equipment from their rucksacks to accommodate them."

Comment Best solution I've seen (Score 1) 688

Given the amount of discussion, this is obviously not a silly question. I worked at a company in Palo Alto for a while, and one of the things that appealed to me was that they let users name their own workstations. You got a completely random mishmash. They didn't reflect the machine's purpose (more secure, if that worries you); they're easier to remember (betty, veronica, larch, elm, etc are way easier than random alpha strings); you don't have to change them if someone moves; and when someone quits you reimage anyway, so let the new owner choose a new name, or stick with the old name if you prefer. It's also more empowering than some faceless (and finite) naming convention imposed by the trolls.

Comment It could help, but there's a deeper problem (Score 1) 2

As far as I can tell, there are three reasons people don't vote: they don't care; it's too hard; and it's not cool. Voting looks to some teens like picking up trash on the street: something only the Martin Princes of the world do. It's too hard because it requires going to a physical place with physical pieces of paper, and making a conscious decision who to vote for. And, of course, many voters feel that politicians are all clowns and liars, so it doesn't matter who you vote for. Online voting - presuming that it's implemented securely, if that's possible - would make it easy and, if not cool, at least not overtly dorky either. The third issue, the feeling that one bunch of clowns in parliament is pretty much like another - doesn't have a technical solution. But two out of three's not bad.

Comment My thanks to you all (Score 1) 262

To all of you who replied to my initial post, thank you. I've read all the responses carefully, even the trolls: they too have their story. There's a wealth of excellent advice here and a high signal-to-noise ratio. Thanks in particular to those of you who took the time to provide thoughtful and well-rounded answers. Will this idea fly? Beats me. But I hope to have a lot of fun finding out.
Businesses

Submission + - Circuit board design advice for small startup 1

Patrick Bowman writes: "I'm with a small (okay, just me) startup planning a camera-related USB device for the mass market. It's probably patentable so I can't give details. I can handle the software but have no hardware design or mfg experience. Does anyone have any recommendations for a company to handle the PCB design and manufacture? Instead of starting from scratch I've also considered approaching one of the companies (mostly in China) that make similar devices and asking them to modify their hardware for my requirements, and to provide their source for me to modify. Has anyone taken this route before? How did it work for you?"

Comment Anonymity, not free speech, is the issue here (Score 2, Insightful) 358

This judgement has no effect on free speech in any case, merely on the right to anonymity, a different question entirely. On the topic of free speech, Oliver Wendell Holmes (an American Supreme Court Judge) put it very well. "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater". Not even in the United States is the right to free speech absolute - nor would any sane person want it to be.

Comment Re:Seizure the real problem (Score 4, Insightful) 324

Two important issues: 1. There is nothing illegal about pornography in general. It doesn't matter whether he had two or two million pix of naked women. Their discovery is as irrelevant as wedding photos. 2. Nowadays there are so many ways to carry files around - SD chips, CDs/DVDs, on your iPod, on an encrypted HD partition, not to mention just downloading them later - that this sort of search is largely pointless. Any serious importer of child pornography wouldn't even be inconvenienced by them. This is not to downplay the legitimacy of the child porn issue - but measures like this waste time and effort that could have been used elsewhere. In Bruce Schneier's phrase, security theater.

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