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Comment Not for the Japanese (Score 1) 370

The Japanese seem to have this reverential attitude toward business cards. Typically, a Japanese businessman will hand his card to you with both hands, as if it were a plaque or a ceremonial sword. I remember this well because of a massive faux pax I committed years ago. I made the error of scribbling my phone number on a slip of paper, after I received the business card of a Japanese guest to a semi-formal social function (yes, I sometimes attend one of those). He was quite polite, even smiling as he slipped the slip of paper into his wallet, but to my horror, I would see later how other people did their self-introduction properly, bowing slightly while holding out their own business cards with both hands.

Well, who knows, maybe now they'll be exchanging e-cards by holding out their cellphones at arm's length like two samurai warriors about to do battle.

Comment More intervention not more revolution (Score 1) 501

I hate to be pessimistic about the no-fly-zone. But it seems to me that the Arab governments that backed calls for the UN to impose a no-fly-zone will simply use any foreign military action in Libya as justification for their own plans to intervene in the affairs of other states.

Witness the way Saudi Arabia sent its troops to Bahrain, presumably at the invitation of Bahrain's royal family. The governments in power in those two countries belong to a branch of Islam (Sunni) different from those that dominate the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain and some parts of Saudi Arabia (Shia Muslims). So here we see foreign military intervention being used in support of an unpopular regime as against the possibility of foreign military intervention in Libya being used to support the removal of an unpopular regime.

Comment Re:Lets face it (Score 1) 342

Sci-fi is very, very difficult to translate to the screen.

You could probably say the same thing of every novel or short story. The story must be pruned to what can fit within the two hours or less attention-span of the typical movie-goer. Conversely, short stories must be expanded. Most of the characters' thoughts can't be revealed, except as occasional voice-over narration.

There is, however, nothing special (or specially difficult) about sci-fi novels or stories, especially now that we have CGI. (Before the '70s, showing a rocket in flight or a herd of dinosaurs would have been a big problem.) The question is knowing when to use CGI, and when not. Too much, and you eliminate all suspense or expectation on the viewers' part. Do you show the alien predator in all its horrific glory or do you show only its shadow until the climax?

Comment Worst case scenario (Score 1) 1148

Sure, most of us can ignore the threat of being killed in a massive meteorite strike, but the threat is there and, if you average the threat over thousands of years, much greater than the possible death toll from any act of terrorism.

Now what if we compute the dangers and environmental damage posed by nuclear power as against those of other types of power generation in a similar worst case fashion? What is the worst that can happen when, say, a fossil-fuel power station blows up (or is blown up)? People would get killed, but any damage and pollution would be confined to the immediate vicinity of the plant.

Probably this isn't an argument against nuclear power itself, but an argument against building big. Besides its potential for being a single point of failure, a monster dam designed to provide power for an entire state or region poses a greater risk than a smaller-size dam built for the energy and water needs of a city.

Comment Power consumption numbers (Score 1) 160

Aside from their shock-resistance, I'm interested in SSD's for their reported energy efficiency compared to traditional platter-based magnetic disks. The power consumption part of the tests has interesting numbers on power usage that show traditional mobile hard drives being competitive to SSD's.

The most energy efficient 128 GB Kingston SSDNow draws a mere 0.2 watt when idle, but not much higher is the 750GB WD Scorpio Blue, which draws 0.4. On load, the numbers go up to 1.1 and 2.0 watts respectively, less than a watt of difference.

Are smaller (-1.8") SSD's more efficient than notebook-sized (2.5") SSD's? Besides the shock resistance, does an SSD offer that much of an advantage over a traditional HD when packed inside a tablet or smaller form factor computing device?

Comment Re:Redundancy and good planning. (Score 1) 177

Employees are almost always courteous and do a consistently good job. They don't need managers breathing down their necks, but they also know that management isn't going to tolerate bullshit. Walk into a supermarket in the States and employees are routinely whining that they've had to work 5 minutes late.

Maybe it's because the focus of Americans isn't the workplace but somewhere else? Maybe this so-called courtesy is simply part of that work ethic. Maybe the Japanese are polite and diligent with their work because if they aren't someone could report them to the boss and they would lose face?

On the other hand, maybe that whining, moping, and chatting American store employee isn't deliberately being a jerk but has simply realized that it's much more likely that if the going gets tough it's not the Company that will stand up for him but his little circle (union) of fellow loafers and incidental jerks. I'm neither American nor Japanese, so I'm not sure. But there are two sides to a coin.

