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Comment Re:What about Microsoft? (Score 1) 365

For what it's worth, both Adobe[1] and Microsoft[2] work on a variety of Open Source projects (for some definition of open source), which I'm sure they could convince the relevant people are worthy of funding under whatever scheme might be proposed. And if they get government money to fund their open source labs, I guess they can potentially divert more of their open source lab money into closed source projects.

All of this would depend upon the terms of which a grant is given out, though, and none of the detail has really been specified here. If something like this ever happened, don't be surprised if, by the end of it, there were clauses to either channel most of the money to corporates through some kind of absurd requirements, or to make sure that nothing being funded would directly hurt corporates.

Comment Re:Googles playbook (Score 1) 367

On the other end of the spectrum, I don't trust other companies to protect my data. At least when data is stolen off servers I control I know who is to blame.

What I'd really like is a web application that will strongly encrypt my data before it even sees someone else's server, and then give me an opportunity to make my own backups from time to time in a format that I can access independently of the web service.

I can't see this happening, at least not for free, because there doesn't seem to be an obvious benefit in a company storing people's data when it can't read and analyse their data. On the other hand, it might be worth paying something for and I'm sure many businesses could think the same considering how much they'll pay for existing ways of doing things.

Comment Re:Wrong Comparison (Score 1) 516

Google locates a lot of datacenter capacity in areas served by hydroelectric power.

Is this very significant if it's still using electricity that would otherwise be in the grid for others to use? Google's use of electricity probably just contributes to more coal-fired power plants being powered up elsewhere.

Not that I think Google should immediately be considered the one at fault here unless it could be shown that their power use is somehow disproportinate compared with the benefit they provide when compared with other businesses. Saving electricity is a good way to reduce carbon emissions, but it might make much more sense to generate the electricity with less carbon emissions in the first place.

Comment Re:What it would do (Score 1) 134

Perhaps you could list a few alternatives that are easy for people who aren't technically inclined, which are generally foolproof, and which don't leave forensic traces that equipped police can follow.

Of course it won't stop terrorism. It'll just force them to do something other than what they wanted, make anonymous communication harder, and raise the chance they'll make a mistake. It'll probably annoy some people who have legitimate uses for unsecured access points, too.

Comment What it would do (Score 1) 134

Unfortunately, a gesture like this does not take into account the insidious scenario of walking into a cafe, buying a coffee and then (legally) using the cafe's wi-fi.

No, but it would help to narrow down the places from where potential terrorists could anonymously communicate to a number of places that might be manageable -- which is closer to what they want. If most access points were secured, it'd be that much harder to find an unsecured access point in a place unlikely to be covered by police or cameras... especially terrorists who aren't that net-savvy, because most people aren't regular slashdot-reading geeks.

Even with the negative effects on public freedom which should be controversial (but keep in mind that India is a very different country from somewhere like the USA), the police are trying to make things harder for terrorists so they can't just do whatever they want to do with total simplicity. If it's necessary to go to greater lengths to do stuff, it becomes more and more likely that someone will make a mistake that'll be detected, and they'll get caught.

Not that this would stop terrorist attacks or stop terrorists communicating or (most importantly) stop people from wanting to blow stuff up in India in the first place. It's just another step in a game of whack-a-mole until people sort out their disagreements.

Comment Origins of units (Score 2, Interesting) 261

While we are at it, why do we still have 24-hour days, or worse 12-hour half-days where the 0 hour is actually 12 and proceeds to 1. Why are there 360 degrees in one rotation? Arc seconds, arc-minutes... Why is a dozen 12 units?

I'm a big fan of metric, but I can still see a lot of sense on imperial units, even though I don't use them a lot except for the conventions that have survived like time measurement. There are some really weird units, but imperial's major strength is that its most common units tend to be ones that are handy for tasks that people deal with from day to day. 12's a great number because it divides by so many different whole numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12). If you have 12 of something, it'll be very versatile for being evenly split up in small groups of many sizes. This is why so many things come in 12s or similar multiples.

I'm not an expert on any of this stuff, but I'd guess that the whole '12' thing is probably also why days are historically divided into 24 hours. It makes it really easy to divide a day into discrete blocks when doing basic mathematics, which is the kind of maths most people do. Divisions of 60 are just another convenient multiple.