Comment Re:This is a good reminder (Score 4, Interesting) 286

I don't think Japan actually refused help. The first BBC video I watched of the nuclear accident was news about the US military airlifting (not just offering) coolant to the overheating reactor. I'm pretty sure the Japanese would be more than willing to accept aid that comes with no strings attached.

Besides, as another poster implied, this is a story about rotating blackouts ("offered to beam their electrons"). Portable generators are at best a stop-gap measure that begs the question of where you get the fuel to power it up. More practical would be food, tents, first aid, portable toilets, used clothing, and maybe search-and-rescue robots.

Comment Atlantis vs. Athens (Score 2) 218

The mythical Atlantis represented Athens in the play and was sunk to show that the result of such political arrogance resulted in destruction.

That's not exactly correct. Atlantis is set up as the anti-thesis, or opposite, of Athens, an anti-Athens, if you will. The second paragraph of the Wikipedia article[*] on Atlantis states:

In Plato's account, Atlantis was a naval power lying "in front of the Pillars of Hercules" that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon, or approximately 9600 BC. After a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune".

Of course, one could still mean that Atlantis, by being the opposite of Athens, actually represents Athens! But that's a semantic subtlety best reserved for a philosophical forum, not a social tech news site.

[*]I know. Not the most trustworthy resource. But the basic details appear to be borne out by a simple GSearch (keywords: "Atlantis" "Athens") showing the clear distinction being made between two advanced ancient states.

Comment Where's the benevolent dictator? (Score 4, Interesting) 247

From TFA:

But then again, over the years I have heard similar feedback from GNOME Mobile participants, and people in Nokia --so it's not all Mark's fault. As Jono says here: GNOME does have a reputation of being hard to work with for companies -- no point in denying it (then again, so does the kernel, and they seem to get along fine).

Leaving aside the question of whether it's good for an open source project to have macho leadership, I think the comparison with Linux (the kernel) isn't valid. Linux, as every slashgeek well knows, is ruled by benevolent dictator. What Linus wants, Linux gets. Or you fork the kernel, which is what most everybody does. I think the last Gnome BD was a guy named Miguel, who has since gone on to other interests.

But perhaps more substantively, Linux differs from Gnome in that Gnome tends to be modular, while Linux is modular only in the sense you can do "modprobe fu ; rmmod bar". So even if Linux didn't have Linus, people are forced by the monolithic nature of the kernel to be more careful with the bits they insert or remove from the kernel. Modifying the kernel is a more surgical operation when compared to the more Lego-like nature of Gnome.

Gnome's modular nature thus makes casual forking (as practiced by Canonical, et al) easier than it is in projects of a more monolithic nature like Linux and, to a lesser extent, KDE.

Comment Nation with highest average IQ? (Score 1) 198

Do you really really believe that a 5000 year old civilization with nearly 1.5 billion people, the highest average IQ in the world and lead by engineers, won't figure out how to design a CPU?

China indeed appears to be led by engineers rather than lawyers (maybe being a champion debater or orator isn't that useful in a single party state). As for "highest average IQ", I doubt that China's average IQ score would be much higher than the US since China has a greater base, where low scorers could pull down national average.

Results of my casual googling has turned up lists topped by countries in north-east Asia that include Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, countries whose average income per person is much higher than China's (which can imply, among other things, better nutrition and education).

Comment Re:Agree (Score 1) 1200

Disagree. Not because I think it's good computer science (fiction), but because ID has other issues. If we're willing to believe that advanced aliens would travel light years just to squish us like bugs underfoot, then all bets are off. Anything is technologically probable.

Aliens advanced enough to junket across star systems should be advanced to ignore us. There's no resource they need to "steal" from us, whether fuel (most likely some element abundant everywhere or more so in space, a gas giant, or star than in a rocky planet like Earth) or living space (they have the rest of the universe for that).

Comment Ubuntu will (sort-of) kill the scrollbar (Score 1) 181

Well, if you hate the Gnome and Ubuntu interface changes, here's another. MS(huttleworth) has announced that the next (Natty) version of Ubuntu will have disappearing scrollbars. Basically, the Natty scrollbar will be a moving scroll button that only appears when you need to vertically or horizontally pan a window.

The so-called "overlay" scrollbars will be shipped in a special "liboverlay-scrollbar" package.

To be sure, there will still be a permanent indicator to show relative position within a window. But this narrow indicator, which kind of resembles the tube in an analog thermometer, itself won't be clickable. The blog post includes a video illustrating the concept. It looks cool, but I don't know how it will work in practice (how near must you be to the scroll indicator before the scroll button appears?).

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