As for 12 hour clock-faces, it's probably just much easier to read a clock face that's divided into 12 than into 24 because the gaps between the numbers on a 12 hour clock are bigger. Even if the hands go around twice in a day, you'd nearly always be able to figure out the time based on what you already know about the day so far. There are still some annoyingly ambiguous terms that are common, like 'midnight' being used to describe both the beginning and end of a day. (If someone says 'midnight Saturday', I don't know for sure what they actually mean.)

Circles are probably divided into 360 degrees because it's a very divisible number that's very close to the number of days in a year. Every night the sky and everything in it will have moved about 1/360th of a circle from where it was at the same time the previous night, before returning to where it started. If you don't have a lot of accurate measuring and construction equipment, it's still easy to divide a circle into 360 parts (a few straight lines are easily derivable locations). If you make such a circle and line it up with things in the sky, you could figure out the day of the year relatively easily to quite an accurate amount.

There is such a thing as Metric Time, but it never really took off with the rest of the metric system.

Personally I still think it's important to have systems that work in people's heads for everyday tasks, just because people aren't computers. Metric's a nice compromise for me. I've wondered for a while what it might be like if the principles of the metric system were applied to base 12 instead of base 10. Maybe you're right, and 16 would be a better option just because we have so many computers around, but as long as most people aren't directly dealing with computer implementation, they're most likely to fall back to a number that's most directly obviously useful to them. 12 is a smaller number than 16 and it divides by more whole numbers, so it wins on two counts.

Comment Re:Reasons why people vote Green in NZ (Score 1) 449

Thereby devaluing my property by half its previous value. THAT'S why I hate Greens. I can not lay my hand on any part of the Constitution that allows government to decide when, to whom, and why I sell MY personal property.

In what part of New Zealand do you own property and why was it declared a preservation zone, and what kind of affiliation do you have with NZ? We don't actually have a constitution in the same sense as the USA, although there's a Bill of Rights which is similar but not the same thing. You also implied in another thread that you live in Pennsylvania, and further down in this thread you were referencing having some kind of black slave heritage.

Are you referring specifically to your experiences with the Green Party in New Zealand and its specific policies, or are you're referring to experiences with environmentalist political groups generally.

Comment Re:The solution is easy (Score 1) 449

Just download a phone directory and spam everyone with generated accusations. They would either have to disconnect the whole country or rethink this utter stupidity.

That's not going to happen because no serious ISP will be stupid enough to disconnect all its customers, or even very many of its customers, just because a random person is spamming it with obviously fake copyright infringement notices. Similarly, no court (in New Zealand) is going to waste its time convicting such an ISP.

What will most likely happen is that major copyright owners and publishers will spam the ISPs to a lesser extent (but still significant), and ISPs will disconnect people based on legal threats from publishers. Every so often a big mistake will occur, someone will be disconnected in a way that the media deems to be unfair, and the first one or two times may get a lot of publicity. It'll be reported for about a week when it's a new thing, and then the masses will forget.

We'll still have disconnections based on nothing more than accusations, but the accusers will learn to make sure they target people who either lack the money or the interest in fighting back. The law's not going to be re-written simply because it's written stupidly, because people who abuse it (seriously) will be careful not to make it too obvious that it's a stupid law. I suppose this is why it's so important to actively remind politicans as much as possible that it's a badly designed law, remind them why, and keep records of all the abuses so it's easy to demonstrate that it's being abused.

Comment Reasons why people vote Green in NZ (Score 1) 449

I don't agree with the Green party about everything, but I actually ended up voting for them this time based almost entirely on their IT policy. Not something that many people understood because it's not exactly their most recognised policy, but you have to admit that they actually do get up and take part in IT issues, taking stances that are generally consistent with what their stated policy is.

I think a lot of people also get confused about why people vote for the Green party, because many of its policies don't get so much attention. I noticed quite a few people noting after the election, in blogs and elsewhere, that most of the Greens' support came from metropolitan areas whereas their policies tend to be most obviously aimed at rural and non-metropolitan areas. The obvious assumption is that ignorant people who live in cities are sacrificing everyone in rural areas, simply because the Green Party has tree-saving policies (allegedly economically crippling) that help those people feel good about themselves, or something. Just as with people in cities, however, people in small towns and living in agriculturally-centric communities also notice and think about what's affecting them most directly. In other words, they'll see the policies that are negative for agriculture, but not the policies that directly affect urban areas.

The Greens actually have quite a few policies that appeal directly to people who live in urban areas which aren't matched by any alternatives. The reasons people vote for them are often far more localised and closer to home than many non-Green voting people think.

Wellington Central had by far the highest turn-out for the Green Party (something over 20%). It's a very diverse electorate which includes a lot of students and that might explain part of the high vote. It also has a lot of renting professionals who either don't own cars or don't want to drive cars because doing so in Wellington is very expensive. One of the Green Party's major policies is to promote public transport. Good and reliable and plentiful public transport is a huge thing for people in Wellington Central because they rely on it so much -- if it's the most important thing in someone's life, they'll think about it and quite possibly vote for the Green Party. Another example near Wellington is Transmission Gully (one of the major proposed road projects that's been around for 40+ years), which is controversial and yet the Green Party is the only one that really has a firm stance against it. Anyone who really opposes the project will think about things, and quite possibly vote for the Green Party.

If there's such a problem with people voting Green in New Zealand, then someone else really needs to stand up and create a serious party with policies that cater to that demographic of people in metropolitan areas without having the agricultural and forestry policies that are supposedly so economically crazy.

Comment Re:Compromise (Score 1) 367

I forget where I read it, but someone once pointed out that if you need a new computer at work you should go in asking for $10,000,000 - then when you get laughed out of the office and come back asking for a ridiculous gaming rig that costs $5000 you might just get it.

This is how corporate lobbying of government works, is it not? (Replace $ with legislation.)

Comment It's a closed source thing (Score 2, Insightful) 306

I think this is just a side effect of the relatively fragmented nature of closed source software. Vendors don't work together or allow anyone to modify their products because of IP issues, which is why you don't see distro-like entities re-packaging existing apps so they'll work together nicely and upgrade nicely, as happens with open source.

Also once something's installed, it's in the vendor's interests to be as in-your-face as possible to make sure you remember it's there. Hence all the loading-at-startup splash screens that you'll often see on a Windows PC, and update notifications... because every vendor wants to individually make sure that all users know about their latest offerings.

Comment It's a very wordy instruction (Score 1) 306

Without actually having seen your situation, it does seem as if you've given people something very wordy, and the most important parts of it seem buried in lots of stuff that's not so important. If that's only the relevant part of the email, how much other stuff was around it?

What happens if you get straight to the point and simply start the email by saying something like "Please restart your computer tonight, and DO NOT shut it down. Detailed instructions about how to do this are below." For anyone who actually cares about why or how, you could then continue with a "This is because..." section.

Reading what you've shown, the most important part of the instruction is hidden in the middle of a paragraph. It starts off with a phrase about Microsoft issuing something, and some people will just ignore it from that point because Microsoft isn't something they really care about, and you're not obviously telling them to do anything.

It's also expanding a very simple instruction into a daunting wordy 5-step process that most people won't need to understand in that much detail. This is one of the reasons that I often find Microsoft KB instructions frustrating to follow, because every time they suggest something like editing a registry key, the actual relevant part gets hidden in the middle of a lengthy process that's dumbed down and designed for a person who's never seen the registry before, and surrounded by warnings about how editing it could cripple your system, etc etc.

A 6 year old with nothing better to do than impress someone might read the whole thing, but an adult who's trying to focus on their day-job for which they're employed will probably try to locate what you're actually saying in as short-a-time as possible and ignore it if they can't find it in the time they have.

Comment red light cameras (Score 1) 898

Maybe it was also because people weren't running the red lights very often, so it might have made sense.

I'm sure everywhere has its own reasons which probably include profit in some cases, and I'm not convinced on private companies being involved in these things, but I really wish we had some red light cameras near where I am.

Especially in the rush hour (but also other times), I can nearly always guarantee that when I'm waiting to cross the street as a pedestrian, I'll get a cross light, wait for about another second, and then the last car zooms through the intersection.

Comment The role of the media (Score 2, Insightful) 126

Unfortunately, there are people who want to bring politics into enforcing the law, so we need checks and balances on the entire government. That's where the media comes in.

This may be okay if you have a media that's actually motivated by some kind of ethics. In my area (and I suspect many others), the economy isn't really large enough to support much more than a commercially sponsored media primarily interested in turning news into entertainment, and presenting whatever news in whatever form and bias it takes to get as many viewers/readers as possible to sell advertising.

The local media around here tends to be full of people who seem more interested in having themselves seen than in accurately portraying something. It makes sense, too, because in the entertainment industry one of the most important things for future employment is to be seen.

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